TW Steel Daytona DMAX Championships 2016......here we go again!

Last year many of you will have at least seen, if not read, about my exploits involving the DMAX karting championships. If you didn't you can just click my posts and see the whole lot, for those who perhaps do not have time the upshot of it all was pretty simple. Whilst being someone who loves karting, and is quite evangelical about getting people involved, I am not actually very good. Don't get me wrong, I can race and I am not slow but when it comes to racing people who do it as a major hobby I do tend to get beaten. So for the most part last year I was learning a lot, losing a lot and having more fun than I can accurately get into words right now. When the invite came to see if i wanted to have another go in 2016 my answer was obviously yes, but what would this year bring? what were my goals? would I be any better? well I cannot answer all of these but I can fill you in on some, and round 1 was just as much fun this year as every round in 2015.

Best Laid Plans

The big plan for this year was improvement. Literally my thoughts were that simple, and they basically still are. The 2015 season was a massive, and I do mean massive, learning curve. I had never driven a 2 stroke kart before, I had only really been in a couple of casual races before so I knew nothing of the rules of racing, rolling starts and the subtle unwritten dos and donts that became apparent throughout the year. In short, I was a total rookie and not one who had earned his stripes in the lower ranks. I had gone straight from a little bit of arrive and drive kart sessions at my local Daytona track to sitting on the grid of the fastest karting championship in the UK that does not involve actually owning your own kart. From this I hope you can appreciate that my thoughts going into my second season were, and still are, basically geared towards being a bit better than I was last year. But the real question is how much better and what can I do to expedite this improvement and make the most of anything I have learned?

Getting Better By Multiple Means

The first thing I decided to do was try and increase my "seat time", this refers to how much time I spend racing. Sadly I do not have time to go karting all the time and nor do I have the funds so I asked around I it seemed that many racing drivers opt for simulators to get those extra practice hours in. I have always loved driving games so this all seemed rather convenient. I am not sure my wife thought the same when I bought a PS4 and spend a good few hundred pounds on a steering wheel and pedals. I then set about getting this all set up in the spare room, once again not something my wife seemed super keen on, I can't imagine why. It was about this time that some very nice folk at a company called wheel stand pro got in touch and ended up sending me a stand for my steering wheel and pedals...now I was really set up. You can just imagine me sitting about half a meter from my old TV on a random wicker chair with a pretend steering wheel in front of me and a look of intense concentration so far out of place for the reality of the situation I looked like a mad person. My friend had actually said "oh god, Ade has gone turbo nerd" and to be fair, she was right. 
All that said, the game allows me to at least practice racing, it may not seem useful but it really is. I get time to try out marking mental braking points, avoid hitting people during hectic starts and generally learn to use more of the track going in and out of corners.

The next method of improvement I thought I would try is basically a continuation from last year; ask for help. Last year I asked a lot of drivers for their ideas on how I could improve and the other drivers very kindly offered lots of great tips. The problem was, by the time I was on track I was so busy I forgot to try them out. This year the sim racing has given me a bit more confidence and has allowed me to relax a little on track and start actually using some of these great tips, but more on this later in the season. 

The third and perhaps strangest method is geared around trying random things that might help. This means things like coaching videos, books, visualisation techniques and frankly and hocus pocus people can offer me. Clearly this sounds a bit like I have lost the plot but I thought it might be interesting to see what comes of it...so I am totally open to trying pretty much anything people suggest, as long as they are actually a good racer and not just a friend who wants to see me eat a slug before every race. So far no odd advice has surfaced but I have a feeling it might after this post!

The Race

As regular readers will know I tend to write about races some months and about how I actually feel about racing in others. This first month is certainly more of the later but a race did run and I was in it and it would be re-mice of me not to mention it. 
As with last year, round 1 was held at Daytona's own track in Milton Keynes. This track was certainly not my favorite last year but after really enjoying round 10 I entered this years first race with a lot more positivity than a year ago. The track is amazing, it is just not one I was used to so if you are looking for somewhere to go karting you would do well to take a trip over there. 

Heats

As always the day is broken up into the endurance races in the morning which are an hour long and the heats races in the afternoon which run as 3 qualifying heats across 3 weight groups leading to a final for each group. I race in the light group which can seem a tough group sometimes but I think every group says that. 

The heats were great fun, I managed to finish 2 of the 3 heats a couple of places from the back and pretty much all the old mind set cam flooding back. I was actually pushing quite hard and crashed a few times which is no bad thing unless you are really fighting for position. The real gain for me was in the lap times. Generally I was about 2 seconds faster the I was the same time in 2015. So since my first ever DMAX race in round 1 2015 I had got 2 seconds better. That is pretty good going when lap times are just over a minute and I was feeling quite pleased with myself. 

The Final

In the end I finished 17th out of a grid that started with 20 drivers but lost 2 for unknown reasons...and I don't mean they went missing, I mean they pulled out. So in terms of actual racing I only beat one person but I did crash and think I may just have grabbed another place or two if I had not. 

Success?

I don't think round 1 was any kind of resounding proof that my attempts at improving had worked at all but at the same time I cannot say they did nothing. I certainly felt I was using the track more and coming out of turns wider as well as using the kerbs more and this may well have been why my lap times were better, Now I just need to learn how to brake properly and I might just scrub off a bit more time in round 2!

Join In!

If you are thinking about having a go at DMAX or you want to just turn up and do an open session in these amazing karts then just head to https://www.daytona.co.uk/ and book a session, if you are not sure what you want to try then drop me a line or give the team at Daytona a call, they will help you decide what you are able to do and get the best from. Karting is for everyone and there is a level that most people can enjoy, I may still be aiming too high but lets see what the year brings.

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