Llanbedr is recognised as the home of the premier Blokarting venue in Europe and quite possibly the world. It’s never failed to deliver great racing, and this visit was no different! This was also reflected in the largest fleet size in recent years and the distances pilots are prepared to travel to sail on the wide smooth runways and taxiways of the Snowdonia Aerodrome. Pilots arrived from as far north as Largs, south as the Isle of Wight, east to Suffolk, not to mention the West Country; all looking to enjoy a weekend of keen racing on the track and equally keen socialising in the hangar and local hostelries.
Pilots started to arrive from midday on the Friday onwards. The weather was fine with a gentle breeze; everyone was in good spirits despite the long journeys to get there. The hangar provides a great space to assemble karts and leave them assembled for the entire weekend, another aspect that makes this such a great venue. Not only is it a great garage, it is also very convenient for those arriving in vans, camper vans, motorhomes or with pop-up tents, as it is possible to bed down in the hangar and fall out of your sleeping bag and into your kart.
The last aircraft movement was scheduled for before 5pm, meaning that the airfield was made available to us from 5pm onwards. The winds were light and consistent from the west, making for long reaches up and down the two main runways. Distances of 25 to 30 miles were sailed by many, mostly on 5.5m2 sails; a great way to start the weekend. As many pilots arrived Friday afternoon, the opportunity was taken to start the registration process Friday evening, thus saving some admin time from Saturday morning. This also took some of the pressure off Nick Trollope the race officer (RO) for the weekend and Dave Hicks who was operating the timing system for the first time, with support from Sharon Delahaye during registration.
Whilst the pilots were out enjoying themselves on the runways, Tim Seed was working in the hangar servicing Wally; no, not a euphemism! Wally is the light / sound equipment that runs through the prestart light and sound sequence, and also times each race prior to signaling its finish. When initially designed, Wally was hard wired to the transponder timing system – in the mist of time this stopped functioning – necessitating the RO and timing operator to synchronise pressing their respective start buttons. Tim reconnected the hard wiring, replaced Walley’s batteries and gave it a general once-over. The system functioned without a hic-cup throughout the weekend – so thanks to Tim for sorting this.
Fine weather and light winds greeted the gathering on Saturday morning. Due to the initially light winds, race start was rescheduled for 1130. An initial race briefing was given at 1030, covering all aspects except the course which had yet to be set and the start procedure which is best done with the equipment operational at the start / finish line. A follow-up brief was set for 1130. In the intervening time Nick and Dave set up the start / finish line, established a short course on the main runway that could be used should the wind remain light, and tested the newly hardwired Wally / timing system. During this time pilots were free to sail around, getting a feel for the conditions in the ever-increasing wind, which was now firmly from the north.
Approaching midday, everything was in place to start racing. The wind had filled in sufficiently to enable a complete triangular circuit using the main runways with a 2-minute dial-up and 10-minute race. The fleet was split into two similar size groups, namely light with middle performance (LPERF & MPERF) and heavy performance with production (HPERF & PROD). The light and middle performance were first to go. The wind had now filled in sufficiently for there to be a mix of 4m2 and 5.5m2 sails in use. The course was counterclockwise with an into wind start, across the line and almost immediately a tight left turn and downwind to the second mark, before reaching across to the third mark and a beat back up to the start / finish line.
The mid and light perfo were all a little line-shy with Paul Hemsworth (MPERF) and Phil McGavin (MPERF) first to cross the line some 2.3s after the gun; Chris Moore (MPERF) the eventual winner was next about a second behind. Come the end of the first lap, Chris was in the lead, a position he held until the end. Lightweight performance was a simpler affair, with Pete Newlands winning from start to finish followed by Dave Hare. The heavy-weight and productions guys were anything but line-shy with two pilots over-eager at the start. Both Adrian Chalkley (K120) and Jamie Brittain (K68) were over early. Unfortunately for Jamie he didn’t realise his indiscretion and continued his lap without immediately returning to the start finish. Ed Delahaye (K85) was the first to start after the gun, quickly followed by Roger Jackson (K31) the eventual winner. There was a continual tussle between Ed and Steve Weir, with the gap increasing and decreasing as the laps ticked by. Steve eventually won out, coming in 2nd with Ed in third.
