Tag Archives: karting equipment

Preparing for karting – Fitness & Equipment

Fitness
Karting is a physically demanding sport. The first thing to suffer when a driver isn’t
fit enough to race is their concentration, the focus required to hit apexes, overtake drivers and win races. Often there is an extended break over the winter period between races and if the driver doesn’t take part in any testing as well, their first day back in the kart can be a shock to the system due to the fact that karting uses such specific muscles. While a healthy cardio fitness will help, running, cycling, swimming etc, it is more important for a good level of strength in the upper body, core and neck. Drivers don’t necessarily need to attend the gym to work on the upper body and core, there are a number of home workouts that can be found.

Equipment
Karts, just like drivers, need saving from the elements. All equipment being carried over to following season should be cared for appropriately, it is good practise to keep engines out of the cold or to drain all the water from the radiators in order to avoid them cracking if they freeze. It is important to clean all equipment and check it for any potential problems, this will avoid time wasted the next time out. It is important to ‘shakedown’ this equipment before the first race. Year Plan With some time off from racing, drivers can plan their year ahead in terms of which series they may wish to compete in, or which events they want to do. This often comes down to the time and budget available, this of course is unique to each driver but the same theory applies. There are a large number of things that need to be done just to get the kart out on the track. This includes: arranging all the equipment and preparing it, transporting it to the circuit, setting up at the circuit, entry fees, memberships, licences etc. Mistakes come with stress as actions become rushed and focus isn’t on the job in hand. The driver should plot a calendar before the beginning of the season, highlighting key events, it should include all test days.

Blagging a free BRB karting suit

Written by Jerry Thurston

Ed_Thurston_Kitted

I have often banged on about how paddock presence and a professional look need not come at a premium cost. About how things like smart overalls and team shirts cost very little and make a heck of a difference to the way even a dad’s ‘n’ lads operation looks.

I also acknowledge that for those who are able or willing to spend some extra there will also be opportunity to go the extra distance to stand further apart from the herd. Custom helmet designs are probably the most visible, you only need to flick through the pages of Karting magazine to realise that they are probably top of every driver’s list of must-have items.

A plain helmet and one that features an outstanding design are, as a safety item, exactly the same, but as a get-you-noticed tool they are miles apart. However, I lose count of how many times I’ve seen very expensive custom painted helmets teamed with ‘works’ driving suits. I’m not going to re-visit my tirade about paying through the nose to advertise somebody else’s product. Suffice to say, if you are going to pay top-dollar for a helmet and team it with a similarly top-of-the-range race suit, it had better suit your advertising purposes not somebody else’s.

I have always tried to practice what I preach, always using suits that were embroidered with little more than the driver’s name. I could also see that there was massive opportunity to utilise the advertising potential of the driver’s suit. But where you might get a bespoke suit appeared to be one of the best kept secrets in the business. I had a couple of half-hearted attempts to find somebody and then pretty much gave up, that was until I spotted a banner at Whilton Mill – “BRB GP Racing… “UK’s No. 1 custom suit designers, dare to be different”. This piqued my interest.

We initially met up with with the BRB team when they were exhibiting at the 2012 KartMania show. The principal is Benjamin Bailey who is a graduate of St Martin’s University of the Arts in London. He founded the company in July 2011 after he turned up at the Le Mans 24 hour race in a £300 suit thinking that this would make him stand out, only to find, as he puts it… “Half a dozen guys wearing the same thing!” Keeping on top of BRB GP plus his photographic and multi-media design businesses proved to be a herculean task so now he’s now more than ably assisted by business graduate Jack Stanley who showed a keen interest in the business and after several meetings was brought on-board and very shortly appointed as ‘managing director’. As Benjamin himself says “As CEO/Founder I could then leave him in charge and report back to me on a day to day basis, focusing all my attentions on the design, fabrication and manufacturing”.

If the combination of design meets sound business sense is not enough, they can wheel out their additional unique selling point. Both guys are keen karters, Benjamin was brought up in the motorsport industry and started karting at 6. They feel that actually competing in the sport that they manufacture for has led to a proper understanding of what does and what doesn’t work in suit construction. They know that you need to be comfortable so their suits feature thing like stretch panels and floating sleeves. Comfort is also about how the suit fits which has further led them to develop a suit specifically tailored to the female form.

