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As I made my way to PF International I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the day ahead. I was going to be on track in the company of two karting legends, Terry Fullerton and Ben Barnicoat. Nerves certainly kicked in as I arrived at the circuit but also huge excitement, not only to be in their company for the day, but also to drive the chassis which only a couple weeks before my arrival was victorious at a TVKC meeting in the hands of Barnicoat himself.
Entering the garage for the first time I must admit I was impressed with the presentation of the kart. Of course I’d seen photos, but in person the kart looked very tidy. It seems like Fullerton went for a darker colour scheme to the norm, which in my opinion made it look a bit more retro.
The first run was really just a bedding in session for me. I was questioned as soon as I came in, but for me it was hard to really gage on the chassis, however on first impression the kart seemed very well balanced and certainly rewarded smooth driving. I got the impression that came from the work with Ben!
As I did my second and third sessions I immediately found my favourite aspect of the kart and that was how well balanced it was front to rear. The last sector of the PFI circuit is always a great place to put a kart through is paces and requires smoothness from the driver.
When you can go through corners without having to turn much it just brings a smile to your face. The kart felt so well balanced and the rear grip perhaps the best out of all the recent tests I’ve done.
We took some caster off for the third and fourth sessions and it brought out even more from the rear of the kart. Coming into Bobby Game corner I was hardly turning and the quicker I went the rear kept planted. Through Mike Wilson, I don’t remember the steering wheel turning but the kart rotated round the corner like it was on rails!
The one thing I could tell when driving round was that this kart had been setup by a driver that knows what they’re doing!
One setup for all
One thing all Fullerton customers can be sure of is that although the kart has many tendencies of chassis built abroad, all the development work on the Fullerton has been done in this country with Ben Barnicoat, Jon Lancaster and Riki Christodoulou.
It’s no exaggeration when I say that they have tried every possible setup on the kart with Ben noting times down. Between all five axles they only found a two tenth difference. They have gone through front end setup, seat positons, stubs, hubs etc. I think you get the picture!
The funniest part of it is that the kart has been mostly brought back to it’s original setup, but if you’re thinking of changing something you can find the answer of what will happen from Terry, Ben or Mark Rose.
I did not think the brakes on the Fullerton were the sharpest out of all the karts I’ve tested, but the kart felt very planted through all braking zones.
The best place to test brakes at PFI is of course the first hairpin. You’re carrying huge speed coming off the bridge before entering arguably the tightest corner on the circuit. Despite my best efforts I never felt the kart getting out of shape, it would always stay very straight on approach.
When racing I used to like a kick from the back end under braking so this felt slightly unusual for me to start with, but I adapted to it as the day went on.
Perfect for English weather
When speaking to Terry after the test he said to me, “this kart works really well under 25-degree heat. It’s very rare in the UK that we go over that and when we do there are things we can change on the kart to help adapt it, but overall this kart works really well under 25 degrees.”
Some people may see this as a bad thing, but personally I think if you’re going to be racing in the UK it’s nothing to worry about at all. A vast majority of the tracks on the national calendars are based in the midlands or up north and the very hot days unfortunately come few and far between.
It’s just a fact that we do most of our racing in 25 degrees or under so to have a kart that suits it surely makes you one step ahead of other chassis’?
Aluminium hubs (comes with magnesium hubs)
Tillett carbon seat
Birel built kart homologated as Birel, but with small differences
10mm king pins (birel 8mm) – for more front grip
Retail Price – £2790
Contact – Terry, Mark Rose or Kartune to buy or arrange test
It was two years ago when Terry decided he wanted to have another go at having his own chassis. Having good and bad years doing driver coaching he decided it was time to try again.
“I had a not so successful attempt at doing it with Parolin at first. The kart didn’t seem to go well in racing despite going well in testing so I decided to swap over to Birel. Mark Rose helped me get Birel to make the kart who were very keen to do it and we now work loosely together with Mark doing some work for me. Overall I thought Birel were a more proven article and the work with them started late last year.”
Next up Terry needed a driver and that came up first in the shape of Jon Lancaster (2015 European Le Mans Series Champion). He tested it to start with before Riki Christodoulou came back. His first race was the LGM opener and in a field of 80 Senior X30’s he finished 10th, impressive stuff!
