I’ll paraphrase slightly as this is a family magazine and give you the 6p’s… Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Top teams will tell you that races are won and lost in the workshop as often as they are on the track. Or to quote the other time-worn adage… To finish first, first you have to finish.
It’s all terribly exciting getting into karting, but calm down and stop for a minute. Even before you collect the kart, things need to be done that could affect the way things go for you ever onward. Set aside a working area. Ideally, this space is sacred with nothing else apart from karting stuff allowed there, but a garage or workshop that gets kept just for one purpose is a rare commodity indeed. However, an area with plenty of light and enough room to have the kart up on a stand and be able to walk around it easily is the minimum that you are aiming for. Once you have sorted this out, the working area needs to be kept clear of gardening tools, bicycles or any of the other paraphernalia that tends to build up. It doesn’t need to be laboratory hygienic but keeping the work area clean and tidy will make things far easier, as will having a rack or two for tools, parts removed and spares that aren’t needed all the time. Keep the floor tidy, the chances of dropping a vital spacer seems to increase in proportion to the amount of clutter on the floor. Now you can bring the kart home get it on the stand and get on with things.
Clean and green
We are assuming that your first kart is very likely to be pre-owned so the first thing that you need to do once you get it home is strip it down as far as your expertise allows and set about giving it a deep clean. Even if you have bought a brand new machine you should spend an evening or two giving it a thorough spanner check before use. Deep cleaning or spanner checking a kart after buying it serves a very useful purpose, as it familiarises you with your new machine and forces you to look closely at every part of it. No matter how careful you have been with your purchase you could be amazed at what you find once you start, better to tackle it now than at the first track session.
The deep clean needs to become part of your kart preparation routine, after getting back from any meeting (or practice session) your kart should be stripped (at least partially) and cleaned. This will also allow you to check for cracks, loose nuts and bolts and damaged component while you are at it.
An MSA scrutineer of my acquaintance tells me that he is still amazed and appalled that karts are presented for inspection dirty. He has in the past sent karts away to be cleaned before he was prepared to look at them. “A waste of my time and theirs” was how he described it. He also added that it was rare for him to find any safety issues on a clean kart but often found fundamental preparation errors on dirty machines, reasoning that if you can’t be bothered to clean your machine you won’t be bothered to spanner check it either.
Wet and dry Running in the wet is like having somebody with a high-pressure hose spraying water and abrasive paste at your kart. This filthy mixture will creep everywhere and manage to penetrate every orifice. As soon as you get home and before you collapse into your favourite armchair give the kart a thorough dousing with water dispersant spray (careful with the brake though) to keep rust at bay until you can clean things properly.
The proper way to deal with a kart that’s been out in the wet is to strip it to the bare frame and then re-build, cleaning everything as it is put back on. Why so fussy? Because if you don’t, the grit that has managed to penetrate everywhere will act like very effective grinding paste and everything will wear at a phenomenal rate, look at the sidepod fixings after a wet run and you’ll notice dirty little trails creeping along the chrome and paint. That’s a mixture of grit and worn away metal coming from the joints. Leave the grit there and it will continue to nibble at the fixings as the kart flexes.
Anybody who is serious about preparing their kart properly should consider that the Nyloc nuts are for one use only. However, on some less critical applications I will use Nyloc nuts a couple of times. The nuts are fitted plain for their first use and if I have occasion to remove them they are put back on with the addition of a blob of yellow paint on the nut. I then know that any nuts that have this blob of paint are on their second use and should be replaced if removed again.
Find your local fasteners stockists and buy at least 200 of each of the Nylock nuts you use (usually M6 and M8) then there is no excuse not to replace nuts after one use. While you are at it invest in a couple of bags of plain washers too.
One man, one job It’s great having a few mates over to help you prepare a kart but it can lead to problems, it might seem officious but if a
group of you are working on the machine allocate jobs to each person and make them totally responsible for that task. Get a couple of people on one task and there is always the chance of the “I thought that you had checked it” scenario. Make sure that each specific task is completed before you pack up; leaving a job in the middle is asking for trouble, if it can’t be avoided make a note of where you have got to and what needs to be done before the task is completed. Top tip… A whiteboard and a dry marker pen will pay back their cost many times over.
Somebody needs to take overall responsibility for all the final checks. That’s you!
Not on Friday night
If you need to be up bright and early on Saturday morning ready to travel to the meeting, Friday night isn’t the time to be spanner checking your kart ready for the weekend’s racing. Not only does it make the evening potentially fraught when you should be relaxing, it doesn’t leave any safety margin. Better to be doing the final checks on a Wednesday evening at the very latest, working on the theory that if you find anything that needs attention or worse still needs replacing you’ve still got a couple of days to get it ordered, delivered and fitted.
