We headed to Whilton Mill with Jade Karts to test the new 175cc IAME X30 Super Shifter engine on a Gold Kart chassis. This is an engine being described as revolutionary to gearbox karting, something that has already been proven to run with the 250 National karts with its staggering 49bhp! It has already reached 96mph at Fulbeck. Chris McCarthy braces himself and prepares to get a beating from IAME’s monster.
The 175’s origins
The engine was developed by IAME around three years ago but it only started arriving in the UK last year. It is imported by Magnum but it is distributed around the midlands area by Jade Karts and there are currently only a handful of them in the country. It has already been tested and raced by Scott Allen from Jade at Shenington and Rissington and has run within three tenths of the 250 National British Champion. Why there has been no specific racing class for this engine yet is something of a mystery but it is in good hands in the UK now and is finally present at race weekends. Scott told me that he saw it on the IAME website last year and decided to buy it to see what it was like. After falling in love with it they set out about getting it on race tracks. There may be uncertainty on its future fit in UK classes but one thing that is for certain is that it is loud, quick and extremely enjoyable to drive.
“I see it as the future of gearbox karting not just in this country but as a whole. This is not just because of the ease of the drive but it allows people without experience to come along – and on their own because of the electric start! It’s a perfect toy for anyone who wants to go fast! – Scott Allen – KZ1 Driver in Super One Series and Team Principal at Jade Karts
Gold GTR 30
The chassis I used whilst testing the new 175 engine was the Gold GTR 30, which is made by an Italian manufacturer called Righetti Ridolfi but is imported to the UK by Jade Karts. Driving the chassis my first impressions were that it was very well balanced, the force of front and rear brakes together never seemed to unsettle the kart and I never struggled for front end grip despite going in very hot on the brakes on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately gearbox karts are sometimes not as dependent on chassis but the Righetti Ridolfi was on pole at the first round of the CIK European Championships so has been proven it can run against the best.
Can I race it? Where? How much? Who with?
You can race it in with the 250 Nationals at tracks including Shenington and Rissington at their monthly club meetings. You can of course run with Jade Karts themselves but the electric start means you can also race all on your own which is fantastic news. The price of the engine retails at £3799 +VAT but that does not include the air box or silence cap. Test days on the engines can be arranged with Jade Karts at various tracks for a fee, see their details on the finel page.
What’s it like to drive?
So with the information on the engine out the way let’s get the best bit: the drive! The first thing that impressed me hugely was the electric start. I had never driven a gearbox before so I was very nervous but that immediately put me at ease and the clutch was also very easy to use. To start the engine you turn the key two clicks to fire the engine, you then turn it back one click pull up the clutch (on left side of steering wheel) and put it into first gear. You then slowly release the clutch whilst easing on the throttle and the kart will pull away.
As I pulled out of the pits for the first time I had my first experience of changing gears and I must say the engine really has some power! As I exited turn two for the first time I was thrown back in the seat as I hit the power band and quickly made my way up to sixth gear. The kart is ridiculously fast, let me say that again: RIDICULOUSLY FAST. You go through the gears so quickly. I have seen KZ karts at Whilton and not make it up to sixth but I was comfortably into sixth down all three major straights. To change gear is very simple but the action takes getting used to. To change up you simply lift off the throttle and pull the gear stick backwards. To shift down you again will be off the throttle braking and push the stick forwards. One thing to bear in mind is not to shift down straight away after coming off the throttle leave it a second or so under braking then shift down. My problems in my first session came as I was not liftfting off the throttle enough when trying to go up a gear and it was making seamless shifts difficult. In my second session one thing that I thought was: ‘this is not as hard as I thought it would be’. Fast as it is, the engine is very user & novice friendly especially to anyone who has not driven a gearbox kart before. It’s quite forgivable in the sense that you can be one gear too high or too low and you will still come out of the corner both in control and at a reasonable speed. This allows a newcomer like myself to build themselves up to ultimately using the lower gears to blast out of the corners, as doing it the first time is pretty scary believe me.
As the sessions went by I really started to grow in confidence, with the track coming back to me. The speed was still quite frightening but who doesn’t love to go fast, hey? I wanted to test the brakes to their true ability and see how hard overtaking manoeuvres would be. I remember going up to turn three with it in mind for the first time and I went past my original overtaking spot, waited a split second and then hit the anchors hard and it was all okay. So each lap I pushed it further and further and it became harder to get down to 2nd gear in time for the corner! Eventually I went too far and lost a lot of time as I was past the corner, still having to come down the gears. Trying to stay in a higher gear also didn’t work as I would bog down. You can brake SO LATE. It was truly fascinating and I had to re-program my brain to convince myself to brake later. All while changing gears with one hand. For a few moments every lap, I felt like I was the boss but I was painfully aware of how the 175 wouldn’t need much of an excuse to boss me around.
As the day went on I got more used to the speed but every time I went up the straight the kart pinned me into the seat! The forces this kart generates are on another level to anything I’ve driven in Superone, in fact anything I’ve ever driven – full stop. It’s just an amazing feeling you wouldn’t get with any other kart or cars for that matter, being so low to the ground! Whilton Mill of course is not the best suited to gearbox but once you find that rhythm you almost forget about the gears and just focus on where you’re going. It became a fluid motion, like being on a rollercoaster. The brakes are phenomenal as I touched on and the acceleration is something that brought a smile to my face every time I put my foot down. I would certainly jump back in one tomorrow if I got the chance.
If I was to give any advice to someone jumping in a gearbox for the first time my first tip would be forget what you already know as you completely have to change your driving style. It’s a very stop- start driving style rather than carrying as much mid corner speed as you would in say an X30 or Rotax.
Build up to it
This engine is forgiving so use the higher gears to start before building up to ripping it out of the corners. Make sure you’re comfortable in the seat, you need to be able to lift off the throttle and change gears comfortably so spend time getting your seat position right. Don’t worry about what gear you’re in when you’re out there either. Just up shift on straights until you can’t go any further and just remember how much to down shift, so for example down 2 here or 4 there. Trying to remember gears will just get you mixed up and with the speed you’re going, you won’t have time to think about all that much outside of making sure you hit your braking marker! Finally make sure you’re comfortable with how everything works before you go out there, this will prevent you from making any mistakes and will help you if you run into any kind of trouble.
Testing the 175cc is an experience I’ll never forget and I’d like to say a big thanks to Jade Karts for inviting me to have a go. If you’re keen to own your own 175, contact Scott Allen via email at: s.allen@ jadekarts.co.uk and he’ll help you get up to speed.
Getting up to speed in IAME’s X30 Super Shiftfter is the easy part. Just remember to brake!
[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was first published in Karting magazine. If you liked it, then why not subscribe to Karting magazine here and get three issues for just £1.[/box]