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Karting Secrets: How to drive faster

Edgar's Hyundai Super One MSA SeriesThere can be a number of reasons why a driver steps into a kart and competes on track: whether it is simply for the pure adrenaline rush of racing wheel-to-wheel without having to consider cost, or to intend on racing at the highest level of the sport. Whatever the reason maybe, every driver wants to be fast, but how exactly do you do that? Karting magazine speaks with a number of current and former karters to give their secrets to success.

 Terry Fullerton, former British, European and 1973 World champion:

“There are two elements which you cannot do without in order to be quick and successful: firstly you need the determination and obsession to succeed. Secondly you then need the in-born ability and natural gift to be able to drive quickly. Nigel Mansell wasn’t the most gifted driver but he was so determined that it made him a Formula One world champion. I never used to walk tracks and I only do it with young kids to help them learn which lines to take. When they reach 13 years old, it’s no longer important in my opinion.”

 Jake Dennis, 2010 Under 18 world champion and 2012 Formula Renault NEC champion:

“Fitness, both physical and mental, is so important now. Karting has progressed so much overseas that you have to be at the top of your game. I have a psychological coach, they help to give you the confidence to succeed and make you focus for longer periods. All the top drivers are at the World Championships, so to come out on top requires the finer details. You also need dedication, researching each circuit is a must. I never really ran data when I was in karting, but it has advanced since I left and I’ve seen how it can help young drivers.”

Oliver Hodgson, 2013 Rotax Max world champion:

“There are lots of tiny factors which can make a difference, but making the effort to ensure you’re prepared throughout a weekend is key. You should want to be the fittest driver on the track as that makes it easier for you to continue to concentrate further as the race goes on. You should also have the determination to succeed and want to put the effort in to make yourself better. You can never do a perfect job. If you put more effort in than your competitors, you’ve got a good chance.”

Dan Hoy, Club100 Clubman Heavies champion:

“Even at the arrive and drive level, you have to be mentally strong. I’ve discovered that I’m able to read situations well and react quickly to incidents in front. If you have the right mental approach to the racing, the racecraft naturally improves which then increases your speed. But you have to be hard on yourself. When I was younger I drove in the British Championships and drivers did walk the track but I prefer to learn the limits inside the kart.”

Charlie Eastwood, British, European and World Rotax champion:

“The number one secret in my opinion which covers all sections of motorsport, is laps. You need to be in a kart as much as possible. You’re not going to get any worse by getting seat time. That’s the way you gather speed and consistency. Then you have to keep your head and handle the pressure. I didn’t win the Worlds on outright speed. You need to know when to push those in front of you, and you preferably don’t want many of them. I was always the last to get to the grid and put my helmet on. I didn’t want to sit in the kart overthinking the race and looking for the perfect lap. That’s not going to happen.”

Tom Joyner, 2013 CIK-FIA World KF champion:

“You have to focus on yourself, not what any other drivers around you are doing. Forget what setups they maybe on and which engines they’re running. I spend a lot of attention on data now compared to when I was younger, it’s very important. Familiarising yourself by walking the track along with your engineer and team boss can help to discuss certain areas in which to attack.”

 Lee Harpham, former British 250 and European Superkart champion:

“You need to be as smooth as possible and have good exit speeds. It’s crucial to have good corner speed in 125 Superkarts as they have less horsepower than the 250 machines. Consistency throughout a race is crucial and if it’s my first time at a track I’ll walk it to look for undulations and bumps. Sharing data within the team helps to create the ideal lap and pinpoints areas to improve.”

Jack Harding, Club100 Clubman Lights champion:

“In our Sprint series format, you have to get through the pack during the heats as quickly as you can. To do that you need clean passing moves, but it’s quite tactical as to qualify higher up the grid, you need quick lap times. If I’m struggling in one qualifying heat or the first final, I’ll drop off the driver in front to give me clean air so I can go for pole position for the second final. Although we don’t use data, some drivers at our level do use helmet cameras to monitor their performances.”

Mark Litchfield, former British champion:

“You’ve got to have big balls! It’s not all about being quick, it’s more a focus on consistency and experience. The more seat time you have and the more laps you’re able to get, the faster you’ll go. Having someone to point you in the right direction is also key. You may have habits which you didn’t know you had, and having someone there to tell you where you’re going wrong can be the difference between a podium finish and becoming the champion.”

Ben Barnicoat, former British and European champion:

“You’ve got to have the natural ability to go fast. But once you’ve found that you do have that ability on track, you’ve then go to be clever and be able to use tactics. You have to know when to pick the right time to pass, you don’t want to make a wrong move and then be fighting with others around you and possibly lose out.”

Jake Hughes, former Easykart driver and BRDC Formula 4 inaugural champion:

“Preparing yourself correctly before you head out onto the track is critical. The training is massively important as it will improve your concentration later on throughout a race. External factors such as simulator work, if you’re fortunate enough to have it, can also add to your ability. I began my career relatively late and not having any previous family connections in motorsport, I find that I’ve benefited from the support of those around me, such as the engineers and driver coaches.”

Gavin Bennett, former European 250 Superkart champion:

“In long circuit karting when you’re travelling at speeds of up to 150mph, you don’t want anything to come loose on the machine, so kart preparation is key. You need to have confidence in the reliability of the kart. When I had an injury a few years ago, my fitness hindered me through the season. It has only picked up since I’ve been able to get back in the gym. In long circuit racing, making clean overtaking moves is important, getting the timing right is crucial and slipstreaming helps to get you quicker to the person in front without hurting your tyres.”

Jordon Lennox-Lamb, CRG factory driver:

“Have trust in your kart. Give yourself time to think when you drive, don’t just race round as hard as you can as that will create mistakes.”

Ben Hanley, ART GP factory driver and former GP2 racer:

“Work hard!”

George Russell, double European champion:

“Always steer smoothly, concentrate on your exit speed. Never give up, keep practicing and pushing. One day it’ll all come together.”

