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The Max Column: March 2004

By: George Robinson

Egypt may seem an unusual choice for a World Finals venue, but a brand new circuit and a potentially warm climate in January proved to be the necessary ingredients for a very successful race meeting, even if the British drivers did manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Mike Hayden’s full report appears elsewhere in this issue so I do not want to reiterate what has already been very adequately covered.

However, a few words from the pits and Parc Ferme might be of interest. All the Brits and Ireland’s Noel Brennan gave very good accounts of themselves. Noel proved his ability having to change to an unfamiliar chassis at the last moment. Tristram Oman had a good time but his right hand man Nigel was concerned from an early stage as to how things would go in the Final and knew that Tris needed an early break from pole to run away and hide from the other quick guys. As it turned out the hugely experienced Van Der Ende pulled off a professional foul at the first corner, something perhaps not expected since he had driven with tact and decorum up until then. Having seen Van Der Ende in 100cc racing I was not surprised to see him in the thick of it, otherwise it would have been proof of a leopard changing its spots. The Juniors arrived to have their identical CRG karts distributed to them, the Rotax guys with the CRG mechanics had worked late into the night to assemble these karts into running condition. As soon as they were handed over, drivers and mechanics set about taking them to bits again, I saw at least two karts almost down to the bare frame. It was an impressive sight to see a grid of new karts in exactly the same livery.

Luck again played an unfortunate hand in the fortunes of our two drivers, either certainly had the pace to take away the 1st prize. Chris Hawes, our over 35 year old entry certainly deserves some recognition for his efforts. Having run well in unofficial practice he had a less than satisfactory time trial leaving him a lot to do in the heats. In spite of this Chris qualified 14th for the Final and looked good for at least a podium in the senior citizens class until a brush with another competitor tore out a bead retainer and his race was run. Of special interest here is that not only has Chris relatively little MAX
70
experience but he was certainly the only competitor to have fabricated his own chassis. Chris is the fabricator/welder for all Dartford Select karts and I would challenge anyone to show me a chassis that is better finished. The wind of change is blowing through Dartford Karting under the new leadership of Martin Collard and both trade and public are set to benefit from a new level of service built on the ideals Jim Cruttenden founded the company on over 20 years ago.

It was good to catch up with the Rotax team in Egypt and hear of some of the new developments taking place. Any time now there will be new type connecting rods available with a new 16 roller big end bearing. The new bearing has loose rollers where the old type was captive. This does not affect the running of the bearing and just needs a little more care on assembly. All service agents will be used to this type of bearing in any case because the 100cc type from Thompson has 15 loose rollers. There will also be a new type main bearing introduced with a high quality plastic cage. The reason for this is that while the nitrided steel cage bearing has been very successful, if the rivets should fail then further engine damage can result. There have only been a handful of failures and fortunately most have not caused any serious damage but the factory had the opportunity to improve the quality of the bearings. New delivery engines will now be coming through with these new components fitted. There was also much talk in Egypt about the RM1 and we will soon be hosting some free test days in this adrenaline machine.

The press enjoyed the chance to drive the RM1 and also had the opportunity to try some new tyres Rotax are developing in partnership with Austrian manufacturer Heidenau with a long term view that they may ultimately replace the Bridgestone YGK as the MAX Challenge tyre. There are no plans to introduce them here and Vega tyres in all our classes will continue. There have been no complaints about our choice of Senior or Junior tyres and their contract is not up until 2006. The Heidenau tyres, branded Mo-Jo, are very similar in performance to the YGK and return the same, or slightly faster, lap times. I had a very brief run on both the Mo-Jo and Bridgestone rubber and felt that the grip was very similar. The Mo-Jo was especially crisp on turn in and had a good balance through the corner. If anything the tyre lacked feel at the limit of its adhesion at the rear.

