Forward Thinking – FWD Review

The BMR Touring Kart project has been a conversation starter around all karting paddocks. Built by a successful touring car team and developed by their race-winning drivers, they’re designed to give drivers experience that will give them a leg-up into the British Touring Car Championship. The karts will run in their own championship with a Clio Cup drive on offer to the winner. We went to Rye House to test these two radical new karts and answer one simple question: are they any good?

FWD Review

As this brand new Front Wheel drive kart was presented to me for the first time my initial thought was ‘what is this thing?’ It’s almost like I had travelled back in time, with the engine in front and minimal bodywork to allow the various engine parts to sit in the right places. The seat is quite far back, the steering column the biggest I’ve seen and seeing rear tyres on the front also looks, well, ‘strange’.

But let’s not judge a book by its cover, after all I was here to see how this thing went round Rye House rather than score it on it’s looks. However there’s no getting away from the fact it’s so different it may put people off.

The first thing to note is you have to be careful when boarding this machine, there’s a piping hot exhaust that runs along the left side of the kart, so getting in on the right side is highly recommended! As I sat in it for the first time I didn’t feel far back in the kart at all, although I looked like I was almost lying down. Coming out the pits for the first time, I could feel this was not as fast as the more conventional-looking Senior and that’s all down to the weight – currently 120-130kg – which BMR have promised they are reducing.

I was told to take it easy for the first run but like every racing driver that went straight through one ear and out the other. Coming into Pylon for the
first time, trying to be a hero into the right. I hit the brakes hard for the first time and went to turn in and found myself nearly going into the wall! ‘Note to self don’t turn in, on the brakes’

Making my way ‘round to the first hairpin a bit more gingerly I wanted to see what it could do on the brakes. With brakes on all four corners of the kart I braced myself and prepared to headbutt the steering wheel but instead I felt myself slowing down rapidly but composed. It may not have looked impressive but believe me I had no complaints on the stopping power. After the first session I was told you can change the brake bias whilst out lapping which would help adjust the balance but I was more than happy with the settings they had!

BMR’s Touring Car driver Aron Smith told me to wait a second longer before picking up the throttle compared to a conventional kart. You can feel the kart pulling with understeer, it’s the most obvious sensation that separates this from a RWD kart. The FWD experience is a real buzz and driving it takes some recalibration in your own head. Again out of hairpin two I I was convinced I would understeer into the wall but maintaining a gentle throttle ensures you get clean drive.

With the four Komet tyres already up to temperature on lap two I started to push the kart through the back section of Rye and – in terms of the front end – it’s the most responsive thing I’ve ever driven, but I suppose it should be. It goes WHEREVER you want WHENEVER you want, not bad ey? Imagine it on new tyres! All of this should certainly open up more overtaking opportunities.

As I pulled in for session one I couldn’t stop smiling; I had just driven a front wheel drive kart for the first time and it felt amazing! Also, for the first time ever round Rye House, I didn’t feel sore or tired. It’s the smoothest kart I’ve ever driven! It just needs to lose a few kilograms and it’ll be right on the money.

As the sessions went on everything, surprisingly, started to become second nature ‘brake, bleed off, turn in, carefully pick up the throttle in conjunction with straightening the wheel. I never got any oversteer and never locked up the brakes, no matter how hard I tried. The engine over the front just keeps everything planted. Another thing to get used to is how the kart acts through fast corners. Through Stadium there were countless times where I could feel the front end sit down and the back just slowly start to creep out almost as if it’s just helping you and urging you to go faster. It’s strange at first but you quickly get used to it. The whole thing is a very strange sensation something very different to any kart I’ve driven ever but when you start to hook it up it’s just sublime.

I don’t know what it was that brought this mad dream to Warren Scott one day but whatever it was I’m glad he convinced himself to make this revolutionary kart.

The front end has been copied from it’s big brother
in the touring car. It has a front differential, double wishbones, casters on shim, hubs, four brake callipers; it’s pretty much a mini touring car! To any kart or car lover you will find yourself spending more time just investigating and admiring the kart than you do driving it! How and why were two words I used a lot that day.

VERDICT

I know it doesn’t look normal but forget the looks and think about the new avenues this kart can open up to you. The fact is it offers an experience like no other kart. It’s a challenge and prepares you for the next step if your sights are set on driving FWD cars. In my opinion it may allow you as a driver to skip some of the lower formulas and go straight to something like the Clio Cup, which incidentally the prize for winning the series! Drop BMR a line – you won’t regret it.