Schilt, who owns Performance Marine, races in the Clone class with the Northern Nevada Kart Club. This division has attracted new and veteran drivers, has the most women competing in it and is starting its third season with NNKC.
“My background is motor sports; Motorcycles, Jet Skies, Snowmobiles, ATV’s long before I was a boat guy,” he said. “But I started out as a motorcycle guy.”
He did play baseball and some basketball in his younger days but only for fun. Finally after riding motorcycles for years he started motocross in his mid-20’s.
“I started racing dirt bikes in ‘87 on and off for a few years. I was never, never really good at it but I enjoyed it. I did a little bit of road racing motorcycles as well but I had a crash at Sears Point early in my career that left me with a broken femur in two places,” he said.
He explained the crash itself wasn’t so bad but getting run over by another rider made it bad. Despite this he continued to enjoy riding a dirt bike, which he still does on a limited basis.
“I started karting in ‘93,” he said. “I went straight into an 80 shifter because of my dirt background I really enjoyed shifting gears,” he said. “The highest I placed back then was third and I believe that was my rookie year.”
Schilt started with the NNKC when there was only the short course at Desert Park Raceway. Then in 1997 he took a 12-year break and had never run the long course until he returned to karting in 2009.
Reflecting on those years he said, “I kept the love, started buying karts then thinking about driving. I was thinking about just going out and driving but not racing. Of course that changed right away and before I knew it, driving for fun was out the window and every race was what I did.”
Once again he raced an 80-shifter but the next year things changed.
“I did fairly well my first season in the 80’s then heard about the Clone class,” he said. “Started investigating and realized that we were going to put one together for Reno so I thought it would be a good way to grow the class and figured I’ll try it.”
Then he discovered his new kart was a very different animal.
Asked about his first impressions, he said, “When I first jumped into my Clone at the beginning of the 2010 season I thought to myself, ‘what, are you freaking nuts! This is slow, this is boring, what were you thinking, this sucks!’
“It was difficult as I was used to all the braking characteristics of my 80, where I needed to break, the speeds, the way the kart felt, the forgiveness of an 80 shifter versus a low horse power Clone.”
With maybe 10 horsepower a Clone has no excess power and Schilt describes them as an inertia or momentum kart.
Another challenge was racing both his 80-shifter and a Clone kart.
“It was difficult racing both in the same day as I’d jump from a shifter into the Clone and had to reset my mind of how to drive the different go karts each time I got in it,” he said. “And about mid-way in 2010 I realized that what I was trying to do was difficult and I was doing better in the Clone class. So I dropped my 80 and from that moment on I did even better in the Clone class.”
This change allowed him to focus on just one type of kart.
“I suspect I enjoy this almost more than the 80’s as it’s a brain class. You have to drive with your brain, which forces you to drive clean and think about what you’re doing. Whether you can make this pass happen and whether you’re taking this line right because you need to maximize all the speed you can out of these go karts and not set them up to where they slow down,” he said. “If you lose your momentum you can lose a lot.”
Clones drivers must focus on handling and finding the most efficient balance between a clean racing line, smoothness and braking.
“It really forces you to use your head more so than a shifter,” he said. “In these if you make a critical mistake, by the time you’ve recovered you’ve lost two or three or four places.”
One advantage to this class is the amount of karts racing in it. Schilt like this because no matter where a driver is in the field they have someone to race with.
As the 2010 season progressed he started catching points leader Terry West and they went into the season ending race only two points apart.
“I made some decisions in kart setup in the final heat that cost me that championship,” he said. “That particular race taught me a lot about reading the track and making the changes on the kart that need to make it work for the conditions on the track.”
While they appear simple, a kart can be adjusted for various conditions and Schilt used a set up for when the track was cooler.
“I had the kart working really well for those conditions but as the track warmed up I didn’t make the proper adjustments. I kept my air pressure where it was, I moved the back wheels out when I should have actually moved them in,” he said. “I ended up with too much grip, two laps into the race I knew I made drastic mistakes in the setup and I could tell by the way the engine was performing that those mistakes were going to kill me.”
With too much grip his kart was actually slowing down exiting a corner rather than speeding up.
“I was frustrated with myself but with every race you should take something away that’s positive regardless whether if the race turns out negative. That helps you become a better driver, a better racer by learning what you’ve done wrong and what to do differently next time,” he said.
He feels one reason the 2011 season went well was he started understanding the track, his kart and how to set it up to work.
