By: George Robinson
As 2004 comes to an end and we head inexorably towards Christmas and the New Year, it is no bad idea to reflect on the past twelve months and take a look towards the future. There has been good consolidation and growth in the MAX classes, helped by improved production methods and refinements. Early in 2004 the Rotax factory introduced new plastic caged main bearings, a stronger 16 roller big end and a reworked connecting rod. These three changes have resulted in a virtually bulletproof bottom end. The latest engines in Senior form have proved to be strong and fast, although an earlier engine in good condition is still a very competitive alternative. Contrary to popular belief you do not need to invest in a brand new unit to win races. Our test engine from 2000 which had fastest lap in the race at the Le Mans 24 Hour that year, proved to be the strongest of three tested and completed 20 hours of this year’s race before a clutch bearing failure caused us to change it.
Not a bad record for an engine that has only been rebuilt twice in a long and busy career. Around Easter this year we did hear of some reed petal failures. This was not an epidemic by any means, indeed when we tried to reproduce the problem we could not. However I understand that a production change eradicated the weakness and that the reeds are now stronger than ever. New for 2004 was the right to repair the exhaust system by welding, this strictly forbids the modification of the exhaust. If the system is so badly cracked that it might appear to have been completely opened to modify the internal dimensions or volume, my advice would be to start again with a new one. Generally speaking the exhaust is a pretty robust bit of kit and barring an accident should last for several years. It must be properly rubber mounted and most dealers now stock suitable silent blocks which help to protect the exhaust from vibration and do not allow it to become a stressed member of the back of the kart!
Rotax are to introduce a clutch support plate to improve the potential lifetime of the clutch shoe fulcrum pins. The new plate can be fitted to existing clutches without modification. You simply remove the three retaining circlips, remove and discard the flat washers behind them, install the support plate, refit the circlips and the job is done. As reported last month, the Dell’Orto carb has been replaced by an almost identical unit with air bleed and idle speed screws moved to the other side of the body. However, more importantly, Rotax have been testing various options to improve driveability. Their decision is to introduce an alternative needle from January 1st This is designated K98 and will be eligible as well as the existing K27. At some point in the new year, Rotax will be introducing an alternative battery. This will be of exactly the same dimensions as the existing unit. The new battery has a slightly changed production method and is designed to be more reliable.
The venues and dates for the Rotax Euro Challenge have just been announced. They are the 25-27th March at Salbris, France, 27-29th May at P.F. International, 29-31st July at the Al Speedworld, Austria, with the final on the 16-18th September at Genk, Belgium. All these are easily accessible from the UK and are some great circuits, let’s hope we get some real quality interest from some of our top teams and drivers. We have the strongest market in Europe for the MAX so let’s forget the soft bellied nanny state we are expected to live in, get over there and give the foreign Johnnies a good seeing to! On a completely different subject, a lot of older racewear is becoming obsolete at the end of the year. Unfortunately your favourite suit with its three digit CIK number will no longer be eligible for racing, the good news is that I am fairly sure that the average race suit is now cheaper than it was say ten years ago. There is certainly more choice than ever before in masses of styles and colours to suit every taste, although I think it is always worth going for a size that you may think is too big. Try not to be a fashion victim for a second and just consider that you must have good freedom of movement when you are seated in the kart. If you are trying to impress girls by your tailored fitting suit, you might find yourself having to do three point turns to negotiate the tighter hairpins and the girls just might brush past you on their way to congratulate the bloke in the baggy suit who won the race. Have a good look through the pages of this magazine and you will find a number of companies marketing proprietary brands of race wear, those offering mail order will certainly offer an exchange or money back service should the goods not meet with your expectations.
If 80 First in the World for 44 years possible visit one of the larger karting retailers where you can try on a variety of different clothing. There are also some helmets which will be up for renewal next year. This is such a specialised area that I am certainly not qualified to advise. The best idea has to be to go to an outlet where they have a very wide choice for you to try on. I believe that helmets are a bit like shoes, everyone’s feet are different and so are their heads. A helmet should be a snug fit, if anything tighter rather than looser when new A balaclava can make quite a difference to the fit of a helmet but these are an acquired taste, some people love them, others hate them. Just be sure to try the helmet on as you would intend to use it. Furthermore, it is important to check the manufacturing date of the helmet and its eligibility for karting. Also ensure that there is a ready supply of new visors and fitting kits. I bought a helmet three years ago and ordered a couple of spare visors at the same time.
“No problem” they said, except that the iridium (fashion victim) visor never turned up and never went into production for that helmet, so beware. I believe that the dates for the MAX Challenge qualifiers will be finalised by the time you read this, unfortunately there are a couple of confirmations still to come through. It would be very good to see a strong turnout next year and I have heard that the new MOJO tyre is very similar to the outgoing Bridgestone YGK which cannot be at all bad. There will be classes for Juniors and Seniors and the Rotax regulations also allow for drivers to enter Seniors from the age of 15 for the 2005 International Challenge. This issue of the magazine will be out between the Telford and Sandown shows so hopefully some of you will already have been to Telford and one or two may have attended the MAX seminars there.
The Karting magazine forums to give them their correct title are always well attended which has to make them worthwhile. It does give people the opportunity to hear about the latest news and also benefit from the questions and answers element of the meetings which always runs into extra time. I find these forums very interesting, they are never the same because it is the audience who ask the questions. At Sandown Park the seminars are entitled Master Classes and were very well attended last year. Both shows are now well established and are a highlight of the winter calendar. As this is the last issue before Christmas I hope you all have a good one and please make sure that your MAX has some antifreeze in it before you start tearing the legs off the turkey.