Saturday, May 29, 2004

Varsity Karting 2004

Varsity Karting Report
Event date: Friday May 7th 2004
Event Venue: Rye House, Hertfordshire
Patrick Nicholls, Hertford College

Oxford lost out to Cambridge after a disastrous race in horrible conditions at Rye House in Hertfordshire. The Varsity race, which in recent years has taken a back seat in terms of importance to the British University Karting Championship (due to the BUKC’s much higher spec machinery, better circuits and professional-standard competition), became a total shambles after the monsoon-like conditions caused a number of accidents.

After the BUKC - in which Oxford beat Cambridge in 5 out of 6 rounds - the team were riding the crest of a wave and looking to put another one over on Cambridge in this newly Oxbridge-only event. 18 teams of four drivers split between the two universities lined up for the two-hour endurance races, with a vast range of experience from BUKC regulars to total novices in the lower teams.

The qualifying session became something of a lottery as rain began to fall on the circuit, completely changing the handling of the vehicles. Capable of 65mph in the dry, they were now struggling to stay on the circuit and aquaplaning was a problem even in a straight line. Cambridge 1 took pole position for the race, with Oxford 1 back in 9th on the grid.

As the race began it got even wetter, and Oxford 8 with Pete Eliot in the driving seat showed everyone how to drive, storming off into the lead and leaving the others miles behind. However it was all for nothing, as a computer timing error left them down in 12th and they were then rammed out of the race in a collision.

Oxford’s first team had been running consistently but not quite at the pace of Cambridge 1 in 2nd overall when disaster struck: James Brown was involved in a big accident and the team was forced to retire from the race with 45 minutes still to go. With the best lineup out (one of the star drivers, Adam Craig, was unable to race at all), hope of winning the Varsity back was almost gone.

The remainder of the race was extremely anticlimactic – Oxford 2 put the Cambridge lineup under most pressure but eventually finished way behind. The racing was not aided by either the wet track or the light – from about halfway through it became very dark and visibility was a severe problem.

Varsity Karting 2004 was a big disappointment – the conditions were terrible and the racing was very poor as a result; not a reflection of Oxford’s form by any means. However, they can draw credit from their performance in the BUKC and look forward to 2005 with high hopes.

To find out more about motor racing in Oxford, email oumdc@herald.ox.ac.uk

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