Twenty-seven (27) pilots registered for the Blokart British Nationals (Brits) at Llanbedr from all over the United Kingdom. This number was slightly down on recent years due to our European friends being impacted by Covid restrictions. We’d all been watching the weather forecasts in the week running up to the event, and whilst the details differed depending on your forecaster of choice, the overall picture was the same, expect light winds.
Llanbedr is a fantastic Blokart sailing venue. The courses are set on the runways forming a triangle at the northern end of Snowdonia Flight School; this makes for a wide variety of courses, to suit any wind direction. Llanbedr’s not only a great sailing venue but also a great social venue with participants able to “camp” in the large hangar. The evening craic is great, and in the morning, you can fall out of your bed, into your kart and sail (or push) it to the start line. What’s not to like?
Arriving on Friday evening provided the opportunity for an evening sail, which many pilots took advantage of. Those for whom this was their first visit, this was an ideal opportunity to get to know the track and have some fun. The wind was initially light, with everyone out being on 5.5’s. As the light faded the wind increased, with speeds approaching 40mph being achieved. When light stopped play, pilots returned to the hangar with big smiles and full of anticipation for the weekend ahead.
Saturday arrived, very bright but not very breezy, in fact no wind at all. The time was put to good use completing the formalities; weighing in, registering transponders, setting up the start finish line and pilots briefing by the Race Officer Ed Delahaye. During the latter, pilots were reminded of start procedures, flags, hooters, rules of the road, and the criteria that would be applied when considering whether to abort a race or not; basically if 50% of the fleet were stationary for a minute, the race would be aborted. Due to the different performance characteristics of Production and Performance karts, it was decided that the Production Fleet (9 karts) and Performance Fleet (14 karts) would race as separate fleets.
Saturday continued to frustrate with the wind filling in only to disappear just as quickly. However, by late morning both fleets were able sail a triangular course, therefore it was decided to start the first race. The wind was broadly from the north-east but shifty; wind awareness was key to maintaining motion in technically challenging conditions, Performance was first up, with a clockwise course and downwind start. The start was clean with no-one jumping the gun. Throughout the race the lead changed hands several times, the eventual winners were LPERF David Hare, MPERF Peter Williams, HPERF Wayne Turner and SPERF Nick Trollope. With the performance fleet having completed their first race, it was now the turn of the production fleet have a go. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. The fleet dialed-up and started twice, only for the race to be aborted due to insufficient wind. At around 3pm the decision was reluctantly taken to abandon racing for the day.
Saturday evening started with a lively AGM in the hanger. The formal record of the AGM will be available on www.theblsa.com shortly, suffice to say there’s a clear desire to grow the sport and investigate new venues to that end. The meeting closed with a vote of thanks to Ed and Sharon Delahaye for all their hard work over the years to the Blokart cause.
At this point in years past we would all have nipped to the beer festival in the village, which, to add insult to injury had been Covidly cancelled! Therefore, it was over to superheavies Adrian Chalkley and Roger Jackson to demonstrate their culinary skills with curry and sausage baps respectively. The fact that the cooks were both superheavies is considered coincidental.
It rained heavily overnight and as we left Chapel, it was overcast and damp, however on the upside there was enough wind to race. Like Saturday, the wind was broadly north easterly and shifty, hence it was decided to continue with a clockwise circuit around the same course. The production fleet was first up at 10am, with 9 karts coming to the line. After another clean get away and close racing throughout the weight categories, first blood went to the following LPROD Tom Carpenter, MPROD Martin Letters, HPROD Stephen Cooke and SPROD Stephen McGeogh.
As the first race of the day finished, the sun came out and racing continued apace. Between 10am and 3pm, a total of 17 races were completed, alternating 9 production races and 8 performance races. The first 7 races were run in a clockwise direction, the next 8 were in a counterclockwise direction returning to a clockwise direction for the final races of the day. With 9 races in both weight categories, it was possible to allow 2 discards. Most of the races had clean starts with no-one over the line early; performance race 6 was a notable exception with 4 pilots jumping the start and one not realising until he’d completed the first lap, Chris retired with good grace.
