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Track Guide: Wombwell

wombwell-karting-track-guide

The Lap
The Wombwell track is anti-clockwise making it different to many tracks that club racers are used to. A tight left soon after the start line, Turn 1 can cause considerable grief at the beginning of a race and sorts the men from the boys.The racing line takes the driver on to the extra tarmac area full right. Braking and turn-in are conventional, just missing the kerb at the apex. Running wide, the exit allows the driver to use the wide friendly kerb under power, but you need to stay off the grass. If the exit is correctly executed the driver may well be offered an overtaking opportunity at the end of the following straight leading to a very fast approach to Turn 2 (a tight hairpin left) which makes this bend exciting.

 

Thread the Needle through turn 1
Thread the Needle through turn 1

Turn 2

A wide entry to Turn 2, braking just after the marshal’s post, should take the driver on to the kerb, which must be followed closely until the bend starts to unwind. Exit running across the track to the far kerb and eventually onto the straight, with the correct line taking you near to the wall.

Turn 3

Turn 3, a fast right hand bend, is approached alongside the wall and flat out. Clip the kerb on your right and run to the outside of the track. Brake and turn right into the second part of the complex, almost clipping the kerb on the apex. The track is slightly downhill and this combination requires a well set-up kart. Oversteer is certainly preferable to understeer.You really have to have a good exit from Turn 3 if this turn is to be taken without grief.

 

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Turn 2 is unique

Turn 4

Turn 4 is a slower left hand hairpin approached from just left of centre moving to the right just before the braking point. Turn in late to get a good clean exit which should see you running down the right hand side of the track. Mess up the exit from either Turn 3 or Turn 4 and you are certainly asking to be overtaken.

Turn 5

Passing the pit entry you turn into Turn 5, the final corner. Approach this 90° left hand bend from the extreme right hand side of the track. Brake in a straight line and turn in, clipping the kerb, running wide to hold a position full right for the start/finish straight.

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Circuit Guide: Hooton Park

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The Hooton Park kart circuit, situated a stone’s throw away from junction 6 of the M53, opened its doors in 2006 on the site of the old RAF Hooton airfield; making it the newest MSA licensed track in the country.

The Lap

A lap of Hooton Park starts with a long straight leading to Turn 1, a 90° right. On entry there is an extra bit of tarmac on the left which can be used for braking and set up a wider entry to the corner so minimum steering is required for making the apex. The kerb is low but running it just tends to upset the kart but be sure to use as much of the run-off kerb as possible to maximise your cornering speed. This is one of two obvious overtaking spots on the track as you can get a tow from the kart in front up the start/finish straight and the wide entry leaves plenty of room up the inside for passing them.

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This circuit lends itself to great racing…

Turn 2

A short straight follows to Turn 2. On paper it looks similar to the first turn but this one only requires a lift on entry, has a higher apex kerb and has nowhere near as much run-off kerb. Approach from the left and move in to clip the apex mid-corner before just brushing the run-off kerb on the exit. When the track is green, it is a common mistake to carry too much speed into this turn and suddenly experience oversteer at the apex so it’s critical to not push too hard into this corner during those first few sessions after a rainstorm.

Turn 3

Next up is another long straight which leads into the very fast Turn 3. This right handed corner is 180° from entry to exit and starts tight before opening out on exit. So, with this in mind, an early apex and high entry speed is required therefore braking can be left until just before the marshal post (or level if you’ve got a well set-up kart and feeling brave) and smoothly roll the kart through a mid-kerb apex. Leave putting the power on until you’re past the apex and let the kart run out to the outside white line for the remainder of the curve on to the next straight. It is important not to bring in the power too early or hard as the amount of rubber that is usually present at this bend will cause the rear of the kart to destabilise itself, either through hopping or sliding, which will cost you vital tenths of a second. The key to this corner is that you must be very smooth on all counts (braking, steering and throttle).

T3 is the second obvious overtaking spot on the track as the long straight before it allows you to pick up a tow and get alongside them by the braking zone. You can lean on your opponent on the exit too as you let your kart run wide naturally giving them the option of either dropping in behind you or taking a trip over the grass.

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Trecherous in the wet, Hooton Park can be difficult to get right.