Benjamin certainly knows where his company is going. “My goal and ambitions for BRB GP Racing are to produce more products and create new products that don’t exist in the market, to release a full range of female karting suits. We are the first company in the entire world to produce a full bespoke female karting suit which was unveiled on November 17th 2012 at the KartMania show in the Silverstone Wing. It was a very proud moment viewing my work being modelled on the expo stage being announced by KartMania organiser Martin Capenhurst. This is a breakthrough in the karting industry, for all female kart drivers not having to make do wearing men’s suits.” He goes on to say “BRB GP is further offering bespoke gloves, boots, along with the CIK approved suits and accessories including neck supports, rib protectors, knee and elbow protectors plus bespoke team wear. We have also designed and fabricated many Superkart suits including suits for Paul Platt, the British 2011 & 2012 MSA Superkart champion”. What better way to get to see what this up and coming company can do than to throw a design brief at them and see what happens?

Although Benjamin can come up with a design without any input from the customer, he would always prefer to design using the customer’s ideas and influence, this after all will be their suit not his. Our suit which is to be used in this year’s RetroRacer historic series needed to be retro-themed with a modern twist. For inspiration we emailed half a dozen colour pictures of racing in the mid 1970s, a picture of the kart being driven during last year and a couple of images of original Deavinsons chassis stickers. This package gave him a good idea of the range of colours both used in the day and being used on the kart at present.

On the appointed day we showed up at his impressively technically-equipped studio with the driver’s crash helmet for additional inspiration. Already on the wall was a mood-board filled with the images we had provided.

The design process starts with an electronically created blank image, the outline of a suit which is filled with the desired base colours followed by trim tweaks and logos. It is gradually built up layer upon layer. “You could have this… or what about this?” If you like it the tweak stays in, if not it’s got rid of and something else is tried. It takes a minimum of a couple of hours to come up with even a relatively uncomplicated design, the really involved ones take a huge amount of time to get right. You’d be surprised how combinations of colours that an amateur think might work just don’t look right when laid on the template. To illustrate, we first suggested an orange base colour with blue trim – not a happy combination as they looked like American prison overalls. However, when Benjamin suggested that the colours were reversed, it all came together.

BRB have a policy of charging a standard price for all their custom designed suits. All are £286 no matter how complicated they are. This figure would sit them very comfortably within the ready to wear bracket, it seems to be a snip for a bespoke suit. Uniquely designed boots and gloves complete the picture, these too took a surprising amount of input to get a clean cohesive design.

BRB quote 4 to 6 weeks from completion of design to delivery. However, ours took a while longer. Perhaps so far as a quick turnaround goes, showing up for the design session only a few days before the Christmas holidays might not have been the brightest thing we’ve ever done. Our suit was ready a little into March, but boy, we think that it was worth the wait.

It was decided to take the final pictures at a Pro-Kart meeting at Whilton Mill in order to get a race-background for the some of the shots. Although we thought the suit looked great we’ll freely admit that as it’s our own design there has to be some bias. It was the reaction from drivers at the meeting that was most gratifying, several commented on how good the retro-themed design looked, surely this must be conclusive proof if it were needed.

I’ll leave the last words to Benjamin. “We strive for perfection in everything we do. We take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, we design it! Design is limited by your imagination, we at BRB GP Racing dare to be different…” Enough said really.

You’ve come along way, baby

DSCF1147Given that early kart racing was on all manner of surfaces and the drivers completely exposed, it’s surprising that complete facial protection for drivers wasn’t fully embraced sooner. Adam Jones visited Arai Europe’s headquarters in Holland with Junior Max star – and newly-appointed Arai Driver Programme member – Jack Barlow to learn more about the science of safety.

Long before karts were invented, head wear in motorsport was little more than a tweed cap and goggles. This then developed into a toughened leather affair before evolving into a fibre-glass-shelled, open-face helmet. In F1, it wasn’t until 1968 when Dan Gurney introduced an innovation he’d first seen at a dirt-track motorcycle event in Los Angeles, that a full-face helmet was seen at the highest level. Remarking on the helmet’s performance at the Nurburgring Grand Prix, and in subsequent races, he said, “It was such a big leap forward it was sensational.”

In Japan, over a decade before this momentous event, Hirotake Arai – the son of a hat-maker and a keen motorcyclist to boot – had developed his groundbreaking concept of a hard outer shell with a soft inner liner. In 1967 the first full-face helmet was manufactured in Japan.

As the brand continued to innovate and became increasingly popular on the motorcycle scene, in 1983 Ferry Brouwer established Arai Europe in his home town of Hoevelaken. Twenty three years later, with the offices relocated to a quiet industrial estate at nearby Amersfoort, the Arai Innovation Centre was created.

Driving down a rural, single-track road just outside of Hoevelaken past neat small-holdings with chickens and goats, we reach a rather nondescript, windowless building. Our host Sander knocks on a door and we wait several moments before it is opened and a genial face appears. As Jack, Toby Warrington (of Arai’s UK importers Phoenix Distribution), F1 Racing Editor, Hans Seeberg and I step into the unit, we are greeted by an astonishing site. Hundreds of helmets are suspended above our heads us on two walls, creating a stupefying Who’s Who of Arai wearers.

