As a 19 year old I missed out on what some refer to as the ‘golden era’ of karting in the late 80’s, and early 90’s. Screaming 100cc engines, rapid karts, amazing racing, no bumpers, and huge passion, its one of the things I envy not being a part of. However, there are a group of people recreating these amazing times, namely the ‘F100 – Spirit of the 90’s’ series, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the recent F100 Festival at Fulbeck kart circuit to get a taste of the action.
The F100 festival is an event put on by the organisers of series as a showcase of the championship and machinery, a chance for people to try out the karts, and to give something back to the current drivers in the series.
Jay Fairbrass, one of organisers of the series who instrumental in putting the F100 Festival together, had organised two ‘arrive and drive’ F100 karts for drivers to come and experience. There was a Pre95 class Tonykart, and Chris Trott’s very own British and Open championship winning Pre2000 Wright (pictured above); what a treat! It is very rare that anyone gets to drive a fully race prepared British championship machine, I felt truly privileged that they trusted me with their immaculately restored karts.
The event also held seminars on Carb stetup and tuning, chassis setup, and much more by some of the more experienced members of the F100 paddock, these were enjoyed by all and really set the tone of the event. One thing I noticed about the F100 paddock was how helpful and friendly everyone was, everyone was there as a team with a passion for these karts and the sport, this is something that is too rare nowadays.
The championship runs in 3 classes, Pre89, Pre95, Pre2000, with the names being pretty self explanatory. The chassis and engines that run in each class were first homologated in during this period, and thus will run at the same pace. Small differences such as the tyres used, and other smaller specifications differ, more information on this can be found at http://www.f100.co.uk/regulations/
The races are a standard sprint format with qualifying, heats, and a final. The championship runs independently and thus does not require entrants to fork out for an MSA racing licence, medical etc, Simply prepare your karts, sign up, and race.
The 6 round championship over the year visits some of the county’s best circuits including Whilton mill, Buckmore, Lydd, Rowrah as well as circuits that were raced in period such as Fulbeck and Clay pigeon, giving the championship an authentic retro atmosphere.
Its not just about nostalgia however, the racing is fast, furious, as competitive as any other championship out there especially at the front of the grid. The karts and the feeling are the main attraction for most backed up by British champion Chris Trott who said to me “The karts are the way a kart should be; they’re light and simple. The atmosphere in the paddock too, everybody’s here doing what they enjoy, thats something thats completely missing from modern karting. Its karting as it should be.”
This was seconded by Alex Cobb who has raced in a lot of different classes and series, he says “I wasn’t around when these were the modern karts. I’m not a big historic fan, I’m not here for that, they’re fun to drive, they just fly off the corners, they’re lively. The grids are in the 30’s with A and B finals, I’m just here for good fun racing.” Alex also touched on the cost of the series saying “The startup cost is much lower [than modern karting]. You can get a good motor for about £500, its just the more frequent rebuilds, but they’re also cheaper to rebuild than a modern sealed engine.” There are also no new parts, all the chassis are preowned, all the engines are the way they are, no new updates to keep adding to the costs.
Driving the karts
After watching the screaming 100cc motors flying round, sounding and smelling great it was my chance to try them for myself.
Up first was a pre95 tonykart. I must admit it was slightly strange initially for me to go out on circuit without a front bumper, my feet dangling out exposed in front of me, however the kart was very natural to drive.
Before the festival the last kart I had driven was the CompKart X30 at Whilton mill. I didn’t really know what to expect, I had heard they were pretty quick but other than that everyone just described them as ‘mega!’.
After some laps acclimatising to the kart, which was far different to what I had expected, I got a feel and started to push, this is when the kart really came alive. The kart didn’t actually feel stupidly quick due to the linear power output despite the high speeds they reach. Moreover, the fairly hard Mitas control tyres that are run in the Pre95 class didn’t provide excessive of grip on the Fulbeck tarmac, however this was part of the beauty.
The limited grip and super light chassis meant the kart floated around the circuit effortlessly. Braking was done with the touch of the pedal, the steering is very light thanks to the lack of weight and hard tyres meaning the whole experience felt as if I were thinking my way around the circuit; the kart was an extension of my body.
Having had a taste of F100 action I would next be sampling the crème de la crème of the series, the no.1 plate Pre2000 kart owned and prepared to the highest standard by Chris Trott. I asked Jay Fairbrass how it might differ from the Pre95, his reply was one word, “More”.
More?! More what?
The phrase ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ has never been more apt, however in this case a picture just tells one… ‘More!’
More: More power, more grip, more speed, more flair, just so much more.
For the first laps I was under instruction to take it easy and warm myself and the kart up, I was being teased, as I felt everything coming on song I just wanted to unleash the beast. The wave from Mr Trott himself signalled the moment I had been waiting for.
The kart sings to you, out the corners a slight slide (pictured) is encouraged, the direct drive engine picks up without hesitation, and it revs until you think its going to stop but just keeps going. The power is very manageable, the smaller 100cc engine provides less torque than a modern 125cc but delivers its power over a wider rev band meaning less of a ‘kick’ in the mid range. You have power bottom, middle and top which means the kart is more controllable and driver friendly.
Don’t get me wrong I love driving modern day karts, but there’s something so pure, so tactile and refined about driving one of these machines. Its the simplicity, just and engine, a kart, a driver, and a circuit. It really is the purest form of karting, man and machine in perfect harmony. If you ever get the chance to drive one of these, take it!
How to race in F100
The next round of the championship is on the 27th/28th My at the stunning Rowrah where the racing is set to be awesome. Entries close this Friday (19th May) so get yourself in quick before it fills up!
Other events to look out for this year include the ‘Open Championship’ fight for the O plate. This is a one off race weekend not part of the championship and includes the novel two flying lap qualifying making things even more interesting.
All the information you need about entering is available on the brilliantly helpful F100 – Spirit of the 90’s website
Ride onboard with Nick Holland in the Pre95 class at Rowrah
A massive thanks must go to Jay, and all of the organisers who put on a truly stunning event for the benefit of their series and all of it’s members. I must also thank James Meanwell for taking time from his day testing to get all of the great photos above when we were in a bit of a sticky situation last minute, again showing how helpful everyone is.
I truly hope I get to drive one of these karts again one day, hopefully in a full race environment as that would only make the experience better.
Until then don’t hesitate to contact the F100 team at http://www.f100.co.uk/contact/ for more information, & how to get involved, you won’t regret it.
Written by Piers Prior
Images courtesy of James Meanwell