Oakenhurst is proud to sponsor Matt Pearce in his karting season. Round 3 took place back on the weekend of June 8th and the team has sent us a race report about his weekend at Shennington’s karting track which is shared with the Shennington Gliding Club. The airfield is famously known for being the test flight site of the first jet powered aircraft.
On arrival on Saturday 8th June, the skies were cloudy and the track was very wet. But as the rest of the day and Sunday were due to be sunny and warm we didn’t go out during Practice Session (FP) 1 and let the track dry out before starting our testing as the data gained would be useless during a dry race weekend.
The track was dry by the start of FP2 and Matt felt the kart was in good condition, but the times were still a little off from the competitive pace of last year. The team made adjustments but to no avail. Towards the end of the day the team started to play around with some more drastic changes that wouldn’t normally help, but as the kart is still new and the newer design chassis is stiffer than last year, it had a positive impact. Matt reported back the changes to the set up were great step forward as he posted some competitive times. Leaving the team positive for Sunday’s race day.
Round 3 is also a non-qualifying round, where the grid is selected randomly. In Heat 1, Matt started from 14th, 3 rows from the back of the grid. This would give Matt a lot of opportunities to overtake and gain some positions, which will overall improve is starting position in the race. As the start time got closer, the clouds came over and the rain come down. The entire grid panicked as they were faced with the choice of staying with the slicks (less grippy in cold and wet condition) or changing to wet tyres.
As the start time grew closer, everyone was leaving it till the last minute to make their choice, seeing if the rain would suddenly stop. And if you weren’t on the dummy grid when the holding bay timer ran out, you started from the back! All drivers apart from Matt were on the dummy grid, committed to their tyre choice, but the team saw a break in the clouds coming and, as Matt was starting from the back of the grid anyway, switched Matt back to the slick tyres before sending him out. When Matt got to the grid only 3 other drivers were chancing the slick tyres, leaving everyone else on wets.
The race started and the teams gamble looked like it might pay off as the rain stopped and the sun appeared. The track started to dry quickly, although some corners were still dangerous on slicks with little grip. After 3 laps a dry line was forming around the whole track and Matt’s slick tyres started to heat up, giving him grip and the speed to overtake. He made his way through the grid and crossed the line in 1st place, a massive 10 seconds ahead of 2nd place!
In Heat 2, Matt was starting from 4th. This time, the track was dry and no one queried what tyre to use. Matt started strong and battled for third, eventually overtaking 3rd and battling for 2nd. Eventually Matt overtook 2nd, braking late into a right hand corner after a long straight. He continued to chase 1st, but started to feel a lack of straight line power and only closed the gap a little.
Heat 3 saw Matt starting for the back of the mid-pack, 12th. Starting mid-pack often means getting squeezed at the first corner with contact. From the start Mat passed 3 people, and as the grid spread out a bit Matt got up to 8th. During the last few laps, Matt could see a few drivers ahead of him fighting for 5th and were going to compromise their races if they battled too hard. They did, and slowed each other down doing so, giving Matt a chance on the last lap to attack. 3 corners from the end, Matt made a huge lunge round the outside of the 3 drivers who had all gone defensive on the inside of the track. It was a big risk, but it paid off as Matt passed 2 of them and crossed the line 3 corners later in 5th place. Post-race though, Matt reported to his team that he still couldn’t get enough top speed and the engine felt like it was coughing occasionally!
All of his effort in the Heats meant Matt started the final race from 2nd next to his rival and last season’s champion. The race began and Matt held 2nd until the grid separated slightly, however after a few laps the driver behind Matt attempted to overtake, but in doing so pushed Matt wide and a flood of closely following drivers
went past Matt, dropping him down to 6th. Matt focused on climbing back up the field, at which point the race was stopped due to a driver crashing and rolling his kart. Fortunately the driver was okay. Upon restarting, Matt pushed and with only a few laps to go made it to 4th. The leader of the race was being hounded throughout, so Matt stayed close to the leading pack knowing anything could happen. With one lap to go, 2nd place received a 2-place penalty for gaining an ‘advantage by contact’ having repeatedly bumped other karts to get passed which meant in his current position Matt would take 3rd. Matt pushed to the end, but ultimately crossed the line in 3rd, however was given 2nd when the leader was disqualified for being underweight post-race.
During the post-race interview, Matt said “I am very happy with all the results today in all four races. I have taken points away from Sam today and have closed the gap in the championship. That decision to stay with slick tyres on a damp track in the first race really helped towards the overall points today. Couldn’t be happier with the team efforts. It’s been a great day”.
“I would also like to thank my sponsor Oakenhurst Aircraft Services Ltd for their continued support. It was great to have them here to see me on the podium and share the exciting races and results together”
After the race, the team discovered that there was some wear on the outer sheath of the the HT lead close to the spark plug, which may have been contributing to the intermittent misfire of the engine causing the lack of power. So the team replaced the HT lead and coil in preparation for the next round of racing.
Round 4 was on the 6th & 7th of July at Whilton Mill and we’ll be giving the teams race report on that next Friday (16th August). If you want to follow any of the action live, head to the Daniel Riccardo Series on FaceBook and follow the team’s progress this year on their Instagram page, @DMRacingUK.