The Max Column: July 2006

karting-mag-logo-15A very welcome guest to the Warden Law round of the Super 1 was Paulo Mantese from Vega. This was his first visit to a race meeting here in the UK and he has promised it will not be his last. The weather was at least dry for the main part of the weekend even if there was a very cold North-East wind. This meant that the dry tyres that have been the subject of conversation and conjecture of late were in use for the whole of Saturday and Sunday. There were no reported problems with the supplied race tyres.

It was interesting for Mr Mantese to meet a lot of competitors and Team Managers, all in all a very positive visit. The UK is an important market for the tyre companies and an area of the sport that can be very political. Tyres will always be a bone of contention, if only people would realise that there will always be variation in every element of the equipment used for racing. It amazes me that tyres are generally as consistent as they are today and as cheap! Honestly we never had it so good, I can remember paying up to £150 per set and they were scrap after a handful of laps.

If some of the energy expended complaining about the equipment was invested in training the drivers to do a better job, the sport would be so much the richer. Will someone please tell those Juniors that a contact lap is a slow lap! While there was some great racing at Warden Law there was also some very low quality driving, long faces and damage. On a positive note the Club did a great job, the paddock parking was well organised and everyone was cheerful and helpful. I ate two of those pies in the Café and swear that I used more Diesel to get home afterwards.

The Rotax facory have introduced a few changes to various components of the engine. Firstly the clutch assembly receives an improved support plate. The new plate is 1.5mm thick. The clutch shoes have been thinned down by 0.3mm in order to accommodate this. The clutch back-plate remains unchanged dimensionally. The fulcrum pins on the back-plate are slightly changed as well. These measures are to improve reliability of the clutch, the biggest single failure in this area is breakage of the fulcrum pin. These usually have a good life in terms of hours of use but can break spontaneously. The clutch shoe then jams which causes the engine to be locked in gear. There is also a new type thinner support plate for use with existing clutch shoes, this plate is the same thickness as the out-going zinc plated item but is a better material with a phosphate finish to improve reliability.

There is also a small change to the new production cylinder barrels. The sealing area for the exhaust flange is now fully machined. This has been introduced to improve the efficiency of the leak down tests carried out by the factory on assembly.

There is also a new gear cover to be introduced, while the old cover was sand cast the new type is die cast and has several new features. It has a new cast impulse fitting and a separate screw purely for checking the oil level.
Since the introduction of the improvements to the starter motor, I have not heard of any failures of the live carbon brush wire. It is now permitted to put some silicone gasket onto the vulnerable braided copper wire where it is joined to the brass terminal. This reduces the vibration damage almost to nil. It is still worth checking the starter from time to time, but the majority of the old problems have gone away now.

There is definitely renewed interest in the DD2 class, this started life as the RM1. The new enthusiasm comes from the introduction of the engine as a separate unit. Main stream chassis manufacturers are now producing Karts to accept the DD2 engine with its 40mm axle passing through the back of the gearbox. Here in the UK we can soon expect to see Karts from Gillard, CRG, PCR, Birel, Hasse and Arrow taking to the tracks DD2 powered. This may well be the impetus the concept needs to really get it kick started in this country.

Darrell Smith the Rotax official test driver looks set to get back into competition with a well-sorted team for the 24hr at Le Mans. The Rotax factory are not calling this a works team but they are passively supportive of the project. The Max engine is really ideal for this type of racing, its reliability and ease of use are now really closing the gap to the more powerful Formula A engines. The grid at the 24hr this year will number 40 and at least half of those are expected to be Rotax Max powered. There will probably be about ten or a dozen full blown Formula A teams and the rest will be made up of the other 125 TaG engines, like Leopard, Sonik, IAME X30 and the occasional Biland. Darrell has the support of Arrow Karts from Australia and will be running under the British umbrella that includes a couple of other teams. All three will be Rotax powered, they will complete in the region of 100 hours running between them. The idea this year is to take the fight to the established 100cc teams with our Rotaxes. For the first time ever I actually believe it is now possible to beat them, what a great feeling that would be!

There is now a lot of non MSA racing taking place aside from practice and just leisure Karting. In a recent survey it proved that about 35% of all Max engines sold to date are being used for MSA racing.
This means that the Leisure and “Fun racers” are an important element of after market business. The question is how best to serve them.While the best of the MSA drivers racing at British Championship level believe that an engine should be fully rebuilt at 15-20 hours, there is a significant number of leisure Karters who are regularly running their engines for 60 hours with no ill effects.

I cannot recommend this however these guys are out there proving it can be done. Interesting that the main “bone of contention” at the moment is that the best of the engine builders are in fact prematurely ageing some of the friction components inside the engine.

The Rotax Factory are looking at a flat rate schedule just as those used in the garage trade. This would mean that a customer could work out, with some accuracy, the potential cost of any repair or servicing operation. The flat rate schedule would not detail labour charges, however it should be possible to ask the dealer for their individual charges. I believe it would also be advantageous to have the parts list published in this magazine from time to time with the list prices alongside. These measures would help to ensure a level playing field for all customers. I hope that some progress will be made on this subject in the very near future.

A sad footnote to the weekend at Warden Law, I heard that Tony Cruttenden’s Parrot had died.