The useful by product was an extremely free running exit from the corners, the modern word is release! Heidenau will be testing exhaustively over the coming year to perfect the product to suit the MAX Challenge and the RM1. So far I have to say that they seem to be doing a fantastic job. In the areas of the world where the RM1 has sold in quantity they are now starting to race seriously and Rotax have responded by introducing a braking system upgrade kit
First in the World for 44 years
-EH
including floating rear discs and a new cintered brake pad material that helps to keep the brakes cool under race conditions. In Egypt we had a kart equipped with the original type brakes and another with the upgrade. Quite honestly I could not tell the difference in performance but it became clear the new type was running substantially cooler after only a handful of laps. It follows therefore that given more laps the new type would have an advantage and are much less likely to drag due to their floating discs. A member of the Rotax Kart Centre staff has made a fantastic tool for changing the main jet, basically a tube catches the fuel that would otherwise be spilt and has a very simple but effective jet holder on the other end.

I hope it can be produced and am sure they would sell very well. A cautionary tale from Andy Cox. At the end of a day’s racing a customer of his packed his kit away, including taking the battery off the kart and putting it in his tool box. On the way home the battery must have arced across the terminals and caused a fire in the back of the van. Fortunately not too much damage was done apart from a blackened toolbox drawer. It is a lesson well learnt nevertheless and the consequences could have been far more serious. If possible keep the battery in a box with the terminals well insulated, a strip of tank tape usually does the job. Apart from the fire risk, any dead short across the terminals will either destroy the battery immediately or seriously compromise its life expectancy. The MAX battery is a sealed lead acid type and does have a shelf life.

The standard battery charger supplied with the engines is adequate if used between meetings and left to replenish the battery for a long period. The standard charger will continue to trickle charge the battery even after the LED has turned to green and can be left switched on for at least five hours in this condition. If you are tempted to get a bigger charger to improve the speed and quality of charge beware that the charger must have an automatic cut off facility to avoid an over charge. This is essential with a sealed lead acid battery where an over charge will almost certainly destroy the battery and can be dangerous. A date for your diary. There is to be a MAX only race meeting at Clay Pigeon on the 28/29th February. Also, Forest Edge KC have been working very hard on their new venue at Barton Stacey. Reports suggest the track will be great fun on a MAX and since these have been their most popular classes, the club anticipates plenty of support and a good future for their new circuit.

The World Finals next year will be in Lanzarote. I know the British have the reputation for being the perfect gentlemen abroad but someone has to stop the South Africans winning it again. So let’s have a really strong entry for the qualifiers and go out there to give them a good hiding!
KARTING magazine

The Max Column: November 2013

By: George Robinson

Despite it being the end of the season there has been a lot happening in the world of Rotax Max and karting in general. We have seen a renewed interest in the DD2 class here in the UK. There has been steady growth in the class in Europe with significant grids at both the BNL series and the Euro Max Challenge. For us the BNL is relatively local with double-headers at Genk and another interim event at Ostricourt near Lille. The Euro Max is    credit to the Geidel family of Roland, Lynn and James who have just  celebrated ten years and continue to go  from strength to strength.  The DD2, for the uninitiated, is a more  powerful version of the Senior Max with  the added advantage of a two-speed  gearbox and a kart fitted with four wheel  brakes. Believe you me, you need them!  The DD2 was slow to catch on here in the  UK and realistically became a victim of the  recession.

When it came time to batten  down the hatches for a period of really poor growth in the economy, the DD2 class  ran for only two years, however there are  many of those original competitors who  still remember it as  being some of the most exciting racing they ever did. One of our top drivers, Sean Babington,  has qualified for the World Finals in both  DD2 and Senior Max and has elected  to take on the World in DD2. It looks  extremely likely that there will be enough  support for the class for DD2 to race again  in the UK in 2014. It is just a question of  enough drivers committing to the project  early enough to get the ball rolling in time  for the start of the season. There have been at least a dozen UK-based drivers racing in Europe recently so these could easily form the backbone of a decent sized grid.  The engine has evolved significantly in the past couple of years with an improved drivetrain and more tractability from the power unit itself. The DD2 was always  a fun thing to drive, with the current  improvements I am led to believe it’s  awesome. I wonder if there is a class for the over 60s?