Sean Babington, British and European Rotax champion:

“Listen to your team boss and mechanic as they watch you out on track and have a different perspective to help gain the upper hand on opponents around you.”

 

We took to Twitter to ask for your top tip for lapping faster. Here are a selection of your replies:

 @tom_quinny: “Dab of throttle mid-corner before planting throttle to keep revs up”

@dansuperkart: “Big balls”

@ShaunArnoldddd: “Holding the brake mid-corner…in the wet I used to pump the brake to slow down better, like ABS”

@DanHemmings96: “Slow in, fast out”

@RAGStoRACER: “Smoothness is the key”

@GrahamRacing: “Listen to advice and give it a go”

@MrF1Alex: “Be smooth, push hard”

@KartWyse: Posture. Posture is everything.

@Apex_Creations: Look further ahead

@iknowpaulwilson: “Getting an absolute b*******ng from the great Paul Carr. He could get 2/3 tenths out of any driver by doing it”

 

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10 Go Karting Tips from Former British Champion Mike Simpson

Trent Valley Kart ClubMike Simpson has done almost everything there is do in the world of go karting. He’s a former eight-time British Grand Prix champion, four-time British champion and vice world champion.

Mike now works for Ginetta, one of Europe’s biggest race car manufacturers. He’s head of Ginetta’s commercial team and their factory driver, so he travels the world helping customers on and off the track.

When it comes to go karting, Mike really knows his stuff. Looking to improve your average lap time? Read his top 10 go karting tips for budding racers.

1. Time on the Track
“Practice as often as you can. Even if it’s just you and your dad, rather than an organised race, just get as much time in the kart as possible.”

2. Visualise Success
“Visualisation is important in karting. It builds your confidence and helps you get ready for big races. You need to be mentally prepared, so walk the circuit in the morning before the race and imagine how you’re going to handle each bend.”

3. Hit the Gym
“Go karting has changed. You can’t just try your luck on the day and see if you can get a result. You need to act like a professional and this means keeping fit. If you’re going to do well, your arms and neck need to be in good physical condition.”

4. Look After Your Tyres in Qualifying
“A lot of people start weaving around the track straight away in qualifying, to get the tyres up to temperature. I prefer to build them in really slowly to avoid damaging them.

“Take two laps nice and slowly, then give it two hard laps. Do few more gentle laps to cool the tyres off, wait for the track to clear and go again. It’s not all about flying out of the pits straight away.”

5. Be Alert on the Starting Grid
“When you’re on the starting grid you need to look for the gaps. Sometimes the outside might be the way to go, other times it might be the inside. You can’t just focus immediately in front of your bumper – you need look way ahead.

“You can try to come up with a plan before the green lights flash, but it won’t always work out. It’s more about instinct. You need to be very aware and alert at all times in case someone spins in front of you.”

6. Handling the First Corner
“When things are tight at the start of the race, a general rule is not to leave a gap between you and the kart in front.

“If there is a big space and you get hit from behind, you’ll go forward and hit the racer in front. This could result in a crash or get you in trouble with the marshals. If your hit when you’re right on the other guy’s bumper, you’ll all get shoved along, but you should get round the first corner unscathed.”

7. Keep Hydrated
“Make sure you’re well hydrated before you get in the kart. Drink lots several days before the race because it takes a long time for your body to store water. Start well in advance and you’ll be fine, and whatever you do don’t use energy drinks.”

8. Healthy Eating
“Nutrition is really important. Having a bacon sandwich and a coffee when you arrive at the track won’t cut it. You need to start thinking about your food three or four days before your race. Healthy eating is the way to go.”

9. Pace Yourself for Endurance Races
“In endurance races you’re part of a team and you’ll be handing the kart over to another driver, so you need to look after it. Be quick, consistent and clean, so the kart is in good shape for your teammates.

“Find a comfortable pace and stick with it. It’s very difficult to do an hour flat out without hurting the kart or yourself, so try running at 95% and manage the race as well as you can.”

10. Enjoy Yourself
“Enjoying go karting is the most important thing. You should end every session with a smile on your face.”

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Starting Karting? Try iZone

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“Don’t set out with the target of winning the championship or the meeting or even the race, these targets are not useful. What happens during race day is in the lap of the gods, if something fails or another idiot punts you off there is nothing you can do about it, don’t take it too hard, there is always another race”.

Contentious words? Well, perhaps. At least they would be if they were not coming from Ayrton Senna’s old boss, Alex Hawkridge, ex-Toleman F1 and chairman of iZone.

Think for a minute and all this makes a lot of sense. The only thing that you have any real control over is yourself. You can monitor and deal with your diet, hydration, fitness and how much sleep you get. If the team prepare kart properly the rest is down to luck. “We have a monkey mind… Filled with doubt, if you can get rid of this doubt and make yourself to the best you can be and the rest (victories) will come. Further if you can concentrate for long periods, other drivers will be making mistakes due to lapses whereas you won’t.”

I’ll gloss over the minutiae, it’s suffice to say that with this in mind iZone helps the competitor to prepare both mentally and physically to become a racing driver. They persuade attendees to read great drivers biographies for inspiration. This to prove much as anything the life of a racing driver is not without sacrifice. Let’s be honest, for any young testosterone-fuelled male to be invited to all the best parties to drink nothing but water, perhaps even having adoring fans throwing themselves at you. Returning home to bed, early, sober, and alone must be frustrating to say the least.

They acknowledge that the regime that they would like the driver to stick to can be tough for some to adjust to but eventually this sacrifice becomes a creed, this brought into sharp focus by a daily log of ‘what have I done to further my racing career?’ They want you with a plan for testing, a plan for practice, plan for the race… You get the picture?

It is all about seeing the goal and they reckon (rightly) that the tighter the focus the more chance there is of achieving it, stands to reason really.

