- Russell Soto
First Race of the Season at Oakland Valley Race Park
Before even mentioning else, I have to mention the passing of a great friend to everyone in the karting community, as well as Motorsport in total, Peter Hannen. Always having been in charge of things at Oakland Valley Race Park since the beginning of my career, I am honestly sad to have heard of his passing. He definitely helped further my experience as a racing driver, and I have my dearest condolences to his family.
The first race of the 2016 karting season was underway on May 1st for the Oakland Valley club series held at Oakland Valley Race Park. Pictured above are me and a few of my competitors this season, including Adam Rylance, Carson Kapica, Hans Thomsen and Chase Outcault.
It was a rain race, and there was not a single moment where the rain stopped from when I got to the track to when I left it. The rain was constant, and very heavy, so we the whole McAleer team had to put in the Mojo wet tires to fit the conditions. I'm not gonna lie, on the way there we were uncertain if things were really going to play to well. The great thing is that we were wrong!
Times in practice were going well, I made up a second going from free practice one to free practice two, and it seemed as though everyone behind me was at least a second slower by the end of the second practice. However, the top three drivers in Senior Rotax were also quicker than me by a second. To be fair, I don't have a lot of experience driving in the rain, so we were pretty satisfied with the result of fourth fastest in free practice two.
Qualifying went well, we were only given enough time for about 6 or 7 laps to go as fast as we can in order to determine the starting order of the Pre-final. I ended the session as third fastest, quicker than the driver in fourth by a tenth. It was here when we noticed that the track was only getting more wet, meaning the lap times would be slower.
The order for the start of the Pre-Final is determined by who was quickest in Qualifying. Because I was third quickest there, I started third for the Pre-Final. After the 15 lap race ended, I finished fourth. This meant that I would start fourth for the Final, and the finishing order of the final is the one that matters, as it's the one for the whole shebang.
The final did not have that great a start, I only kept onto fourth and the top three flew away because they were running lap times half a second quicker than mine by then. Considering how new I was to the whole rain thing, I was told that it was a good effort. I absolutely left everyone behind me however, and ended up even lapping most of the field by the end of the race. Fortunately for me the driver in third spun out near the end of the race, allowing me to finish third. To add to that, the driver who finished second received a penalty for causing a collision. This meant that I would move up to the second step of the podium. While I didn't exactly earn that spot from pure pace as I would like, I think it was a great day because I was able to gain some experience in the rain and end it with a podium.
As a whole, that day was a decent one. I learned a ton, and ended up finishing 2nd against drivers who have a lot more experience racing in the rain than me. I also didn't get passed by anyone, and stayed on the lead lap, actually lapping drivers myself. Congrats to the other three drivers on my team who got a podium that race, being Michael Costello (P1 in Micro Max) Jovani Williams (P2 in Mini Max) and Josh Green (P3 in Junior Max). Great start to the season, and I look forward to rounds one and two of the Northeast Regional series at New Jersey Motorsports Park!