The first Rotax Academy race was run at the MSA/TKM/IAME Super One at PFI in  September. I am personally involved in this  so it would be unreasonable of me to extoll  its success. Please ask anyone that was there to get the run down. If it is negative please let me know as it will be the first  negative remarks I have heard. We were  very fortunate with the weather and the  whole weekend went like clockwork. Since  all the major components on the engine are sealed, even the scrutineers had an easy time of it. There were only just three weeks  from the MSA approval of this event to the  race so it was not easy to spread the word  and get a   representative grid. However we did look like having 15 which actually  dropped to 12 when one broke his wrist  and two others had to drop out as they had  not realised that they could not step back into Cadet to finish their seasons. As I said the weather was fantastic, linked  to the facilities at Paul Fletcher’s track the  engines came back at the end in as new  condition. A lot of time was spent to ensure  the equality of the engines, carburettors, exhausts etc. We are now looking to next  year with a view to continuing with this  process and are committed to provide less  expensive racing to newcomers into the  Junior categories. There is a well- founded  perception that moving up from Cadet is an  expensive procedure and is so off-putting  for some that they stop racing altogether. I  really do not mind where they go once they  are into teenage racing as long as they stay with us. If we at JAG-Rotax can achieve this  then I believe we will be making a valuable  contribution to the sustained success of  kart racing in this country.  There are circuits in outlying areas that are starving to death through lack of entries. The regeneration of these venues  is vital for the future of the sport as we  know it. There is no point in the big teams  concentrating on their few well-heeled customers if there are no new ones coming along. The pooled engine idea can be  utilised at club level in the future with  engines available built to strictly controlled  equality standards. These competitors  could race within the existing grid but for their own trophies. The supply of engines  could be handled by the Service Centre  network and bring on new talent that  would eventually race at National level.

On the technical front this month there have been a number of unfortunate  scrutineering issues recently that have  done nothing for the relationship between  the new club competitor and those in authority. It seems quite simple to me that a scrutineer should apply the regulations as  written. Why then do we hear of exclusions for ridiculous, trumped up rules that do not exist? I thought the idea was to encourage people into the sport? Recent examples include an exclusion for not having “ROTAX”  stamped on the drive sprocket. There is  nothing in the regulations to suggest  that this is a stipulation. Originally no  drive sprockets were stamped with any identification, indeed we still have new  sprockets in stock that are unstamped. I saw a scrutineer measuring the length of an exhaust valve spring, there is no stipulated length for this component within the regulations. What a poor image this gives us for the administration of what is otherwise a fabulous sport.

Soon we will have the KartMania show at  Silverstone. This is the same venue as last  year but with many improvements. Parking  will now be adjacent to the halls and there  will be easier access between halls giving the show a more united feeling. Exhibitors’ numbers are strong and there will be many  new products on display and for sale. I will  be giving a couple of informal seminars  on the Rotax and Mojo products, so please come along and ask me some awkward questions!

The Max Column: October 2013

By: George Robinson

 

There have been many enquiries recently regarding the MSA proposed changes to the entry age for senior drivers in karting. While the International classes may change as prescribed by the MSA, there is no pressure for the commercial classes such as Rotax and TKM to follow suit. Indeed it is their decision when and if there should be a change.

[Drop cap] The MSA stipulate that all changes to regulations must be applied for before the end of June prior to implementation the following January. Since this did not happen, I believe that the changes we have heard about and are strongly rumoured cannot be true. I take a very dim view of this as it destabilises the very classes that are the backbone of British karting. By that I mean all of them for the good of the sport and not just Rotax Max. All the commercial operators need as much help as they can get from the governing bodies in order to promote good quality MSA racing. British drivers and the infrastructure supporting them has often been the envy of the world. Let us try to work together to keep it that way.

