Memo Gidley's Hawaiian Karting Clinic wrap up

Maui taps fountain of youth on Oahu Young and old alike impress in 5th Annual Memo Gidley Karting Clinic HONOLULU, January 5 -- After six days of torrential rains which saw flooding on many parts of Oahu, the clouds miraculously lifted ...

Maui taps fountain of youth on Oahu
Young and old alike impress in 5th Annual Memo Gidley Karting Clinic

HONOLULU, January 5 -- After six days of torrential rains which saw flooding on many parts of Oahu, the clouds miraculously lifted Saturday morning and stayed that way all weekend, and the 5th annual Memo Gidley Karting Clinic thus went off without a hitch. This proved fortuitous, as none of the local karters race in the wet, and El Memo himself did not bother with bringing a single rain tire.

Memo Gidley teaches Greg Perrin about not braking while throttling.
Photo by Earl Ma.
The perfect conditions gave both the beginning junior karters and veterans alike a proper chance for showing off their newfound knowledge.

As dusk fell Sunday at Hawaii Raceway Park's 0.3 mile karting track, Gidley tipped his cap towards one which impressed him most -- a young-at-heart "senior" with actually only two years of karting experience. Greg Perrin, an Oahu resident who commutes frequently to Maui as part of the Maui Go-Karting Association's booming Parilla class, received the nod as this year's Jim Russell Racing School award recipient.

"You could tell he hadn't been doing it for a long time, but he seemed to have a lot of good ability and just a good instinct when he was driving out there, and I noticed it right away," notes the CART ChampCar veteran and karting star. "From the first session when I was out following him around, I said 'this guy's pretty good right off the bat,' on a track he really hasn't been on much before. That's what impressed me, and after working with him a little bit, he seemed to get it and understand what I was saying, so that's the guy I want to send over."

Perrin will travel to Sonoma, CA later this season and run the Russell School's famous 3-day Techniques of Racing course at Infineon Raceway. It will mark his first experience in a purpose-built racing car. "It's a dream come true to be recognized as one of the drivers that can excel in the sport of go-karting, and I'm really excited to represent Hawaii at the school. I just turned 42 Saturday (same as his number plate), so obviously this is a lucky year for me."

Memo Gidley leads Greg Perrin during Sunday's 15-lap simulated race.
Photo by Earl Ma.
Gidley did notice something peculiar about Perrin, which he discussed at length after the latter's 5-lap trial qualifying run. "He did have one rather weird driving habit, which was to do a lot of brake-throttle at the same time. But he just doesn't have a lot of experience, so he was basically relying on information he'd gotten from someone else on how to drive, and it just wasn't working for him. I was really surprised that even driving that way, he was able to go as fast as he did. I know he has a lot of good talent, and I know he has the skills to be much better if he can basically get more seat time and learn how to drive right. There was just some sort of flair about him that I thought he might be able to get into a car and do really well."

"He was telling me my driving style in this Parilla has a lot of potential to be cleaned up, because I've been braking when I'm throttling and using up a lot of energy in the kart," Perrin adds.

"He thinks I can drop my times and become a better driver, and I learned that today. When I was behind the 125 shifters, I found a big difference and could drive the corner a little deeper and still be able to keep control of the kart. It was neat to see the lines that Memo was running, and being able to keep up with the shifters and withstanding traffic -- that was a good rush."

The switch from temporary parking lot demonstration track to a permanent paved road course allowed Gidley to concentrate on more on-track time and individualized attention towards students than in previous years. "I think the entire program went really well. The goal coming into this weekend was to teach them a little more advanced things about karting setup, racing, passing and qualifying, and that's what we did. We staged a simulated race weekend condensed to about five sessions. Each time we talked about different things I've experienced or things that I do to get ready for a practice session, qualifying or an actual race. With this track we could run a number of laps, and drivers could get really consistent and we could work on different areas."

The Pacific Karting Club, which hosts the Clinic annually as its signature event, used the newly-paved HRP circuit as its home base for 2003, with major races bringing in guest competitors from Maui such as Perrin. "The main difference is having a track where you can see clearly and be able to walk out and have Memo show us the braking and acceleration points, then to take that to the drafting board in the classroom sessions is incredible. If you don't have a real track to work with, whenever somebody hits a cone the track changes. Hawaii Raceway Park has given us a great facility, and it's a huge advantage for learning about driving."

The Saturday junior class.
Photo by Earl Ma.
While Gidley devoted Sunday towards the KT-100, Parilla and 125cc shifter classes, kids in the Junior 1 and Junior Sportsman groups got their turn Saturday in numbers unseen at previous Clinics. "All the participants are a lot smarter, and part of that is because the ones who are there now raised their game," he says about the boisterous turnout. "The younger kids getting into it look to the older kids and aspire to be where they're at, so they're going to work hard and feed off their knowledge. It's great to see kids checking their tire pressures, taking notes and driving. We started out with a wet track, and they were all really fast and consistent in the rain, then when the track dried out they pushed harder. I had to tell some kids to pick it up here, go there, do this or do that, and they all listened very well. They really went out there and stood on the gas, so that was fun for me."

While Memo did not use the full simulated race weekend format for Saturday, he still took his junior curriculum to unpredecented levels of detail. "I was surprised how quickly they understood that a tighter corner is slower than a wider corner. That may seem pretty simple but to an 8 or 9-year old, it usually takes a little while to figure that out.

But they figured it out right away; once we were out there, they started getting the line that was specific to this track down. Then we talked about passing, which is kind of an advanced thing to think about. But they understood how to pass and where to position your kart. Sure enough, we went back out and they started making good, clean passes.

They absorbed all that information really well."

And so did some of the older kids, like Perrin. "It's good that I learned that I've been doing just about everything wrong! When you have the chance to have a professional tell you what they use at his level, it's just invaluable. I've learned a lot today and will take that into my next year's racing. Hopefully it'll help me set the kart up quicker and be able to make adjustments and realize what the adjustments I'm making will do to the kart. We would never be able to get this type of education unless Memo came out and gave us the time he's given us."

Perrin is also already drooling in anticipation of his first laps at the Russell School. "I've heard that the class is just unreal, and the chance to get behind the wheel of a real racing car and get that experience is going to be incredible. Hopefully I can take the knowledge I've learned in the couple of years I've raced go-karts and apply it and have a lot of fun."

Memo Gidley and Scott-Michael Waracka (2003 Russell School award co-winner) shadow Junior 1 karter Mason Dudoit.
Photo by Earl Ma.
"The weekend was a fabulous success. We had a great turnout, the weather was stupendous, and I think everybody had a great time," summarizes Pacific Karting Club President Scott Waracka. "The club is 44 years old, so we want to keep that going. As you can tell from the participation this year, we've got the kids coming back, which means the club is growing again. This tells me the club will venture on and we'll have lots of new participation in the future."

With the fifth Clinic now concluded, Gidley agrees that "I think this was probably the best event. I had the most fun doing this, in part because of the people I was working with and the new participants that were involved. It also made it lot more fun to be a permanent track where we could run all day long and not just run around a bunch of cones. The weather was great, and for sure this was the most fun and in my mind the best school we've had."

Sponsors for the 2004 Memo Gidley Karting Clinic include Kailua Electric Service, Thrasher Magazine, Trackmagic Racing Karts, Rocket Factory, 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.


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Series Kart
Drivers Memo Gidley , Scott-Michael Waracka , Mason Dudoit , Greg Perrin