The karting student’s race from the inside: 24 Hours Essec.

Do you ever had to choose between a competition and a family event? Of course, You probably think that if I ask the question, I must be a terrible son, brother, boyfriend… But, sometimes the opportunity is so good that you cannot refuse. Thus, I did both. This time, I was invited to participate to the 24 Hours Essec. I cannot hold the secret any longer : this is a Karting event…

So, you might say “Is he really gonna talk about Go-Kart ?”. And at this precise point of the article, I believe that I lost most of you guys. Well, this is not a problem. Bye-Bye. But, you’re making a mistake.

The 24 Hours Essec : a major student competition

You might say a 24H race is not uncommon nowadays. However this one is particular, being organized by Race Essec, the motorsport society of Essec BS, a well-known business school in France. As a consequence, the 24 Hours Essec is a student competition : 43 teams, each representing a school or a university, were entering a kart for this 24th edition.

Despite it’s a student race, the quality of the drivers fighting for the head of the race was really good, as some of them were nearly professionals. I recognized known face such like F4, national and european kart championships competitors (and even a guy racing with me in Formula Ford, what a small world!). On the other side, several teams ran the race for their very first time, with small sponsorship and non-experimented drivers. This is why the atmosphere of this meeting is so special. Like for the 24H Le Mans, gaps  can be considerable between pros and amateurs…

I joined the Racing Team Assas, a society registered in the eponym university, which we founded few years ago with some petrolheads friends. This years, the team was gathering 8 drivers. This article relates the the 24 Hours Essec of Louis, Alex, Adrien, Pit, Michael, Xavier, Theodore, and I, among 370 other drivers.

After a short breakfast and the briefing, the timed practices opened the hostilities. They have been the perfect occasion to understand, this year again, how it will be difficult to fight with the best teams. We didn’t manage to reach Q3, gathering the 10 quickest teams of Q2. (Qualification rules are similar to F1).

Interruption of the race after a Le Mans Start

Following a cheerleaders demonstration, a Le Mans start was given, that is to say with drivers positioned at the other side of the track, running to sit in their machine when the flag falls down.

As photographer (at least that what I’ve said to the organisation), I was close enough from the pole man to see his special technic allowing him to save some precious tenths at the beginning of the race :

1) He started to press the pedal while we was still outside of the kart
2) jumped into his seat in one go while turning the steering wheel
3) Made little leaps with his body in order to generate grip on the floor. Motorsport can be crafty!

After 10 minutes, the race stopped, due to bad weather. The main teams immediately reacted and organized a pit stop with pilot change (you have to do 23 changes during the 24hours). Whereas we stayed on the track. Bad car competitions habits where this is forbidden…

Despite the difficult conditions: hail, rain, hail, rain, a bite of snow (climate changes guys…), the race restarted. Three hours after the departure, I took my relay. I had some difficulties to remain on the cadence imposed by some of the leaders. They know the track by heart, but above all they are great pilots and I don’t do so much karting… let’s be honest: I had to assume a 1 second gap (Ouch…).

During the first 4 hours, we however remained on the top of the game oscillating between a solid 6th and 10th place, depending on the moment we stoped into the pits.  However, after the fifth hour we soon started to suffer penalties which downgraded us to the 33rd place.

The night mission : recovering from the bottom

At 22h30, the safety car (a funny quadbike with flashing light) made its apparition on the track in order to slow down the concurrents. A huge firework was organized. Meanwhile, the raceway changed from the clock wise to the anti clock wise, which required us to modify our reflexes.

[This was time for me to leave the circuit and go to the charity party organized by my mother. After two glass of champ’… water, and a bite of jive on the dance floor], I came back by 4 O’clock in the morning, right on time to take my second relay. Don’t recruit me if you need a H24 available driver…

Despite being tired, nearly the entire team was still awake. Sleep or not to sleep, that was the question. Most of our guys preferred to avoid the bed while waiting for their turn. It is true that, as soon as you sit down in the kart, you become another person and forgot tiredness.

The atmosphere helped a lot : at this time of the night, nobody is watching you. The ambiance is very inner : you leave the light of the pit lane in order to join the darkness of the race, ready for an hour of anonymous but tremendous performance : you drive for yourself.

Feelings are tenfold, you feel a bite weak, and tremble a little. But fresh air wakes you up and you feel strong. The clock is like stoped and you accumulate laps without even realizing it. Racing at night is just fantastic.

Small rest and last relay

After an amazing session, this was time to let the steering wheel to my team mate. And for me the good moment to rejoin my wonderful (and pretty well known) Clio III diesel waiting in the paddock. I was not far from the end of my physical ressources, I refused the night at the hotel. Like my teammates, I started to sleep on the trunk of my car. Life of 24H Essec pilots is not always sexy.

Three hours later, the sun was already high and there was a lot of noise around. Most of us woke up. During the early morning, my team managed to gain the 26nd place. Which will be our final position, the previous concurrent being too far away.

I took a last relay on the wet floor where I enjoyed karting as I’ve never done in my like. Due to slick tyres, the go kart needed to be driven outside of the normal path, in order to generate some grip. You musn’t reach the apex.  Once you understand this special trick, racing under the rain is satisfying due to massive gaps of performance.

End of the 24 hours

We finished the race with a small deception regarding our initial expectations. Anyway, that’s not the most important. Our main goal was to introduce to our new members this fabulous racing world, and share fabulous moments between friends. The 24 Hours Essec is a bite of an adventure, and you are still happy to finish them in an honorable position.

24 Hours Essec

Unfortunately next year, I will not studying anymore. I already regret it because I will not be able to participate to the 24 Hours Essec again. But that’s fair enough, and in a way this is a good thing because some other member of Racing Team Assas will replace me, and probably will enjoy as much as I did.

Long Life to the 24 Hours Essec, long life to the Race Essec.

Categories: Events Modern cars

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Our week-end at the 24 Hours Essec, the go-kart student competition!

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