To reiterate the age system and transition between Junior and Senior. The senior regulation reads: “The class is open to any driver aged 16 or over. A junior may transfer to this senior class at any time that he/she achieves their sixteenth birthday, subject to U15.2.1 of the MSA Blue Book (this regulation precludes novices of this age upgrading from junior to senior). Having moved into the senior class he/she may not revert to a junior class”. The junior class age as stated in the ABkC Gold Book regulations is as follows: “Year of the 13th birthday to 31st December of the year of the 17th birthday”. Out of interest, the TKM ages for their classes are identical to the JAG-Rotax regulations as above.

Last month I wrote at length about the idea of pooled engines for entry level National racing. The idea has been so well received that the first event looks like a sell-out! In a couple of weeks from the publication of this article the MSA/TKM/IAME Super One gathers for its penultimate round at PFI on September 21st/22nd. For the first time the Rotax classes will make an appearance with their grid of pooled engine Minimax competitors. This new initiative has been named the Rotax Academy in line with the CIK series for junior aged drivers. Assuming all goes well there is the possibility to repeat the process at the Shenington final round on October 12/13th. As I write, engines are being prepared and run-in to prove equality of performance.

In the meantime Rotax racing is flourishing as we enjoy the best summer that we have seen for years. There is definite signs that the economy is improving. There is less gloom in the press and everyone feels better about the remains of the pound in their pockets. The majority of the Rotax service centres report good strong business through this year so far, of course some are busier than others and it is no surprise that the guys who go to circuits rather than put their feet up at weekends are the most likely to reap the rewards. It is a fact of life that we like to deal with companies that are busy. It also stands to reason that the busy workshop is also likely to be the most practised at his trade so the snowball keeps on rolling. The best advice in choosing the service centre to look after your engine is to choose the guy you feel most comfortable dealing with. This may be for logistical reasons, but if you can have direct contact or feel comfortable that he responds well to your enquiries then you are probably on to a winner. With any luck the engine will be one too!

An area of concern is always the carburettor. Last month I explained that the regulations for 2014 will remain the same for carbs here in the UK. This has been confused with the regulations in force across Europe. The fact is that we have a vast number of competitors racing on an occasional basis at club level with old equipment. To force these guys to change when their carbs work perfectly well is unnecessary. All the spares are available and there is little or no performance advantage to be gained one way or the other.

I know I have said it before, but a carburettor can never be too clean. It is not essential to spend a fortune on an ultrasonic clean if a decent can of carb cleaner and some clean cloth or paper towel will do the job. If you are not confident enough to carry out this work yourself then your friendly service centre as chosen above will be ready and willing to do it for you. There are very, very few carbs that will not work properly when clean. I guess there maybe a few rogue units out there but they really are the exceptions that prove the rule. A good clean and well set up carburettor is every bit as important as a good engine in good condition.

The additional steel wadding that may be retrofitted to the exhaust system is proving to be very successful. Not only does this greatly improve the life expectancy of the main fibre wadding but it seems to help with levelling out the performance of the exhausts as well. We have done a lot of tests on exhausts and will definitely be fitting the steel wadding to all the exhausts to be used for the Rotax Academy pooled engine classes. It is most important that you check the condition of the wadding on a regular basis, if there is significant burning at the internal end of the silencer then a replacement is essential. It is probably a good idea to change the baffle tube at the same time. Do not try to re-rivet the baffle in place, the original rivets are steel and are not to be replaced with alloy. The best solution is a set of steel bolts with lock nuts. A 4mm button head bolt looks almost like the original rivet and will never let you down – total price for the nuts, bolts and washers about £1.50!

The Max Column: September 2013

By: George Robinson

 

Pooled engines have frequently been suggested by competitors and also by organisers and their governing bodies. Spain and Portugal have made a success of the idea as have BRP Rotax with their highly regarded World Finals. The World Finals is a variation on the theme in as much as the complete kart and engine package is offered to those that have qualified through the Rotax distribution network.

[Drop cap] The Rotax classes in the UK have been remarkably successful on their own merit but also as a result of the costs of the KF classes which were the only option as an elite series. There has never been a significant club based support for the KF classes. This has allowed the Rotax in all its UK guises of Mini, Junior and Senior to flourish.