Izone believe in driving in the subconscious ‘in the zone’. They believe that a truly great driver will look at the braking point, the apex and then the exit but well before he or she reaches them will be looking well ahead, letting the subconscious mind deal with what’s happening ‘now’.
To some this might sound like the racing equivalent of “Use the force young Luke” but iZone liken it to programming the data points into a computer. When the driver’s peripheral vision registers that the braking point has been reached they will brake, turn in etc. When it comes to giving instructions to the driver they believe in using key works that appeal to the subconscious. For instance they favour using the term deeper rather than later braking.

With the philosophy over it was on to the bit that Ed the driver had been excited about for weeks. The simulator aspect of the day

First into the Gym for a little warm-up, this to get the heart pumping and then as you get into the kart some zen breathing; in through the nose out through the mouth to get some extra oxygen pushed through the body. Settle into the seat eyes closed to relax and start to enter the zone.

It is usual for a driver to be given a kart to ‘drive’ that’s beyond than what they are used to. The logical reasoning behind this is that if you train in something quicker than the norm when you get back into the usual machine, things will appear to happen at a much slower pace giving the driver more time to react as the driver’s reflexes have been honed to work at far greater speeds.

Drivers new to the experience are given around 10 laps to relax and adjust to the simulator before the session really ramps up. Ed reported that the experience made him feel a little sick for the first minute or so (probably a combination of excitement and nerves) but this went away as quickly as it came and never came back.

Once they are happy that the driver can hang together several laps in the chosen machine the session really starts. There is no focus on lap times being competitive or otherwise, it doesn’t matter if a driver is posting times that would win races or put them at the back of the field, the timer is merely a tool to monitor progress. Few if any driver have ever done the ‘perfect’ lap so there is always room for improvement,
Because the kart can do any number of laps of a circuit without going anywhere it can be fitted with a massive amount of telementry equipment and the instructor can literally sit behind the driver analysing the data in real time. A debrief can be done on the fly… “try to smooth your exit phase from this corner” and the results analysed immediately
“Better, far better… you picked up a quarter of a second there.”

More detailed analysis is done on a co-operative basis the driver and the instructor sitting down and looking at the data results, trust me Terence Dove’s eagle eye picks it all up, the good and the bad, and it is all explained in an encouraging and enthusiastic tone. The data collected by the simulator allows every element of lap to be monitored and if possible improved upon.

For advanced drivers it can be used to see the effects of experimenting with things like braking points which can have some surprising results. It is not unusual to find that a slightly earlier braking point can allow a better set up or a more stable kart for following corners and an overall faster time.

Perhaps the most fascinating tool that they use is the laser eye-tracker a deceptively simple looking little device which belies £20k worth of technology. iZone contend that many drivers are fixated by the corner’s apex and follow it to the bitter end when they should be looking ahead. The old assessment technique used to be a good clear photograph, top drivers’ eyes were fixed somewhere in the distance whereas more timid drivers’ eyes were staring down as if embarrassed. The laser tracker adds another dimension to this, one set up and recording a lap can be analysed corner by corner, with the trackers in place it can be seen that even a very good driver’s gaze flicks back to the apex (albeit momentarily) if the kart kicks or squirrels in the braking phase. iZone gradually train them not to take this safety glance but to trust their reflexes.

Those who are not yet looking ahead can be taught corner by corner with the instructor using a laser pointer to show the driver where they should be looking by shining the red dot onto the screen.

It’s been proven that truly great drivers like Senna and Schumacher are almost ahead of themselves, their mind is mapping the track well ahead, of where the car or kart is. What’s happening in the present doing is being dealt with by the subconscious, some might like to call it, driving by the seat of their pants. It this that the team seek to promote.

How much then?

Hawkridge says “The initial 2+ hour assessment costs £95 + VAT. Based on what we learn, we work out a programme, which can include all or some elements of our training.”

“Vision, mind coaching, psychological work, peripheral vision, reflexes, fitness and strength training sometimes involve outside specialists, like Porsche Human Performance Centre, who we work closely with. We cannot quote a ‘one hat fits all’ rate as the programmes we offer are all bespoke and we are not in the simulator rental business like a quite a few companies with car simulators. As a guide, a driver coming to us for comprehensive training, for half a day each month in all areas could spend around £4000 with us.”

Is this good value? Let’s put it this way, in the three hours that we were at iZone Ed says he learned more about refining his technique to drive more quickly than he did in his last season of historic racing… Enough said!

iZone 01327 856 872
www.izoneperformance.co.uk

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Jack Partridge: Champion Going Places

Written By Mike Hayden

Jack Partridge

“From the age of four years when I used to get pushed around by the marshals, at my Dads and Grandad’s local Indoor Kart Circuit (Anglia Indoor Karting), I have always found a love for motorsport.”

Jack Partridge dug deep in 2012, and undoubtedly found a new love for the sport, when he was crowned as a junior British kart champion. For Jack he started though he started a little later than some, not having his first race until 2007 when he was 9 years of age. As he summarised his career it soon became evident he was a quick learner.

“I started racing competitively in Honda Cadets at Red Lodge,” he recalled when asked to outline his career build-up towards his latest title. “I took fastest laps and race wins all year and ended up finishing the championship in 3rd place. During the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 I got my MSA license and competed in Super 1 throughout 2008. I took wins and fastest laps at club level during the season and had fastest laps at Super One. I finished the championship in 8th.”

One of the highlights for Jack in 2008 was a strong performance in the O Plate. He remembers his heats were not what he had been aiming for, with a set of results that had left him on a lowly grid 24 for the Final, but after that? “I worked my way through the field and ended up 6th at the end of the race with the second fastest lap.”

At the start of 2009 though the young racer chose to remain in Honda Cadets, but after two bad rounds in the opening races of the Super One championship, a new plan was formulated that encouraged him to make an earlier than anticipated graduation into Junior TKM. It was to be a big learning year for him in preparation for the following season.