Turn 4

Now you’re on the infield part of the track as you drive the “slightly curving left” straight towards the left handed Turn 4. This bend consists of a wide entry which is horribly off-cambered the further right you go so it’s best to approach this corner from a mid-track position. Begin braking about level with the start of the first inside kerb and keep trail-braking past the aforementioned kerb and get the kart so it’s at mid-track again for the second part of the corner which is tighter and narrower. If you’ve done the first part right, you should just be able to let off the brakes from your mid-track position to turn into an apex just clipping the inside kerb before getting on the power smoothly to run your outside wheel over the end of the exit kerb. As with T3, a lot of rubber can get laid here too so it’s important to be smooth on the throttle and steering round this corner. Overtaking is possible if you can get well inside your opponent before the first inside kerb, but be wary of the fact that they probably won’t see you until they’ve started turning in so it’s important that you’re fully committed to making the move stick before you attempt it. Failing that, if they get caught out by the off-camber round the first part, it could leave enough room to nip up the inside before the second kerb.

Turn 5 and 6

Once you’ve left T4, quickly get yourself to the left of the track ready for the Turns 5 & 6 chicane. This is a very fast part of the track which requires a bit of kerb to be quick. Enter the chicane flat out, getting close but not hitting the right hand kerb before lifting off the throttle and clipping the left hand kerb with your wheels whilst keeping as tight as possible on exit ready for the next corner. It used to be quicker putting your whole kart over the left hand kerb, but years of people taking the same line have left a massive nosecone formed dip on the inside of the kerb so it’s now quicker and smoother to just clip it with your wheels.

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I never knew Ayrton Senna raced here!? Or drove an X30!

Turn 7

Turn 7 follows immediately after the chicane which is why it’s important to stay as far over to the left as possible on the exit of the previous corner. This curve is similar to the Horseshoe at Clay Pigeon but going right instead of left. Brake on the very short straight part between T6 and T7 before turning into a mid to late apex on the first part, which has positive camber. At this point, balance the throttle whilst letting the kart roll out to a mid-track position between the two apexes before getting on the power fully ready to turn into the second apex (off-cambered this time) before running wide on the exit, the run-off kerb is almost non-existent so it’s best using the white line as your guide at this point to gauge how wide you can go. Late lunges are possible here, as when the kart in front lifts to take the second part of the previous chicane, simply take it flat out all the way through letting the kart go all the way over to the other side of the track and outbrake them before they turn into T7. However it’s also just as easy to overcook the entry speed and watch your opponent cut back past your inside through the second apex.

After you’ve exited the corner, get your head down and follow the straight past the start line ready to go another lap of the Hooton Park kart circuit. A fast, flowing circuit which provides great racing for both MSA and IndiKart drivers alike.

 

Like this article? Read our latest circuit guide’s: 

Capital Karts – Circuit Guide

Grand Prix Karting Birmingham – Circuit Guide

Circuit Guide: Oulton Park

oulton

The track is characterised by its rapidly changing gradients and blind crests leading into unforgiving corners but is loved by all who take part at this unique venue.

1 Old Hall Corner
I approach Old Hall Corner in 5th gear at 115 mph pulling 10,600 revs. and keep tight to the left hand side of the circuit using the extra bit of tarmac. Giving the brake pedal a tap, I come down one gear to 4th. Aim for a normal apex, but you can attack the corner as it has a good positive camber. Flick the kart into the apex and let it drift through the corner at about 98mph using the camber of the corner to hug the inside. Let the kart naturally run out wide with the left hand side tyres touching the rumble strip on the exit.

2 Denton’s
Click into 5th gear along the Avenue keeping the kart to the left hand side. I take a late apex into Denton’s as the track drops away and keep to the right hand side as the track continues to fall. At this point I am doing about 118mph pulling 10,700 revs.

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Oulton Park is a firm favourite on the Superkart Calendar

3 Cascades
Keeping to the right hand side of the track approaching Cascades I aim for a normal apex. With a lift off the power, I tap the brake on the entry to the corner and come down to 4th gear. I hold the kart tight to the inside kerb but don’t touch it keeping the revs up at 100mph through the corner. Let the kart run out to the edge of the circuit on the exit but keep off the kerb as the track runs a bit off camber.

4 Island Bend
Grabbing 5th gear before the crest along Lakeside, I stay on the right hand side of the track all the way along Lakeside. Island Bend is taken flat in 5th gear at 122mph. The entry to the corner must be smooth and easy on the steering. Brush the normal apex and let the kart run to the middle of the circuit on the exit and then pull it back to the left hand side on the approach to Shell.

