All posts by Karting Staff D

Sebastien Bernard – Head of Legal Dept. FIA

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

karting-mag-logo-15Kart racers and Karting people come from all walks of life and backgrounds. My own Karting journalism and commentaries are a hobby separate from my ordinary job as a lawyer. So, as a lawyer with an interest in motor racing, you can imagine how much I might envy the man who is the Head of the Legal Department in the FIA offices in Geneva. It couldn’t get much better for me. To practise my chosen profession at the very heart of Motor Racing’s World Governing Body.

Well I was to learn that it could get even better than that, because when I tracked down the man in question, would you believe it, he’s also a kart racer.

Sebastien Bernard is 34 years old and qualified as a lawyer in 1996. By then he was already a kart racer. His father’s job as a Motor Sport mechanic at Renault suggested that the young Sebastien would soon be introduced to motor racing. So it proved, and his first kart race was in 1990 at Libourne in France.

His progress was steady rather than spectacular, but despite the handicap of studies for his Law exams, Sebastien has emerged as a very competent racer. His best result so far was his 9th place in the 1997 CIK-FIA Formula A World Championships held at Salbris in France. Amongst the drivers competing in that meeting was Jensen Button bidding to become the Formula Super A Champion.

Sebastien had been a finalist in the Formula A World Cup in Suzuka, Japan in 1995 and again at the same venue in the Formula Super A World Cup in 1998. In all, he’s taken part in 6 Formula A European Championships, so you can see that the FIA lawyer is not short of karting experience.

How much racing does he manage these days? ‘Not as much as I would like. Perhaps 6 Race Meetings and 4-6 testing sessions a year’ he told me. That’s in ICC 125cc and in the Rotax Max Euro Challenge. Indeed it was at the Euro Challenge Round in Salbris in March this year that I was able to catch up with him again having first spoken to him at PFi in Lincolnshire in May 2005.

In fact he had exceptionally bad luck in Salbris having qualified at the front of the grid of the Masters Class only to have mechanical problems on the formation lap of the Pre-Final and have to limp back to the Pits. So a meeting that was so promising through the Heats, produced nothing from either the pre-final or Final

He lives at Sergy in Switzerland near to the FIA Head Offices in Geneva. He’s married to Nathalie who conveniently also works in the same building as an accountant in the CIK-FIA Secretariat. They have a son, Antonin who is 3 years old.

I was curious to learn what his legal work at FIA consisted of. ‘I draw up the appropriate agreements for the conduct of motor sport events worldwide’ he told me. ‘In particular we have to gain the full potential for media and marketing rights to the big events.’ I wondered if there was an extra motivation behind his work. ‘Definitely’ he told me. ‘I want to ensure fair play in motor sport with regulations that are equitable, and I also enjoy solving sporting disputes and the various disciplinary matters’
I have to confess to a moment when I really did feel jealous. I’d have loved to be involved in that sort of work. But then if I was, probably, like Sebastien, there would be far less time available for my own hobby of world wide kart commentating and journalism. I guess the grass always seems greener on the other side, and I should reflect that I am really quite fortunate as things are.

I closed by asking Sebastien if he has any remaining ambitions. ‘Yes definitely. To stay in contact with the various circuits, and to enjoy racing with friends and local organisations. These are a big motivation for working in motor sport’. Once again I had just a tiny feeling of envy.

We agreed to stay in contact. The next time I am in Geneva, I shall be calling in to the legal offices at FIA to say Hello. In the meantime I hope that the next time we meet at a Circuit, he is more successful than at Salbris. He was going really well until I started to talk about him on air. I hope I didn’t put the commentator’s curse on him.

Ken Walker

OFF TRACK!

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

karting-mag-logo-15“Putting on the agony,

Putting on the style,
That’s what all the young folks,
Are doing all the while,
And as I look around me,
I sometimes have to smile,
Seeing all the young folks,
Putting on the style!”

Belting out those words almost 50 years ago, Lonnie Donegan topped the Hit Parade and established himself as the new king of British pop music. Lonnie followed up this success with such immortal classics as “My Old Man’s A Dustman” and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour on The Bedpost Overnight?” starting off a new craze amongst youngsters of my generation. Soon, we were all tying broomsticks onto tea-chests and pinching washing boards from our mums to form makeshift bands known as skiffle groups. You could even get a free skiffle whistle with every packet of Rice Krispies. We certainly had the style but it was our parents who suffered the agony as horrible noises started to emanate from coalhouses and cellars across the country. Lonnie’s rise to pop stardom over here was being mirrored in America where a young rock ‘n roll artist called Elvis Presley had recorded big hits with Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes. Amidst this commotion, in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, racing car engineer Art Ingels and Lou Borelli were quietly building their own motorised vehicle that became known as a Go-kart. They didn’t realise it at the time, but their creation would eventually launch a world wide sport and introduce eleven F1 world champions into motor racing.

