Matt England tests new OEKC Promax Class

The Open Endurance Kart Championship, also known as OEKC, is an endurance championship that ‘promotes fast, competitive, low cost racing in a friendly atmosphere. The series is a Rotax championship with 4.5 hour races for drivers over 16 years old.

Traveling around the country the championship recently tested an alternative class for teams to use the Junior Max engine rather than the required Senior Max engine. With the full support of the GMS team, we were invited down by the OEKC organiser, René Lubbock, to try the new class.

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What is Promax?

The new class is going to be referred to as Promax. The karts in the class will use Junior Max engines and will have a minimum weight of 165kg. Of course the obvious difference between that and the regular Senior Max engine is speed, but there are also many other things to consider too.

For example, the organisers have been professionally advised that engines should be able to go a whole season without a rebuild, which will substantially lower costs. Also saving costs will be the fact the kart will use less fuel and the tyres should last 2-3 races. Moving away from tyres and fuel karts will use a hard axle, which should last three races and there will be a specified sprocket size at each event which all promax teams must use making it especially easier for newer and less experienced teams, as well as lowering overall cost of course.

The organisers have gone further than just thinking about general wear and tear, of course this will also lower the strain on the driver. Driving a 1.5 hour stint at Whilton Mill or Clay Pigeon would be a big ask for a driver new to endurance racing in a Senior Max,  but in Promax it becomes a lot easier so new teams would probably be suited to the promax class.

What if I wanted to move to Seniors?

That is of course a great question and is answered very well when the rules state the promax teams can move up to the Senior class at anytime and teams will score points in the overall championship even when you’re in the promax class.

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Karting magazine Promax Team!

Heading down to represent Karting magazine at Whilton Mill was 2016 A&D Driver of the Year, Tom Golding and former TKM Extreme British Champion, Matt England. Here’s what Matt made of the series…

As we pulled into the paddock there was a mixture of owner driver teams and arrive and drive kart providers. There were some private teams with small Gazebo style awnings, others were just outside working in the rain, there were no sophisticated awnings like those found at a National Super One meeting which immediately makes you feel at ease. Especially if you were new to the championship as we were. The other drivers were friendly & chatty too.

The OEKC races are normally undertaken with two, three or four drivers. With no third driver we set about a plan for two drivers. A plan is always crucial in an endurance race, if you haven’t raced endurance before make sure you consider all scenarios before the race and have a clear plan. In the OEKC paddock there are lots of people that will be more than happy to advise you on this. So don’t be shy!

First laps

With the OEKC endurance format, one of the key things is to limit the amount of time in the pits by coordinating refueling with driver changes and the subsequent change in weight. For us it made sense to start with the heavier driver (Tom), then when they came in to fuel, swap for the lighter driver (Me) and add the weight. It was my first time in a kart with a Rotax Engine and whilst I’ve driven both clutch and direct drive formats, most of my sprint racing has been direct drive. The power delivery of the Rotax engine was smooth and refined, it pulled really well. Of course, in TKM you can just slam the throttle down, but in a Rotax there’s a bit more of a smoother approach needed, especially in the rain. I found the extra power and grip more fun and at times more of a challenge!

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Qualifying

The Promax kart set-up was a dry configuration with wet tyres and the seating position was a good compromise for both drivers. We fueled and set into qualifying finishing with a sixth place, ahead of a dozen teams that were using the senior Rotax Max.

Race

By race time, the rain had stopped, but with the volume of water, there was little prospect of slick tyres until the first refueling stop. We elected to run a long first stint to allow the track to dry as much as possible and coordinate our swop to dry tyres with our first fuel stop and driver change. By the time Tom had pitted, it was dry enough for slicks, so we fueled, added weight, changed tyres and set out into a damp but drying track. The kart felt quite well balanced especially given it had been set-up to cater for a variety of drivers. The Promax engine pulled well with excellent power delivery and very soon I was punching in lap times to match the front runners with each of us trading fastest lap. Unfortunately, a failed rear wheel stud meant we lost a rear wheel and ended up in the tyre wall. The kart was recovered, but by the time we had completed a repair we were several laps down. A shower of rain whilst we were working on the Kart was enough to change us to wet tyres. Meanwhile the front runners elected to stay on slicks as their lead was sufficient to prevent anyone on wet tyres from eliminating the gap. The driving standards were very clean and it was great to see such a wide age range amongst the drivers. As well as age range there was also a range in experience too which means whatever your experience you’ll be able to have a great race.

For top level racers there are really good drivers from Rotax, Pro Karts and even ‘Arrive & Drive’ who come along to all race together which is always interesting to see.

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Tom Golding’s thoughts…

Overall the Junior Rotax was one of the best karts I’ve driven! I was amazed by how fast it was compared the Seniors. Although Whilton Mill has a long uphill straight, we still managed to compete with the seniors. I look forward to seeing how far this category will stretch next season and it’s definitely something I’d like to try again.

The grip for the wet conditions was unreal and the kart was outrageously fast considering it’s only a Junior ( Promax ) ! I got to the stage where I was picking off plenty of Senior Rotax teams and a good finish overall started to look on the cards!

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What are the costs of OEKC?

Average Promax cost per team per round = £400 + race entry 
Average Senior Rounds cost per team = £800 + race entry
Average Season cost = £1440 per driver for 9 races in a Promax hire team of 4 drivers
Enter with your own kart at £240 per team

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What tracks will it be visiting in 2017?

Overall the calendar is very good. There is a nice mixture of tracks in there, you have technical tracks such as Rye House and Clay Pigeon and then longer tracks like Fulbeck and Bayford Meadows. Whilton Mill is considered by many as one of the best in the country and Lydd has made massive improvements to it’s track in recent years, which should make that an interesting visit. The finale at Daytona Milton Keynes is an exciting one, usually only used for corporate it’s about time the fantastic facility was used by a national championship such as OEKC.

Round 1 – Rye House, February 26th
Round 2 – Bayford Meadows, March 19th
Round 3 – Whilton Mill, April 9th
Round 4 – Fulbeck, May 6th/7th
Round 5 – Clay Pigeon, June 17th/18th
Round 6 – Lydd, July 16th
Round 7 – Fulbeck, August 12th/13th
Round 8 – Whilton Mill, September 17th
Round 9 – Daytona Milton Keynes, October 22nd

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Summary

Overall I really enjoyed my first experience of racing OEKC and Promax. If you have not been tempted to race OEKC before then Promax should definitely change that, it’s a more affordable way to enter way to race in the series in more ways than one! As someone who has raced Super One for years all I can say is OEKC was very competitive and endurance racing comes with a strategic plan which is fun to try and figure out. I hope to be back there with GMS at some point this season.

I’d like to thank the organisers, GMS and Dave Griffiths for having myself and Tom Golding down. Despite the bad weather we both really enjoyed it!

Click here to find out more about OEKC

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Written by Matt England

Images courtesy of Rene Lubbock

 

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