5 Shell Oils Corner
At Shell Oils Corner it’s hard on the brakes and down to 2nd gear. Turn in for a normal apex and hug the inside about two feet from the kerb at 65 mph using the banking of the corner. As the camber starts to flatten out and change to off camber aim for the marshals post on the outside and as I approach the exit kerb I grab 3rd gear.

OULTON
Home to more than just karts, Oulton is narrow and technical

Turn 6
After the hairpin the circuit is still on a gradual right hand curve. Gently bring the kart to the right hand side of the circuit and grab 4th gear.

7, 8 & 9 Britten’s
I approach the Britten’s chicane at 107mph pulling 10,700 revs still in 4th gear. Then it’s hard on the brakes and down one gear to 3rd as I turn into the left hand kerb and down to 2nd gear for the right hand kerb. As you go through the left hand exit kerb you then hit a bump where the Island circuit joins the International circuit. At this point I grab 3rd gear letting the kart run out to the right hand side of the circuit.

10 & 11 Hislop’s
Over the crest of Hilltop I keep the kart over to the right hand side of the track and grab 4th gear and then 5th as I go down the hill towards the next chicane. I approach Hislop’s at 115mph and bring the kart across to the left hand side of the circuit. At Hislop’s it’s hard on the brakes and down to 2nd gear turn as I turn into the right hand apex keeping off the kerb. Then I take a late apex for the left hand kerb at 60mph and try to keep the kart to the left hand side to set me up for the next corner.

12 Knickerbrook
Along the short straight I grab 3rd gear before Knickerbrook and then flick the kart into the right-hander so that the kart drifts to the left hand side on the exit.

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The gradient changes and undulations can unsettle a kart

13 & 14 Clay
Hill I bring the kart to the middle of the track as the circuit starts to rise for Clay Hill and take 4th gear. Hold the kart to the left hand side over the crest and grab 5th gear on the little straight. Through the left hand kink keep the kart hard over to the left hand side taking a late apex.

15 Druids
The approach to Druids is at 120mph pulling 10,900 revs. in 5th gear. I take a slight lift off the power and just feather the brake pedal with the left foot at the turn in point. Aiming for the second apex still in 5th gear I trail the brake to keep the kart stable and drift it to scrub off a bit of speed through the corner. I take Druids at 105mph and get back on the power at the apex letting the kart drift to the left hand side of the track over the crest on the exit and making sure to keep off the kerb.

16 Lodge Corner
Increasing the speed to 120 mph along the straight, I try and stay down inside the bubble as the kart floats over the crests under Warwick Bridge keeping the kart to the left hand side of the track on the approach to Lodge Corner. Then it’s hard on the brakes and down three into 2nd gear at 70mph. I take a late apex as the exit of the corner drops away steeply downhill and the kart understeers on the way out.

17 Deer Leap
I grab 3rd gear in the dip and then 4th over the crest at Deer Leap quickly followed by 5th gear and let the kart run to the middle of the track as I cross the grid to start another lap having just recorded a time of 1m 39.863s at an average speed of 97.04mph to set a new lap record.

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Circuit Guide: Forest Edge

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Parsons Corner

Flat out along the Start/finish straight and you’re as far right of the track as you can be preparing yourself for the first corner which is a slight left-hander. Take this corner flat out and hug the kerb to your left. Hug, don’t touch as it will unsettle the kart and force you off line making entry to Haynes loop more difficult than it needs to be. Similarly leave too much of a gap between you and the kerb and you’ll develop oversteer creating the same effect. By hugging the kerb, the kart should not drift too much thus making you (at worst) in the centre of the road upon corner exit and not over to the right hand side. Point to note, if you take this corner perfectly and the driver in front of you doesn’t, you’ll have more top end speed approaching Haynes loop as they would have scrubbed off speed making overtaking possible with some late braking.