Karting, like many other sports, has always produced personalities capable of “putting on the style” every now and then. Ricky Donnan, president of the West Cumberland Kart Club back in 1964, was a typical example. Before racing suits became compulsory, he once went through three heats and a final at Rowrah dressed in a dinner jacket and bow tie reputedly hired from Moss Bros. “Putting on the agony” is a much more modern sporting trend. Soccer fans across the globe will have enjoyed watching this year’s world cup competition. It would be interesting, though, to count up how many free kicks have been “won” by players rolling round in great pain after relatively innocuous tackles. Diving in the penalty area is one thing. Far more reprehensible, in my view, are the cynical attempts to get fellow professionals sent off for offences that haven’t actually occurred. The great irony is that, amidst all this obvious cheating, players are still expected to sportingly tap the ball into touch following stoppages for injury so their team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage.

In karting today we have a situation where “putting on the agony” can pay dividends for competitors who find themselves involved in minor collisions. By playing dead, they can get the race stopped for safety reasons. They’ll suddenly undergo a remarkable recovery and have their karts ready for the restart. You can’t blame individual drivers because they’re merely taking advantage of a loophole in the regulations. Nevertheless, such tactics can be extremely frustrating for other competitors, especially those who have built up a big lead only to see it totally wiped out by the red flag. Invariably those who had previously been up at the front will find themselves victims of a first bend collision once this race gets underway again. I’ve seen major championships lost in this way and in the interests of fair play I believe that the rules should be amended to deter such tactics. However, there’s also a safety issue to consider here. The most critical moments in any race occur on the opening lap when adrenalin is pumping at maximum speed. In this respect, risks are automatically increased when races have been stopped for frivolous reasons. An effective solution would be to exclude any kart that isn’t moving at the time a red flag is issued. That way, there would be no advantage to be gained by feigning injury, we’d see far less red flag incidents and the sport would become safer as a result.

Sometimes, of course, races are allowed to continue long after common sense dictates that they should be stopped. The worst example I ever witnessed occurred at Morecambe during the 1970 World Cup Final. With around two thirds of the race completed, Kelvin Hesketh had opened out a commanding lead. Suddenly a dog ran across the circuit and immediately became stranded as karts screamed past at over 100mph. Incredible as it may seem, this race was allowed to run its full course as the terrified creature made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to reach safety. Animal lovers could only watch in horror and it must have been pretty nerve wracking for the drivers themselves. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when this race ended without major injury to dog or driver and Kelvin was declared a worthy winner. This situation couldn’t arise today, of course, because no official would ever take such enormous risks and that’s something we should all be thankful for.

Even before this event took place, I’d always considered Morecambe to be an enticing but rather dangerous circuit. Bull-dozed out of a narrow cliff ledge, it was designed to produce high speed racing with absolutely nowhere to go if things ever went wrong. Chris Merlin tells an interesting story about the day when he was asked to carry out a safety inspection there. He found various potential hazards, including an observation that the track width fell considerably below minimum requirements. Of even greater concern was the fact that warning notices had been very carelessly hammered onto posts all around the top corner. Six inch nails had been used for this job and a good inch or so was protruding in each case. Thus, at a corner where karts came off quite regularly, there was a long series of spikes waiting to impale some unfortunate competitor. Merlin’s rather critical report was compared with an earlier version prepared by the RAC Kart Committee chairman himself. However, this worthy document contained only one very brief comment; …. “It’s a long walk to the Gents!”

For all its faults, Morecambe was always able to attract competitors in huge numbers. It certainly had an alluring attraction for me. Even at ordinary club meetings you’d often find over 200 competitors turning up. The biggest single class back then was 210 Villiers and this category alone could account for 150 entries at times. With 40 karts allowed on the starting grid, this meant running A, B, C and D finals. On one rather incredible Sunday afternoon back in 1970, Northumbrian karter Graham Hewitson found himself competing in the D final after a particularly bad set of heats. He won this race and started the C Final from 37th spot, coming through to finish amongst the top four qualifiers. Unbelievably, he repeated this result again but even better was to follow. From the very back of a star studded A Final grid, Graham charged through and snatched victory on the last lap. I don’t know of any other occasion when such a remarkable feat has been achieved and I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can recall an equivalent performance.

