Well – what a fantastic weekend we just enjoyed in Merimbula! James decided that this year he would like to compete in the Sapphire Cup which was being held at the Sapphire Coast Kart Club between Merimbula & Bega. We stayed in Merimbula and arrived early on Thursday afternoon and got to spend some time sight seeing before taking a leisurely swim in the pool at the Sapphire Valley Caravan Park.
Friday saw us up relatively early so that we could get to the track by 9.30am, get all the trailer and shade area set up before lots of practice sessions which ended up being in 34 degree heat! James absolutely loved the Sapphire Coast Kart Club track – lots of turns and it’s on a slope too – he said it was heaps of fun but was also tiring on his arms – LOL It was amazing to see how the heat really knocked some of the drivers around – they’d come in from being on the track and were utterly exhausted! Lots of fluids were drank that’s for sure!
Another practice session started Saturday morning, followed by a Carby session and then racing after lunch. It was somewhat of a cooler day which was nice too – only reaching 27 degrees. James had 17 drivers in his class (the biggest field of the weekend) and started the first race 5th on the grid and ended up finishing 7th AND then started the second race in 11th and finished 9th . . . the grid positions were reversed for the second race. Despite some knocks, bumps and dints, we left the track feeling quite good about how things had gone and how well James had raced. James holds what is called a ‘C’ Grade Licence and at the end of the day he was sitting in 8th position, the leading C Grade driver with 7 B Grade Licence holders in front of him. (The B Grade Licence holders are generally more experienced drivers who have competed at State level, etc.)
Sunday though, would prove to be more of a challenging day. It had rained overnight and then managed to reach 32 degrees by the end of the days racing - so things were a little on the muggy and sticky side. James started the Pre-Final race in 8th position and therefore was kind of middle of the field. The drivers had got the green flag, taken a few turns and then James unfortunately got hit on the back right and then tangled with the kart who had hit him which resulted in him losing a tyre valve and therefore getting a flat tyre. He didn’t realise that he actually had one, although he knew something wasn’t right, and so when he finally came in his race was over . . . a DNF for the Pre-Final but thankfully no serious damage.
What actually happened to James in the Pre-Final may have been blessing in disguise though because a couple of laps after James came in his race was actually red flagged because one of his competitors had a roll over . . . we didn’t see it happen BUT in a way, I’m glad he wasn’t on the track as it apparently had happened mid field. All the drivers had to come in and once the track was cleared (the driver was OK) they decided to let them finish the race, going back to the positions they were on for the preceding lap. Unfortunately though, with a flat tyre, James couldn’t re-start.
I really felt for him when the other driver took him out of the Pre-Final . . . he was so dejected and looked so down & sad . . . if he himself does something wrong and it causes him to have a DNF he accepts that it’s his own fault and just moves on BUT it must be so disappointing when someone else does something that puts you out but that driver gets to continue racing. I guess the more he attends events such as these, there is more chance of something like this happening and he’ll come to terms with it eventually BUT it must be hard!
Actually – I must admit . . . I saw a side of the sport that really was disappointing to see . . . there were families there who obviously take things VERY seriously and the language and putting down of some of the children was just terrible . . . I couldn’t believe how some parents spoke to their children about their poor racing line OR the ‘stupid’ move they pulled on a particular driver OR how they were too ‘gutless’ to make the move. I’m sure it happens in every sport BUT I really saw how for some people winning is absolutely everything . . . how sad is that?
Anyway . . . whilst the Rookie race resumed (without James), the pit crew chief – AKA ‘Dad’ – was at work cleaning up the kart and trying to see if he could salvage the tyre by putting in a new valve OR whether he’d have to change the wheel completely. As it turned out, the tyre hadn’t been damaged and a new valve and the tyre inflated saw James ready to race in the Final. He was certainly going to have to do some work though because with a DNF in the Pre-Final, he actually had to start the Final in 14th position.
I must admit I was quite nervous about how he would go in the Final . . . there seemed to be quite a bit of rubbing and knocking going on out on the track and I was sure it was going to be somewhat worse in the final. James had been giving as good as he got though so at least he wasn’t letting them push him around – LOL
Throughout the course of the weekend, I’d been out on the track getting photos of our 15 Bairnsdale Kart Club drivers in action but when the Rookies took to the field I must admit that my heart started beating a little faster!
The field went round the track once and because they were spread out somewhat they didn’t get the green light and had to complete another lap . . . because the track slopes away from where I was standing, there were two sections where you lose sight of the drivers. You can imagine my disappointment when the field all came into view again but I couldn’t see James’ blue helmet . . . something had happened . . . the officials were calling for a starter for Number 5 . . . that was James!
He told us after the race that as they’d gone around the bottom corner, a girl had spun in front of him and rather than hitting her, he’d hit the brake, slid off into the grass and the motor had cut out. Since they were still on the roll around lap and the race hadn’t begun, one of the officials had got a starter and got his kart going again (not without a few anxious attempts though because it had flooded) . . . he said the field all drove past him again and then he was allowed to resume his position before the race start!
Phew! You can imagine my relief to see him going again . . . but my nerves were even worse now! LOL
The green light came on and they were racing and James had a blinder of a start . . . I think he picked up two positions before the first corner . . . my heart was racing . . . each time the drivers went out of view I had my fingers crossed that I’d see James’ helmet again – sure enough – there it was . . . another lap . . . another position . . . another lap . . . more positions . . . I held my hands out at one time and they were shaking . . . which incidentally makes it not so easy to take photos at the same time – LOL
5 laps to go – 4 – 3 – 2 – Final Lap . . . it’s finally all over! James not only finished the FINAL race of the Sapphire Cup BUT ended up finishing in 8th position from a field of 17 drivers! He was also the leading C Grade driver finished as well!
As parents, we couldn’t be any happier OR prouder of what he has achieved at the Sapphire Cup! What a fabulous weekend we've had!