Haynes Loop

Firmly on the brakes approaching Haynes Loop and turn in. This corner has three kinks to it. Be careful not to run too wide after the first kink as the track can get dirty and you’ll lose grip which will have a detrimental effect upon you for the next 2 kinks. Upon entry, the first kerb is soft and I regularly touched (not launched!) this, so that I could keep a tight line all the way around the remainder of the kinks. Not many others did this and they chose to allow their karts to run wide after the first, miss the second kink then, they’d bring it back tight again for the third kink before the approach to Johnny’s. Either way, throttle control is vital. If the grips there, keep your right foot planted, if you can feel a slide developing, slightly lift off. Kart positioning is more important than ‘wheel spinning high rev’s on the approach to Johnny’s. Time can be gained and lost at Johnny’s. On the approach you should be positioned to the far right and turn in early. Not so early that you clip the kerb on the left but slightly sooner than the conventional racing line. It’s an unnerving feeling if you get it right as you feel like you’ve compromised your corner exit. I didn’t find this to be the case as the grip available when you turn in early not only allows you to take any exit line you desire, but also allows you to take more speed around the corner than the conventional line where I found oversteer to be an issue. Corner exit is important and don’t be tempted to use the rumble strip. Those who did, soon lost chains.

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Wingers Dip

Now, flat out downhill towards Wingers dip. Be careful. If you slid out of Johnny’s or ran wide onto the rumble strip, have a quick check to see if someone’s threatening you from behind. If someone’s there, defending into wingers dip is vital to stave off any attacks. Then firmly on the brakes and turn in for Wingers dip. Some felt it beneficial to take half of their kart over the white line on the left hand side before turning right for corner entry, I however found no benefit from doing this. This corner is off camber and will seriously hurt you if you miss your braking point or try to fight it out with someone around the outside who has taken you down the inside. Once turned in, If the grips there, allow your kart to drift to the centre on corner exit and touch the apex of Ansons for the drag uphill towards the bus stop.

Bus Stop

Get the bus stop chicane right and you may be able to attack a driver on the entry to Midgets. Get it wrong and you’ll damage your kart. Late braking is essential. Normally the laws of karting are, brake, steer, accelerate. For this chicane, you start braking before you turn in but continue braking whilst turning in. The speed you can take into the first right hand part of the chicane is phenomenal, But don’t touch the kerb on the right.

As you come off the brakes, you can then accelerate as your turning left for the centre of the chicane and for the exit. Be gentle with the throttle. If you’ve taken the amount of speed into the chicane as you’re able to, then flooring the throttle with snap you into oversteer for corner exit which will lose you speed approaching the next corner. Feed the power through and straighten the kart and clip the grass area with your right wheel, straight lining it uphill towards Midgets. I do not recommend overtaking into the chicane. If you’re side by side with someone on the approach (because they messed up Ansons) then fine, go for it. But if your behind someone and make a lunge, know one of two things. 1) The driver you’re out braking won’t be able to make it through the chicane with any sort of dignity (which is fine from your perspective!) But – 2) If a driver is not prepared to concede or is surprised by your manoeuvre, then their options will be to go off the track, damage their kart over a kerb, or take you out of the race! So – think hard. I’d recommend concentrating on getting a better exit from the chicane than the driver in front and then out breaking them into Midgets.

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Midgets

Midgets is a great corner that if taken properly can get you right up behind another driver or better still give you an opportunity to pass them. Midgets is made up in two parts. First apex and second apex. For a quick lap, forget the first apex. Brake had and late past the first apex and only concentrate on the second apex. Don’t touch the kerb of the second apex and power out as quickly as you can for the short run towards Climate corner. If you messed up the chicane exit, you will be vulnerable to attack from behind so missing the first apex is not an option. Aim for it, brake late & hard and park your kart on the approach to the second apex then power out. Similarly, if you’ve got a run on someone approaching Midgets corner, launch it down their inside and park it on the approach to the second and then, power out.

Climate

Climate corner is deceptive as there’s plenty of grip on entry but the grip fades away on exit. The best way I found was to enter the corner slowly, keep it tight to the kerb, then power out. Anyone in front of you who goes into the corner quicker, will pull a kart length or two on you but don’t be disheartened though. When you exit they’ll be struggling for grip, and kart positioning, whilst you’ll have more speed and better kart control on the approach to Tollys, the final corner. This will give you two options, make a last lap lunge down their inside or allow you to close the gap to them.

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Trollys

For Trollys, you can brake late and take more speed through this corner than you think. However, in saying that, corner exit is most important as it sets you up for the run back to Haynes Loop. The kerb on corner entry is not that bad (last lap lunge me thinks!) but I wouldn’t use it for a fast lap as it will only unsettle the kart. Whilst exiting Trollys, stay off the exit kerb and keep to the track.

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Tom Joyner karting tips

Genk European July 2010

Karting tips from champ Tom Joyner

Tom Joyner was a hugely popular winner of the Northern Qualifier at PFi last month doubly so beecause only does a few races a year. It wasn’t entirely unprecedented though as he had come 4th in last year’s European KF2 Finals at Genk and has been a frontrunner on the national scene for the last half decade.

