The 7th annual December 4-Hour would bring 2013 to a close in dramatic fashion, with the storylines of day twisting and turning, much like the Classico Reverse configuration the drivers had to navigate. Although several teams led at some point, it would be the Bruce Allen-led Team Arkham Motorsports, and its drivers Darren Mercer, Charles Eichlin, and Justin Tolman that would take victory…
While temperatures were near perfect for the event, Mother Nature still felt the need to throw a wrench in the mix, and that wrench was in the form of high winds throughout the morning, and into the afternoon. While several canopies felt the brunt of the wind’s onslaught, it did nothing to dampen the anticipation, and excitement for the event as the teams prepared for the one hour practice / qualifying session.
A quarter of the way into the session it was obvious strategy was already in play, as multiple teams started to park their karts in an attempt to save fuel. Before parking after only sixteen laps, Arkham Motorsport held the provisional pole time, which it held for about half the session. In the end there time would be good enough for second overall, as it was Team HubcapMike.com that would put down the top time, eclipsing Arkham at the line by .037 to steal away pole. Also but in a fast lap was Team Kimbrell, clocking in 3rd with a mark only .006 off of Arkham’s, separating the op three teams by only .043 in qualifying. Maybe even more impressive, is that the top seven teams were separated by only .185 after qualifying ended, proving just how tight the race was going to be.
The front lineup would all change from the drop of the green for the lemans styled start, as the top two teams would be slow to get away, Allowing Team Kimbrell to take the top spot, followed by NorCal’s Finest and T4 Graves. Team HubcapMike.com would fall to 4th, and Arkham Motorsport back to 7th at the start, but both teams would show they still had the pace, and started working back up through the ranks. Early on it was Jon Kimbrell for Team Kimbrell, and Jake Craig for TruTech 1 leading the way, with Craig staying behind Kimbrell in an effort to save fuel. Even with teams cycling through the pits, both teams would stay linked, finding each other on track after each early pit stop. With nearly all the teams making their pit stops, one of the two IronMan drivers took the lead, as Jin Bai lead for several laps before making his first pit stop almost an hour in.
Nearing the halfway point of the race, nearly all of the top teams seemed to be on similar strategies, getting five or six of the twelve required stints done and out of the way. In the ten minutes that followed the halfway point, pit road came alive as nearly every team made at least one stop, with some teams electing to knock out several stints in a row. Fuel stops also started to come into play, with teams attempting to play the right cards in terms of fuel and kart strategy. As the three-hour mark approached, the different strategies started to show, and teams the some thought might be out of it started to come into the fold. With an hour remaining, Team Kimbrell led over T4 Justice and TruTech 1, but that was all about to change…
With about 50 minutes to go contact would send a driver around in the Contino Carousel section, and Patrick Britain, driver for T4 Justice would collide with the driver in a heavy impact. While both drivers would be ok, damage to the T4 machine would effectively take them out of the running for the podium, dropping them down the charts as they awaited a new ride. It was an unfortunate end for a team who, at the time running second, looked to be in a strong position for a podium or even the win. This elevated Trutech 1 to second, with a slew of teams still in the hunt including Arkham Motorsports, t4 Graves, and NorCal’s Finest all vying for a spot on the podium.
As the final hour continued on race, the different strategies began to play out, with teams who had elected to knock pit stops out early, stayed out on course for a long stint at the end. Approaching the last stages of the race, Team Kimbrell led over a resurgent Arkham Motorsports as well as Trutech 1, but had yet to make it’s final pit stop; the other two teams had. Teams that had completed their stops now had their best drivers in, watching live timing from the sidelines, powerless to help any longer. All the cards had been played, and it was up to the final driver to make things happen. With less than twenty minutes to go, Aaron Downs would make the final pit stop for Team Kimbrell, coming back out on track right in front of 2nd place driver Darren Mercer for Arkham Motorsport. Downs would hold onto the spot through the first few corners, but as they went down the hill towards turn one, Mercer popped to the inside, and stuck the passes heading into the esses. Downs held on for several laps, but it became apparent that there wasn’t going to be a challenge, and Mercer brought it over the line first, scoring victory for the Arkham Motorsports team. Team Kimbrell would hold on for second, while Jake Craig brought it home for TruTech 1, having scored fastest lap of the race in his effort to catch the leaders.
It was a big win for the Arkham Motorspors team, which capped off a great first year, something Team Leader Bruce Allen thinks bodes well for next season.
"We’re all really stoked to have the win happen”, Allen stated in a post race interview. “The talent has always been there, but the luck was what was missing. I think it gives us great momentum heading into 2014 for the Super Series and Ironman championships.”
Each of the drivers for the team also felt that it was a positive way to end the year, and carry a bit of momentum into the 2014 season. Even as a non-regular driver for the Arkham team in 2013, Darren Mercer could tell it meant big things for the team. “Winning the 4 hour was the best way to end the year and set the bar for things to come next year. I know that win puts Arkham Motorsports on the map for teams to watch next year.”
It was equally important as individual drivers, as Charles Eiclin pointed out. “Winning the 4 hour means that I have improved so much since first appearing on the scene in March. It's a sign of all my improvements over this past year.”
For season-long Arkham driver Justin Tolman, things couldn’t have gone better, and recognized it truly was a team event. “As the race was winding down, it was an incredible feeling knowing just how smooth everything came together. From our strategy to kart selection and team communication, everything was damn near flawless.
To be a part of that team effort felt incredible.”
So as it has for the past seven years, the CalSpeed December 4-Hour once again brings the racing year to a close, and with the way the 2013 edition went down, it was a perfect way to do it. The 2014 racing season might be right around the corner, but for now, at least for the Arkham Motorsports team, 2013 feels pretty good…
2013 December 4-Hour Official Results
1. Arkham Motorsports - 264 laps
2. Team Kimbrell - 264
3. TruTech 1 - 264
4. T4 Graves - 263
5. Nor-Cal’s Finest - 263
6. TruTech 2 - 262
7. HubcapMike.com - 260
8. High 5 Racing Team - 259
9. T4 Justice - 259
10. Team Bai - 258
11. GT Channel - 258
12. Team Orlov - 254
13. Car Ramrod - 253
14. Team Honda - 250
15. Team Goodrich - 250
16. Skidmarks - 247
17. Lucky Wheels - 247
18. Lexus 2 - 244
19. Lexus 1 - 242