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Watching The Pennies: WTP B5


karting-mag-logo-15Had it really been worth the wait? That’s a question which must have occupied the minds of around 30 WTP competitors who lined up for the Little Green Man Championships at Wombwell in June. Nine months had elapsed since the new B5 motor was first approved with various health scares and threats of abortion along the way.

During this period the Rumour Man had been getting in a fair amount of overtime and enough stories abounded to make Enid Blyton look tardy in comparison. There was nothing really new in these tales. Many such claims had been made almost 5 years earlier when the first WTP motors came into Britain.

However, back then these stories were quickly rebuffed as people could soon see the motor operating under genuine race conditions. On this occasion, though, the rumours and uncertainties have gathered strength over a period of many months without any credible means of refuting them. Not even Mike Mills himself could be entirely sure how the motor would perform when put to the acid test, so you couldn’t really blame those who jumped ship and switched to another class.
Personally, I’m not overly concerned about whether the WTP B5 motor actually turns out to be marginally quicker than a Comer or even if it’s significantly slower. As the two classes will generally be racing for separate awards I don’t consider such comparisons to be of much relevance. Only two things about WTP matter to me. First of all, I want to see a class that continues to offer low cost racing for everyone concerned.

My second requirement is that Joe Bloggs should be able to buy a motor with absolute confidence that he’s getting one which is just as quick as any other. One interesting and encouraging statistic emerging from Wombwell was the similarity of lap times between the front runners. Taking lap times from all four Heats and two finals into consideration, you find that the top six performers were separated by only 0.1 seconds.

Brad Fairhurst topped the time sheets with a fastest lap of 38.28 seconds. Sam Clarence was just two hundredths of a second slower on 38.30 followed by Ben Barnicoat (38.34), Sennan Fielding (38.35), William Whitelock (38.36) and Adam Hughes (38.38). Even the top twenty contenders were covered by just over a second per lap suggesting a remarkable equality in both engine and driver performance.
Another aspect of WTP racing that’s always attracted me is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere engendered at Little Green Man events in particular. Wombwell was no exception, although one controversial incident during the final did have rather unfortunate repercussions with accusations flying around on the Internet. It’s something I can’t really comment upon as my viewing position wasn’t ideal in this particular case. Even had I been better placed, my judgement might have been clouded by an affinity towards one of the drivers involved. I’d prefer, instead, to concentrate on the reaction of William Whitelock who lost 2nd place following a collision just yards away from the finishing post. For someone so young, William’s initial reaction was one of astonishing maturity.

Not only that, but his father reacted in a very grown up manner also and this is something we don’t tend to see very often amongst parents in karting. I hope that both father and son will be rewarded for their sporting conduct by better luck in future rounds.
Returning to my earlier question, has it really been worth the wait? On the strength of what I observed at Wombwell my answer would be a qualified YES! Bearing in mind everything that had gone beforehand, the number of entries was higher than any of us had a right to expect. The lap times showed a surprising equality of performance and, although a few retirements occurred due to collisions, I didn’t notice any motors actually expiring. One aspect prevents me from giving wholehearted support to the B5 motor just yet, however.

Running with such a tiny restrictor has dramatically affected bottom end speed and drivers have been forced to compensate by adding more teeth than ever before. This means that the revs are reaching levels normally associated with TKM. At Wombwell, this didn’t seem to affect reliability but other circuits may produce a different story. If the MSA is still hell bent on keeping WTP speeds below Comer levels, then a more sensible approach might be to apply fixed gearing ratios for each circuit with sprockets two or three teeth below optimum sizes.

That way the restrictor could be increased to a more sensible level whilst reducing revs and prolonging engine life between rebuilds. It’s a solution that should find favour amongst everyone wanting to see low cost kart racing at entry level. I hope our friends at the MSA might be encouraged to give it some thought.