Because, as any neurosurgeon will tell you, the brain is a highly delicate organ with the consistency of thick porridge and is so soft it can’t support its own weight, protecting it is vitally important. Even with the aid of cerebrospinal fluid and the hard, tough shell of the skull, your brain is susceptible to trauma. In bike accidents, you go to the damaging object(s); trees, kerbs, other vehicles, the road, etc whilst in car accidents, more often than not, the object comes to you. In karting, the hazards are an amalgam of the two. Arai’s aim is to protect your brain, and consequently every part of one of their helmets is designed to have a particular function.

Making each Arai helmet follows a series of painstaking processes, with technicians doing all but one stage of the construction by hand. Once a design has been approved, a 1:1 clay mould will be made. From the resultant physical model, data is then input into a 3D computer which controls a milling machine. This can create a metal mould overnight – rather than the previous three weeks by hand.

With the mould ready, Arai technicians then build the helmet’s outer shell from ‘super fibres’. These are formed by being spun out of a colander-like device and knitting together to form the ‘hood’. Super fibres differ from ordinary glass fibre by being curly rather than straight, forming a far more robust material when woven together. Once complete, the fibre hood is then thoroughly checked. A material called Xylon – which is similar to Kevlar, and has to be cut by laser as it is too tough for scissors – is layered in to add strength in the areas potentially weakened by ventilation holes and prevent penetration from objects.

All the fibre materials are then carefully placed in the heated steel mould, a coffee cup-sized amount of resin is added and then what can only be described as a heavy duty balloon is inserted into the middle. This is then inflated to press the materials to the outer walls of the mould and baked in an autoclave at 180 degrees C for 14 minutes. Once it is ready, the new helmet shell is removed by hand and checked for consistent thickness. Arai’s expert technicians carefully measure it to ensure that it is neither too thick nor thin and will reject anything that is less than perfect. If the putative helmet passes muster, then automated laser cutters – the only non-human part of the construction process – will create the visor aperture and chin piece slots in just 30 seconds. A ‘birth certificate’ is inserted – identifying such details as its size, the number of ventilation holes (eg: W7 for seven vents) model number and the person who made it.

The helmet is then taken to the paint shop where it is sanded down, given a base coat, sanded, filler added, sanded and then sprayed white (for all motorsport and karting helmets). The ventilation holes are then drilled, trim rubbers added and the chin strap fixed. The inner shell is then carefully brought together with the outer, checked before the lining is inserted. The finished helmet is then polished, checked and packaged for distribution.

Of course, knowing that the helmet is so conscientiously and meticulously crafted is one thing – knowing that it will exceed all standards of performance, is another.

After the genial Mario van Rooijen has gone to great lengths to demonstrate each stage of construction and explained that it takes twenty hours to make a top of the range GP-6 RC carbon fibre shell, and that each finished article is the work of at least three people, it’s time to put one through its paces.

 

As his colleague René Steenbeek fits a GP-5 to a machine that tests shock absorption, Mario tells an anecdote about Cristijan Albers getting over-excited at a DTM race and gleefully throwing his helmet into the crowd. The trouble was, it was a unique, carbon fibre prototype worth over 15,000 euros. Incredibly, Arai personnel were able to recover it. Whether this was in return for a few Albers replicas was neither denied nor confirmed.

With his rig ready, René takes over to demonstrate the rigorous tests a helmet must go through before it can pass the Snell standard and Arai’s own exacting expectations. He releases the helmet from a height of three metres and it plummets onto a flat, metal anvil. Cracks appear in the outer shell. We all wince, but he and Mario smile appreciatively. Moments later, it has been dropped onto a hemispherical anvil. More crazing on the white gel coat appears but the helmet remains fundamentally intact. So René drops into on edge anvil and again the GP-5 stands firm, albeit with increasingly flaking paintwork.

Next René (who could easily pass for Jos Verstappen’s brother) shows us the penetration test. A rather frightening-looking, heavy metal spike is dropped onto the forehead section of the helmet, punching a hole through the outer shell but in no way the inner lining. He does it again from a greater height and we run our fingers inside the helmet to see if anything has given way. It has not.

The guys show us some of the other equipment used in their secretive helmet torture lab, to burn, bake, freeze, soak, irradiate, rasp, tug, pull bounce and pummel to destruction. Not content with brutalizing their own products, Arai test their rivals’. Whilst it would be wrong to mention the results of those experiments – which we saw for ourselves – an illuminated sign above our heads said it all: Arai – This is the difference.