BUKC BRITISH UNIVERSITIES KARTING CHAMPIONSHIP

A 24hr finale at Teesside!

Published June 23, 2015 13:24

First of all, we have a slight apology to make. In our event documentation and on the BUKC site, we boldly claimed that there would be ‘Amazing weather (guaranteed)’. The wet start to the race and the subsequent monsoon (those out on circuit will confirm that’s what it felt like) around hour 3 of the race had us feeling rather sheepish at our clear lack of ability to control the weather. We’re working on it!

First of all, we have a slight apology to make. In our event documentation and on the BUKC site, we boldly claimed that there would be ‘Amazing weather (guaranteed)’. The wet start to the race and the subsequent monsoon (those out on circuit will confirm that’s what it felt like) around hour 3 of the race had us feeling rather sheepish at our clear lack of ability to control the weather. We’re working on it!

A race of epic proportions needs a track to match it, and Teesside Autodrome’s International layout certainly delivered. 2.2km long, 1:20:00 long laps (roughly), and some incredibly fast corners made it one of the biggest challenges the BUKC students have faced.

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The 2015 edition of the annual BUKC 24 hour was the biggest yet, as well as being the biggest overall BUKC event ever - 44 teams made the journey to Middlesbrough to tackle the impressive circuit in the most challenging of karting feats.

Unlike the main BUKC season, the 24 Hour race is open to teams of between 2-12, made up of graduates, undergraduates or both! A number of universities teamed up with their local rivals to create a super-team to take on the epic challenge (Salford & Manchester universities teaming up to form Team Salchester, for example).

Making a guest appearance in the race was also a team from the sister British Schools Karting Championship - Ripon Grammar School - who came along to see what the university students were really made of.

Saturday morning arrived, and after signing on and an energetic drivers briefing, it was time to prepare their allocated karts for the 2hr 45 min free practice session. This was the perfect opportunity to get to grips with the entirely new fleet of karts they’d be using for the next 24 hours. The EKL fleet of 4-stroke karts are radically different to the Club100 machines the students are all used to, with a totally different power delivery and endurance racing build.

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With two classes in contention (Pro Class, using the brand new EKL twin-200cc Pro-karts, and Club Class, using the same 160cc fleet from last year’s race), there was double the change to finish on that top step once the chequered flag fell. Of course, as is traditional in any British summertime event, almost as soon as the green lights signified the start of free practice the heavens opened and the circuit was soaked in a brief yet constant rain shower. Typical!

After the 2hrs 45mins were up, a green flag fell on start/finish to signify the beginning of 15 minutes of qualifying, with Newcastle’s A team taking full advantage of the lengthy practice to get used to the wet circuit, snatching pole by just under three hundredths of a second from the defending 24 hour champions Loughborough (racing under ‘The Bandit Boys’) with a 1:29.463.

The stage was set, the weather was wet, and with the karts lined up for the traditional Le Mans start, it was time to race!

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Coventry got a fantastic start to the race in the damp conditions, with a quick sprint and start meaning they shot straight into the lead of the race and held onto it for the first 10 laps, until the all-star Willy and the Woo Woos clawed back the gap to take over the lead of the race.

The conditions were proving tricky for many of the drivers, and a freak torrential downpour during hours 3-4 of the race caused a brief red flag after a major crash on the infield of the circuit. After a brief delay to recover stricken karts, the racing resumed in the soaking conditions - fortunately by this point the rain had stopped and the circuit could begin to dry out!

After all the action Will’s team of all-starts managed to remain in the lead of the race and it was to remain this way for the majority of it, positions swapping often during the pit stops and driver changes, really putting emphasis on a fast change which could mean vital seconds lost that were not easy to recover on circuit.

However, at the halfway point of the race and into the twilight hours it was the 2015 season runners up Oxford ‘Black Flag’ Brookes that had inherited the lead after a long pit stop and drive through penalty for Will’s team had left them down in 3rd, with a lot of recovering to do as the teams settled down for the graveyard shift.

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With the sunrise peeking over the horizon it emerged that overnight Willy and the Woo Woos had managed to recover and hold onto the lead of the race, but with just three hours to go disaster struck for Will’s team as a stub axle failure left them down in third. Although there was plenty of time left still to recover Oxford Brookes and Coventry had shot ahead and looked to be bringing the race home.

The 2015 season ended disappointingly for Oxford Brookes as they were narrowly defeated by Huddersfield for the championship, but clearly good fortune was on their side with the choice of #19 (Porsche having won the Le Mans 24hr with the same number only a week prior!) as the chequered flag fell at the end of an incredible 24 hour race as they were able to make amends with victory!

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After an incredible race full of ups and downs the Oxford Brookes team were able to finish 2 laps ahead of 2nd placed Coventry, who managed to hold off a late charge from Willy and the Woo Woos who finished a further two laps down in 3rd.

In the Club class it was the Irish visitors the Dublin Institute of Technology that took the spoils, finishing first in class and a superb 18th overall after consistently brilliant driving. The hotly tipped Swansea Outlaws team finished in 2nd (21st overall) after an unfortunate slew of mechanical failures put paid to their hopes of finishing on the top step, with Liverpool University’s team ‘The Superlambanamas’ finishing 3rd (38th overall).

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Full results of the incredible finale to the 2015 season can be found here.

One final weekend of epic racing and that was it for the 2015 British Universities Karting Championship season! Joy for Huddersfield in the main championship and agony for Oxford Brookes, who made up for it with a win in the 24 hour race. Who will be the first university to do the double and win both the championship and the 24? We’ll have to wait and see.

Bring on 2016!

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