“2010 turned out to be quite a successful first full year in TKM. I started off racing for Snakebite Racing, but then changed from a Tal-Ko chassis to a Jade chassis with Jade Karts. I missed the first round of Super One so I didn’t manage to get seeded, but I took my first podium in Super One and had fastest laps in the championship throughout the season! “

Away from the Super One Series, Partridge continued to develop his skills and won the Kimbolton Club Championship, taking “plenty of wins and fastest laps throughout the year. I had a 4th at the Kartmasters, and then 3rd at the TKM Festival. 2011 then brought me more podiums in the Super One season, before I took my first Final win in Super One, with two back to back pole positions, as well as fastest laps throughout the Series,” proving Jack was quickly learning his craft as he prepared for 2012. Before then though he recalled how he had again taken more “wins and fastest laps at club level, and 4th at Kartmasters. I finished Super One in 4th place.”

What he remembers most about 2012 though was a much better season than he could ever have imagined. “I started the season strong with two wins at PFI, the first Super One round. Throughout the season there were 14 rounds and I competed in 13 of them. In ten of the finals I was on the podium. I was also 4th in another round due to a time penalty (after finishing on the podium).” It was a minor set-back for him, however, as he still ended the year as British champion. “I won the Super One championship a round early – that is why I did not compete in one of the finals.

“The TKM Festival is the race that all the TKM’s in the country come together and race in. I missed Friday’s practice due to other commitments, but I went straight into Saturday and qualified 2nd overall. I ended up winning the final and collecting the Bernie Turney Memorial Trophy. I also had my first single seater test in a Formula BMW Talent Cup test, in the summer of 2012 at Brands Hatch, which went very well. I have won plenty of club races, had plenty of fastest laps, and a pole position by over 0.2s at Super One.”

Having the equipment for the job is the most important part of any decision making process, and with Jade karts Partridge feels they made the right choice. “I race with Jade Karts as I think it was the best chassis on the grid this year, and they have done a great job with drivers in previous years. I was struggling on the weight limit this year, so the team worked hard to lighten the kart, and to ensure I always had the best equipment.”

Winning though at this level is not the work of a few minutes on track, and Jack is willing to give credit to his main rivals. “Winning the Junior TKM championship,” he admits, “was not an easy journey! I was pushed hard throughout the season and got consistent results, and I believe that is why I am champion. My main rivals this year were probably Daniel Baybutt and Jake Campbell-Mills. Other drivers such as Sam Randon and Stephen Letts were competitors for the championship in the early stages of the year as well. Jake Walker did not do Super One, but was a main rival at other races such as the O Plate and TKM Festival.”

Most wise drivers will say that it is not always what you know, but who you know. And advise from the hallowed heights of Formula One cannot be overlooked. “The ex-Formula 1 boss Alex Hawkridge has been a huge influence on my racing career so far! He has mentored me for roughly four years now and I don’t believe I could have achieved what I have to date without Alex’s help! Alex has a lot of knowledge and I am very grateful of him sharing experience with me. I have also had lots of sponsors help me in 2012, to ensure I had a competitive budget, and I would like to thank them all.”

His thanks also went to iZone Driver Performance who he said “have been a huge help to me in 2012. They have backed me throughout the last season providing state of the art simulator coaching. We had a very small budget in comparison to some of my competitors and so I did not get the chance to do much testing before the season started. Using the iZone facilities helped me to hone my driving skills! Before the season started I focused on developing the skills needed to maintain and defend a lead position. The iZone training really paid off in round 1 and I pulled away at the front of the field in both Finals! Arden Motorsport have recently started to back me and guide me in the decisions I make in my future career. And Anglia Indoor Kart racing, where I started racing, have also backed me in the form of sponsorship. I cannot forget to mention my parents as well!” he said with a laugh

Jack mentioned how he was prompted to take part in the Super One championship, as he knew people who have competed in the Series in previous years. His team recognised that the Junior TKM class was a lot less expensive to compete in, than in another classes such as Junior Rotax and KF3. “I believe the class is very competitive as well, which means there is some great racing!”

Now with a British karting title to his name, what about 2013 and beyond? “I do not have any plans to stay on in TKM in 2013. I believe I have achieved nearly all I can in this class and it is time to move on! My main ambition in motorsport though is to become a multiple Formula One World Champion. I am motivated by the thought of winning and reaching that goal! If I wasn’t to make it to Formula One I would be grateful to have a professional, successful career in motorsport and get paid to race, whether that be cars or karts!

“Advice from me to newcomers in the sport would be to keep believing in your self! Do the best job you can and work the hardest you can away from the track, to try and ensure that you have a bright future. If you do this then no-one can say ‘You didn’t try hard enough’. Also I’d advise young drivers to be cheeky (ask for sponsorship), and leap on every opportunity as it comes!”

Jack Partridge is a courteous young racer and wanted to finish by giving thanks for the support he has received, with “a big thank you to everyone who has believed in me and helped me over the past few years. I couldn’t have got where I have today without the support I have received from Alex Hawkridge, iZone Driver Performance, my parents and my sister, Jade Karts, Alex Burrows (a top mechanic!), my friends, Terence and Alan Dove, Graham Taffs, Paul Scothern/MRM Performance engineering, and anyone else that I might have forgotten. (Sorry if I did)! I hope I can carry on to do you all proud in the future, (because) I am now 15 years old and seeking support for future years.”

Jack has recently announced that he will be competing in the Formula KGP Super One in 2013 with the Jade Karts team as team-mate to Danny Keirle.

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Making a start

By Mary-Ann Horley

It all goes wrong for Stefano Villa Zanotti  Chris Walker
It all goes wrong for Stefano Villa Zanotti
Chris Walker

In the last 12 months, there have been several high profile accidents causing serious injuries, both in the UK and abroad.

Brad Shaw broke his back at La Conca in the WSK Master Series in October, Jake Dawson suffered head injuries at the Shenington club meeting in February, and Swedish driver Anton Haaga was rushed to hospital with suspected serious kidney damage at this year’s La Conca WSK Master Series event in early March. All of these crashes happened at the start.

Thankfully all the above drivers are on the mend, and Shaw is expected to be back on track in April for Super One.

Preventing serious injuries must be the priority but they aren’t the whole story. Countless race weekends are ruined after start crashes and Chris Walker could show you hundreds if not thousands of photos of the aftermath.

