TKM Insight – Clutch, TAG or direct drive?

Clutch, TAG or direct drive – which way to go? Grahame Butterworth explains the pros and cons

It used to be very simple in karting because there was no choice: direct drive or nothing. But these days there are three choices in TKM open to every driver. So which way to go…?

No other class offers you such a varied choice. The die-hards will tell you that direct drive is the only sensible option and that it is still the quickest. What is certain is that direct drive is cheapest, lightest and simplest. Less to buy and service and less to go wrong. But at the same time it is also the hardest work in terms of getting the kart going.

If you are a Junior then you need a strong pusher. And if you spin in a race then you’ll need to have a good pusher nearby to get you going.

If you are a Senior then you can have help to get started from the grid but thereafter you are on your own if you spin. It is not easy getting re-started especially when you have been racing hard.

The weight factor only really comes into play if you are having a problem getting down to the minimum weight for the class. Excess weight does have a disadvantage especially when you are a highly experienced driver looking for the last tenth of a second, but for someone less experienced then less so.

A clutch option engine allows you to use a clutch with an outboard electric starter. As such it only adds about 1kg to the weight of the kart. And you can even swap the clutch for a direct drive sprocket in a matter of minutes.

It is so much easier to use than direct drive. If set up correctly then the engine will start easily and will tick over without problem even in an accident or simple spin. You can get moving again immediately.

The latest V-type clutches have a very good life and the chain sprocket is bolted to the clutch drum so keeps costs down compared to the old type Horstman clutch where sprocket and drum are made in one part.

Yes it costs more – about £100 + VAT more with clutch option engine and another £245 + VAT for the remote starter. Performance – some will tell you it must be slower and that the drive out of corners is not the same. They are normally the people who have never driven one!

Downsides? If you spin and the engine stalls, then you are up a gum tree unless someone has a starter nearby. And you still need someone to hold the starter for you on the grid.

The TAG engine (touch and go) solves it all. Start and stop buttons that allows you to start the engine just like a car. A strong V clutch that needs little attention. and of course a kart that can be started and stopped from the driving seat.

My advice? For Juniors stepping into the class then a TAG or at least clutch engine is certainly the easiest in every way and will give them greater confidence when they suddenly have loads more power under their right foot after Cadets.

For Seniors, even if weight is an issue then I would always go the simple clutch route because it is so much easier and loads quicker getting back into the racing in the case of a spin.