Arrive and Drive to MSA – Whilton Weekend

You may have been reading my monthly A&D roundup articles, I’m a huge fan of the British A&D scene and it’s where I have been primarily racing for the last 5 years. Arrive and drive karting is very popular with large grids in many club and national championships such as Club100, DMAX, Covkartsport, NKL, Buckmore, the list is goes on.

Recently I was given a golden opportunity by Enzo Motorsport and Crown Windows to enter the Whilton mill MSA club championships in their premier class, Senior X30, here’s what I made of it.

The Class – IAME X30

Senior X30 is the main senior category raced at Whilton Mill. Since its introduction a few years ago it has quickly risen to become one of, if not the most popular class in Britain, overtaking the monopoly Rotax has had on the UK market.

The class runs an IAME 2-stroke, 125cc engine revving to 16,000rpm, produces approximately 30hp, and weighs in at just 164kg with kart and driver. The control tyre is the Komet K1H slick which provides massive grip. All this means lap times around Whilton in one of these rockets are approximately 7-8 seconds a lap faster than the fastest A&D karts, and they definitely feel it!

Testing

Enzo motorsport had organised for me to partake in testing on both the Friday and Saturday before the Sunday races. We had high hopes for the weekend and wanted to give ourselves the best chance of a good result.

The Friday test was a chance to find our feet as the team hadn’t had much experience at Whilton mill or on the Compkart chassis. Moreover, this would be my first race weekend in an MSA karting event since spring 2012.

My main focus for the day was to learn how to use and make the most of the adjustable Tillotson carburettor which changes the fuel/air mixture to the engine with the screws on the carb. Adjusting the settings correctly is critical to being on the pace. Luckily Enzo motorsport’s resident engine guru Brian Lawrence was on hand to help me learn how the engine should feel, when to adjust the mixture.

Saturday is when most other drivers would be testing, and the first chance we would have to see how we stacked up against our competition. We were struggling to perfect the balance of the kart’s handling in the first couple of sessions, however in the last we made a change to widen the rear width which settled the kart down and made it much more drivable. Things were looking good ahead of the races on Sunday.

Race Day

The time had come, judgement day, if you will.

After a quick practise session the kart felt dialled in which made Heat 1 a dream start. Starting 15th I made my way to 5th with a move to take 3 karts on the last lap.

Heat 2 & 3 were more of a struggle as the track evolved changing the handling of the kart. I was spun by another driver from 2nd in heat 2 but salvaged 11th place. Heat 3 went much better and we made a gain of 8 places from going from 18th to 10th. Despite my spin in heat 2 I qualified in 5th for the final out of 24 entries, better than we had anticipated.

Picture thanks to Slawek Piskorz

Over the lunch break a group photo on the start finish straight was taken of everyone with their #BillyWhizz stickers showing support for a well know face amongst the Karting community, Billy Monger who sadly lost his lower legs in an incident in his F4 race at Donington park just a week before. Get well soon Billy.

The final race of the day and the main event. Starting 5th gave me a great opportunity to make up places and fight for a win, or at the very least achieve a good result.

After a good start I found myself in 4th place, but I was struggling a little for pace. The lead group of 3 were just edging away and I was gradually being pulled in by the pack behind. As the race progressed I gradually fell back and was briefly knocked down to 7th. One of the leaders succumbed to a mechanical issue which meant I finally finished where I started in 5th place, which was a good result for myself and the team in our debut MSA event.

How different is MSA racing?

Having raced in almost every category of A&D karting I’ve experienced lots of different types of racing, from out and out sprints, all the way to 24 hour races. In general, the racing in every category is very respectful at the front end of the field, and the longer the races the more patient the racing is, with less aggressive moves and contact. Sprint racing such as in Club100 and Dmax has more cut and thrust intense racing, but considering the large bumpers the racing is overall quite clean. My experience from this weekend has suggested that everything is very much the same, while aggressive and ruthless the racing is very clean, which isn’t something I expected from the reputation I have through the grape vine, and think this is largely thanks to the drop-down nose cones.