Some time ago the idea of an introductory level of pooled engines was considered, however for various reasons, not least of which was the economic downturn, the idea was put on the back burner until recently.

Through discussions with John Hoyle of the Super 1 Series, it was decided to look at the viability of such an option. The MSA has been asking for cost-cutting measures while encouraging new blood into the sport.

To begin with, the Minimax class will be run on pooled engines for the first time at the MSA Super 1 round at PFI on September 20/2. This is planned to boost the entries at this event without affecting the Rotax/Honda/Comer series which has its final event of the season the following weekend at Shenington.

Drivers will have identically prepared and tested engines supplied to them early on the Friday morning of the event. JAG-Rotax will have staff on hand to assist as required. The engines will be supplied with all accessories which must be used as delivered. Engines, carburettors, coils, exhaust systems, restrictors and wiring looms will be sealed.

This project is not designed to detract from the existing class and is specifically to draw new competitors into a closely controlled environment where they can enjoy competitive racing for significantly reduced outlay.

The engines will be selected from new stock at JAG, built to close tolerances and then dyno tested to ensure their performance is very similar across the whole batch. There will be spare units available, but these will only be used in extraordinary circumstances.

The final regulations are not completed as yet but measures will be taken to make the racing as inexpensive and fair as is possible. There will be reduced quantities of tyres, basically one new set of slicks per event. Fuel will be included in the price thus minimising the additional cost involved. Even the idea of supplying pre-mixed fuel is being investigated.

Assuming that the Minimax class is a success then it is very likely that a similar Junior class will be introduced in time for next year’s season. Initial market research has shown a very high level of interest in both classes, however it has been decided to cap the entry at 30. Anyone interested in more information should contact either myself on george@george-robinson.co.uk or John Hoyle on johnhoylejkh1@btinternet.com.

There has been concern recently that the rules have changed regarding the squish measurement of engines, particularly in Minimax. This is not the case, the squish measurement has always been a minimum of 1.20mm. The problem seems to be that engine builders like to get the measurement as tight as possible for best performance, but then the engine naturally builds up carbon on top of the piston. This can take a tight squish to the wrong side of the law. There are oils that produce less carbon build-up than others, but whatever the situation may be, a squish measurement below 1.20mm is illegal and always has been. Furthermore, it is not permitted to remove material from any component within the engine, scraping the top of the piston to remove carbon and removing aluminium at the same time is effectively modification. Not allowed under any circumstances. Removing carbon just from the sides of the piston but leaving a wide central stripe is re-profiling, this is not allowed either. It is also very likely that this extra material on the top of the piston will take the cylinder head volume below the minimum figure of 11.40cc. Scraping the top of the piston without removing the cylinder head is a very risky business. It is virtually impossible to do this efficiently without inflicting damage onto the top of the piston.

The UK carburettor regulations are not changing for next year! I wish I had a pound for every time I have been asked or told that the rules are changing this way or that. We have had good stability of regulations here for many years. The original carburettor was supplied by BRP Rotax in 12.5 venturi form with 5.2g floats and 30 over 30 idle jets. Many club competitors still have this original configuration. After about five years, Rotax introduced the 8.5 carb with its corresponding 3.6g floats and 60 idle jets. There is also the choice between K27 and K98 needles. These will remain the specifications for UK market racing. There is the flexibility of being able to use either configuration of jets and floats with both 12.5 or 8.5 venturi options. However the floats must remain with their supplied idle jets. For example, 5.2 floats must have 30/30 jets and 3.6 floats must have 60/60 jets. The needle on the other hand may be used with any configuration of the above. As a general rule the K98 needle is favoured by many, although some of the better drivers with good throttle control believe that they can get something more out of the K27 alternative.

The Max Column: August 2013

By: George Robinson

 

The fourth or fifth year of recession is now a reality. Even those economies in growth are having to pay more for less when importing vital goods.

The karting industry has held up remarkably well under the circumstances but it is not free of charge! Recently JAG conducted a survey of the pricing structure of their service centres. While there is disparity between centres as one might expect, what is clear is that prices have not risen in pace with the cost of living. In fact the opposite is true, the general trend is that the service offered is better value for money than ever.