For the last few years, the CIK-FIA has had a speed limit in place in an attempt to make starts safer. In March, at the CIK-FIA’s quarterly decision-making session at the World Motor Sports Council, the 50kph speed limit was removed.

Matteo Vigano and Tanart Sathienthirakul were European KF2 Champions for less than half an hour in 2009 and 2011 until they were excluded for going over the limit at the start.

As usual, the WSK followed suit and has already had their first events without a speed check.

“It is not to judge this rule after a single event. It will take some time to get an accurate picture. However, my observations and the feedback I got from many drivers are in agreement. In fact, accidents are not more numerous at the starts in procedures or in the difficult transition from the first corner. Starts will always remain a critical moment in motorsport. Safety does not suffer from the absence of speed control” said the WSK Race Director, Oranzo Di Bari.

“However, everyone could see that the two lines were not together at the lights. Often, the pole sitter took the opportunity to make a difference and that they can more easily accelerate at will. We have seen competitors at the front play skillfully with the brake and the accelerator to cross the line several tens of metres ahead of the other line. Things are more difficult to judge for the race director. When we had the speed limit, the rule was known to all and we could easily apply it.

“I do not mean that we should return to the previous situation which had disadvantages. The speed at the start was really slow and it could cause problems. Several drivers and team managers think that a limit of 60kph would have been a good thing. I am personally in favour of their opinions. I think we need specific rules for this level of competition. Now we need to step back and see after several races” Di Bari said.

Most drivers don’t have any involvement in international racing, but one of the benefits of it is that it’s the cutting edge and advances can be filtered down to the mass market.

Two of the national Clerks of the Course were kind enough to talk to us about it – Nigel Edwards and Alan Bryant.

“Speed indicator: I don’t think removing it alone is great, that said it was only the pole man who got penalised, I do believe they have some other ideas about creating a non-acceleration zone prior to the start – we will have to see” Nigel said.

“The problem with speed limits is that the pole man goes too fast and the rest keep up with him on the start and he’s the one  that’s penalised when you could have the whole grid speeding and they get away with it,” Alan said.

Chris Walker, who has probably seen more starts than anyone, and in lots of different championships, also doesn’t think the speed limit will be missed. “The CIK speed limits put too much pressure on the pole man, to the extent that it was almost a disadvantage to be in pole position. Also at some circuits it seemed to lead to loading at the first and second corners.”

So if the CIK-FIA’s attempt to improve starts with concrete regulations has been abandoned and hence won’t be applied anywhere else, what could be done in the UK?

“I have proposed to the MSA that we change our current start rules regarding having to go over the line before breaking formation – I think this leads to more loading in the two lines as they approach the start and also creates a ‘dive’ to the inside line directly after the line. The CIK method of lights out: race on (use any of the track) is much better” Nigel said.

“Personally I would rather a quite quick start with all the drivers not bunched up as they tend to be at the moment. I think that there should be a visible gap between every kart as they approach the start and until they cross the start line and any driver disobeying this be given a 10s penalty. Also that penalty should be shown on the start line so that everyone knows who has been penalised.

“The biggest cause of first corner accidents is in my opinion the fact that too many starters/clerks insist that the whole grid are right on each other’s bumpers when they approach the start and that is a recipe for disaster as we see most weekends.

“Because they are so close you get the loading going on where drivers in the middle and the rear are pushing on the ones in front causing the loading. If there has to be a gap at the start then it should make it easier to spot those who do load wheras at the moment it is very difficult” Alan said.

“I also recommended the UK use the now-universal start light arrangement of Red Lights On: Red Lights Off: Start (not red to green)” Nigel said.

“We also need to stop teams, parents etc from telling their drivers to make sure they are touching the kart in front so that they don’t get passed at the first corner. This is a fact as a couple of very well-known team managers have admitted to me that it’s the instruction they give their drivers.

“The way I am going to run the starts at S1 Rotax rounds is that there will be two rolling laps at race speed with the grid slowing slightly as they approach the last couple of corners before the start line and the starter will be told that if the grid is in formation but spread out then he lets them go. Spreading them out with a visible gap should make for cleaner starts.

“Of course the problem that we will get are the starters that want to do it their way but they will be asked to do it the way we want it done. If they don’t and they start messing about then I would have no problem speaking to them and if they refused to listen then, as the MSA Blue Book states, the Clerk of the Course can start all races or appoint someone else to do it and I would! The biggest problem is that starts have been the same since the year dot and change can sometimes be painful!” Alan said.

But we’ve also spoken to team bosses and although they didn’t want to be quoted in this article, a comment that kept coming up is that it needs to be made very clear to all drivers what they are expected to do. For example, the poleman is supposed to control the speed and is often reminded of this, but the 2nd-placed driver also needs to be told to stay next to him and not to go at what he might consider to be a more appropriate speed.

The World Motor Sport Council decisions
At its meeting on 9 March 2012 in Milan and on proposals of the International Karting Commission Members, the FIA World Motor Sport Council took in particular the following decisions concerning karting:

Sporting Regulations
The World Council has validated the Appendix to the Sporting Regulations of the CIK-FIA World KF1 Championship, setting the modalities for the engine distribution by drawing lots, the minimum number of engines which must be stored in the Parc Fermé by the engine manufacturers before they are allocated to drivers and the conditions allowing competitors to change their engine brand during the championship.

The weighing procedure and the sanctions further to cases of breaches of the minimum weight rule provided by the regulations have been revised. Exclusion for failure to comply ascertained during qualifying practice and heats is maintained, but exclusion is replaced as a minimum by the driver being classified last in a race of the final phase. This change aims at avoiding any effect of double penalty as exclusion from a race of the final phase used to be accompanied by the interdiction for the driver concerned to discount this null result from the general classification of championships held over several events.