A rule introduced in early 2016 enforced the addition of a drop down nose cone mount means when the nose is pressed with enough force (a tap on the back of another kart is enough) it will slip back and drop down which is then noted at the end of the race by scrutineers and 10 seconds is added to your race time, this is on a no blame and no appeal basis. This basically means if you touch another kart with your bumper you get a 10s penalty. This has eradicated the problem of loading at the start of a race which took victims in most races, and stops any deliberate ‘push to pass’ manoeuvres.

The professionalism and competition was the main difference I noticed while at the circuit. A lot of people are spending lots of money to do well in these series, with teams being fully fledged businesses. The size of some of the awnings demonstrates that this is more than a hobby to many people. To get a good result is much harder as the spread of ability amongst the drivers is far smaller, and any marginal gain in time will push you further up the field due to how close the racing is. To win even at this club level requires you, your team, and the equipment to be performing to the max, this is what has people coming back week after week.

Driving the kart

Obviously, the karts are much faster than any A&D kart and with that adds thrill factor. The G-forces are considerably higher due to the softer tyres, and thus the karts are much more physical to drive, but interestingly in a very different way to A&D karts. I am used to driving long stints, up to and over an hour and half in hire karts, and I rarely struggle physically, the only thing that usually gets fatigued are my hands from holding onto the steering wheel. In these karts after a 12-minute final I feel the same as if I’ve done over an hour in an A&D kart. My fore arms get pumped up with blood and lactic acid, the muscles in my upper back really feel it too, and just to prove how much force goes through your body in a kart like this, I broke one of my ribs in the final; three days in a row in one of these is machines is killer, I am fit and active 19-year-old, and it literally broke me! If you’re making the step across to try it out from A&D karting I would strongly recommend training hard for at least a few months beforehand, and maybe ease into it with a few test days.

The technique to achieving a fast lap time is also slightly different. The chassis is a lot softer and with the extra grip from the tyres the chassis flexes much more, however there is a far smaller margin for error. Your body is a fundamental part of the chassis which is a major contributing factor to why they require so much effort to drive. If your body isn’t rigid and strong in the corners the kart won’t work as it’s supposed to, but all this makes it so much more satisfying when you hook up a lap.

Racing with a team

While it isn’t necessary to race in a team there are many advantages, and in my opinion one the best things about being in team is the atmosphere. When you do well everyone around you is there to share the feeling, and when you have a hard race you’ve got a group of people there to raise your spirits. I had so much fun over the weekend and a large part of this was the enjoyment I got as being part of the Enzo Motorsport and Crown Windows team, having such a good group of people around you makes a huge difference, and something you can’t replicate in solo A&D karting. Not only did I have lot of fun in the paddock but thanks to their hard work the kart was rapid and we were able to achieve a good result in our first meeting at a team.

Enzo motorsport team Enzo Buscaglia, Scott Lambert, and Brian Lawrence

Conclusion

Returning to MSA racing after a few years out has made me appreciate how good the A&D scene is in this country. For most the amount and variety of series out there will be more than enough to be content with, however for those seeking that extra thrill and intensity of racing, or even wishing to take their career further the MSA side of karting is a great experience. The decision to move over should not be taken lightly as success requires a large amount of commitment, financially, physically, and emotionally, but at the end of the day the rewards can be great.

Enzo motorsport were a great team and are a perfect place to start your MSA experience. They have karts for hire for tests or races, or bring your own kart and learn from the team. Having run with them for the race weekend at Whilton I highly recommend them for their philosophy, atmosphere, and expertise, so much so I will be racing with them for the rest of the season.

For more info get in touch with Enzo Buscaglia on 07599054298 or via email at enzo@enzomotorsport.co.uk. They have packages available for a variety of budgets and scenarios.

Many thanks to Stu Stretton for the mega photographs.