The pit lane in crowded, even at this time of the morning. Everyone is cold, everyone is tired and no one has had much sleep to speak of for twenty hours and counting. Someone hands you a hot drink and an energy bar. It is twenty minutes until your stint begins.
The race is fifteen hours old. The cars have been hammering round the circuit since midday yesterday. It has been raining for the last nine hours but there are still nearly forty in the race. At the back of the pit, the timing and scoring screen is shining brightly in the gloom. Where are we running? Third place but stretching away from the car behind and pegging the team in front. With a bit of luck we can move up to second but right now, during the small hours of the morning, it feels more like survival is the name of the game.
Two laps to go. Time to put on helmet and take off jacket – it feels daft but you know full well that the car itself will have it’s own microclimate.
“Number four in.” calls your mechanic and the headlights of your car are indeed coming slowly down the pit lane, pulling to a halt right in front of you. The door opens and a tired driver is hauled bodily from the cockpit.
“Careful in the chicane, really slippery.” He gasps in the few seconds you have to talk as you slide into the confines of the car.
“Clear behind, go!” your mechanic calls, slamming the door shut and waving you out of the pits.
First gear, lights on and pull away. Clear the end of the pit lane and suddenly you are on your own. It is strangely quiet.
Hit the power and start shifting up the gears. Suddenly the first corner is rushing towards you – was it that soon in the daylight? Off the power and the back end goes loose, a quick correction is enough to banish the last of the sleep and get the adrenalin truly going. Out of the corner and onto the back straight. Now you can really get the car moving. The gears are crisp and it clunks up into each one in turn until you grab seventh just before backing off for the chicane.
Ahead is a gaggle of slower cars scrapping for position in one of the junior classes. Flash the headlights at them a few times to let them know you are there and get stuck in – pass one on the left, the next on the right and through a gap between two others. At night everything seems to happen much faster than normal. Out of the complex and into the floodlights of the pit straight. Try to catch a glimpse of the pit board. P3, L25… It’s going to be a long stint but you haven’t got time to worry about that. Now it’s all about trying to get the best out of the car you can, balancing your natural aggression with an element of caution – if you catch a back marker or over run a corner it could mean curtains for your race…
Where was this then? Daytona? Dubai (scarcely likely with that weather…) ? Silverstone 24 hour? Le Mans even?
No. This was a six hundred metre go-kart track at Shenington near Banbury and the event was the Shenington 24 hour pedal car race.
Originally published by Jes Featherstone, Race Organiser at www.shenington24.com