I was lucky enough to join one of the two Kartinator teams that race in the ProKart Endurance Kart race series for Round 3 of this year’s championship at the challenging Vereeniging circuit a few weekends ago. The teams are run by motoring legend Xavier Gobille, who currently is the MD of Nissan; his son Max races with him and it’s a joy joining them for a race – really wonderful people! They have two karts, kart 1 – GTR and kart 2 – Rosso. I raced in the Rosso team for the day. Xavier has raced Formula Renault against the likes of Jarno Trulli and he can really pedal!
The event was a 6 hour endurance race running from 10h00 till 16h00. A karting Le Mans series, basically! The series is actually fantastic value for money, and it shows with 30 karts entered on the day. The engines are sealed and with it being an endurance series, costs are basically limited to kart maintenance, making it a wonderful way to get yourself seat time in a competitive series. We qualified 26th, and the team felt good going into the race as our times were close to those around us. Team members were Frederic Bastid, Raees Gaffar and myself. I roped Raees in from our indoor karting league. We race in a monthly league series at Cedar Square at Xtreme Indoor karting. It’s a lot of fun to do and it keeps us racing fit.
We sent out Frederic to start the race and after a good start we found ourselves 18th at the changeover. Frederic was putting down strong, consistent times, which is what’s needed in the endurance races. Next in we sent Raees out for his debut in the series. You could see him settle as his times dropped and he became more and more competitive. With a few incidents on track we managed to get ourselves up to 9th! We then got into a collision with a spinning kart in front of Raees. With nowhere to go, Raees collided with the other kart resulting in our accelerator cable being stuck in the open position. It was a struggle getting back to the pits and it took a while getting everything repaired. Raees had done 30 minutess so I went out next. We had dropped to 22nd so we wanted to make up some places and time!
I’ve raced at Vereeniging before but this race was in reverse, so was quite different. Qualifying gave me a feel so in my first session I got to explore and find time as I went. Things felt good and only a few of the really quick guys passed me and I felt like I had a good rhythm going. I did just under an hour and came in having gained a few positions – we were back up to 18th. I almost broke a minute having done a 1.00.138 lap! It became the marker for us, with me and Raees battling to try and break the minute mark. Frederic was in next and our battle to garner positions continued!
The GTR kart was doing really well by this point and had managed to go up to 7th, lappin with excellent times despite having to pit after colliding with a kart that lost a wheel! They did extremely well to come back from the incident. Xavier and Max are massively talent racers and it showed!
Our Rosso team was running extremely well until Frederic lost complete power on the kart and got stuck at the other end of the track, which meant a very long recovery process. We had managed to climb to 16th, but we lost all the places we had gained. The problem was just an issue with the choke, which could fortunately be sorted quite quickly. We did however lose a lot of time recovering the kart and found ourselves back down in 22nd again! Raees was out next looking to gain a few more positions for us. He was motoring along and gained a few positions during his run, bringing his best time down to a 1.00.3! He pitted and we were back up into 19th. I went in next to try and push as much as possible to the end of the race!
The run was going well. I had a few steering issues, but I raced around them. After the race we saw that there was drastic movement in the steering that explained why we had to oversteer through the corners! We kept going, though – better to carry on and try gain some time on the karts in front of us. I was doing well, with a small delay when a driver behind me outbraked himself completely going through a hairpin, resulting in him going straight over the rear of my kart onto me! Very luckily I could carry on racing and just had a massive bruise on my left arm to show for it. I managed to get up to 17th before pitting, but my arms were finished from oversteer so we decided it was best that Raees finish the race and push as high as he could. Raees also struggled a bit with the steering, meaning we didn’t get to break our 1minute lap time, but we were extremely happy to gain two more positions and finish 15th for the day! Out of 30 karts, and with two relatively inexperienced drivers, we felt ecstatic about our result!
Our first team kart ended up 7th, but they could well have been challenging for the podium if a broken chain hadn’t put an end to their fantastic race day! They came back well but couldn’t do enough to catch up the lost time.
What I learnt from joining the team for the day was the importance of consistency. We managed to finish where we did, making minimal mistakes and our kart staying strong. Our quickest time was the slowest of the karts around us but the fact that we kept going and stayed consistent meant we managed as good a finish as we did. Hopefully I’m lucky enough to get another ride this year with the legendary Kartinator team – a massive thank you to Xavier and Max Gobille for trusting me to race with them!