The GPK Series is a brand new championship that was recently launched by Daytona Motorsport, owners of many premier kart circuits around the country, as well as the organisers of the DMAX championship. The series offers drivers the chance to race in some of the fastest karts in the country at the best circuits on a level playing field, with a prize fund of £200,000 waiting for the winners at the end of the championship!
Daytona Motorsport invited Karting magazine to test their brand new Senior and Cadet karts at Whilton Mill to give readers a flavour of what they are like to drive, and race. Ivan Lomliev (Honda Cadet and YRDA driver) and I were called upon to give you our opinion alongside Alex Brundle (current WEC LMP2 driver and ELMS champion). The karts did not disappoint!
“What exactly is the GPK kart?” I hear you ask. The Senior kart is the brand new Tonykart Racer 401S equipped with mega grippy Bridgestone ROK tyres (YLR), and a direct drive, water cooled Vortex ROK DVS engine producing 38hp and revving to 16,000rpm. The Vortex engine is one of the key features of the GPK kart and is what sets it apart from other series.
Knowing very little about the kart I was about to drive I didn’t really have any expectations. I had heard talk of it being quick, but honestly I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience. I would be sharing the kart with Alex Brundle who would take it out first.
I had been watching Alex Brundle shakedown the kart and my first impressions from a distance was that it sounded epic. The noise from the Vortex VDS engine and exhaust package is so crisp and raw, it sounds like a kart should. Alex hadn’t driven a kart in nearly two years so his first laps were shaky as he found his feet. After about ten or so laps he pitted, then it was my turn.
Former British and Kartmasters champion Ed Brand, who now heads up the series for Daytona, was on hand to give me a push. The decompression valve on the engine makes this very easy, and the kart fires almost immediately. “Take it easy to start with” were the words he used before I took to the circuit for the first time.
Out the pits I eased onto the circuit and duly took it easy through turns 1&2 and gradually applied some throttle onto the main straight. “This isn’t so bad, what is all the fuss about” crossed my mind for all of half a second, until I was smacked in the face with possibly the most lethal acceleration I have ever felt. Don’t believe me? This was my reaction straight out the kart for the first time.
The feeling was similar to what you see when the Millennium Falcon jumps to light speed.
After a brief reality check, and a large dose of adrenalin I completed about 10 very sketchy laps just about clinging onto the kart.
Both Alex Brundle and I have driven some very fast machinery, but we both agreed that the acceleration of this was amongst the fastest we had experienced. While chatting with Alex he mentioned to me that the acceleration felt “very much like a prototype” in its power delivery. The fastest vehicle I have driven is an F3 car, and the GPK senior was a match for it in this respect.
Once my mind had caught up with the speed on the straights, my attention was drawn to the amount of grip the kart has. The Bridgestone YLR tyres which will be run in the GPK series provide an astonishing amount of grip.
Whilton mill is a fast circuit with a few very fast corners, most notably Oblivion (turns 1 and 2) and Inkermans, a very quick right hander. In these corners the G-forces are mega, and you are literally hanging on. You can feel the tyres loading up and gripping the surface of the tarmac. However due to the ease of use of the Tonykart Chassis its all very predictable and instinctive to control.
Despite the rib crushing G forces I felt I could place the kart wherever I wanted and I was more thinking the kart round the circuit than driving it. The photo above perfectly illustrates this, I could make the kart do whatever I wanted. Using a small amount of slip angle into the corners I found the kart would track round perfectly and release off the corner when I unleashed the 38hp Vortex beast with my right foot.
I’ve done a fair amount of endurance karting which I think is fairly physical, but never have I had the level of ‘arm pump’ in my forearms… and this was after just one 10 minute run! A three day weekend in one of these is going to be savage on your body if you haven’t done the correct training before the season starts.
If you’re thinking of signing up start training now for round 1 in July.
The kart rides the kerbs very well and encourages you to attack the corners.
Into the tighter corners I felt I could utilise the front tyres and dig the kart into the turn. Using minimal steering angle and keeping my arms locked the kart would rotate beautifully on entry and in the middle, and drive nicely off the corner under power.
Occasionally I would get it wrong and carry too much speed into the turn, this would usually result in the rear tyres losing traction and the rear sliding too much through the corner. Due to the inherent grip of the tyres this would make the kart bog a little and compromise the exit. This shows how accurate you have to be when driving a kart this fast; it will really promote and highlight the best drivers.
Much like the handling of the chassis itself the braking fells almost second nature. You don’t have to press the pedal particularly hard to get the required purchase, however there is more than enough feel to modulate the pressure for a perfectly balanced corner entry.
The braking is possibly the only thing about the GPK kart that didn’t blow me away, the only reason being that because you’re approaching the corners so fast due to the speed off the previous corner, compounded by the massive power, you have to brake what feels like a long way from the corner. The kart does stop quickly, the grip from the rear tyres stops the kart with that distinctive low ‘squark’ sound letting you know you’re on the limit of grip.
I think the main reason I wasn’t bowled over by the braking was because everything else was so crazy and such a sensory overload, the braking was so effortless that I didn’t really register it. However, due to the braking distances being relatively long this should make for great racing, sliding up the inside, or putting in that last ditch lunge will be even easier thanks to this. But then as I said above, if you go in a too fast you’ll bog on exit and the opponent will re-pass you out the corner. Im very much looking forward to seeing the racing this kart will produce. I’d love to be part of it!
Driving the kart
As I got more and more used to the kart I found my times tumbled the cleaner and more refined I made my driving. It certainly takes a few sessions to let you mind catch up with whats going on, but once you feel comfortable it is a dream to drive, truly exhilarating.
I could see my times dropping and I improved right to the last lap. It was also my first experience of the brand new and included Mychron5 dashboard systems with live GPS timing updates. It would update my lap time corner by corner giving me in depth access to where I was going quicker while on circuit so I knew exactly when I got a corner right. This is a great feature and asset to the kart and will really help drivers improve faster.
You may notice in the above image of the Mychron5 that we were hitting 69mph! Moreover, the astute amongst you will see that the fastest lap I managed was a 44.65 around Whilton mill international, on a chilly Friday in March. This time is about 1.5 seconds quicker than a Rotax, which equates to this kart being over 5% faster than a Senior Rotax or X30. Consider also that I haven’t ever driven a kart with anywhere near as much power or grip as this, nor have I driven an ‘MSA kart’ in nearly two years. I’m certain there is plenty more to come from this package.
The interview above sums up our thoughts after driving the karts, as you can see we were all thoroughly impressed. The kart was a blast to drive in so many ways. Speed, grip, drivability, it ticks all the boxes in my opinion.
I predict that the racing will be hugely intense. The kart requires so much concentration to drive due to the speed that only the best drivers will be able to maximise the kart’s performance. With long braking zones and grippy tyres accompanied by the monster engines on 3 of the country’s best circuits, Buckmore, GYG, and Rowrah, its going to be an awesome season. They will be running the drop down noses meaning the racing will be clean. The prize fund is also a major attraction with fully funded car drives for the winners in the Junior and Senior championships. The winners at the end of the year will have earned it.
On behalf of myself and Karting magazine I would like to say a massive thanks to the guys from Daytona Motorsport and GPK, they kept the kart prepped for us all day and gave us the opportunity to come and test their incredible machinery. I was only the fourth person ever to drive the kart, and Ivan the first.
GPK Series content on Karting magazine this week!
Tomorrow – Onboard a GPK Series Kart!
Monday (10th April) – Interview with Daytona Motorsport’s, Ed Brand – One of Britain’s most successful karters in recent years!
Written by Piers Prior
Images courtesy of Andy Webb – Sprocket Photography