In the start procedure, the speed control (50 kph maximum) when karts approach the start line has been totally removed.
To align with the automobile regulations, stopping a race (required in case of immediate danger) is replaced by the principle of suspending the race. Gaps between drivers before the suspension will thus no longer be taken into account. To restart the race, the new start will be carried out according to the «SLOW» procedure (all karts in one single file, behind the leader). The final classification of the race will be the one corresponding to the order of the karts when they cross the finish line instead of the one resulting from the addition of the two consecutive parts of the race.

Technical and Homologation Regulations
For safety reasons and immediate application, only batteries with «EC» and «RoHS» markings will be authorised in karting. Additionally, batteries shall be placed on the chassis in an area located to the left of the seat behind the central strut or behind the seat.

As from 2013, the following controls will be deleted regarding KF engines: transfer duct volume, exhaust duct length, internal profile of the exhaust duct outlet, chord widths of the ports and of the lower gasket plane of the cylinder. The maximum value of the exhaust angle in KF2 will be set at 194°, irrespective of what appears on the Homologation Forms of the engines.

New technical prescriptions have been validated for ignitions to be homologated as from 1/1/2013 for KF engines, which consist in particular in standardising the principle sketch and the connectors.

In view of the next tyre homologation session (for implementation as of 1/1/2014), it has been decided to delete the «Soft» classification, and for «Medium» and «Hard» tyres to differentiate them by their carcass for direct-drive karts and for gearbox karts. The KZ2 category will be fitted with «Hard» tyres, and KZ1 with «Medium» ones.

Calendar of the 2012 CIK-FIA Championships, Cup and Trophies
In order to avoid any clashes of dates with the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy and that of Abu Dhabi, the dates of the following events have been modified:

–    date of the fourth round of the CIK-FIA World KF1 Championship and of the CIK-FIA World Cups for KZ1 and KZ2, scheduled for Sarno-Napoli, brought forward from 6-9 September 2012 to 30 August-2 September 2012;
–    date of the third and last round of the CIK-FIA «U18» World Championship and Academy Trophy, scheduled for Bahrain, postponed from 1-3 November 2012 to 8-10 November 2012.

Article 18 of the FIA International Sporting Code
The WMSC has confirmed the provision of Article 18 of the International Sporting Code according to which any kart driver must be holder of an International licence to participate in any event (national and international) outside the territory of his ASN.

In addition, the CIK-FIA has been mandated by the WMSC to provide specific solutions whereby an ASN can establish to the satisfaction of the CIK-FIA the absence of any karting facilities in its country. Therefore, following a proposal by the CIK-FIA, the WMSC has decided to enable national licence holders from the Luxembourg (ACL) and Monaco (ACM) ASNs to compete at national French karting events (in the Alsace-Lorraine region only for Luxembourg drivers) sanctioned by the French ASN (FFSA).

Furthermore, the CIK-FIA has been mandated to develop guidelines for a more global implementation of this system from 2013.

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Sponsorship: The unvarnished truth

 Robbie Dalgleish shows you don't have to use a manufacturer's graphics to look stylish Chris Walker

Robbie Dalgleish shows you don’t have to use a manufacturer’s graphics to look stylish
Chris Walker

By Jerry Thurston

‘Publicity, darling. Just publicity. Any kind is better than none at all.’ Rhonda Farr (1933)

If only we had some sponsorship… It would make such a difference. How many times have I heard that?

Although the middle of a recession has got to be the worst time to be looking for somebody to pay for your racing even in these constrained times sponsorship is out there. You just have to be far more creative to get it.

We can’t guarantee that you will hit the jackpot and sweep a season’s expenses in a single visit, it is pretty unlikely that a complete unknown is going to walk into the headquarters of a national bank and be handed a fistful of money.

However if you are willing to invest a little cash and some time and patience you will come across companies that will be willing to make a contribution to your racing efforts. And, to pinch the advertising slogan… Every little helps.

Here are our top tips for attracting (and keeping) a sponsor:

Prepare the ground:
Why is you or your driver wearing an XYZ-kart branded kart suit? If it is because they are contributing to your racing in some way, for example selling you their chassis at a heavily discounted price / for free or they have given you the suit that’s fine. If it is for any other reason, ask yourself. Why are you paying to give them publicity – because it makes you look like a works driver? Sorry, but you aren’t kidding anybody. A smart suit that doesn’t declare your allegiance to any particular brand is going to be cheaper and probably just as effective in an accident plus leaves plenty of room for sponsors logos come the glorious day!

Kart manufacturers spend a huge amount of time designing and producing graphics that make their chassis instantly recognisable when they are out on the circuit. This is absolutely brilliant… for them. For you, it means that your kart is one or maybe a dozen carrying the same livery. If you want to be different pull the stickers off and clean the plastics. If you can’t stand the plain look invest in some new unbranded graphics from one of the firms that offer a design and print service. Between £70 and £100 plus the VAT will get you some custom vinyl that will really raise the game.

Get your publicity machine running before approaching potential sponsors. Use all the tools that are available to you including website/blog/social networking sites. Taking your lap-top to a presentation and having your potential client a look at your wonderful website or the huge amount of hits on an interesting blog can be a powerful tool.

Don’t discount the tried and trusted methods like keeping the local papers and specialist press supplied with titbits. These often generate news stories about you, which become part of the portfolio that you will be presenting at a later date.

The basic sales pitch:
The first mistake that people make when approaching a potential sponsor is that they forget the basic principles of what is effectively a sales call. It’s easy to go into raptures about what a difference a load of money will make your racing. New kit, new kart, we’ll win easily etc. This means nothing to your potential sponsor, you need to be thinking about what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you.

Sponsorship in its most basic form is swapping money for publicity, which means that you will be up against everything from local newspapers to national TV advertising campaigns. Offer a business good value for their advertising money and you are in with a real chance.

Do not run off at the mouth and gabble on about how we will do this… and this… and this. Instead, ask questions that help you to gain a clear understanding of what your potential sponsor wishes to achieve. In other words, shut up and listen! When they have told you what they want to achieve, you can then tell them how you will help them achieve their goals.