However, during this time Terry was chasing Ben Barnicoat. He really wanted Ben in the kart as he regarded him as one of the best in the country. He told me, “the best four drivers in the country at the moment are Ben, Oliver Hodgson, Danny Keirle and Mark Litchfield, although he’s doing less racing these days.”
Ben himself, was very honoured to get the call up and couldn’t wait to get started.
“When Terry first asked me it was a big honour. This is Terry Fullerton who Ayrton Senna rated as his hardest rival and that meant a lot to me.”
Once Ben was onboard preparation got underway and despite four months out of the seat Ben finished 2nd in the TVKC June club meeting, just being beat by Hodgson.
Speaking to Ben he certainly seemed very pleased with the result, but it led to more work to get a win.
“After that race we did two days of solid testing going through axles, seat positions, stubs etc. It was just a lot of fine tuning that was needed to give us that edge over all of the other products out there.”
So what does Ben think the karts strongest attributes are?
“I think the rear grip is very strong! Through the last section of the track it’s very stable and I think that’s where the advantage comes in over the OTK. The chassis is very balanced but the rear grip in the high speed corners really helps!”
It seems strange that the kart hasn’t made more sales so I put the question to both Terry and Ben why they think it hasn’t done as well. Up first, Terry…
“There’s a bit of a price war going on at the moment which has been tough and of course OTK are still the most popular and people find it hard to move away from that.”
“I think the lack of team may contribute, every chassis has a team pushing the product hard but I think people need to remember this is still early days and we’re building up at the moment. I think it’ll come in time and people need to know we’re open for business. I think potential customers should be aware that myself, Terry and Mark would be happy to help anytime.”
So what’s next for the Fullerton chassis?
“We’ve got some Juniors looking at coming on the kart and I’m hoping to do the Supernationals in Vegas with Ben later in the year. If finances fell in to place a team could perhaps be put together to do something like LGM but I’m starting to get on a bit now. I’m 63 years old and I have people interested in running a team for me so later this year or early next year I could see that happening. All we need for that to work is paying customers. I’ve got a family to support so I did the kart again to add something on top of the driver coaching and his will not affect that.”
On of the above Junior’s was Luke Whitehead who announced online he had switched to a Fullerton chassis after moving away from Compkart. He received lots of advice from Terry and Mark Rose, who prepared the kart for him and went out to test it at Forest Edge last Saturday for a shakedown. Here were his thoughts…
“The kart was really nice to drive and felt really stable and forgiving. It allows for lots of corner speed and seemed to ride the bumps round Forest Edge very well. The brakes do their job very well and the rear doesn’t slide. One of the best things for me was how balanced the kart was front to rear, it seems to be bang in the middle of not having too much grip and not enough. I have a very smooth driving style and I think that suited the kart. We ran the magnesium hubs and changed nothing throughout the day, which always makes things better. In our first run we were matching the fastest time at Forest Edge. To have Terry’s name on the kart is really cool and I think a win isn’t too far away!”
Luke is a race winner at club level and has ran at the front in national events. It’ll be interesting to watch his progress over the next few months and if his results have any affect on chassis sales.
Mark has been very influential to the whole project and has dedicated many hours to get the chassis where it is now. There’s no doubt if a team were to ever be formed he’d be at the forefront of it. He is certainly one of the most passionate people I’ve come across and has had huge success winning British, European and World championships with drivers including Dan Wheldon. Speaking to him about the chassis he commented:
“I want Fullerton to be back where it was in the past. I know it’s achievable as we’ve already proven it can win races. OTK did dominate, especially in the Rotax classes, but X30 is different and I think Fullerton can get back to where it was. I hope we can get a team together in 2017 and go racing as winning races is what I love doing the most!”
So there we have it the Fullerton chassis is back, a race winner and officially open for business with the full support of Mark Rose and Ben Barnicoat. As Ben said it is still early days, but for anyone looking to move chassis it’s something certainly worth considering! Will the Fullerton chassis be a success or a distant memory in the karting community in a few year’s time? I’d personally like to see it succeed, when Terry inevitably decides to retire it would be nice to see the name still around in the form of a race winning chassis.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of Carol McLean & Stu Stretton