The kart circuit at Morecambe closed its doors a long time ago. Today, all that’s left is a narrow strip of tarmac which serves as the footpath to a recently built housing estate. Gone is the tight hairpin bend where Nigel Mansell once crashed horrendously after his track rod came loose. The cliff edge that once acted as a magnet for so many competitors has been washed away and is now simply a graded slope. Standing where the start and finish line used to be, I recalled many famous races that had taken place there. I could almost hear Dicky Davies announcing some of the great names in British karting including Mickey Allen, Dave Ferris, Terry Fullerton, Mike Goodwin, Graham Liddle, Martin Hines and Kelvin Hesketh. I also had visions of a terrified dog running frantically up and down the track with officials helplessly standing by. Many changes have taken place in karting over the last 40 years, some good and others bad. The much higher priority now given to safety definitely rates as a change for the better in my book.

The Age of Assent

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

Oulton Park Cars December 2010You’ve got to love Sebastian Vettel. As he crossed the line to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and consequently become the youngest F1 World Champion in history – he cried like a girl.

Inside his Arai helmet, the young German dissolved into a weepy mess of snot, tears and sheer joy. Unbelievable. I love you guys, he told his pit crew in a barely decipherable breathless mumble.

At 23 years and 135 days old, Vettels success was not only historic, it could also prove to be a game-changer.

Over the years, the age of former karters reaching Formula One has become progressively younger. The late, great Senna (born in 1960) first contested the World Championships in 1978 and only started racing Formula Ford in 1981. Much as his rise up the order was meteoric he was in Alex Hawkridges Toleman by 1984 Ayrton left karting very late by todays standards.

So too did Alain Prost, who arrived on the GP scene when he was 25. If Sennas progression was rapid, just look at Jenson Buttons. In little more than three seasons, he went from karts to Formula Ford, Formula Three and then F1. He was 20 years and 67 days old when he signed for Williams.

Ironically, Lewis Hamilton was the next driver to cause a stir. He made the grade at 22-years old and became World Champion a year later, aged 23.

Then came Vettel, who although he made his debut at the age of 19 was only the sixth-youngest driver in the sports history to do so. The honour of being the youngest is currently held by Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard may not have the same reputation as Little Schumi but his route to the top has been every bit as impressive. He started racing cars in 2005, won the British F3 title in 2008 and, at 18, was the youngest ever to do so -he then eclipsed Mike Thackwells (19 years 182 days) record as the youngest man into F1, at 19 years 125 days.

However, it was Hamiltons success that really started the scramble for younger drivers. Vettels recent triumph has simply reaffirmed the validity of doing this for many. Naturally, this has had a direct effect on karting and raises the question, what is the right age to graduate from karts to cars?

Curiously, opinion is divided.

The enormously well-respected and successful Ricky Flynn, owner of the eponymous Ricky Flynn Motorsport team,urges caution in the current climate. Aware of the impressive impact that Vettel, Hamilton and to an extent Alguersuari have all made, Flynn nevertheless argues that drivers and their parents should not be counting the candles on the birthday cake but assessing whether or not they are truly ready.

If you leave [karts] at 17, youre not going to get an F1 contract. If you go at 15, its a total disaster. You can do senior racing at 15 and I think its best to do a minimum of one year in say, something like KF2.

Flynn cites the arrival of increasing numbers of driver managers in the karting paddocks as a destabilizing influence. Its horrendous. At the last Super 1 round it was like vulture city. Scary. Theyre trying to poach everybody and for those that sign with a manger, youve just got to hope that theyre sensible.

He regards managers with some suspicion, believing that many have their own bank balances and not the long-term careers of their clients at heart. With many youngsters in karting stating that they want to become F1 drivers, and the excitement created by the likes of Hamilton and Vettel, Ricky suggest that some overlook their lack of knowledge about the karters real ability and sell them the dream of F1 too soon.

There have got to be stricter controls. We (team owners) have to have an entrants licence but to be a manager, theres nothing. Ten years ago it wasnt so bad, there were no shark-infested waters. Today, its a pretty hideous world to be in. The key advice I would say for those looking to make the move from karts to cars and build a professional career – or even aim at Formula One – is that you need to be mentally ready, very strong in your mind and mature.

As the first ever British Formula Renault champion, Flynn is wholly familiar with the world of car racing and says sometimes youre only in the car for a total of 40 minutes all day. The racing is almost easy, its how you stay focused whilst youre waiting that is important.

Other factors rather than age should also guide your career path. If you have a tall lad and hes 6 3, go down the saloon route. You have to be realistic and in most cases forget the F1 dream. Only six drivers are not paying out of twenty two on the grid. Dont be blinkered to the reality of the situation. Think How can I have a career in world motorsport? If you end up in the DTM earning 400,000 euros a year, its not a bad life. Dont disregard any options. You can make a nice living and enjoy it.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Harfield of Williams Harfield Sports Group, disagrees.

I think it has changed quite drastically over the course of the past few years. It used to be guys of 17 or 18 going to FFord (from karts). Now theres a saturation of classes and teams wanting younger drivers. Look at Tom Blomqvist (at 16 the youngest ever British Formula Renault Champion) and Nyck de Vries people want drivers like them, real head-turners.

