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The Max Column

The winter months are relatively quiet on the racing front, both at MSA and non-MSA level. A lot of clubs have a break for a month 1or two from running meetings as the short days and potential for bad weather really conspire against them being able to complete a full day’s race programme. As it has also been the Christmas season with not a lot going on except two good kart shows, I thought I would touch on the subject of driver fitness. It is all too easy to let yourself enjoy that extra slice of pudding and disguise it with cream in the belief that you need the extra calories to keep out the winter cold! Added to a more sedentary life style and it is not long before the belt has to be loosened just one hole to remain comfortable! Beware, your laziness is about to find you out. As the race season gets under way at the beginning of February or March you may be surprised how much heavier your kart seems to be. It should come as no surprise to find that you are unusually puffed out after just one eight or ten lap heat. Oh dear, you are no longer the finely tuned racing machine that you thought you were. Karting requires a particular kind of fitness and yes, it can be achieved in a gym.

There is no point in dieting to be slim without retaining the right degree of muscular strength and stamina. As a rule the MAX weight limits are generous, so it is usually possible for the average size person to attain the weight required without too much difficulty. Over the past fifty years the average size of children has increased dramatically and by this I mean in height and bone structure. In terms of racing we should not include excess girth. Although we should not consider it here, obesity is now a national concern and I have witnessed some seriously overweight drivers squeezing themselves into their seats at race meetings all the way up to championship level. Don’t kid yourselves, being overweight is a huge disadvantage. It is well known that heavier drivers in Formula 1 are considered to be disadvantaged. It is also possible to tell that the family car is slightly less enthusiastic on the way back from the supermarket when loaded with groceries. F1 cars have hundreds of horsepower, the average family saloon has at least five times more horsepower than a MAX! Give yourselves a break, get as close to that weight limit as possible. There are now specific motorsport programmes that will help to build up stamina and general upper body strength including in your arms, shoulders and neck. However, there is no doubt that the best possible training for karting is karting. The best drivers in the world have always done a lot of testing and not just for their equipment but for themselves as well. Going to the gym is by no means all bad but do be sure that you are training the right muscles. Running a few miles on the treadmill is pointless unless there are a few girls in leotards to watch in the mirror. Everyone has their ideal body weight and this information is available at your doctor’s surgery. If as a Senior the weight limit is not attainable then more and more clubs are running the 177 Heavy class and it is gaining in popularity to the point where it may well have its own national championship. Age is another element that can seriously affect fitness for karting, however do not give up, things just take longer and hurt more.

Karting is much more physical than car racing but that is only true of basic level cars. As soon as they become as much fun as karts they are just as physical, and hugely expensive as well. In short, given three karts of identical performance, the guy on weight will beat the overweight guy and the fit guy will probably beat them both. Game over. The shows at Donington Park and Sandown Park were both good shop windows for karting. I understand that there was some disappointment with the turn out at Donington but I have to say that the JAG stand was busy all the time. For myself I did not find the seminars as good at Donington as before. Being a shy, retiring sort of bloke, I found it distracting to be in the main hall with the hubbub noise and other announcements going on at the same time. Certainly audience participation was not as good as usual, a pity because the interest was still there in terms of the enquiries we dealt with on the stand. JAG had a much smaller stand at Sandown but again we were really busy. The Master Classes were the best attended ever and the audience participation was excellent. Of course it was good to be able to talk about the future of Rotax MAX in the knowledge that the conrod problems of early 2005 are well and truly behind us. There were also the other bits of hot news as described in last month’s article that helped to make the seminars go with a flow. There are very good reports coming in as the first of the new Vega SL6 tyres make it out into the public domain. I think the first batch went out during the second week in December. For the time being at least the Juniors and Minis will be staying on their existing SL8 compound and carcass. However, should a new construction tyre become available, it is possible that it may be adopted at a later date. It is worth noting that over 3,000 laps of testing were carried out before the SL6 was agreed as the tyre to replace the SL7, so you can rest assured that it will not be five minutes’ work to decide on a replacement for the existing SL8. The Autosport International show on the 12-15th January at the NEC, Birmingham will see the launch of the Red Bull Track Attack competition. Details of this potentially major new karting initiative were being closely guarded prior to the official launch but this is what we have been able to find out so far. The Red Bull Track Attack is aimed at speed freaks who think they’ve got the skills and stamina to get behind the wheel of a kart and battle it out against hundreds of other budding drivers.

Between January and March the search will be on for the UK’s best karter with qualifiers to be held at circuits across the country. It is believed that these will be National Karting Association member circuits (www.nationalkarting.co.uk). After the qualifiers the best of the best will then go head to head with some of the top names in Formula One at a grand finale in May. The final, which is expected to attract thousands of spectators, will be held in a major city centre on a specially designed track. Given the Red Bull connection we would expect the likes of David Coulthard, Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi to be among those on the starting grid. The competition is open to anyone over the age of 16, except ‘professional drivers’. You don’t even need your own kart, just the determination and drive to beat off the competition. So if you believe you are up the challenge then make sure you find out more about the Red Bull Track Attack either at the Autosport show or by visiting www.redbull.co.uk which will soon give details of the official competition website including information about where the qualifiers will be held.