Tom is now 19 and was headed off to Nottingham University last autumn to study Product Design and Engineering, but he decided to take a gap year and have one last shot at international success. He’s already reconsidering that and is thinking about combining university with racing next season, or even another gap year if someone comes through with a big opportunity. He races with Ash Todd’s AMT Racing and ideally would like to pick up some sponsorship and stay with the same team. He would like to do the British Championship at PFi and thinks it will be a really good event but he’s due to go off to Uni the day after.

At PFi he had recently switched to a Tonykart and the test the week before the Qualifier was his first time out on the kart.

“I found an extra tenth that I perhaps lacked at Genk and carried that through to the next week. In Qualifying everyone said the track was getting slower but it was OK and being at the front then helped in the heats.

“Klinkby-Silver and Rossel were much closer to the pace in the Final and could have been a threat if they had started further up.

“I liked the new layout of the weekend, as everyone knew they were through. I also liked the long final, although I got out and couldn’t move my hands! The tyres were surprising as I’ve always seen Vegas destroy themselves but they were just as fast in the fourth heat as in the first. With the Dunlops from last year you couldn’t be as smooth.”

He isn’t changing anything for the Final at Zuera but thinks there is more to come from the TM engine. “It’ll be a lot closer there as more people know the track,” he says, himself never having been there before.

Last year at Genk he says “it was a weird weekend, I was testing on old tyres thec week before then put on the new tyre, I qualified 9th but didn’t have the pace to win and had an accident in the last heat so started 15th for Final 1. I came through to 5th but I had taken a lot out of the fronts with the front brakes and dropped to 10th. In the Final I came up to 4th, the grippy track suited my driving style and I surprised a lot of people.”

I asked Tom what he thought could make things better for drivers like him. He said “there needs to be less classes and less races in the British Championship. We have the most rounds out of any country, I think in the Belgian Championship there’s only four rounds.”

“With so many races you often have to go testing, then go to a Super One for example, and then go back and race at the track you tested at and it’s not ideal. It’s also important that people in this country can do their own championship.”

He thinks this year’s one-off British Championship will be a good thing as anyone could win it. “Also with a new track it should be interesting, hopefully Mark Litchfield won’t drive it for a week before everyone else!” Tom is more of a fan of PFi than a lot of people, he says it looks like a worse track to drive than it actually is, and says there’s good viewing with the bowl effect.

From what he told me I’ve picked out seven points that help Tom succeed in a class that is infamous for excessive expense.

Embrace what’s difficult

Tom doesn’t shy away from things that might faze other drivers. For example at PFi “for the final we set up the kart to come on really late and I really struggled at the start, dropping back seven places. The tyre pressures were so low I didn’t know if I could get round the first corner.”

He says his favourite track is Braga as “it’s really old and bumpy, which makes it really interesting, and you struggle with the same lines on each lap, and the kerbs show up your mistakes. I like that about PFi as well.” In the UK his favourite track is Rowrah, for the same reason with the kerbs and also the inclines.

Pick a good team and stick with them

Tom has been with AMT since 2007 when he was racing in JICA and thinks they are a huge reason why he can be successful. “I go over everything with Ash and go over the data and have learned not to just go out and change everything and to think about it more.

“We get on well and believe in each other, there’s no doubts anywhere. Lots of people change teams quite a lot, but you’re going to have good and bad days so it’s better to build relationships.”

Stay calm

“At PFi we didn’t think we’d be that far at the sharp end but it gave us a bit more confidence and everyone worked extra hard.” A few years ago Tom thinks he might have fluffed it at PFi being in the position he was in but now is in a really good frame of mind for it. He also says not to make rash decision when in reality you’re not far off the pace.

Keep learning

Tom does admit he would be at a disadvantage from his limited track time if he was younger and less experienced. But you can mitigate this by taking in everything you can whenever you can.

Don’t listen to paddock rumours

“People are put off by what they hear about the costs but Rotax can be just as bad. A works team will charge a lot of money but if you go with a good national team it costs much the same as other classes. With the engines there’s quite a lot you can change if it’s not good enough whereas in Rotax you often have to pay a lot for a good one and can only change the carb.

“Going abroad costs more but it’s the same for Euromax. In the European Championship tyres are free, in WSK the tyres cost but I haven’t done that.”