Lack of high profile success in karting should not be a reason to remain in the sport, Chris argues. Being a good karter doesnt automatically constitute being a good racing driver. You have to ask yourself, Do I want to be a Formula Renault champion at 16 or a kart champion at the same age? You have to be in a car at 15!

When asked if he thinks motor racing managers are more open minded about potential drivers than are given credit for, he responds with an emphatic yeah. Far from dismissing karting, Harfield says it is an important building block in the creation of a drivers career.

It teaches you that you need to be competitive, to know and deal with pressure. You show your mettle when youre racing wheel to wheel and if you come out on top that shows me something. Some drivers are ruthless and would rather crash than finish 2nd. I know it sounds ridiculous, but car teams like that.

For managers such as Chris, who monitor developments in karting and follows the sport, showing rapid development is something that excites their attention. You look at how quickly people pick things up. Take Callan OKeeffe for example. He went from Bayford Meadow to World number three in one year. Thats really impressive.

To starkly illustrate his point about why drivers should graduate from karts to cars at 15, he recounts the experience of talking to Kris Nissen VWs Head of Motorsport whilst at a DTM race in Germany. He was talking to a 19-year old F3 driver and he said You didnt win the championship, youre done. You wont make it to F1. You have to be a bit of a freak if you want to make it in the conventional sense. Jack Hawksworth could be one hes been staggering (in his first two FRenault meetings).

According to Harfield, with only 24 potential opportunities as a driver in F1 each year, you have to be spectacular. But which car classes should be considered? It would be a no-brainer to put a karter in a Formula Ford, he says bluntly. Renault is a massive step from karting but if you do an intermediate class, which I consider Ford to be, youll learn a lot.

After his trip to Germany, he also says that series like the ADAC Masters can play a vital role. Ultimately, youve got to be around the manufacturers. If you take the Formula 3 Euroseries, its looked at by the manufacturers in the DTM. British F3 isnt. Youve got to position yourself in front of the right people. ADAC Masters has effectively taken over from Formula BMW and can put you in touch with influential teams like Mucke Motorsport. Furthermore, ADAC is only 150,000 euros a season and VW, who power the cars, are making a massive push in motorsport. Whats more, VW are able to offer guys in the F3 Euroseries a drive for not much more than teams are charging in British Formula Renault.

Porsche and Audi are also starting young driver programmes, as is their parent company, VW itself. With a DTM car actually being of monocoque construction like a single-seater, rather than a true touring car, and with huge amounts of power on tap, the premier German series is now a holding bay for F1 drivers.

That said, he also suggests that America remains the land of opportunity. The States are where Id send young drivers. Teams will find, and share, sponsorship if youre good enough and if you win Indy Lights, youre racing in Indy car. If you win in GP2 youre not automatically in F1. How old do you have to be? Id say how old can you be to make headlines that no one else has done?

Mark Godwin, regarded as the engineers engineer when it comes to Formula Renault, responds to my question about when is the right time and age to move to cars with some caution. Its a bit of a minefield, he says choosing his words carefully before speaking again. It depends on which championship and formula you go into. The age of the driver as well. There are different levels of maturity between 15 and 16-years old and 17 and 18. It also depends on how mentally strong you are.

15 is okay but dont bite off more than you can chew, he warns. You might be big in karting, but youll be at the bottom of the pile when you start car racing. The earlier you make the transition, the easier it is to cope. However, an 18-year old will be better equipped as an individual.

Although he now runs his own Formula Renault team, MGR, Godwin hints that the Intersteps Championship should be considered by drivers aged 15 or younger.

You can stay in karts too long and become institutionalized. Some drivers, when they finally cross into cars, find that they cant afford to spend too much time in the different formulae, as time is against them. This puts pressure on them to perform and affects the time in which they have to learn but also their confidence.

A kart racer who only knows how to set a kart up will often try to set their car up in a similar manner, which is counter productive. As Mark confirms, There is such a big gap between Formula Renault and karts.

Prompted for an insight into what team owners look for from kart racers considering the next stage of their career, he delivers a valuable insiders guide as to what to do – and not do.

Id say do whatever championship gives you the best value for money, and remember that all formulae teach you different things. If you want to discuss what a team can do for you, ring up and say wed like to come and see you and have a chat. Dont just ask how much? Cost is important, but if you do your homework, youll know what the costs are going to be anyway. Besides, anyone can bullshit over the phone about how good they are or what they charge. Similarly, dads ring up and tell you how good their kid is. I need to talk to their son or daughter and see what theyre actually like. Personal contact is important.

In motor racing, just as in any other sport, results are what matter. Mark, like all team bosses will quietly look at a drivers track record beforehand, but he says he doesnt draw conclusions from what theyve done in karting. You cant dismiss people who finished 10th. Naturally, you do look for winners but sometimes you unearth little gems who are not all winning kart races. There can be reasons why theyre not, so you have to keep an open mind because you never know what you might find.

