Rye house, situated near Hoddesdon, Herfordshire is one of the UK’s premier club circuits hosting the annual London Cup, along with its monthly Club meetings on the first weekend of every month. The circuit is also visited by Club 100, BUKC, and also played host the 2016 Biz Champions challenge in February.
One of Rye House’s main claims to fame is it was the place Lewis Hamilton first drove and raced a kart when he was just 8 years old.
The main characteristics of this track are the iconic Stadium corner at turn 1, as well as two of the tightest corners you will see in Hairpin 1 and 2 meaning very short gearing is often used which adds to the frantic feeling of racing this track. The kerbs also play a large part in a good lap around Rye House.
Stadium has a very long and late apex
Turn 1 (Stadium)
Arriving fast after the main straight due to the short gearing Turn 1 can be a daunting corner. Turning in flat out and quite late you should aim to nip the first apex right in the middle of the corner. It is crucial you are very smooth throughout T1 as any amount of excess sliding will lose you tenths of a second. Once you’ve hit the middle apex ease off the power and allow the kart to move out very slightly so your outside wheels eventually just touch the seam in the middle of the track, any wider and the grip decreases greatly. A very slight rub on the brakes just as you begin to increase the lock for the second apex will help the weight transfer to the front wheels enough for you to get onto the inside kerb at the corner’s tightest point. It is very important not to push too hard here, let the kart be neutral and the main thing is that you make the ideal line through the second apex. The kerb here has more grip than the track so get as close to the tyre wall/grass on the inside as possible (mind the trench that is off the back of the kerb, this will throw you sideways). Apply the throttle smoothly but swiftly as you apex and take a middle of the road exit before the kink left. It is very rewarding when you hook up the 2nd apex well and you’ll know when you get it right.
The kink left should be approached with a middle exit from Stadium, the kerb looks aggressive but you float across it so use as much as is comfortable. Minimise the steering lock for maximum acceleration. Use all the track on the exit.
Turn 3 (Hairpin 1)
This is possibly the slowest and tightest corner in the UK, maybe in all of karting. Brake hard on the right hand side. As you approach the apex turn in late but smoothly, bleed off the brakes and trail brake right to the apex to jack the inside rear wheel so you can rotate the kart quickly. You want to apex with just your two inside wheels on the kerb, and on a line that is just slightly later than your conventional arc. Power on hard at the apex and open the steering to use as much road as the tyre walls on the exit will allow (what MSA track limits?).
Turn 4 (Hairpin 2)
As you exit HP1 the track kinks right, keep left and brake in a straight line. The corner is tight on entry but opens up on the exit. As you turn in hold the brakes slightly and again trail brake right to the apex so when you apply the power the kart can ‘ping’ off the corner. Get as close the tall apex kerb as possible without touching it as it chucks the front of the kart about a foot in the air if you hit it. Power at the apex and as the track opens up hold it slightly tight just after the apex, then drive the kart all the way out to the wall on the exit.
Turn 5 (Pylon)
As you exit HP2 you need to start mentally preparing yourself for left hander at Pilon as it’s one of the most brutal corners around and requires 100% commitment. The kerb there used to be the stuff of legend, but it has been smoothed during the winter of 2015/2016 and is now nice flat concrete. However the track is still bumpy as hell and you’ll be shaken about no matter what. In most classes you need to turn in just after the kerb on the right juts out (don’t touch this as it unsettles the kart). Turn in with a lift or a small rub on the brakes (class dependant) and aim to get your inside wheels very close to the new concrete ‘sausage’ on the inside by the marshal post. Apex late and power over the kerb, the kart will jump as you go through so stay solid in the kart and absorb the bumps as best as possible. You want to stay quite far left here for a good run through 6.
Coming immediately after Pylon, brake hard sort of middle-left and turn in smoothly once the kart stops bouncing. As always trail brake to the apex and apply the power smoothly from the apex where there is a horizontal groove in the track in the middle of the corner. Mostly you will want to avoid the inside kerb here as it unsettles the kart, however some days due to conditions/rubber its quicker to get your inside wheels on top of this inside kerb and onto the tarmac just inside the kerb. Watch what the fastest drivers are doing, maybe try it yourself a couple of laps in practise, if it is faster it will feel like the kart is being pulled round the corner, if you understeer off the kerb go back to staying on the track. Don’t run too wide on exit. You should exit where the short kerb is on the left, go up to, but not onto this as it will kick the kart sideways killing your exit speed.
Turn 7 & 8 (last complex)
This again requires full commitment. Bring the kart right from turn 6 up to the white line on the right (be careful not to go over the edge as the kart will bottom out and you’ll be dragged onto the grass). Turn in just as the track juts out on the right, lift as you turn in to allow a little more weight on the front wheels so you can get all the way onto the kerb, in some senior classes you’ll need a rub on the brakes as you enter. Now comes the fun part. You want to aim for a late apex on the left hand kerb so you can stay left for the last corner and a run onto the straight. Aim to jump over the kerb so your inside wheels go up to the grass. The kerb will launch your inside wheels into the air , and you should land right on the end of the kerb quite smoothly. Once you’ve landed a quick rub on the brakes just as you begin to turn right should allow you to make a very late apex for the last corner. Mind the monster inside kerb but get as close as possible. Power hard as you apex and allow the kart to run onto and just over the kerb on the exit where the kerb visibly drops down, this should be quite a smooth line. Straighten the steering and drive to the line to complete a quick fire and technical lap at Rye house.
A great lap at rye house should flow very nicely despite the kerbs and bumpy nature of some of the corners. To be fast at Rye you have to be 100% committed and have a plan of action before you get on circuit. This is one of the most physical tracks around, after a race weekend you will feel like you’ve gone a number of rounds with Mike Tyson. Make sure your seat fits well and your arms don’t hit the engine/radiator. I highly recommend a warm up before the first session of the day.
Words By Piers Prior
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