Keep fit

“I can’t stay kart-fit, but I ride my bike to work and I’m cycling for four or five hours at work as well,” said Tom, who works as a postman during the week.

Enjoy it

“Every time I stop for a while I want to get back racing, not because I want to get into F1 or anything, just because it’s a good feeling and I enjoy myself.”

Get the most out of a junior – without messing with their head

MSA British Cadet Championship and the FKS Championship for Mini Max and Junior Max.Putting your child into their first kart is an exciting time, the start of a journey which at best could take them towards motor-racing stardom and at worst should be a fun period in their life where they will make friends, gain confidence and learn things that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Before you go and buy a kart, examine your motives, it should be a partnership. If it for you to live you dream through your child maybe its not such a good idea as it might not be possible to guide, motivate and encourage without being the archetypal pushy parent.

Dont place any conditions on the drive, going karting or not isnt about doing well at school or finishing chores at home, if you need to persuade your child to do these find an other means.

A professional relationship?
They are the driver; you are the team manager, mechanic and tea boy rolled into one. Never forget though, that you are also dad or mum. A 10 year-old does not cease to be 10 just because they put on a racing suit and crash helmet, in the same way that school and home need to be a safe and secure in order for them to flourish, the karting environment needs to be too. By safe I dont mean risk free, motor-racing is dangerous, I mean that your child needs to know that somebody that they know and trust is there for them. There will be times where your child is upset, angry or frustrated and doesnt want input from their team manager they will just need their mum or dad.

Let the driver own the kart. A seat fitting session does a lot to make them feel physically comfortable in the chassis and be able to operate the throttle brake and steering effectively. Psychologically it helps to orientate them in the kart and makes them feel special. From this day onwards it is their kart and they should be involved with every decision made about it.

Some kids will be fanatically interested in all aspects of Kart racing and love to get stuck in with the preparation as well as enjoying the driving aspect, others may only be interested in the driving part. The only thing that really matters is that they enjoy some aspect of it. You should be competing because everybody gets something out of it. Heaven forbid that your child only goes racing because they desperately want to please Mum or Dad.

The basics
Before you even venture out to a circuit make sure that your child knows what the flag signals mean and understands what to do when they are used.

At the circuit if at all possible walk the track to give them some idea of where it goes and point out the track entry and exit points, giving them one less thing for them to worry about.

Let them know where you will be standing, and be there. Inexperienced drivers will drive around the circuit looking for you, standing where you can be identified means that they can check that Dad/Mum is there, relax and get on with driving.

First couple of times out forget trying to go fast instead concentrate on the absolute basics. Dont get into explanations about things like understeer and oversteer, this will just complicate things. Merely getting your child to recognise and drive on the racing line will pay dividends. Not only will driving the line start to make their track-craft second nature, it will keep them out of harms way. No matter how talented your child is, for the first few outings they are going to be slow in comparison to the more experienced drivers and they will be overtaken, regularly. Keeping strictly and consistently to the racing line will allow the other drivers to whip smoothly past and it will make them do the work while your child concentrates on getting better.

There is very little that your child could do that would make them more unpopular on the circuit than to be inconsistent with their placing on the circuit. Indeed one of the best compliments that you can be paid early on is for other drivers to say I always know where he/she is going.

Moving on
As a parent, dont expect too much too early. There is no substitute for loads of seat time; be patient and as the laps pass the times will drop. Sometimes there will be a significant improvement within the course of a day at the circuit; other times seemingly nothing will be happening. At this point it is tempting to start to fiddle with the kart settings but unless the kart is visibly demonstrating huge understeer or oversteer problems try to resist the urge to change anything, most of the improvement (and many of the perceived handling problems) still lies with the driver. What they need most of all in order to improve is a kart that handles consistently.

Sooner or later they will start to arrive in the pits with tyres that have picked up quite a layer of rubber, thats encouraging because the driver is now going quickly enough to generate sufficient heat in their slicks to get them a bit sticky but still isnt going quite fast enough to keep them clean. Its a laborious job getting rid of this layer (I used to use a scraper attachment attached to the nozzle of a hot air gun) but doing so will help the kart to remain consistent.

Plateaus
One thing that you can guarantee 100% is that your son or daughter will reach a plateau where despite all help and advice offered they just arent getting any faster, often despite the fact that you can clearly see where there are several seconds to come. Getting cross after being told Im driving as fast as the chassis/engine/tyres will go isnt the way to deal with this. A plateau is a very real thing, so far as your child is concerned they ARE driving the kart as hard as will go, disagreeing with them is calling them a liar.

