5th Annual Memo Gidley Hawaiian Karting Clinic January 3-4, 2004
Silver is for Sissies
Jan 1, 2004/ Honolulu, Hawaii -- What do you get someone for their fifth anniversary? Traditionalists say wood, while modern gifters like silverware. But for Memo Gidley, he'll be satisfied with a brand new driving suit and tires that last more than half a dozen laps.
For the landmark fifth installment of the eponymous Memo Gidley Karting Clinic, Gidley and his merry band of Hawaiian karting enthusiasts return to where it all began -- Hawaii Raceway Park in Central Oahu, where the first Clinic roared to life in December 1999. More specifically, the event on January 3-4 takes place at a newly-paved 0.3 mile, 11-turn portion of HRP's overall road course, as used by the Pacific Karting Club during its 2003 season.
"It's pretty cool because we not only did it once, through the organization of everyone in Hawaii and stuff I've done, we've all been able to pull this off for the fifth year running," notes the 3-time CART ChampCar podium finisher who arrived yesterday for another New Year's in the Islands. "People have come to recognize it and look forward to it. As far as raising awareness of Hawaii, that's always been the first priority, and that's what I think it's done. In general, our school has helped promote karting in Hawaii, and I think that's a great thing."
After several years of bouncing around a variety of temporary circuits, the IKF-sanctioned club now finds itself progressing closer to the primary goal of having its own purpose-built permanent facility.
"Getting a place to put a racetrack in is never quick," Gidley says of this quest. "The Clinic has worked with a lot of prominent business people in the area, and that's helped with awareness.
Eventually it would be great to have a track there, and one of these days or one of these Clinics is going to spark the right group of people or generate the right interest so that there will be the opportunity to build a track for the club. With the existing track they're working on now, it's definitely a step forward. If we're able to continue getting the interest and exposure of the club out there even more, you never know what can happen in the future."
The smooth paving means Gidley can dispense with the previous years' curriculum of reviewing fundamentals at length in favor of dropping the hammer on students and going into race mode from the outset. "In the past we've done more basics for people just getting in and me getting a feel for where they're at. To be quite honest, although a lot of the karters there had been driving for a long time, there's a lot of stuff they hadn't thought about. So I think we've pretty much covered that. It's always hard in a 1-2 day event to go over everything you want Now we have the opportunity to build upon everything I've talked about over the past few years. I think we'll spend a lot more time getting into race strategy and actually working on racing, starting and passing. It'll be a lot less basic theory and more advanced stuff -- working directly with guys on setting up their karts, making changes and all those things that will take them to the next level and make them a lot faster."
In the twelve months since the last Clinic, several participants have used their personal training, as well as Gidley's Secrets of Speed for Shifter Kart Racing book, to good use. PKC members John Ledesma and Scott-Michael Waracka traveled to Sonoma, CA this summer and participated in the Jim Russell Driving School's reknowned 3-day Techniques of Racing Course at Infineon Raceway. The pair earned the school award due to their prowess demonstrated during the 2003 Clinic, and the Russell School will offer another such prize to the top performer this weekend.
"It was a lot more than I expected excitement-wise," Ledesma says. "With the instructors and the after-track critiques, after each session you'd notice your lap times would get quicker. It was a really good experience; I just wish it was longer so I could've done some more. It opened some doors and will hopefully open more doors to where I want to go. The Clinic itself is good in that Memo has a lot of experience that he passes onto us that we can use during our racing, whether it be in karts or racing cars. If you've followed his career, you know he's a hard worker and a lot of his success is what he generates himself, and that's something any young racer needs to know."
"It was awesome and so much fun being able to get into cars," adds Waracka, who along with Ledesma hopes to return to the Russell School for the Advanced Racing Course or Graduate Runoffs in 2004. "We got to learn different things such as weight transfer and the handling of something bigger than a go-kart. I think I learned more about where I'd want to go -- I want to go up into cars and do more of that kind of racing."
Meanwhile on Maui, the handful of Maui Go-Karting Association members who attended the Clinic showed off their newfound knowledge. 125cc participant Scott Loomer claimed the track championship with his ex-Ron White Leading Edge Trackmagic chassis, then switched to a brand new Gidley signature kart in time for winning the Hawaii State Karting Championships on December 6. "I will always attend the Clinic because I will always be able to learn," he grins. "I've always considered myself a fan and supporter of Memo and whatever he does and always wish him the best. I know if he's driving and designing this chassis it's the best he can do, and frankly I don't think there's anyone in racing who's more supportive of karting than Memo is. It's great to be able to drive something he designed, and we're just happy to put it up in front for him."
Parilla class stalwart Greg Perrin earned a clean sweep in 2003, winning the track and state championships along with the Aloha State Games gold medal at the HRP course. "It was probably the critical point in my go-karting career, because I'd driven for two years and could explain what the kart was doing to somebody, but I could never fix it. At the Clinic Memo talked about setting up the kart and physically showed what the kart does and how to correct it. At that point I could apply the theories and go out by myself and test, and then in turn pass that knowledge on. I now could have a clear understanding of what different things did. We were very fortunate to have that, because we would never be able to get that kind of education on Maui."
"People don't give themselves enough credit for just getting out there and doing it," says Gidley about his pupils' accomplishments. "It's always nice to see someone who's been doing it a long time being able to speed up the learning process, and I think that's what I've been able to do. It is nice to hear and nice to see improvement. The competition level has gone up a couple of notches, and events like the Hawaii State Karting Championships get a little more respect because of that. It's great to hear what we're doing out there is having an effect."
Gidley himself has kept busy as well, with a second how-to book (dedicated to 2-cycle karts) due in February and TV time as a color commentator for various US and Canadian racing telecasts. He likewise made headlines at Infineon in June by finishing 4th in his Trans-Am series debut and by winning the Jim Russell 4-Hour Enduro karting race November 23 alongside Landon Yee (his engine tuner from his 1999 SKUSA SuperNationals triumph) and Chris Ortenburger.
Once the Clinic gets underway, expect Gidley to log in serious track time, both in extensive lead-follow sessions with students and solo in an effort to shatter the existing track record of 24.04 seconds, set this summer by CART Stars of Tomorrow veteran Ryan Gouveia. "I think the competition level over there is good, and there are a lot of fast drivers over there. But every time I go to a track, I always want to be the fastest too. Of course, I want to go faster than anybody, but we'll just have to wait and see!"
Sponsors for the 2004 Memo Gidley Karting Clinic include Kailua Electric Service, Thrasher Magazine, Trackmagic Racing Karts, Jim Russell Racing School, Simple Green, Fuji Film Hawaii, 24 Hour Fitness, Truss Systems Hawaii, Hawaii Music Awards, Safety Systems Hawaii, Delta Construction Corp, All-Star Hawaii, Soccer Locker, Strong Current Surfwear, Thunderbird Creative Media, JamSports and Forced Induction Media.