There was keen racing throughout all the fleets, but the following are of particular note:
In the middleweight performance group, Peter Williams and Francois Cilliers took it down to the wire with the final placings only being decided in the final race. Peter managed to win the first race in light winds on the Saturday but on Sunday, the pair swapped honours with Francois coming back very strongly throughout the day. It ended with a nail-biting finish with both sailors all square with one race to go. Francois got off to a flying start and led the field away, however due to a wind shift Peter managed to creep by and held position to the flag. A very hard fought and close battle which was enjoyed by both sailors. Congratulations must go to David Hare (LPERF) for winning all of his races, the only person to do so with a direct competitor – well done David.
The performance superheavies also had some tight racing further down the fleet. In their ranks were newbie Andrew Smith, Ade “The Curry Meister” Chalkley, Roger “Sausage Bap” Jackson, and Nick “The Chair” Trollope. With a forecast that was looking ominously useless for the fat boys, they squeezed into their karts and made their way to the race area, to be truthful they pushed them, as there was no wind! In addition to the variable wind strength / direction, the camber and slopes made things even more tricky for the superheavies, where any error
can be super-punished. Whilst Nick was the clear winner in this group, the scrap for 2nd and 3rd was very intense; Roger and Ade traded places throughout the series, with Ade eventually taking 2nd with 16 points to Roger’s 17 – it doesn’t get closer than that. Andrew Smith as a first timer at the nationals, sailed well and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Not to be outdone by the perfo boys, the production fleet also saw some very close racing. Tim Seed and Martin Letters in MPROD were at it hammer and tongs only to be separated by 2 points. Tim eventually took second with 15 points with Martin 3rd on 17. Dave Cooke and Tom Carpenter were also trading races. After 4 races they were honours even with 2 wins and 2 seconds apiece. The change of course direction for race 5 seemed to change the dynamic, with Dave taking 3 of the 4 counterclockwise races to eventually win the LPROD category. Mention must be made of Stephen Cooke (HPROD) who sailed superbly in his first outing in the Brits, leading home both LPRODs and MPRODs in several races. Well done Stephen.
In addition to the cut and thrust of racing there were the usual range of gear failures and punctures to add to the excitement. Tom Carpenter suffered an axle failure during production race 4. Wayne Turner had a puncture just as dial-up started in performance race 4; all credit to the pit crew that replaced the wheel Red Bull style and got Wayne out in time to complete dial-up and start. Stephen McGeogh was less fortunate, he had a puncture in production race 2 as far from the start finish line as it was possible to be hence had a long walk back.
Sunday was a fantastic day’s racing, under challenging conditions. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that contributed to a great Brits, Ed and Sharon, for officiating for the weekend, Ade Chalkley and Roger Jackson, for cooking great grub in the hangar, and finally the pilots that travelled from all over the UK, particularly Pat Letters, Martin Letters and George Brien who travelled from Northern Ireland. Llanbedr having delivered another great Brits; it was time to return to the hangar for the prize giving. The overall results are given below.
1st David Hare (Weston Blokart Club)
2nd Joe Nathan (Cornwall Blokarters))
1st Peter Williams (Cornwall Blokarters)
2nd Francois Cilliers (Weston Blokart Club)
3rd Alan Gibson (Midlands Blokart Club)
1st Chris Moore (Weston Blokart Club)
2nd Wayne Turner (Weston Blokart Club)
3rd Steve Harvey (Midlands Blokart Club)
1st Nick Trollope (Weston Blokart Club)
2nd Adrian Chalkley (Weston Blokart Club)
3rd Roger Jackson (Weston Blokart Club)
1st Dave Cooke (Weston Blokart Club)
2nd Tom Carpenter (East Coast Blokart Club)
1st Nigel Owen (Weston Blokart Club)
2nd Tim Seed
3rd Martin Letters
1st Stephen Cooke (TI Shredders)
2nd Pat Letters
1st Stephen McGeogh (East Coast Blokart Club)