Which of course leads to the acid test – and the perfect answer to the original question – we get them out in the car and see from there.

 

Off Track history

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

sennaWhen Nicolas Deschaux stood down as the CIK President last year, he was succeeded by His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Not a lot of people know that.

The Commission Internationale de Karting was established in 1961 as an FIA sub-committee. Its first president was Jean-Marie Balestre who sprang to prominence 17 years later as head of FISA. His battle with the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) headed by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley will long be remembered in motor racing circles. Balestre did, at least, come into the job with strong karting credentials. In February 1960 hed set up the French National Karting Committee and actually built a circuit in Nevers. It was arguably due to his organisational ability that French drivers, rather than Italians, were able to dominate European karting during those very early years.

Jean-Marie had what might be diplomatically described as a colourful past. In 1940 hed joined Robert Hersants right wing Juene Front Party that published a rabidly pro-Nazi newspaper. During the years of occupation, he was a member of the French SS although later claimed to have been working undercover for the Resistance. No evidence emerged either to support or repudiate this claim. His friend Hersant fared less well. He was found guilty of collaboration in 1947 and sentenced to 10 years of national indignity. This didnt prevent Balestre and Hersant from establishing a successful motoring magazine called LAuto Journal just after the war ended. One thing you could always say about Balestre is that he remained a larger than life figure. Some of the other CIK presidents have been rather more nondescript.

The latest CIK president may well prove to be just as controversial as the first one. Aged 35, Sheikh Abdulla is a leading member of the dynasty that has ruled in Bahrain for more than 200 years. Bahrain was one of the first Gulf States to discover oil and you might expect that the 800,000 inhabitants would be prosperous as a result. Today, foreign nationals account for around 25% of the population. In February this year, three months after Sheikh Abdullahs elevation to the CIK presidency, excessive force was used to crush a series of protests. This action understandably aroused worldwide public opinion. At least 30 protestors are known to have been killed and many more seriously injured. Furthermore, doctors and nurses offering medical attention to these people were subsequently arrested and now face long gaol sentences for collaboration. Its worth noting that thirty deaths in such a small country would be equivalent to around 2,400 over here.

Having come to Britain as an invited guest at the Royal Wedding two days earlier, Shekh Abdulla paid a short visit to PFI for the CIK North European Trophy meeting on 1st May. Once there, he was accorded all of the deference that his status demanded. His attendance at Westminster Abbey was a matter for Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street to decide. However, you dont need to be ultra left wing to raise concerns about events in Bahrain and question whether we really do need such a figure at the head of world karting. To those who immediately cry that you shouldnt bring politics into karting, Id answer that theyve already become an integral part of just about every sport It is legitimate to argue that subsequent events in Bahrain have made the Sheikhs position as CIK president untenable.

PULLQUOTE Had competitors at PFI been asked to name the current CIK President, then youd probably have been able to count correct answers on the fingers of a man with no arms.

Had competitors at PFI been asked to name the current CIK President, then youd probably have been able to count correct answers on the fingers of a man with no arms. The same applies, in fairness, to just about all of his predecessors. How these people are chosen, and what their job actually entails, remains a mystery to the vast majority of karters whose interest in such matters is minimal. Yet, their influence for good or bad can be enormous. 10 years ago, a close associate of Jean Marie Balestre, Yvon Leon was appointed as the CIK President. Leon had already enjoyed high office as Secretary General of FISA and later became head of the FIAs Manufacturers Commission. Leon wanted to turn karting away from its 2 stroke origins and make 4 strokes the motors of choice. His plans were fiercely resisted by the engine manufacturers and just about everyone else associated with the sport. The present KF classes were eventually introduced as a compromise and havent really succeeded in pleasing anyone.

The problem with appointing FIA bureaucrats, or even royal dignitaries, is that they possess no great feel for the sport. As a result karting has developed along lines predetermined by other motor sporting interests. Thirty years ago karts were breaking lap records previously established by F1 cars. Those drivers who moved out of karting faced several seasons of racing at slower speeds than theyd previously been used to. Whether they acted consciously or not, successive CIK officials have introduced measures that succeeded in reducing kart speeds and associated skills. When Ayrton Sennas 1979 DAP was tested against a modern KF2 machine, it came as no surprise that the older version proved to be considerably quicker and placed more emphasis on individual driving skill.

