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Lakeside Karting: The wrong way is in Essex.

Last Saturday I tried for the first time a track called Lakeside in West Thurrock.
My weirdest karting experience so far.

It wasn’t the easiest one to get to as I had to cross the whole of London to get there with little motorway action.
I left quite early as I knew that traffic could be a problem in a sunny Saturday morning. I arrived in there early and the receptionist was very friendly. After signing in for the race, I went for a coffee in the local shopping centre as I had around 1 hour and 30 minutes to the race start.

When I returned to the track, a few drivers had now arrived. I decided to get ready and then go for a quick assessment of the track. They have a great balcony there where you can overlook the whole track.

Before the race I managed to meet a couple of chaps (Ricky and Sparky), which had raced in there before but were first trying the Enduro Sprint event. Enduro Sprint is composed of 2 heats of 10 minutes and a final 20 minutes race.

I also met another very nice chap which goes there every weekend and gave me loads of tips about the track and race layout. He mentioned that getting a podium would be very hard as there was a few guys there which were very fast and always at the front. He also mentioned that the same chaps also hold the fastest laps of the track, which are displayed everywhere in the building. I thought that could be a great opportunity have fun and learn a few tricks with the good guys.

The race brief video was old, long and extremely boring. The track manager lead the session and mentioned that one of the drivers would not be attending the  briefing as he has watched it too many times already, causing two other drivers (Ricky and Sparky) to promptly ask why they should be there if they already know the circuit. This is where things started to go wrong. A very unprofessional attitude by a group leader.

Off we were to the karts. Paul Gasson, the driver that holds the second fastest lap of the track (39.598) was already there. Very popular chap among the track staff, so I instantly guest he was the one that didn’t have to attend to the briefing session.

The track is lovely. After first couple of laps at the track felt good apart from the slow uphill corners. I really felt like those corners could let me down as I seemed to be the heaviest chap at the track. The first corner was the trickiest one to tackle consistently. The corner is composed by a very quick right handler followed by a very short (3 meters) uphill strait leading to left hand hairpin.

The back straight is very fast and leads to a downhill section with a jump where you can get all 4 wheels off the ground. It feels absolutely awesome.

I ended the first heat in the 4th position, with the best lap of 41.634, just behind Sparky, Ricky and the track star Paul (41.346).
The second heat was better and I finished in 3rd position with the best lap of 41.515. The second heat felt a bit weird, mainly because the marshalls seemed to be supporting and communication with some of the drivers like if they were team members.

The final race was promising and I was starting in 4th. But hey, there was another weird announcement, apparently another local driver would be joining us for the final race although he didn’t do the two initial heats. Well, at least he would start from the back of the grid.

So we were all in the pits, inside of the karts, ready to go to our grid positions but know we had to wait because the track star was joined by the new local for a quick cigarette. I thought the whole thing was a big joke but trust me, it wasn’t.

Nevertheless, we finally went to our grid positions. My race start was very poor and I lost a position which was quickly regained at the forth corner.
Now it was all about concentration, making no mistakes and chasing the guy in front. We were about 17 laps in to the race and started to notice someone bumping me when breaking to turn 1 and when leaving the slow uphill corners. It turns out it was the Steve (the last-minute driver) that wanted to go past. He was faster indeed and managed to go past using a clean line after a couple of laps.

I had a bit of hard time lapping some slow drivers as they did not seem happy about it and so I received a NO CONTACT board twice.

Steve gave me some clean air and reduced my drag which allowed me to catch and overtake the guy in front of us. Fun.
I managed to hold position for another 10 or so laps when the bloke decided he wanted to pass me no matter what, so he bumped me while I was turning to corner one, which forced me to go deeper into the kerb and early in the brakes while he put his kart on the inside line. It was so malicious that he completed the move by using my kart to stop his from sliding sideways as he misses his braking point.

All os these happened just past the start/finish line where the race manager and other two race stewards were positioned. But guess what? No boards, no flags, nothing was showed to the driver. I was furious!

One lap later and a big crash happens in the fastest part of the track. The race leader went straight to the tyres between main straight and back straight.  Tyres and dirt flew all over the place and against myself as I was charging through the main straight.

Yellow flags were out, everyone was slowing down, but guess what, the idiot that just passed me decides it’s a good opportunity to catch the guys in front and keeps normal racing speed. This is me going mad again.

The crash was very serious and they decided to finish the race.

The bloke apologised after the race but looked like he didn’t mean it. I ignored it but decided to have a quick chat with the Stewards. On my way there I met with Sparky that was also very upset as two other drivers had crashed on him during the race (he finished in 12th) and none received a warning.

I know I was wrong by asking if they (stewards) were watching TV while we were racing. But that doesn’t justify the unprofessional way one of their staff reacted. Weirdly enough, the one that was on the spot where it all happened.
The bloke went mad, and started to say a lot of non-sense about me, judging my appearance, my gear and called me fat.
I kept a smile on my face and ignored it all.

The nonsense did not stop there. Here is the weird thing.
Even though the race leader (Paul) had a very bad crash and we had two laps under yellow flag. The final race results were Ricky in 1st, Paul in 2nd and Steve in 3rd the italian idiot in 4th and me in 5th.

But then, the track manager decides to be a “good guy” and pulls both Paul and Steven out of the podium giving the italian bloke and me the 2nd and 3rd places.

Apparently the crash was caused by a faulty steering rack so the organisers gave the Paul the points and the RPM, but not the trophy and champagne.

No doubt this was the weirdest place I have ever raced on.  It is definitely the worst in terms of race organisation and track etiquette. The track is great but I won’t be coming back.