Warming up an engine

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Rotax engine start up

The Rotax Max has been around for more than sixteen years now. Due to the failure of classic 100cc racing and the subsequent CIK KF Classes the Max is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Karting internationally.

Of course this success is gratefully received by the members of the industry that are involved and indeed by BRP-Rotax, the manufacturers. However in some respects we have to be wary that the classes do not become victims of their own success, the concept of the Rotax Max has been copied but never equalled.There has been much talk over the past year about the “New CIK KF engine”, this will eventually happen but it is doubtful that it will happen at all before 2016 if then. In the meantime the stability of the Rotax max classes remains undiminished, indeed stronger than ever.An area often avoided by the trade and industry is the ability of the driver, in some circles referred to as the nut behind the wheel! Having been involved with the Max since the beginning, I stand by what I first said. Anyone can drive a Max but very few can drive one really well. In spite of gradual development over the years making the engine more user friendly, there is a vital element in the mix that makes a kart consistently fast; the driver.

These days at the highest level there are big teams with skilled managers, mechanics and driver coaches; that is all well and good but could be the thin end of the wedge that leads to this great product being a victim of its own success. What about the entry level club driver that wants to enjoy his racing with a reasonable level of success at a reasonable price. The start of driving a Max well starts at home with the preparation of the Kart for your weekends racing, a clean and well prepared Kart will give you less work at the track which enables you to concentrate on final set up changes and hone your skills for a successful outing. Make sure the whole machine is perfectly clean, not just spit and polish, you may easily fins a crack in your chassis, axle or exhaust that could spoil your weekend if gone unnoticed. Get yourself to the circuit in good time, sign on, pay your dues and be sure to be ready for the first practice session. A lot of people stall the engine on the dummy grid repeatedly there is a simple method to ensure a smooth and trouble free get away. Make sure that the throttle is fully closed and not held open at all, this does not include adjustment of the idle screw. The choke need only be used at first start up and even then only on the coldest of days. Most important of all is to be sure that the fuel is fully blown through and that the Carb is full of a fresh petroil mix. Turn on the ignition, press the start button, as soon as the engine fires apply a very little throttle, the engine will gather RPM and gently engage the clutch, return the choke to off before going on track.

The practice of starting the engine on the stand to warm it is not good for the engine internals, particularly the balance shaft and gears as well as the piston, the engine will warm up more uniformly and efficiently and so will the tyres if you take at least one lap gently before you give it the beans! If the weather is really cold, we fill the radiator with hot (not boiling) water and cover the engine with an old padded jacket. The engine will then be closer to working temperature before you even start it up. If you only have 3 laps practice before racing begins, this can be a really good idea. Imagine your engine has been stored overnight in your van with no heating in winter the engine has Anti-freeze (we hope), under these conditions the engine core temperature could well be below freezing point, poor little engine! If you take the above advice regarding hot water, whatever you do, don’t forget to drain it out again before you load up to go home. A frozen engine will almost certainly wreck the cylinder and damage the water pump seals.On track, be smooth, brake as near as possible in a straight line, accelerate smoothly, don’t snap the throttle open and you’ll soon be up there with the best!