PULLQUOTE When Ayrton Sennas 1979 DAP was tested against a KF2, it came as no surprise that the older version proved to be considerably quicker

Almost 48 years have elapsed since the first CIK European Championships were concluded on the Thiverval circuit near Paris. Earlier rounds had taken place at Bergamo and Vevey. The British Team was represented by Paul Fletcher, Roger Mills, Bruno Ferrari and Bobby Day. Fletchers homemade Bitsatube/Montesa had dominated the Heats which were all run in hot conditions. He looked to be in with an excellent chance of winning the individual title ahead of Frenchman Jean-Michel Guillard. Arrangements had been made for the final to be televised. However, the TV crew arrived late and competitors were kept waiting on the grid for almost an hour before this race finally got going.

Rain arrived along with the TV crew and Fletcher discovered that his kart wasnt quite so good in wet conditions as he slipped back to 3rd spot behind Day and Guillard. It meant that Guillard narrowly beat him on points for the European title. As the race winner, Bobby Day received a set of car keys along with his trophy presented to him by Jean Marie Balestre. The keys accompanied a brand new Fiat 500. Bobby was able to sell this car in France and generously shared the proceeds with his team-mates. I think we all received over £100 which was a small fortune to me in those days, Roger Mills recalls. It rather made up for us scoring less points than the French Team who were declared as European Champions.

Paul Fletcher has clear memories of this event and will undoubtedly have cursed the French TV crew for their tardiness. Subconsciously, perhaps, this incident might have influenced Pauls decision to donate a brand new Fiat Panda as the winners prize in this years British Championships for KF2. Whether or not theyve been attracted by such a generous prize, many drivers are expressing interest in this one off championship race to be staged at PFI in October. This has led to frantic requests for hired engines. For Paul Flechers sake, if nothing else, I sincerely hope that the meeting is a big success, but my reservations about it being accorded full British Championship status still remain.

Ancient & Modern: Old karts get a second chance

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

CRW_6461-1Many thanks to Steve Chapman and all at Whilton  Mill KC for inviting the Historic & Classic KC to their Brazilian Cup Meeting on the 29/30th April. Whilton Mill is perfect for the old karts with its mixture of flowing corners, gradients and fast straights.

I had invited Alan Button to come along and do some laps in my 1967
Barlotti Imp with a freshly rebuilt Komet K77. Alan last drove a kart over forty years ago but was soon circulating quickly and reliably, much to my relief. He ver y much enjoyed the experience and is now looking for a kart of his own.

One very welcome new face to the historic karting scene is Robbie Ashton. Robbie had restored the Barlotti Imp that he raced in the sixties and I loaned him a quick Parilla S13 to use for the event. Robbie did not take long to settle back into the groove and we had much fun chasing each other around the circuit.

Another new face at historic events is Peter Freeman who came along to watch accompanied by his long time mechanic and pusher. Peter now has a kart and engine in restoration and hopes to be ready for Shenington in June.
Event regular Brian Malin brought along a ver y original Barlotti Continental with BM F100 JB engine.

A bit of tinkering in the pits had the machine ready to run but unfortunately Brian lost the chain out on the circuit cutting short his fun. Another regular, Peter Brinkworth was present and did sterling ser vice with his pocket of spare plugs to help restart a couple of oiled-up engines. Thanks Peter.

Wyatt Stanley arrived with the interesting front engined Del-Kart but suffered mechanical gremlins on Sunday.Classic racers Jeff Gray and Steve Goodman both circulated with good speed,Jeff unfortunately experiencing some mechanical failures on Saturday, necessitating an overnight engine change enabling him to run on Sunday.

Ian Pittaway had a newly restored Class IV Blow with Villiers 197 engine, driven in period style by Alan Button’s son. Ex-British Class 1 team member Chris Arnold attended on Sunday as a spectator. Chris is preparing some lovely, period ‘70s karts and will hopefully be driving at the Shenington event.

100cc Engine Restoration (Part 5)
This month we will take a look at some of the parts previously removed from the engine. One of the most important components on a 100cc engine is the carburettor. These can usually be divided into two types, both widely used in the sixties and seventies.

Type 1: Dell’Orto MB22A and MB24A.
Type 2: Tillotson Diaphragm type

The Dell’Orto carburettors were widely used in the early to mid-sixties and are generally ver y reliable and suitable for use today. They have an integral float bowl and require a fuel pump if a floor mounted tank is being used. The fuel pump is also usually a Dell’Orto item and is operated by pulses from the crankcase. Don’t forget that when using a fuel pump you will need a fuel return line back to the tank to return the excess flow from the pump. I also use a fixed restrictor in the return line to avoid star vation of the float bowl.

A range of main jets will be required for this type of carb and these are readily available from Dell’Orto dealers. Jet sizes required will be 130 to 125 for running-in and 120 to 110 for racing, dependent on weather conditions. Stripping and rebuilding of this type of carb is ver y straightfor ward, just make sure that ever ything is clean before you put it back together.