Some drivers will quickly work through a plateau phase. Especially if you stay calm and gently encourage. If they appear very stuck it can be a good time to employ little race psychology, a favourite of mine was to do non-existent tweak on the kart that would allow them to brake a little later or turn in a little harder (or whatever I had identified might be the problem area). As the responsible adult you had to be darned certain that the mechanical solution you offer is safe. It is fine telling your child that you have done a modification that should allow them to brake loads later when you have identified that they are braking very much too early but telling them the same when they are only a few tenths off a good race pace will either cause an accident or have them never believing anything you say again!

On the pace
As a driver’s times get close to a proper race pace I favour a collaborative approach, encouraging as much driver feedback as they are able to give considering their age and experience. Its surprising how many kids will very adeptly drive around a problem unless given an opportunity to voice their opinion. Ask them to talk you round a lap, telling you in as much detail as they can where they are braking and accelerating and what the kart is doing in the bends.

For younger or less experienced drivers put questions simply. Does it slide worse in some parts of the track than others, which end of the kart has the least grip? More experienced drivers can be asked directly about understeer, oversteer, and in which parts of a bend it exhibits these characteristics. One question I use regularly is, what would you like your kart to do differently today?

Sometimes a straight question works. Where do you think you might be able to pick up a little time, is there any way that I might be able to help you to go faster? Never make a change to the kart that will affect handling without telling the driver about it. Although nobody makes a change that they think will affect the handling in a negative way, sometimes you will make things worse. Letting the driver know what you have done and how it should affect the handling is respectful and sensible.

Make positive suggestions but dont lay down the law, you can be reasonably firm though, Ive noticed that the rest of the field do XYZ between bends 7 and 8, would this work for you? NO..? Well, Id like you to try it for at least couple of laps, if it works, Great! If not Ill shut up about it!

It also doesnt take long for many drivers to latch on to the catch-all answer, I need more power! A well phrased open question will always prompt far more useful discussion.

Rewards? Some kids respond well to rewards, do you think that a 48.5 second lap is possible? Ill tell you what… Ill stand you a square of chocolate (or anything else insignificant but fun) for every tenth of a second you manage to knock off between your current time and our new target. The reward is staged because a few attempts without any success could discourage more than it encourages.

Pep talks and post race appraisals
Im constantly amazed and appalled that some peoples idea of an appraisal is along the lines of That was rubbish… they were all over you… what went wrong… 3 seconds off the pace… un-ruddy-believable!

In management they emphasise that the word appraisal contains the word praise. Dont tell Timmy how brilliantly he drove when patently he didnt. But no matter how frustrated you are with what you consider to be a poor session or race, a calm and steady approach to the post race de-brief is needed. Make sure that you point out where things went well, criticise by all means but make sure that you do it constructively and make sure that come up with a plan for improvements that you both agree. Use what management types call a praise sandwich, dealing with an area that needs work in-between two good points.

Some kids respond to the go-get-em-tiger approach to pep talks, others will go out and drive the wheels off their kart without a word from you, it is down to your childs personality. Self-belief is one of the key weapons in a racing drivers armoury but it is also a double edged sword, persuading your child that they are unbeatable or allowing them to foster a false opinion of their talent can result in shaken confidence if they are soundly beaten. Make sure that pre-race encouragement isnt too over-the-top. I think that you stand a very real chance here bolsters confidence but allows a little wriggle room should things go awry.

Whoops!
We all make mistakes, so it is inevitable that your child will too, you dont get particularly cross if your child spins out of contention while in 23rd position, so why should they get a severe ear bashing if they do the same while in a podium place? No matter how frustrated you are, storming up to them (Ive seen it) yelling you threw that away achieves nothing. What is for certain is that they didnt deliberately spin or crash so they will be as upset as you are. This is the time for empathy, Crikey Ed you must be gutted, what happened? Chat about it, come up with a solution and agree that this is something to work on for the future.