A tough plastic box is ideal to stack with all the odds and sods that you are going to need for the weekend. Keeping a spares box stocked with all the essentials that you might need during a meeting ready packed and ready to go will save a huge amount of time when loading.
What do you pack? The short answer is anything that you imagine that you might need at the track. Trusting that the trackside kart shop will have what you need in stock isn’t the way to go.
To get you started… Spare chain or chains, if the amount of adjustment on your engine is limited and you need differing lengths to accommodate larger or smaller rear sprockets. Then there are the sprockets themselves. A box of nuts and bolts of a few different lengths, in the sizes used on your kart is always useful, as is a big bag of zip ties and a roll of gaffer tape, chain lube, spark plugs. Don’t forget the spare hubs if you use different lengths for different conditions. The list goes on, only you know what you really need. So grab a cup of tea, sit down with paper and pen and make your own list.
Wet tyres and rims need to be bagged up ready to use, keeping them in a bag serves a double purpose, it keeps them together and makes them easy to transport while excluding the light which is one of the things that degrades rubber. When you get home from the track, make one of the first jobs you do the replacement of any parts that you took from the box during the meeting, this way you won’t be caught short next time.
Although some karters take a huge tool chest containing a mini work-shop full of stuff for those just-in-case moments this isn’t strictly necessary. However, having a small easily portable box containing essential tools is a must. It makes sense to have at least two separate compartments, one for the tools that you will be using all the time like the plug spanner (you might need to grab these fast) and the other for
the tools that might be used but probably won’t. Some even go to the length of having one set of tools for when they are at the track and another set of workshop tools; it all depends upon your budget.
Sensitive souls As karting becomes more complex the equipment to run them becomes similarly advanced. If you have invested in things
like set-up lasers and timing gear it would be foolhardy not to buy some proper hard cases with padded internals to protect them. The all important tyre pressure gauge needs to be packed separately too, to keep it safe from knocks that might harm its accuracy. Also think about where they and other expensive items like crash helmets will be kept, these need to be both safe from harm and away from prying eyes.
It’s an unpleasant thought but these are easy to steal, getting several hundred quids worth of kit nicked will sour even the most successful day’s racing.
Packing your van or trailer
There is huge wisdom in the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Taking some time to do a trial pack of the van or trailer and work out where everything should go will pay dividends in the long-run. When you are happy that everything is in and the weight is balanced, then develop some sort of securing system for them. I’ve seen everything from light ratchet straps fastened in place to clever over-centre catches allowing boxes to be clipped into position in a few seconds. Merely chucking everything in and hoping for the best won’t do. Imagine if you have an accident on the way to the circuit, nobody wants to be hit in the back of the head by an unsecured tool box or have their entire spares stock strewn across the motorway.
Strapping a kart down securely can be a nightmare. Some teams always carry theirs stood up on end and fastened to the van sides, others park them flat. Either way they need to be held in such a way that they can’t jiggle around and bash into things, or for fixed gear karts snatch at the chain which is bad for the motor. Nor must they have pressure from the fixing straps on anything vital. One of the most elegant solutions I have seen to carrying a kart flat was in a trailer. This had a set of four U-shaped blocks fixed to the floor. The kart wheels dropped into the blocks and straps went over the tyres. Once secured this kart couldn’t move and there were no fastenings chafing or pulling at the chassis.
It’s only a mistake if you make it twice Inevitably you will discover that you have left something that’s needed at the circuit at home. Learn from this and make a note of what was forgotten. Do remember to do something about it when you get home though! Buy the book
Buy several pens, a good hard-backed notebook and one of Karting magazine’s set-up data books (c’mon we had to get a plug in somewhere!) and keep them all with your kit. In the set-up book note and record everything from the date, circuit and weather conditions to tyre pressures,
sprocket choice, lap times etc. In the hardback book record all the other stuff, for instance what you have forgotten to bring or parts used from the spares stock. Keep them safe, these will become your karting bibles.
Even if you get home at midnight, tired and dirty, kart clothing will need bringing in and unpacking so that it can dry and air, a sweaty helmet after 24 hours in its bag, eugh! If you are confident that the rest can be left safely without unpacking by all means do so, but don’t forget to waft the water dispersant spray over the kart if it’s been wet, overnight can be long enough for rust to take hold on unprotected components.
When you do unpack make it your rule that nothing is put away damp or dirty. If you do it is almost guaranteed you’ll forget something until the next time it’s time to use it, then it’ll be too late.