I am a big fan of the Dell’Orto carburettor and have used them on early Komet and Parilla engines for several years with no problems.Karting magazine has published many relevant articles relating to Dell’Ortos over the years and the technical among you may find the following articles interesting:

December 1966 issue: Basic preparation of the Italian rotar y valve engines by Roger and John Mills.

April 1971 issue: The preparation of Italian rotar y valve engines for reliability by Paul Fletcher.

Next Month: Strip and rebuild of the
Tillotson carburettor.
Jon Pearce

Helpline: 01380 730585 (Evenings only)

Spend money on the driver not the kart

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

Junior Round 3

Why do parents and teams spend so much time, effort and money on equipment but not on the driver?

I recently watched Toby Sowery absolutely tonk his Easykart rivals at Clay Pigeon. Throughout the day, Sowery was never bettered and in the main final it became obvious as to why. His hands.

Sowery held his steering wheel at the classic ten to two position, whilst virtually the entire rest of the field held theirs much lower, at twenty to four. Tellingly, he won by over two seconds. I was reminded of a remark Mike Wilson made after fellow Easykart star Barnaby Pittingale had so emphatically won the 2007 World Finals: I just wish some people could’ve seen that drive. To turn up, build a brand new kart out of a box and win – it shows that you don’t need to go racing with loads of engines. You should just learn how to drive in the first place.

People often forget that motor sport is a physical activity. If you spectate at an indoor karting circuit, you’ll see plenty of first-time karters complaining of how much arm pump they’ve got and how their forearms have had a real work out. These karts run on rock hard tyres and are often sliding around a semi-glazed surface. So when you have quite a bit of grip in a machine that is much faster and more responsive to the driver’s input, it is important to understand what you need to do with the steering wheel.

I discovered this when I came back to racing some years ago. I complained that the kart was understeering and that I couldn’t place it where I wanted to. My team boss Dannie Pennell informed me in no uncertain terms that I was doing everything wrong with my hands. To get the front end to turn in more effectively, he told me that I had to press on the steering wheel. I tried this and it worked. My times improved, but I ended the day absolutely knackered.

An angled boss on the back of the steering also helped me with the positioning of my arms and, with a combination of time spent training and testing, things began to improve as the season progressed. However, when I went to Jesolo in 2006 to contest the Easykart World Finals, much of my preparations came to nought when I experienced for the first time in my life proper grip.

It was agony. I remember begging my mechanic to loosen the kart up. Everything hurt, with my hands and arms feeling like the tendons – and indeed bones – had been stretched by wild horses. I was fit, but nowhere near fit enough. In that long Final, my hands began to drop lower on the wheel just for some respite but this only created more problems. Because I couldn’t hold the wheel properly, my entry speed into the corners dropped dramatically. The kart understeered and began Ôwonging through the apexes.

Admittedly, this was happening at a circuit where the karts would lift up onto two wheels through the faster bends because of the grip levels – this would be a relatively rare occurrence in most UK classes today, but the increasing preference for longer finals requires greater endurance and strength.

I know there is a theory that youngsters should not be encouraged to train with weights because their young bones and bodies could become damaged. Lifting heavy weights will almost certainly increase this risk but kart racers and putative racing drivers don’t need bulky, short fast-twitch muscle fibres, quite the opposite. If you compare an Olympic sprinter with a distance runner, you’ll see what I mean. Jenson Button is quite possibly the fittest man on the Grand Prix grid and look how slim he is. But he trains obsessively.

Aerobic exercise, such as swimming is an ideal way to build up stamina and good strength. Complimenting this with exercises to develop upper body strength, using anything from hand weights to flexible rubber tubing, is ideal for younger competitors (from 12-years old and upwards) and will add to their natural fitness. Of course, seeking the advice of a qualified professional and developing an effective programme is the best course of action.

However, developing strength and stamina is one thing, but taking your innate skills to the next level is another. In every sport in the world, coaches are seen as essential to turn talented sports people into world-beaters. In karting, using a driver coach is an all too rare thing. As Mike Wilson observed, parents will often spend fortunes on engines, carburettors and new chassis whilst investing nothing in their child’s ability.

If you imagine junior level karting being like a school, you’ll have a certain percentage of very gifted kids and some with little or no academic ability. In the middle you’ll have a group that is often described in school reports as average or above average and it is they who, if coached properly, can improve immeasurably.

I believe it is Martin Hines whom contests that no one is born a racing driver, but with a combination of certain factors such as intellect, a will to win, physical ability and training, a winner can be made. I dont disagree. Now a driver coach himself, Terry Fullerton was commenting on last month’s front cover of this magazine.Look at how we’re both sitting in the karts. We’re mirroring each other’s bodies perfectly. Look at our shoulders and the way our hands are holding the steering wheels. Perfect.