 

The retail price increase at the beginning of this year was the first for three years and modest by comparison to the escalation in prices along the high street. While there is always the cry that karting is too expensive, many Rotax Max engines are only serviced annually. When you ask for a quote, ask if there are any special offers or loyalty discounts. There are those that offer a full service for less than £400 including parts. Be sure that you know what is and isn’t included before you go ahead and then no one should be disappointed. Whatever price you may be quoted you must assume that VAT is to be added.

 

The service centre should always communicate with the customer, there may be unexpected items that need to be replaced when the engine is stripped and cleaned. Often overlooked, for example, is the drive sprocket, not a big deal but an unexpected £20. The joke is that the best engine, beautifully built, will be a horsepower down if the sprocket is past its sell by date!

 

Minimax engines employ all the same components as the Senior engine but produce only just over half the horsepower. The Minimax is a very docile and tractable engine with all the inherent strength of the Senior engine. Result – great reliability and very few components that need to be changed at a service.

 

Now that the Rotax classes have become so competitive we need to be aware that it is necessary to keep everything in top condition to remain at the top of the game. I make no excuses for what you may think is a contradiction within this article. There need not be a cost attached to keeping the accessories in good condition. When did you last wash your wiring loom for example? Yes you can in fact wash it with soap and water! It’s drying it properly afterwards that is important! If this seems a little risky then a good clean with a WD40 type product will do a very good job. This will give you the opportunity to give it a really good examination and check it for scuffs and damaged cabling. The connector block onto the coil can lead to trouble, are you sure that the red rubber seal is still in place? If not it can be temporarily overcome by securing the connector to the body of the coil with a carefully positioned cable tie.

 

The exhaust is another area often overlooked. The exhaust and its condition is vital to the performance of the engine. It is not just a question of changing the wadding occasionally, a good clean into every nook and cranny may identify a stress fracture. Providing this is found in time then an inexpensive weld repair will sort the problem permanently. Also a coat of high temperature paint is also a worthwhile investment. This is not just a cosmetic application, when the exhaust wadding starts to fail a hot spot will appear at the start of the silencer just next to the U bend. This tell-tale sign will soon start to lose you some performance and in the case of a Senior engine will badly affect the operation of the exhaust valve.

 

The exhaust valve itself can be the source of anxiety. Sometimes difficult to diagnose, the valve will become sluggish to open or not operate at all if not maintained correctly. A good valve can make a good engine. Just as a comparison a Senior Max with an inoperative valve will perform somewhere halfway between a Junior and a Mini! Ouch! Now you can see how vital it is for the valve to function properly.

 

It is not entirely for profit that your friendly service centre may wish to run your engine on the dyno after its service. Not only does this save you the onerous and boring task of running-in, but it also ensures that everything is as it should be and the valve is opening efficiently. The exhaust valve is opened by increasing back pressure in the exhaust system, this pressure as well as the exhaust temperature is vital to the performance of the engine. Therefore it is important that the exhaust fits snuggly on the knuckle. If the fit is not good, no amount of sealant will cure the problem.

 

The new type exhausts almost clip onto the engine exhaust flange, it is important to be sure that the two are firmly mated together. If the exhaust springs appear too stretched, this is a good guide that all is not well at the joint. It is worth taking a look at the mating faces after running to ensure that there is a consistent witness mark around the circumference of the exhaust flange. If not it may be that the exhaust has become damaged in an accident or the fit is just not that good. In some cases it is possible to dress this area successfully, if in doubt take it to your service centre who should be able to help. Keep the inside of the exhaust knuckle clean and free from too much carbon build-up.

 

The Minimax has a 20.3 restrictor, I promise you the engine would love it to be larger, so do not make its life any more difficult by allowing it to coke up and reduce the diameter further still. A word of warning though, do not use abrasive materials to clean it or the surface finish may be changed and attract the unwanted attention of the scrutineers.