During the pitch:
Take a leaf from the professional’s books and go armed with props. Prospective sponsor might like to look at and touch, so bring the kart and have it in the car park so that it can be inspected. If you think that it will help clinch a worthwhile deal, consider investing some money in professional visuals so that your prospective sponsor can see what they will be getting.

The more professional and slick your presentation is the more chance you have of the big score.

Target effectively:
For a national company a series that involves you travelling widely may be a real turn on. However, for a local business with a couple of branches in nearby towns the fact that you race everywhere from the tip of Scotland to the Channel Islands is only of academic interest, they’ll be far more excited by the idea of you turning up in their local papers on a regular basis.

Perhaps the ultimate temptation (at least for a national sponsor) is a televised series, if you are involved with such don’t rely on the fact that “we might be on the telly.” Go armed with some facts and figures, at a minimum find out when it will be aired and the approximate number of viewers per episode.

Know what you want:
Have a good understanding of the costs involved in a seasons running then split it split it down into chunks or packages. When you have got a sponsor interested, establish what their budget is and then offer them a couple of different options for their money. Don’t be greedy, don’t be over generous either.

Be respectful, £500 is a lot of money to a small business and while it may not keep you in tyres for more than a couple of meetings the person offering that sort of sum will feel that they are making a significant contribution your years expenses. Any offer they make is always ‘very generous, thank-you. For that we can…’ On the flip side unless you have a very good reason for doing so don’t go overboard and re-brand the kart totally for the £500 donation.

A good sponsorship deal doesn’t necessarily mean cash grants, product or even a hefty discount when you buy things can work out very nicely indeed. Being able to purchase essential products ‘at cost’ can make a very significant difference to the amount of money you have spent by the end of the year.

Stand out from the rest:
It isn’t by accident that professional racing teams always present a smart and professional appearance. Smart corporate livery that extends from the mechanics work-wear through the driver’s overalls and even to the team transporters is all designed to do one thing. Tell the world that they mean business.

It doesn’t matter if you run you kart out of a shed in the back garden, by comparison to a seasons running expenses it doesn’t cost much to arrive at the circuit and look as good as the ‘big-budget’ guys, so much of the following applies equally to your karting activities pre or post sponsorship.

Invest in a couple of sets of well fitting overalls for everybody that’s involved in maintaining the kart while it is at the circuit. While you are at it buy a few polo shirts and fleeces in the same colour maybe even some pairs of matching work trousers.

Best behaviour:
When you are wearing corporate clothing, more than ever you need to be on your best behaviour, although ‘any publicity is good publicity’ most companies won’t want to be associated with a driver that gets punchy any time that a race doesn’t go his or her way. A bad-boy image is one thing actually being a bad boy is quite another. Last but not least, continue to reward your sponsor.

If you do get sponsorship remember to push it when the opportunity arises, that includes mentioning them in any interviews you do right down to wearing your sponsors clothing when attending any Karting related functions that don’t specify a dress code.

Keep working for your sponsor throughout the season, regularly update them on your progress especially good race results. Collect and send copies of any press features especially photos that feature their name or logo.

Don’t underestimate the power of a really nice framed picture taken during the season, presented to them with a cheery ‘thank-you for your support so far message’.

 

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Testing, testing 123

Ginetta Super One MSA Series

By Jerry Thurston

“We are going testing this Thursday “, it’s a snatch of conversation often heard in Karting circles.

Although many use the words testing and practice in an interchangeable manner, if you want to be pedantic (and in this case we do) we need to realise that they are two different things. Practice is about refining the driver, testing is about refining the kart

Where do you test?
On the face if it this is a no brainer, but it isn’t… Because we want to achieve two different things.

Practice on the circuit you know least, this will help to bring the driver on allowing them to experiment with lines, looking for the grippy and slippery spots. Everything from the day goes together to teach them the subtleties of a really quick lap.

Test on the circuit you know the best. It is important that the driver knows the test circuit well enough to put in consistently quick laps with the kart as near the ‘limit’ as possible. It is only when the machine is being pushed as hard as it can go that any meaningful data can be gleaned from really subtle changes.

Budget for testing
In order to achieve consistently good results top teams treat test and practice days as a fundamental part of their racing operation, they’ll be scheduling sessions at their ‘home’ circuit to experiment with differing products or set-up changes that they want to try and planning days at circuits that drivers are unfamiliar with to coach them in the subtleties of that track. It’s going to cost money but you should be budgeting to test too, why spend thousands on a seasons racing to achieve mediocre results when a couple of hundred extra could make all the difference to your places.

Measurement
Because it’s going to cost you time and money, it’s no good at all turning up at a circuit for a test day without having a clear idea of what you wish to achieve and a way of measuring this. If you have been dogged by understeer all season a test session designed to cure or at least reduce this will be worth every penny spent if you get a result.

The base measurement is nearly always lap times but this is dependent on a clear lap time after time, on those frustrating days when the driver is continually baulked other measurements might be more useful, revs down the straight will give an indication of an increase or decrease in top speed, a change in steering angle through the bends when compared to previous traces will give you a good idea about oversteer and understeer issues. It all depends upon how much you want to spend, the more test gear you have on the kart the more you can measure, but the cost spirals too!

Although kart changes following testing should be results-driven, don’t dismiss things that for instance make the driver more comfortable, a tweak that has no effect on lap times but makes the kart fractionally easier to drive could pay back handsomely at the end of a long hot race when the driver is fresher than their competition.

It is no use trying to refine a single component or setting when the handling of the kart is changing all the time. It doesn’t really matter if the kart is not yet handling at its optimum, although somewhere near would be nice. What is most important is that the kart is smooth and consistent throughout the lap allowing the driver to get the maximum from it, this way when a change works it will be shown in the lap times. Fundamentally it comes down to establishing an even base-line. This means always running the same fuel, tyres, engine chassis set-up etc.

How to test
As we alluded to earlier, ideally you should test on a clear track; this means that you can put in lap after lap without being slowed by ‘traffic’. Favour going out at times when few people are about or looking to rent track time either on your own or to reduce the costs perhaps share the expense with couple of mates.

