The Max Column: August 2006

karting-mag-logo-15There is now much speculation regarding the new TaG engines that are to become available during the coming winter. None of this will have any effect on the way in which the Max classes continue to evolve. The Rotax Max has been the most extraordinary phenomenon to hit Karting since Art Ingalls created the world’s first Kart fifty years ago in 1956. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who would dispute that statement for one reason or another, however I have to stick to my guns and say that the sport has been through several serious changes over the years, and I believe the Max has been every bit as important a change as any.

Tyres were a quantum leap in development but effectively a more gradual transition than the sudden and unexpected demand for Max engines. Tyres have kept pace with the development of the sport and the sport has kept pace with them. When the best engine for club racing was the Clinton E65, I’m guessing here but about 5 horsepower was a good ‘un! The tyres in the UK were treaded and I believe could have been Avon’s.

Then Barwell started remoulding them and suddenly there was a performance advantage that everyone had to have! Tyre wars had started and we are not even at 1960 yet. Carlisle and Continental dominated the 1960s and then in the early ‘70s came the Goodyear Blue Streak, the first truly wide section rear tyre, at that time a front Goodyear did not exist. Following on from that was the Zip tyre, which immediately stole a march on the rest. The Zip tyre was of course a badged Bridgestone and that was the beginning of a truly great dynasty and the hub of the evolutionary change that affected Karting in the late 70s and beyond. Also in the late 70s saw the arrival of a tiny production of the exclusive Sirio 4 Star tyres, the forerunner of the Vega name we know today. Another gauntlet was laid down and another battle in the same war had begun.

None of these had the effect through all the levels of the sport that the Rotax Max has had over the past eight years. While I do not believe that the Max was responsible for the decline in 100cc racing, it has certainly become a controlling influence on the sport today. Recent surveys suggest that something less than 50% of the Max engines sold in the UK and Ireland are actually used for racing, some have always remained in the leisure market, while others are now in third, fourth or fifth ownership and used exclusively for leisure. There is no doubt that the engine lends itself perfectly to this use and it still has to be a valuable element of the customer base needing service, spares and advise.

There is currently an alarming drop off in the support for club meetings, while the Max classes remain the strongest in many areas there is still a decline to the extent that some of the less well supported are being forced to cancel meetings. I really hate to dwell on the negative, but unless the trade serving these leisure drivers encourage them into MSA racing we are looking at a bleak future indeed for the sport of Karting as we know it.

We have the structure to run a successful sport with the MSA at its head, willing servants at the AbkC speaking for the clubs and enthusiastic participants throughout the country using the tracks for their Karting. Unfortunately, |I do the industry a disservice by including these elements within the same sentence! Too many people at the top are only looking at the top level of the sport and not considering the grass roots, without these roots the sport has no foundations and no future, as we know it.

A decline in club racing has to have an effect on championship participation. It is a shocking fact that without the strength of the Rotax classes and that of TKM there would be virtually no Karting in this country today. I do not believe that I am overstating the case when I sat that the majority of the bigger teams with their impressive transporters and infrastructure would be able to carry those overheads if the Rotax and TKM classes did not exist.

The CIK classes are set to change out of all recognition with the introduction of the TaG engines, I know this will happen gradually but we can expect to see a very different grid at international level within 18 months from now. The Tag engines are evolved versions of the Max make no mistake about it. Rotax have definitely changed the direction of Karting as we know it, like it or not, we have got to get on with it.

The Rotax classes will continue as they are with only minimal change for the foreseeable future and it is this continuity, which must be jealously guarded. The leisure karters with more than a passing interest must be wooed into the mainstream of the sport, there interest must be in competition and enjoying racing at their level. Why has it become so much harder to do over the years? Abroad you can buy a licence and go racing, yes drivers are observed for their proficiency and are only allowed to race at their own level, for example a driver with only minimal experience could not expect to race at national championship level, but at least they all have a licence and are therefore members of the racing “club”. All these Max leisure drivers have so much to offer to the sport both in financial and human terms, I really believe that the current powers that be are missing a trick here, and if they are not careful will soon be losing that power.

Sorry I have been standing on my orange box for too long in this article. Maybe after a few more years they will say,” some of what the old fool said was right you know” but like Enoch Powell – too late!
The Rotax DD2 is now in full production and examples are finding their way into racing following the adoption of the concept by some of the world’s main manufacturers. I know that the importers for CRG, Hasse, Arrow and Sodi are all bringing a kart in for testing and to introduce it to the market. Gillard are to produce a batch of Karts as well. They are one of a dozen manufacturers who have pledged their support for the project.

The DD2 is a complete engine unit with controls and rear bumper system that is now delivered as a stand-alone product ready for installation in any of the specially produced chassis. The DD2 has been well received at this year’s Euro championship rounds and there is evidence that the engines are performing well and reliably in a variety of Karts. There is considerable interest in the Formula across Europe, there are plans to be out and about with a DD2 powered Gillard as soon as the paint is dry, so any interested parties should contact JAG or myself in the near future for a test drive.

A short piece on the technical front this month. Since the relaxation in the rules covering the starter motor, allowing the braided feed wire to the carbon brush, to be coated on silicon, there has been a dramatic reduction in this type of failure. In fact I would say that the starters are now super reliable.

The great barometer of this are the teams that I help in the Euro Endurance Championships have benefited from total reliability so far this year, after at least thirty hours of use the starters are still perfect, with no sign of the wire fraying. If your starter has not had this simple work done then I suggest you do it without delay, it is probably sensible to install a new rebuild kit, which includes both the carbons with their tails before applying the silicone. Then at least you know that all is well under the surface before you start.

The clutch is another source of anguish, but only if it is not properly maintained, the clutch shoes will wear if there is not enough lubricant on the fulcrum pins and ultimately the pin will fail. It really only takes a few minutes to check them and a few minutes more to rebuild the clutch if wear is found. Care should also be taken when tightening the clutch onto the taper. First apply high strength Loctite (green), often known as bearing fit, to the taper, a very little on the nut is also advisable. Now tighten to 100 Newton metres and all will be well. It is easy to over-tighten; especially if using an impact wrench, this can force the clutch too far up the taper and cause the clutch back-plate to crack. I understand from above that this failure is effectively impossible unless the clutch has been abused.

The Super 1 finals are at Buckmore Park in September, there has been some great racing this year so far, lets hope for an equally good final round and some worthy Champions.