The Max Column: July 2013

By: George Robinson

 

The future of British motorsport lies in the hands, or is delegated to, the Motor Sports Association or the MSA as we all know it.

 

As a general rule the average competitor only hears from their governing body when it is time to renew a licence or to be called to account following some misdemeanour during some competition or another.

 

The MSA is much maligned by all and sundry, but these same complainants are usually conspicuous by their absence when some work needs to be done for the good of all. If we seriously want to improve our position in motorsport as the largest single discipline that the MSA represents, then reward can only come from combined effort. We have to make a worthwhile contribution for the betterment of karting across all levels.

 

Last month I wrote about the introduction of the Micro Max class outside of MSA racing. This was not a side swipe at the governing body but a real attempt to introduce a level of professionalism to those that are at the introductory leisure end of the market.

 

We hear of provincial kart racing clubs that go out to promote themselves at supermarkets and shopping malls. Great; they may well interest a family or two to visit their circuit and even participate. This is great news as these people are genuinely new to the sport and needed to have their interest awoken. However there is a much easier and softer target out there that is almost totally ignored by the ‘proper racing public’. The leisure market in karting is huge and stuffed full of potential. These people are enthusiasts dammit! It is for this reason that the Micro Max is the perfect product to bring these potential customers out from their indoor Grand Prix events into mainstream racing and eventually MSA racing at club and national level. We desperately need to simplify the route into the most basic levels of motorsport, karting has to be the easiest and least expensive first step.

 

Karting has changed and I for one have been around long enough to remember the good old days. Yes we had fun, karts were lighter, more manoeuvrable and less expensive. They were also less well made, had no form of manufacturer’s warranty and in real terms were a lot more expensive to run and maintain. Club level racing has always been sporadically supported across the country. National level racing has grown as it has kept pace with demand. Yes the people that race nationally will spend more on their racing. In real terms nothing has changed. In 1966 the top driver that spent a fortune on his engines won the big races. In those days some of these guys arrived at the circuits in Rolls Royce or Bentleys dressed in real fur coats. Today the same level of competitive animal arrives at the circuit in a personal registration Audi, BMW or Mercedes. These people today may have a different agenda, but their ideals are the same. They are successful and they expect to remain so in whatever they do.

 

It is unfortunate that the world governing body went through a time of mismanagement that impacted upon karting at national level too much. When the industry needed to consolidate and look to a structured future, the CIK decreed that karting would be going to four-stroke power units within a couple of years. The project was not properly considered or managed. The date of introduction was delayed year on year. This created a period of great instability from which the international classes have never recovered.

 

In this period it gave the Rotax Max series of engines the opportunity to develop and grow without real opposition or competitor. The KF series of engines, which were designed around the Rotax ‘touch and go’ concept, were given too much latitude in design innovation. The result was stratospheric costs and shocking levels of unreliability. The classes are all but lost now and we see a resurgence of the 125 Gearbox classes. Indeed KZ1 has recently been adopted by the MSA as the Short Circuit British Championship category. I for one believe that this will produce a worthy British Champion and that should be from the elite.

 

Rotax Max was never intended to be that product. Some people have said how Rotax should be the championship class, and it is, within its own kind. Rotax Max is also affordable to more people and will always be well supported. There is a level within Rotax Max to suit everyone. The total novice can jump in a Max and feel his way into the sport with a machine that should last him for a season without significant expense. From the 177 class all the way down to Minimax the engine unit should not need to be serviced more than once a year. Yes there are regular service requirements but no more than checking the oil level in the family car is just good practice to avoid an expensive breakdown.

 

Recently I have had to look at a Senior Max engine that had been home built and carried no seal. The history of the engine was checked out with JAG in a matter of minutes and we were given the go-ahead to carry out the service including a full fiche check and then seal the engine. On investigation we found an appalling level of build quality. The end result of the service was an engine in good condition, legal, reliable and sealed. Also all the replacement parts are covered by the Rotax manufacturer’s warranty. This ten year-old engine is not under guarantee, just as if it were brand new. I am sure that much of the unreliability experienced by other engine brands is not an inherent design issue, but the inability of the builder to do the overhaul to a good enough standard.