Try to do all your testing in one concentrated session. The vagaries of British climate means that track conditions can change hour by hour, even subtle changes in the temperature or weather are enough to upset performance in a positive or negative manner. If you start tyre pressure testing, for instance at midday on a hot track, then go away and come back at 5pm when the track temperature is still high but the air has cooled a bit your lap times are probably going to be different, any data that you collect is going to be skewed.

Remember too that it is very unlikely that you will be able to do any meaningful comparative testing on two different days.

The tyres will be one of the biggest factors that are subject to change; ideally you would use rubber that is new each time. However most of us don’t have that sort of money, so we will be going for tyres that are within a use-window. If you choose to use tyres that have done between 25 and 75 laps, you wouldn’t test on rubber that has done more or less work.

More sophisticated still is to forget the number of laps and monitor the heat-cycles that the tyres have been through, the more times a tyre has been cycled the more it’s performance will drop off. You might therefore chose to use tyres that have not endured more than say, five or six cycles.

If you can change a setting ‘on the fly’ by bringing the kart in doing a quick change without the driver even getting out and then sending it straight back out again without the tyres cooling so much the better.

Test engine?
Unless you are specifically developing engine mods, rather than hacking around wearing out your race unit, it can be prudent to have a motor that is just for test purposes, for many this could be an unsealed version of the motor used for your class of racing as these can be bought cheaply and refreshed from time to time without the expense of going to an authorised rebuilder. Using the same motor every time you test is one more step towards a level playing-field.

Test chassis?
All chassis are equal, but some chassis are more equal than others. While it should follow that chassis A and chassis B which left the factory a week apart after being made on the same jig should handle the same, they often don’t. However, if you are running a brand of chassis that is consistent from one to another a test chassis is a definite consideration. Remember though to get proper results everything needs to be exactly the same as your race chassis from the make and type of seat and its position to the brand of wheels and accessories fitted.

Do one thing at once
This adage is age old and quoted ad infinitum. We all know it so how come when we get to the circuit we all break the rules and do a couple of little tweaks together? The trouble is that it’s so tempting; you notice a couple of things that you consider aren’t quite right, so sort them both out together. Often this doesn’t matter but sometimes it makes a huge difference. So, which tweak did the job, or was it a combination of both? You can find out provided that you have written everything down, this gives you the opportunity to return the kart to its previous specification and then test each little modification separately.

The rule is, once you start collecting data and recording don’t fiddle with anything but the area you are working on. If you are experimenting with axle width don’t muck about with chassis settings, gearing, tyre pressures or anything else.

Money no object?
Won the lottery? Here’s what we would do. We would definitely visit every circuit that we race at several times, firstly to get the driver totally familiar with their complexities then once this was done to experience these circuits under different conditions. Be it wet, dry, hot or cold. Each time we visited the object would be to refine the set-up of the kart to best suit those conditions, building up a picture of what needed doing to go the quickest ‘out of the box’. Eventually we would have an invaluable set of data, Whilton Mill on a hot day? Look in the book; we need to set the Kart up like this…

Back in the real world!
Assuming that like us your budge it limited, it is almost guaranteed that your testing will be done on a convenient ‘home’ circuit. Don’t worry; you can still get meaningful results that will translate to the other circuits that you race on.

What you are looking for is a designated set of base line settings. Once these have been found, after every meeting or test the kart will be re-set to these. However, the base-line figures are never totally immovable. It is very likely that you will come across a tweak that improves the kart generally. Quite obviously it would be daft to re-set the kart to its old, poor-handling self so this tweak will re-establish the base line and in future you will start from there.

You are aiming to reach a stage where the kart is ‘happy’ or has reached it’s’ sweet-spot’ if these terms are a little too touchy-feely for you, call it a mid-point. All the major stuff has fallen into place, the seat position is OK, and any ballast is in the correct place, even the basic axle width and torsion bar settings are about right. This mid-point setting will give you the consistent base you need to experiment with other things.

Experiment improves the breed
Don’t be afraid to try radical ideas… We once had a rear hub come loose and migrate inwards towards the chassis, instead of the kart immediately starting to handle like a pig on casters the lap times showed an improvement before dropping off as you would expect. This gave us the confidence to try re-setting the rear track width to narrower than we had previously dared. The result was that we found a consistent three tenths of a second per lap. Why hadn’t we tried this before? Simply because nobody else ran their rear track that narrow!

Book a test day and get working, move things this way and that, stiffen, soften, try all those mods that are rumoured to be the hot things in the paddock. Write everything down along with the resulting lap times. Record down the settings where the kart hops, this means that you have too much grip for today, but these could come in useful on a cold April morning. Similarly record what you have done to make the kart slide (front and or rear), good to know for those days where there is too much grip.

Refinements
Once the kart is ‘happy’ you will usually find that almost no matter what the circuit or time of year your final race setting will be this mid-point, plus a few tweaks here or there.
Refinement testing is all about modifying the settings on the kart little-by-little in order to get the maximum out of it for any particular circuit. The good thing about returning to the mid-point (base-line) settings each time you get the kart home is that this, plus the notes from your more radical experimentation should make it far easier to work out what you have to do on the next race day.

If it’s a blazing hot day only a week after a round of an international championship has visited the circuit you can be pretty sure that there is still be loads of sticky rubber down in the corners so you’ll working from the previously established mid-point accordingly. Conversely if it’s shivering day on a circuit that hasn’t been used for weeks you’ll know that you’ll need to go the other way to find some grip.

And finally…
To corrupt the meaning of Newton’s third law… Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Modifications that make a kart better through fast bends often corrupt the handling in slower corners and vice versa. Compromise is the name of the game, if getting the kart flying through the sweepers gives the most opportunity for quick lap times and overtaking take the hit in the slower corners or the opposite for a tight circuit.

Time spent on a circuit is never wasted, but how much use it is? That’s down to you.