- Russell Soto
NJMP Practice Weekend
Last week was the first practice of the season at Oakland Valley Race Park, and it felt great to get back in the kart just a week after at New Jersey Motorsports Park, this time running for two days on Saturday and Sunday.
On a side note, we bought a new camera that takes photos in full HD. You can see some of our new photos from this weekend in the gallery!
On Saturday I was greeted to my coach of the weekend, Dan Roeper. The image attached to this post is me talking with him in the pits. He is a national, experienced and successful driver, having finished runner-up at the Pan-American, Florida Winter Tour, and 2014 Rotax National championships. Because there was rain since the beginning of the morning, there was hardly any running for the day unfortunately as the track would continue to open and close throughout the day. The team had all 12 of us run on slicks, as there were no wet tires or vendors around to buy any (not that I think the team would allow us to go on wets anyway!). After the track closed, there was nothing much to do but wait, so we headed over to the car track to watch part of a 12 hour endurance race until the track reopened. When it did open again, it became drier, and there was finally time to get some real laps in.
Because we were still getting used to the track, the team had me run on the Mojo D1s I had on from the week before on Saturday, and I still got within half a second of teammate Aidan Abdulali (Senior Max) who was on the Mojo D2 tires. Dan was a huge help throughout the whole thing, changing my setups and seeing what works and what doesn't. The day came to a close with the whole team lining up karts and cleaning. You would be surprised just how oily and dirty these karts can get after even just one session! Sharing a room with teammate Rafe Abdulali (Mini Max) we woke up that Sunday morning ready for another eventful day.
Sunday Morning we woke up to weather that didn't have a single cloud in the sky, and a temperature as hot as your summer day. It was a great day for karting. Heading to the track we met up with the team once again, and they finally slapped on Aidan's set of D2 tires onto my kart after doing the first session of the day on the D1 tires. Unfortunately for me, they slightly altered the configuration of the track from the day prior, so I couldn't really compare with Aidan. However, Dan got into the kart for half a session to give me a few base laps, and he set a 37.8 second time. My fastest of the day was a 38.0, and while I would like to think that I'm only two tenths off a national driver, the reality is that he is 50 pounds heavier, which is at least another four tenths. So as a whole, I was off of him by six tenths by the end of the day, but that is okay because there was definitely time to work with that I saw because Dan made it easy to point out.
Getting used to the Mojo D2's was probably a variable that I would say held me back on Sunday, but now having a knowledge of how those tires feel sets me up well for the first club race at Oakland Valley Raceway Park this weekend on May 1st. Dan was definitely a big help this last weekend, and I learned a ton of stuff from him. It felt great changing setups and trying different things out to figure out where time was on the track, I feel that I improved as a driver from having him as a coach this past weekend.
Senior Rotax is a competitive field this season, as it has a huge variety of drivers, including a ton of experienced ones. Next weekend is the green flag at OVRP for the first race of the season, and nobody is more excited for that than me. It's time to see how I compete!