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PFI Pro Kart Experience

PFI Pro Kart Experience

The last time I had attended a proper owner driver kart race was a club meeting at Whilton Mill in August 2012 where I raced a Senior Max on a Zanardi chassis.

Since then I have tested a variety of things for the magazine, but never have I had the chance to do owner driver racing, but that was about to change thanks to 7 Kart and Team 7 Racing!

I had been entered into the first round of the PFI Pro Kart series, it’s the biggest grids in 4 stroke racing at one of the biggest tracks in Europe, PF International.

Chris McCarthy back in 2012

Chris McCarthy back in 2012 in KGP

Preparations

The PFI Pro Kart is one of the most competitive championships in the country! There are four classes in total, Gx200 (also referred to as Extremes), Gx160, Honda Cadet and Juniors (coming soon!). I was racing in the Extreme class and with 45 drivers all racing on fairly similar budgets getting your edge comes through testing and kart setup work. If I was going to give myself any chance at a decent result, I would need to test to familiarise myself with a Pro Kart and with the PFI track again.

Thanks to Team 7 Racing I was able to do that three days before the meeting at PFI.

With my kart still being built I borrowed one of Team 7’s arrive and drive karts. The first session went really well, I was quickly used to the track and straight away I was showing competitive times, but I’m used to two stroke karts so today would be all about adapting to the four stroke engines.

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Adapting to change

Before I went for my test I spoke to Pro Kart specialist Piers Prior and he told me “the key to driving a pro kart is to do things earlier than you might think. Keeping speed up is key through the corners as you don’t have as much power as maybe a 2-stroke does. You also have to be dead smooth with the steering, you can’t go in hard like in two strokes, the hard tyres can’t handle it.”

For anyone making the change over to four stroke the above advice is all you really need to get you going. Just carry as much speed everywhere, try lifting in places you’d usually dab the brake. Try going flat in places you’d usually lift and accelerate as you turn in rather than pushing in on the fronts.

Overall the test went great, my coach Jay Shepherd who races in the series himself told me I had showed top 10 pace so I couldn’t wait for Sunday.

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First impressions

Arriving on Sunday the first ting that hit me was the laid back and friendly atmosphere at Pro Kart meetings. Everyone is very friendly and helpful and it’s not taken too seriously. Everyone is there to race but also to enjoy themselves.

I then saw my brand new XV 7 Kart and wow did it look nice! It was presented beautifully by Robert Nurse and his team and the graphics on it really did look the business. I was in with Team 7 Racing for the day and could tell I was in good hands!

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Practise

So when I’d finally stopped looking at the kart it was time to get ready for practise. We were told all 45 karts would race on track together which is more than I’ve ever raced at once.

We had 10 minutes of practise to start and although things on the kart felt great we were off the pace by over a second which was strange considering our pace on Thursday. But I wasn’t prepared to believe it was anything on the kart so I kept it the same for qualifying.

Qualifying

For qualifying rather than just flooring it from the start I tried to hang back and give myself some space but that really didn’t go to plan. In the end I spent most of the session trying to follow people and getting held up by some back markers instead of just flooring it from the start so it was no surprise I qualified 28th place.

But still it wasn’t the end of the World and I had something to work with. However, the kart still didn’t feel right and I knew something was wrong.

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Problem solved

In the end it turned out I had not set my pressures properly, I was going round on 20 psi when instead I should have been running 30 on the fronts and 32 on the rears.

The heats

So I now knew there were no excuses and I set off for my first race in four years. I have to admit I was nervous at the start of heat one but things came back to me very quickly.

Going into turn one with 44 other karts was insane but I got through and managed to work my way through to 19th. The kart was an absolute dream to drive and I managed a competitive lap time of a 66.3!

So that’s where I’d now start for Heat two but unfortunately this is where I made a big mistake!

I made another good start and was in a battle for around 15th place. I was trying to follow another driver but saw I was getting caught by around eight drivers, which just happens in this series. This caused me to panic and I went for a move over the bridge only to see a yellow flag. Fully committed there was no escape so I had to give the place back and I then got caught up in an incident and spun a lap later.

Heat three was really where I was able to show what the XV could do even in the hands of a newbie like me. I followed number 6 Piers Cooper through from 27th to 13th place showing excellent pace. It was such a fun race and gained me valuable points for the final.

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The Final

Two decent heats and a shocker was good enough to put me 18th on the grid for the final which I was satisfied with and I set myself the target of top 15 for the final.

However, on the warm up lap un-forecast rain was starting to fall slightly making turn one a tasty prospect for any spectator.

I got through the first section okay and was able to roughly hold position and then into hairpin one I made what in my head seemed like the save of the century. I locked up and was fully sideways in danger of taking 15 karts out, but thankfully I saved it and even made a couple positions.

I was now around 12th place and going with the lead group, but then the rain started to fall.

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In terms of weather it was the hardest race I’ve ever done for two laps it’d rain then it would stop for two then rain again. During that phase I dropped back to 15th but I was still in a huge battle for 6th yes 6th place.

At the end of the race I had a great battle for 14th with Jay Shepherd but he was able to just pip me at the post so it was a 15th place finish which I was delighted with.

Out of 45 karts that wasn’t a bad result at all and a huge part of that was down to the new XV chassis.

Team7Racing Team Boss Jay Shepherd

Team7Racing Team Boss Jay Shepherd

XV Chassis review

The XV was honestly an amazing kart to drive. It allowed me to really concentrate on braking as I always knew it was going to turn in. It never understeered and it never oversteered and we made no changes all day. It didn’t bounce or slide it was an absolute pleasure to drive and for a newcomer I would fully recommend it as it will allow you to just get on with the driving.

As for experienced drivers well my team mate Ben Cook finished 2nd so it has proven ability as well!

Ben Cook in 2nd place

Ben Cook in 2nd place

The best part about the chassis was the front end for me! I was being so light on the steering and carrying so much speed. The hairpins were where I made all my time and that was down to the braking system on the 7 Kart.

Having a kart like this round PFI makes it so fun especially round the back section as it’s so flowing. I remember being in the final and following the chasing pack and just smiling as I was able to keep with them and everything I asked of the chassis it did.

I couldn’t fault it, if anyone has anything negative to say about it please call me and tell me as I’d love to hear it.

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Tech & Details

  • Manufactured from Chrome Moly tubing.
  • Only kart produced by Sif bronze welding, (takes 14 hours of gas welding per frame)
  • Rolling XV chassis £2600+vat
  • built to order, tailored to customer requirements
  • chassis and parts UK designed and manufactured
  • Online parts and telephone orders with fast dispatch
  • Generally 100% stock of parts.

Summary

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my days racing at the PFI Pro Karts series. It was close racing, cheap racing and big grids! On top of that I was on a great kart, 7Kart, and in with a great team, Team7Racing. The championship has been working very hard this year to bring the grids up even more and give all drivers as much track time as possible. All I saw around the paddock was smiling faces which is refreshing to see in this day and age of karting. The XV chassis was a joy to drive and put me straight on the pace with a good result. I’m already in talks to do more rounds this year and hope to be back for my second race of the season at Round 3!

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Want to race yourself?

If your interested in racing in the PFI Pro Kart series you can for just £250 all in! That’ll include a kart, engine, tyres, fuel, awning space and entry!

For more details contact Team 7 Racing on 07949170031

Thanks!

A huge thanks has to go to Kate and Jay Shepherd at Team 7 Racing, Robert Nurse at 7 Kart, RPM Engines and Paul Barnicoat at PFI. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I hope to be back to do more racing this season.

Written by Chris McCarthy

Photos by Andy Webb, Sprocket Photography

 

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