Having got up and running, 6 races were run back-to-back, 3 for each group, prior to having a brief lunch break, before resuming for the remainder of the afternoon. Chris (K3) had established a clear lead in middleweight performance, but a very tight tussle was developing between Lauren McGavin (K100) on 8 points and Wayne Turner (K6) / Phil McGavin (K174) both on 9 points. Lightweight performance was also developing as a tight class with Pete Newlands (K105) and Francois Cilliers (K77) in equal first place on 5 points each with Dave Hare (K50) a little behind in 3rd.
When racing had resumed after lunch the wind had increased and most pilots except the heavyweights sailed on 4m2 sails. Racing continued throughout the afternoon with a further 8 races being completed, making seven races per group. Proceedings were called to a halt around 1730 with the wind starting to decrease with all but the very lightest back on 5.5m2 sails. At the end of racing on day 1, with 7 seven races completed and allowing for 1 discard per pilot, the standings in the performance weight categories were as tabled below. Still plenty to race for on day 2.
Francois C – 10
Chris M – 9
Roger J – 10
Peter N – 12
Laurs M – 11
Ed D – 11
Dave H – 14
Wayne T – 15
Adrian C – 14
Sunday, day 2, would the weather Gods play ball? Initially, it looked like no. The wind at Llanbedr was light and variable. The weather forecasts were equally, variable, never helpful when planning an activity that is weather dependent. The early decision was to set-up to take maximum advantage of the wind, should it arrive, with a stated cut-off of 2pm if it didn’t. By late morning there was sufficient wind to race on a short course. The light and middle performance completed their 8th race, thus allowing 2 discards. Heavy performance and production followed on the same short course and completed their eighth race – another success. The wind remained fickle, with an ever-darkening sky and increased amounts of rain visible in the valley’s and on the mountain peaks. Nonetheless, middle and performance started their dial-up for their 9th race just as the rain started to fall; initially quite light but increasing in intensity. As the rainfall increased, so the wind decreased. After about 5 minutes at least half the fleet had been stationary for 1 minute, the threshold for abandoning the race, hence the race was abandoned.
Shortly after abandonment of race 17, a thunderstorm started with heavy rain and thunder and lightning. Racing was temporarily suspended for safety reasons, with all pilots recommended to lay their karts flat and keep a low profile themselves. With the thunderstorm showing no signs of abating, the decision was made to call a halt to proceedings and pack-up and head for the prize-giving in the hangar.
Whilst the final race didn’t change the overall standings from the end of day 1, Roger Jackson and Ed Delahaye did end up equal on 11 points each after 8 races, with Roger being the winner on count back. Well done to Roger and all the pilots that were placed. Well done to all for competing.
Whilst it’s great to be able to simply arrive, race, have fun and go home, these events don’t happen without considerable effort behind the scenes. I’d like to thank the committee in general for organising this event and Nick Trollope our chairman for taking on the RO role and Dave Hicks the BLSA Secretary for taking responsibility for operating the timing system. The timing system is far from user friendly, wrong inputs are easy and can lead to significant problems and errors. Thanks to both Nick and Dave for making this a seamless event.
Finally, I said at the outset that Llanbedr is the premier Blokarting venue in Europe and possibly the world. If you’ve never raced at Llanbedr and want to see what you’re missing, take a look at the following video produced by professional photographer, our very own Moz Moret Llanbedr B . If you’ve not been before, your next opportunity is the British Open, which will be at Llanbedr Sept 9th / 10th later this year. It will also be the venue for the Europeans, Oct next year, an event which will provide the opportunity to race against the best in Europe – don’t miss it.
Nigel Owen – K140