Finally…
Rather than condemning the kart which needs to be trusted to perform next time out, sometimes you will have no option but to exhibit broad shoulders and take at least some of the blame when a tired driver needs to sound off after a frustrating time. Its part of being an adult…

OFF TRACK – “Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!”

img019“Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!” (Diane Wakoski – American poet)

They were, without doubt, the cream of British karting. Some of them, such as Stephen South, Johnny Herbert, Allan McNish and Ralph Firman chose to broaden their horizons and eventually became F1 stars. Others, most notably Bruno Ferrari, Mickey Allen, Terry Fullerton and Mark Litchfield opted to remain in the sport where they became legendary figures. All of them proved their merit by winning British titles in karting’s premier category. It was known, initially, as Class 1 Super, then 100 International, Formula A and more recently KF1. Despite the different names, one thing remained constant. To become a champion in this class required truly exceptional talent.

Apart from the aforementioned it’s worth listing all those other distinguished champions who could claim to have scaled British karting’s highest peak. They were John Brise, Bobby Alderdyce, Bobby Day, Chris Hales, Paul Burgess, Alan Gates, Andy Buchan, Piers Hunnisett, Richard Weatherley, Steve Brogan, Darrell Beasley, Jeremy Cotterill, Andrew O’Hara, Gary Moynihan, Michael Simpson, Matt Davies, Bobby Game, Robert Jenkinson, Michael Spencer, Mike Conway, Chris Rogers, Mark Rochford, Gary Catt and Robert Foster-Jones. Sadly, Mark Litchfield’s name on this elite list may turn out to be the last.

As predicted, the KF classes have now managed to price themselves out of existence leaving a huge void at the top of British karting. Despite Paul Fletcher’s efforts to sustain sufficient interest in KF1, support for this category completely evaporated last year. That left KF2 as the obvious alternative but it became clear very early in 2011 that there wouldn’t be sufficient numbers to make this class viable, either. An attempt will be made to restore the KF2 British Championship title by staging a one off meeting at PF later this year. Somehow, this prospect doesn’t quite make the taste buds tingle in anticipation.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea of deciding a British title in one single meeting. Indeed, that used to be the accepted method for many years and I actually prefer it to the much costlier multi round packages offered by Super 1 or Formula Kart Stars. However, we’re talking here about resurrecting a class that hasn’t been run anywhere else in Britain this year. Despite the offer of huge incentives, KF2 wasn’t able to attract more than half a dozen potential participants when entries for Super One closed.

The timing of this event in October might make it an attractive proposition for Rotax, TKM or KGP competitors whose championship aspirations in their chosen classes haven’t quite been fulfilled. We could finish up with a remarkably high entry, although in that case I’m not quite sure where all the motors will come from. Buying expensive engines for a championship series spread over six rounds is one thing, but it doesn’t make particularly good financial sense when they’re to be used at a one off event. I don’t doubt that whoever becomes the 2011 KF2 British Champion will be an extremely talented individual, but I’ll always regard the title as a bit synthetic. The cream has already turned sour and no amount of sugar can sweeten it.

Many readers will have been impressed by the photograph of Peter Brinkworth’s pristine 1963 Fox/McCulloch in last month’s issue. Peter bought the kart eight years ago, paying $1200 for it plus shipping costs. It required extensive restoration work which Peter described as a labour of love. In his earlier competitive days, he’d always wanted to own a Fox-kart but couldn’t afford one. Back in 1963, they were priced at £120 without an engine, equivalent of around £4,000 today. Driven by George Bloom, Bobby Day and Roger Keele these karts won three out of four classes in the 1963 British Championships. It all turned sour for Fox-kart owners within a few very short months when their prized possessions were rendered obsolete by the Tecno Kaimano and its imitators. It was possible for karters to get their fingers badly burned even in those days.

Roger Mills was the driver who appeared in April’s poser. This month’s photograph shows Chris Merlin, Irving Jacobs and Tony Palmer immediately after this trio had won the 2nd Snetterton 9hr event. It was the year of Flower Power when Scott McKenzie went to “San Francisco”. The Beatles produced their Sergeant Pepper album and the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, took a fatal overdose. Israel emerged triumphant from the Six Day War and Che Guevara was shot dead in Bolivia. Glasgow Celtic became Britain’s first winners of the European Champions Cup and barefooted Sandie Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest. New Zealander Denny Hulme was the F1 world champion, while Eduardo Rossi claimed karting’s equivalent. At Little Rissington Dave Ferris was crowned as the outright British karting champion and Thailand’s Nu Punjashthiti partnered Canadian driver Buck Jones to win the Shenington 6hrs. If you can name the year please send an e-mail to dave.bewley@talktalk.net or telephone 01946 861355