The Max Column: June 2013

By: George Robinson

 

] Exciting things are happening in the world of Rotax Max at the moment. Since there has been significant growth in the interest for the DD2 class abroad, the service centres are receiving orders for engines greater than ever before in the UK. The DD2 has a great appeal for those experienced drivers who are looking for the next challenge which also carries the opportunity to race in Europe and possibly the Grand Finals, given enough speed and good fortune.

 

Micromax is also set to get started in the UK for the Cadet age group. This version of the Junior or Mini engine has been successful in other world markets including France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the USA. Here in the UK the engine does not immediately concur with the MSA blueprint for a Cadet class. Unfortunate as that may be, the class has a very important role to play in encouraging this age group to progress from leisure karting into competition and eventually MSA racing.

According to National Karting Association figures, MSA licence holders account for a fraction of a percent of the paying public who enjoy a spell behind the wheel of a kart in any given year. It has to be a very worthwhile project to encourage as many of these enthusiasts as possible to progress to mainstream or should I say MSA racing?

 

Plans are being made to launch a serious assault on this project for 2014. Both Micromax and DD2 complement the existing range of Rotax Max engines. The Micromax could easily run for a couple of seasons without any need for service work. The engine is so under-stressed that the internal components are found to last almost indefinitely. Furthermore, the engine can be converted to Mini or Junior format in minutes. It is therefore extremely cost-effective and user-friendly.

 

Existing Junior or Mini engines are equally easy to convert to Micro, conversion components come as a kit of parts which a Service Centre could install on a while you wait basis if required.

 

The Micromax class has the blessing of a growing number of the major teams, clubs and circuits throughout the country. JAG Engineering have been cautious to introduce the class, but now have so many enquiries that going ahead is the only option.

 

The Micromax will fit directly onto any existing Cadet kart with a right hand engine mount. The mount itself has the same bolt spacing as a Comer and the exhaust is designed to go straight across the back of the kart parallel to the axle. With the single addition of an exhaust bracket the kart is ready to go.

 

The advantage of the fixed jet carburettor is ease of use and no necessity for the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel to keep the jet adjustment on song. Jetting is made simple by the use of a carburettor restrictor and very low compression that gives the engine an excellent band of power well suited to both the novice and the more experienced pilot.

 

At last the rain has stopped, or at least slowed down. The good news is that the lost entries over the winter are in recovery, indeed some of the smaller clubs are reporting a good level of growth in the Max classes. Particularly strong is Minimax. Over the past years there has been strong support for Cadets. This has often been referred to as the Hamilton effect. These Cadets have now come of age to move up, for them Minimax has been their choice.

 

Bearing in mind that the Max engine has been in circulation for over fifteen years it is remarkable that even those very early engines are still in circulation. I saw one recently that had still got its original seal and was being raced by a novice who was totally happy with it. I dare say that there have been gradual improvements in the engines over the years, but it is a great testament to the original concept that it has had such a long and successful career. A career that shows no sign of slowing down.

 

The Max concept was in part adopted by the CIK for the KF formulae, the part adopted missed some of the vital elements. The result, an unmitigated disaster for the sport as a whole. In terms of regulation the international governing body has taken a direction that cannot be described as a success for the good of the future of the sport. This unfortunate state of affairs has given the great stability of the Rotax classes a chance to shine and to grow at a rate that could never have been foreseen. The greatest responsibility we have is to ensure that we offer the karting enthusiast as fair and level playing field as is possible. This is also the responsibility of the governing body and their officials.

 

In July we will have a round of the Euromax Challenge at PFI. The circuit and their officials have successfully run a number of International events now so are well up to the task of hosting an RGMMC event on behalf of BRP Rotax. The DD2 class will be out in force as will the Seniors and Juniors. I am sure it will be a great event and attract a very full entry.

 

Any enquiries on Rotax related issues are always welcome, please contact info@jag-rotax.co.uk or myself directly on george@george-robinson.co.uk.