The tyre situation has been finalised. The Max classes will be staying with Vega in 2007. There has been a lot of gossip both in and out of the Paddock; as usual most of it has been inaccurate. There is no secret that Rotax are heavily involved with the Heidenau company based in Dresden where they produce the MoJo brand exclusively for Rotax. Their joint aim is to produce a range of quality Kart tyres for the Rotax market internationally. While the MoJo has been adopted by some markets and is used at the Euro Challenge and World Finals, it was mutually decided by JAG and Rotax that the sheer size of the UK market was such, that it would be inappropriate to adopt the MoJo here as soon as next January. At present the MoJo is only available in one compound type and as such we would be faced with the only option of running all classes on the same tyre. Heidenau make no excuse for the fact that their development of the wet tyre is secondary to the ongoing evolution of their slicks. It is relevant therefore to our market where we do a lot of racing in the rain that the wet is a sound product as well as the slick. We would certainly miss the excellent characteristics of the Vega wet.
There is no secret that there have been some concerns this year with the consistency of the Vega slicks in both Senior and Junior forms. In an ideal world every element of the competitive package would be the same I suppose. How would we ever find a winner? The best driver would be accused of being unsporting because he was able to beat the rest on a regular basis! The best engines command an inflated value, hard to condone in a sealed engine class, but the tyres are expected to perform faultlessly at all times.
I will stick my neck out here, I am convinced that whatever tyre was adopted there would certainly be some issues relating to performance, quality, durability, price or availability. At British championship level we have the cream of the crop of teams, drivers, mechanics and parents, these people have to accept that there will always be slight differences in performance from every element of the Kart whether it be engine, chassis, driver or indeed the tyres. Vega have reacted extremely positively to the difficulties that have been experienced this year, as have JAG and the UK distributor Deavinsons. In fact there is always an accepted failure rate whatever the product may be, almost every car produced will have some intervention during the warranty period. A washing machine has up to 4% failure rate while under guarantee. The Vega tyre problems as a whole in 2006 so far are a fraction of 1%. I know it’s not great when it happens to you but you have to recognise that a change to another brand would not cure this statistic. The problems might be of a different nature, but they would still be problems that the competitor would need to be solved.
Unfortunately, because there has been a buss of tyre difficulties there are now some completely bizarre claims running around. There are more Vega tyres being used in the Max classes as a whole than any other product in the UK bar none. If there were problems , in fact there are tyre problems in other classes, their significantly smaller numbers lead the competitor to believe that the tyre issue is only an isolated case, when you have ten or a hundred times more people using the product it is easy to see where the rumours of an epidemic can come from. At the Super 1 rounds that I have attended this year, yes there have been a few complaints. I have spoken to people that I have never met before and without exception they have all been understanding and wanting a sensible solution to whatever the problem may have been.
I do have a concern that afflicts both club and championship level racing. I do not believe that there is enough warm up time within the rolling laps to properly warm the engine or the tyres. We are always hearing complaints about the first lap accidents, cold engines and cold tyres certainly do not help. Liquid cooled engines need to be warmed up just as much as the air-cooled models in the past. The way in which a driver warms his tyres on the rolling lap will vary a lot. I do not believe that weaving really works at all. To take a slow approach to a corner and then drive hard through it will simulate a normal racing speed far better. The only problem is that the driver needs a decent level of competence and even then if they all did it the crashes would happen before the flag instead of immediately afterwards! The best and safest way to warm the equipment up quickly is at low rpm, using full throttle and heavy braking. Do not overlook the fact that this is a bad moment to attract the attention of the Clerk of the Course!
I do not want to go off the subject of the Max, and indeed it is a problem in the Max classes as much as in any other. Driving standards is much too broad a term. There is a natural competitive attitude that will always be inclined to blame the other party. This is in fact such a pointlessly negative attitude, everybody blames everyone else, no one is wrong but then they go and do it again because they have not learnt from the previous experience. To be taken off, to be turned in on, you have to be there! I know both of those circumstances are sometimes perfectly legitimate, but very often they are not. A contact lap is always a slow lap. If you think you could be turned in on, is it a good idea to put yourself there? I know you need to keep moving forwards and the easiest overtaking is always as soon as you have caught the guy in front, but be aware. There are good drivers and there are very good drivers. The very good drivers seldom have accidents with other people. These are the guys who see it all unfolding in slow motion. By the same token there are good drivers who are intelligent enough to always drive within their ability, these are the journey men, who are never going to be exciting to watch, but will always be there at the end, chalking a few more points on the board. In short, what an awful lot of today’s competitors lack is racecraft. This is very hard to teach, the only sure fire way of achieving it is to do plenty of time in the Kart. The best drivers in the World have always spent a lot of time just driving, probably achieving test results as well, but quietly putting miles under their belts and becoming one with their machine. There is no alternative but time and commitment. I know that to be good you need to believe, the moment you put that brightly coloured helmet on, that you are the best. Come on then go out there and prove it!
One final Technical Max bit, in fact not that technical! The Rotax supplied fuel filter is very efficient, but it is never better than when new. The moment fuel starts to flow through it, tiny (and not so tiny) particles are collected and its flow rate is already becoming adversely affected. It is easy to do a visual check, if you can see a collection of rubbish in there, do not delay fit a new one today! Eventually the filter element will clog to the point where it will starve the carburettor of fuel. The filter is an excellent product it has more or less stopped the problems we used to experience with carburettors.
In a couple of weeks the final round of the Euro challenge will take place at Genk. At least there are a few Brits flying the flag near the front good luck guys, mind no one turns in on you!