Oakenhurst is proud to sponsor Matt Pearce in his Daniel Ricciardo Series karting season. Round 4 took place on July 6th & 7th and the team has sent us a race report about his weekend at Whilton Mill karting track. Off-road karting here started in 1991 and in ’93 the concrete, 450m Mill circuit was created for standard karts to be used.

In comparison to round 3, the weekend weather forecast of sunshine was appreciated as it’d allow the team to work on the karts dry set up. The teams found that the new chassis this year is more challenging to set up, and it’s problematic to understand why it’s performs so differently from previous apparently identical karts. The set up records from previous records simply didn’t work on the new kart and we couldn’t tell why, but clearly the slight modifications to the specification of the new chassis were having a massive effect on handling.

Saturday was proving hard to get the kart set up to Matts driving style, however the issues found in Shennington appeared to be solved and the ‘coughing’ intermittence hadn’t returned. After a long Practice day, Matt managed to get within 1 tenth of a second from the fastest man, although that still left 4th fastest overall, lower than the team had expected Matt to be.

Since it was the series has now become the Daniel Ricciardo Series and the next weekend would be the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, Daniel Ricciardo took this race as a good opportunity to visit the track and show his support, posing for pictures with everyone and signing a lot of clothing! It was great for all of the aspiring drivers to meet him and to have him at the practice day.

Whilton is the last non-qualifying round with the grid selected randomly for the heats for last time. Heat 1 saw Matt starting in 14th out of 22 drivers. Being in the middle of the pack makes for a busy race. A lot of drivers were making contact and taking each other out from the start. Matt kept his nose clean and raced passed them in the mayhem, making up places from their over keen driving style. Penalties for unnecessary contact were handed out and Matt made it up to 5th as the kart had good pace. Towards the end Matt made it to 4th and was chasing 3rd. As 3rd place took the racing line Matt went for the gap on the inside, unfortunately clashing wheels in the process. Matt held on, took the position and wasn’t penalised as Matt was alongside before the contact was made and was therefore classed as a racing incident and a good overtake.

During the fight for 3rd, 1st & 2nd had pulled away, however Matt’s main championship rival was in 2nd and was causing great controversy. In a desperate move to take 1st, he drove into the back of the leader, causing him to spin and drop down to 6th place, promoting Matt to 2nd. Post-race, the stewards deemed the incident foul play and gave Matt’s rival a 4-place penalty, awarding Matt the win. Not a bad start to the day having started in 14th.

In Heat 2, Matt started from 3rd. After a great start Matt took 2nd keeping pace with the race leader, until Matt felt a loss of power on the straight and after 4 laps he could hear the loudness of the engine tone and knew there was a problem with the exhaust system. The exhaust flex on the manifold had failed, creating a hole in the side of the pipe. Matt had to retire from the race, giving him last place for the Heat. Not the outcome any of the team wanted to see.

Heat 3 put Matt in 18th on the starting grid. This was Matt’s chance to do some damage control after the previous Heat. Matt was up 3 places after the first lap, so getting into the rhythm of the race he overtook drivers one at a time and crossed the line in 8th, gaining 10 positions in 10 mins.

The results of the Heats meant that Matt was starting the final race in 6th. When Matt got into 5th the next driver was 3 seconds away. Slowly closing the gap, Matt started to battle for 4th, however fighting for a position naturally slows the drivers involved down, so when Matt finally passed him the other 3 drivers were too far up the road to catch with the amount of laps left in the race. Matt crossed the line in 4th to end a difficult days racing. At the end of the day, the team still believe the kart/engine is not giving enough. Set up and power are still affecting overall performance with times down on last year’s data, and therefore believe there is more to come from the kart and is needed to challenge for the championship title.

We’re now halfway through the season. Matt remains in 2nd place, 41 points behind the leader but comfortably 66 points ahead of 3rd. In the post-race interview Matt said “That was a strange day of great racing and good results mixed with some terrible outcomes. After a great start to the day in Heat 1, the rest of the day was playing catch up after my exhaust broke at the start of Heat 2. Either way I was happy with the pace today. Not so good in closing the gap to Sam (the championship leader), but we will reset and go again next time out. The team effort was fantastic, giving me a kart that’s competitive and fast”.

“My sponsor couldn’t make it here today which was a shame, however I can’t thank Oakenhurst Aircraft Services Ltd enough for the support they give me and the kind words of encouragement after every race weekend”.

The season will pick up again with Round 5 on 31st Aug – 1st Sept at Rowrah karting track. 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. You can also follow Matt’s Instagram account on @mlgpearce.