“I started realizing at that point what it takes,” he said. “I learned the chassis, I made it work each time out it seemed like I got faster and faster this year. My whole program came together, it jelled, the kart was working really well, I was driving well, smart, clean, smooth and my motor worked.”
However, he wasn’t a shoo-in for the title as Stephanie Lienau was also having a good year and staying close to Schilt in the points race.
“Her and I had a pretty good year battle wise. The points weren’t such an issue as I think we had a 15-point gap by the end of the season, which is still pretty close,” he said. “And again I made some mistakes in the last race that I will never do again.”
Before the season’s final heat Lienau suggested they just have fun and start at the back of the pack rather than where they would have. At that time both thought the title had been decided.
“I learned a valuable lesson two ways,” he said. “One, when you’re in a championship race you cannot play around, you have to finish it. It’s like a boxer that goes to the last round beating the crap out of his opponent and decides to slack off thinking he’s got it in the bag. And his opponent gets one good punch in and knocks him out.”
During that last race, while he was in the lead, Schilt heard a noise and pulled off the track as he suspected his chain had come loose. It hadn’t but that doomed him to a last place finish.
“I’ve learned don’t mess with your positions on the starting grid, don’t get out of the go kart and don’t pull off the track until you know for sure it’s a true mechanical problem,” he said.
Up front Lienau tried but was unable to take the lead and ended up second. Schilt’s last place finish, in eighth, was just good enough to earn him the championship.
“In the end it was one point and that’s not very comfortable,” he said. “So basically two years in a row I almost gave it up due to bad choices. Not necessarily bad driving but bad choices.
“So with this year I learned, don’t screw around when it’s that close for a championship position until it’s over. The most valuable lessons came in the last race and I was very upset as both times, this year and the year prior, about my choices and what it could have cost me.”
Like some racers his business, Performance Marine is pretty much his only sponsor as that income allows him to continue racing. But a long time friend has also been a big part of his success.
“John Thornton helps me with my engines. He’s a very good engine builder be it two-stroke or four-stroke, motorcycle, snowmobile race kart he has a very wide background on his abilities suspension and engines for motorcycle stuff,” he said.
As for his least favorite and favorite aspects of kart racing, Schilt has a few.
“The least favorite part is waking up at 5 in the morning to get to the track in time. It’s absolutely the least favorite part, nothing else beats that,” he said. “My most favorite is racing.”
He also regrets there aren’t more laps in a heat as karting takes a good deal of time and work for those few minutes on the track in race mode.
As a long time racer, he feels karting is a good sport as it’s pretty cost effective and about as safe as any racing can be. He wants the sport to grow and feels it’s also a good family activity and hopes more will either participate or look into it.
Going into the new season, which begins in April, Schilt isn’t making any assumptions and knows it will be a challenge to defend his title.
“It’s going to be a different year for a couple of reasons. There’s going to be more people, more competition just because of the number of karts I think will be there,” he said. “And I’ll be one of them but I believe this year’s competition level is going to change a little bit and I’ll have to work for it.
“I’ve learned a long time ago not to underestimate my opponents when it comes to go kart racing. It’s any man’s game and it’s any woman’s game. I feel I’ll have a good year, regardless of who wins the championship or not.”
Reflecting back on the previous two seasons and how close the championship points were he added, “This year, I’m just going to take it more seriously to the point where I don’t make bad choices. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings and I pull in on the scale.”
OTHER RACING NEWS
•SMRA kicks off racing in this area as the Reno Chapter of the Over The Hill Gang stages the first event of the season at the Lion’s Fernley Motocross track.
Saturday’s practice runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sunday, when all the classes race, the first moto is slated for a 9 a.m. start.
•As usual during the off-season, the motocross track at Exit 28 will be open for practice starting at 10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
•Over the winter there has been a lot of speculation about the fate of the oval at Fernley. Since its season ended this past fall the duo of Vuki Wilson and Matt Ramthun have been working hard to keep racing going there.
Now they have water available, critical for a dirt track, power and have a new name for the track, It’s now Fernley 95A Speedway, as a new name was needed.
Asked how things were going Wilson said, “Everything is going pretty good as we’ve been cleaning it up for the past two weekends. We have to get radios, a new PA system and warning lights. And we’ve got to sell pit stalls and memberships to get started.”
The same classes will run as last year but Wilson is asking the drivers and crews to help with the promotion, as he wants it to be, “everybody’s track.”
As soon as things are arranged there will be a driver’s meeting and the notice will appear on the track’s Facebook site, Fernley ninetyfivea Speedway.