One of Senna’s other great rivals from his formative years is Martin Brundle. As you will know from his F1 commentaries and columns in the Sunday Times, he is an eloquent, intelligent and thoughtful man. Tellingly, his autobiographys is called Working the Wheel.

What’s missing from modern karting?

WordPress database error: [Table 'kmuk_db.wp_fblb' doesn't exist]
SELECT * FROM wp_fblb WHERE id = 1

img133Should Adam Jones and I ever enter into a political debate, our discussion would be animated to say the least. As a fully paid up member of the Polly Toynbee Hugging Society, Ill definitely be in Adams little black book. On karting matters, if nothing else, our views are aligned much closer together. We both agree that its a colourful and vibrant sport which ought, by rights, to have lots of spectator appeal. Generally speaking, modern day karting is much closer and by implication more exciting than it was three or four decades ago. It has also benefited from better newspaper and television coverage than ever before. Whereas kart races used to attract relatively large crowds of curious onlookers, however, even todays premier events appear to be attended only by friends or relatives of those who are actually taking part. The missing ingredient, in a word, is ATMOSPHERE.

Last month I stood on the site of a former kart circuit at Heysham Head that once attracted huge audiences to its race meetings. The track was constructed back in 1967 on a narrow cliff edge. The space allotted was so confined that only two narrow straights and a couple of tight corners could be accommodated. The pits were, quite frankly, the pits, as mechanics worked on karts with their elbows firmly tucked in to avoid knocking into a neighbouring vehicle. There certainly wasnt any room for any of the fancy awnings you see at modern kart meetings. The track was so short that many drivers were able to complete a lap in less than 22 seconds Quite a number of top stars, especially in Class 1, refused to race there, claiming that it was too dangerous. Yet, for 16 years this circuit hosted one of kartings most prestigious events, the World Cup sponsored initially by John Player.

Today, the site has been turned into a private housing estate which sits under the shadow of Heysham Head Nuclear Power Station. With my eyes firmly shut I visualised it back in the days when around 30,000 spectators would watch races unfold. At one point I could even smell the Castrol R. When you talk about atmosphere, Morecambe had it with bucket-loads to spare. The idea of an annual World Cup had been devised by Bert Hesketh who wished to capitalise on Englands soccer triumph over Germany. He didnt receive CIK recognition and the event needed to be truly spectacular in order to survive. In those days you could also rely on the British Championships to provide a really good showpiece, no matter where they were being held. From the moment when cars and vans first began to arrive, there was a definite sense of occasion at these meetings.

Having the top drivers in Britain competing together obviously helped, but it was by no means an essential ingredient. Mention karting to West Cumbrians of a certain age and many will recall the International event staged at Rowrah in June 1964. It wasnt even an official international match. The Normandy Kart Club had been invited to send over a team to take on seven drivers selected from the North of England by John Mills. Nevertheless, officials worked hard at giving the event a bit of razzamatazz. Since then this circuit has hosted umpteen rounds of Super One and Stars rounds. The facilities are infinitely better than they were back in those days when we had to put up with wooden huts and crackly loud speakers. Even so, no other meeting has come close to matching the atmosphere of that memorable event 47 years ago.

Motor-homes and large awnings certainly add plenty of colour to todays paddock area. They are also responsible for taking away some of the buzz that always used to accompany major events. Whereas competitors once gathered together in little group[s discussing certain developments, they are now likely to shut themselves away inside their motor-home whilst a mechanic works away in the awning making minute adjustments. Occasionally theyll venture out to watch opponents in a particular Heat but thats about the extent of their interest in general racing. Unfortunately, we cant turn back the clock and motor-homes, with all their trappings, are obviously here to stay.

Todays major championships tend to be staged over six or more rounds and I suppose its difficult to generate the same degree of excitement we experienced when British titles were decided over a single weekend. Next months O Plate at Rowrah might go some way towards restoring that situation. For the first time in several decades the non gear-box classes are alol coming together in one big event and Im hoping for a correspondingly large entry. Cumbria Kart Racing Club has arranged for the meeting to be televised and that, in itself, usually helps to swell the ranks. Even more favourable is the timing of this particular event which takes place just a week before Rowrah hosts a Super One round for Rotax and Honda Cadet.

Already there are whispers that nest year the ABkC will revert to its previous policy of splitting up the O Plate into bite sized pieces, with various circuits getting in on the action. In previous years, even the Cadet classes have been split, with Hondas held on one circuit and Comers at another. The end result has been a series of small to middling meetings that dont mean very much at all. Not everyone has sufficient funds to compete at Super One level; whereas a single weekends racing should be affordable no matter where you live. Thats why Id like to see the status of an O Plate title enhanced until it is valued just as much as a Super One crown. A successful event at Rowrah should go some way towards achieving that goal. We might even bring a little of the big race atmosphere back into karting.