Over the last few issues of Karting Magazine we have started covering the various gearbox classes available for drivers to compete in either club or national championships, i was asked recently by a driver if i was going to cover the 125 classes as he did not understand the structure at all and i must admit it is a little confusing so with the help of Sue Fairless i will try to explain how to get into this fantastic class that many rate as the only pure karting class to race.
A quick drive up the motorway to Wigan Three Sisters circuit and for a change a nice day, i was to drive a kart supplied by Andy Fairless on the Saturday practice which would give me 4 or 5 sessions throughout the day, strange how all these people lend me beautifully prepared karts with instructions of “enjoy yourself” and they still look happy !! As soon as i arrived the usual and customary insults were exchanged between us and i was told to “get on with it your out now”. Suitably kitted out, no leather suits are needed for short circuit gearbox, it was down to the dummy grid and ready for the off.
I have done gearbox racing before so the procedures were not strange to me but basically a hand clutch is used just for starting so it’s clutch in select first gear a short push, release the clutch and away you go either straight out onto the circuit or once the engine fires quickly pull the clutch in and the engine will keep running on the dummy grid to warm the engine up, no electric start. Select first gear, a fistful of revs release the clutch and hang on, immediately up the gearbox, no clutch is required to change the gears, similar to a motorbike, just lift off the power change gear and power on up to 60 mph in 4 seconds or less will try to leave your helmet back in the pits with ears attached !!
The basics of gearbox karting are easily mastered but to get to it crack on every corner, every lap, every time takes practice and work, top drivers have tried to move from other classes and soon realise that they are not going to win without more effort than they have had to use in the other direct drive classes, a combination of front brakes, gears and power take some getting used to, understanding your engine revs and knowing which gear to use in and out the corners is so important, miss a gear and the engine power goes and a train of karts go straight by while you are dropping a gear and building up speed again, a race won or lost by a gear change. The power produced is awesome, obviously by using gears you are always on power, into a corner, tremendous braking and changing down 3 or 4 gears in almost 3 or 4 feet, back on the power and pull through every gear reaching 90 to 100 mph in 6th gear on the short circuits, maximum power in every gear, pure racing, no comparison to direct drive at all.
Getting started in the short circuit 125 ICC UK (KZ2 UK) class is not as complicated as you may think, any chassis fitted with front brakes which can cost you anything from £1000 upwards depending on new or used and any single cylinder 125cc, water cooled, reed valve engine homologated by the CIK for the ICC class which will cost you around £1500 for a good secondhand unit, obviously the more you spend on equipment the better but that will get you racing and competitive, i was in an Energy kart with a TMK9 B engine fitted, standard short circuit crash tested bodywork is used. KZ1 uses the same basic equipment with more restrictions to the engine and gearbox, but KZ2 is the most popular class on short circuit due to the numbers on the grid and the additional costs in the KZ1 class. The class weight is 180kg with the kart weighing around 95 to 100 kg so it is ideal for any driver who is carrying a bit of ballest !!!
If you are mechanically minded the maintenance required on a gearbox kart is not as complicated as it looks, chassis is basically the same amount of work as any other class but the brakes need more work due to the front system, they need to be well bled and balanced because believe me you will need them!! Engine is not sealed and will require a full rebuild every year at a cost of aprox. £350 including the basic replacement parts, and a new piston kit is needed every 3 races events (3 practice days and 3 race meetings) and will cost aprox £60, obviously there are other things to go wrong like in all other classes but that is the basic maintenance required, add some good fuel and oil, run the engine in well and you should run all year.
There are 2 major championships the ABkC Super 4 where you will need a national A licence and the Northern Karting Federation (NKF) which is a club championship where you can race with a national B licence, circuits include (for 2010) Forest Edge, Fulbeck, Shenington, Rowrah, Rissington, Kimbolton, Wigan and Teeside with 6 rounds in each championship, 3 of the rounds in the Super 4 championship include the Masters which is run between the NKF and the British Superkart Association who run the long circuit meetings, the masters have 3 short circuit and 3 long circuit rounds during the season to give the short circuit drivers a chance to try long circuit racing, short circuit bodywork can still be used on the long circuit meetings in the masters but a full leather race suit must be worn. If you are racing in the Super 4 you get a free registration into the masters and every year one of the rounds is at the fantastic Cadwell Park circuit for the British Grand Prix, this year held on July 17/18.
Thats about it, easy really and not as difficult as i thought to get into 125 gearbox, it is as close as you will get to single seater racing with all the speed and performance as you will need, not for the faint hearted and don’t expect to master it in a weekend but if you like a challenge and need to prove to yourself you can race karts this is the class you need. Thanks to Sue and Andy Fairless for all their help and if you need any more information contact them on 015395 62256.