Tag Archives: starting karting

Your Essential Karting Checklist

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GETTING STARTED? Here’s your list of essentials plus the extra bits you’ll need…

Similar to most sports, karting has a list of regulations that the driver’s race wear must conform to, plus a large number of styles and trends set by the world’s leading kart racing icons.

Before buying any item of racewear it is important it confirms to the appropriate safety standards set for karting. The compulsory items you’ll need are:

Helmet – This is an item that the driver should not scrimp on and generally the more money spent, the better the quality. Expect to pay upwards of £300 for a good quality helmet. It is important to purchase one with a tight fit as the foam generally expands over time. The helmet must also be comfortable in terms of the weight, the driver must be able to handle the weight of it throughout a race distance, this is especially important in the younger drivers. Bell, Arai and Stilo are currently popular brands.

Race suit – Drivers will often purchase either the kart manufacturers suit or if they are racing with a team, their suit. It is more of a preference thing, in terms of following the fashion of the sport. There are a large number of suits in the market, with all kinds of different styles. It is important for the driver to try on a number of suits, walk around in them and bend each of their limbs. Sometimes drivers will have different suits for summer and winter in order to either cool down or keep warm. Expect to pay around £150-250

Gloves – Gloves must ultimately be comfortable for the driver to wear throughout the race meeting. It is important to find a glove that correctly supports the palm of the driver’s hands and their fingers; if this is overlooked they can cause extremely painful blisters. Similar to the suits the driver can choose to have thinner gloves for summer and thicker ones in the winter if their budget is sufficient. They generally cost around £50-100

Boots – When purchasing boots, the driver must look for a comfortable pair that supports their ankle. Remember that generally the driver will spend their entire weekend in these boots, so they can’t afford for them to cause discomfort. Due to the fact that they are normally in use all weekend, they do tend to wear more than the other race wear items, unfortunately they are not priced any cheaper for this, expect to pay around £75 for a pair of race boots.

There are a large number of other items that drivers can choose to buy for comfort reasons, they include:

Neck Brace – there are two types of neck brace which include a foam version which is generally cheaper and the helmet generally just sits on top of it, the other is a more solid construction similar to those used in motocross. The foam versions are around £45 with the Leatt neck braces costing around £300. Both provide comfort to the driver in different ways, they are popular among younger drivers due to their weaker necks.

Rib Protectors – Due to the fast and bumpy nature of most tracks and the little protection to the body provided by the seat, most drivers opt to buy themselves a rib protector. Anyone who has bruised or cracked a rib will tell you just how little fun the six weeks rest period is incredibly dull and uncomfortable. There are again foam versions and more solid types, most drivers choose to spend more money on purchasing the solid types due to a higher level of protection. Expect to pay around £100 for the better rib protectors.

Wetsuits – Unfortunately getting wet comes hand in hand with racing in the UK, even in the height of summer, a driver can find themselves looking at a huge amount of spray coming off the kart in front of them. There are very few drivers who will tell you they like wearing a wetsuit, they are awkward, hot and heavy. However they provide protection from getting soaking wet and freezing cold so they are fundamental part to any driver’s race kit. Expect to buy a couple in a year’s racing due to the fact they split and then don’t ultimately do their job, the clear ones are more comfortable because they are light but they split easier than non-plastic ones. Expect to pay around £40 for a wetsuit.

Knee and elbow pads – Due to the vigorous nature of the sport, bumps and bruises will occur just from simply putting in a few hot laps. Over time the body will tend to become used to it if the driver is racing often enough, however for the drivers who aren’t protective pads can be bought. They are generally priced at around £30-£40.

On top of the race wear, there are a large number of items that an owner-driver will want to purchase, these include:

Transport – Most importantly a driver will need some form of transport to get the kart and everything else involved to the circuit. There are a rather large number of methods of doing this, with very few ideas not having been tried. It is largely budget restricted, but a good trailer towed by the family car, or a van will suffice. As long as it is large enough to carry everything required in a safe manner in which nothing can be damaged, it is good enough.

Kart Trolley – A good sturdy kart trolley is required to work on the kart and transport it from the pit space to the circuit. There are a large number of varieties but the popular option tends to be a four wheeled trolley, two castor wheels and two larger inflatable wheels, with a tray for the toolbox and spare tyres. This will come in handy in changeable conditions when waiting on the dummy grid. Expect to replace the inflatable trolley wheels as they tend to either burst or get a puncture on the rougher paddocks. Budget for £200 but it’s well worth spending as anyone who has endured a weekend with a poor handling trolley will tell you.

Tools – There is an endless number of tools that can be purchased to make the mechanics job easier, a good range of spanners, screwdrivers and sockets will suffice to start with. It is a good idea to speak other drivers/ teams/manufacturers competing within the same class to find out about special tools that may be available, such as the rotax clutch stop. Tools vary in price massively but generally the more money spent the better the quality, with a number of them giving a life time when bought.

Data loggers – Lots of data can be taken from a kart which can be great in helping to set the kart up and maximise the performance from the driver, it also allows the driver to keep an eye on engine temperature and their lap times. The mychron system is the most popular, with a large number of add-ons that can be purchased to go with it, however the alfano and PI systems are relatively popular. It is important for the driver to decide what they feel they would benefit from and then choose one to suit. Expect to pay around £200.

Awning – With the forever varying weather in the UK, a driver may need to protect themselves from the sunshine or the rain. Pop-up gazebos are available from most kart shops but can also be bought in outdoor shops, it is worth spending a little more on buying a sturdier awning as the wind and rain can often cause large amounts of damage. Expect to pay around £200-£300

Generator/compressor – A compressor and an appropriate generator to power it will need to be purchased in order to pump air into the tyres, there a huge number of brands for both with the better brands costing a larger amount.

I’m afraid to say, this list will grow! Whenever possible talk to the people in the know, understanding that most business types within the karting world have a motive. Huge budget drivers can spend their money as they please but the drivers with a smaller budget must be smarter with how they spend it and as long as you do your research you’ll find value for money.

Check out the following reliable mail-order karting companies: www.demon-tweeks.co.uk / www.kartpartsuk.com / www.kkckartshop.com / www.wizzkarts.com

[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was first published in Karting magazine. Subscribe to Karting magazine here and get three issues for just £1.[/box]

 

Focus On : TYRO

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The ‘TYRO’ class is designed to give youngsters a crucial step into racing without breaking the (your) bank.

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There’s a relatively new class called TYRO, a low budget class designed to get more kids into karting. The series launched in March 2013 and provides those initial and important ‘first steps’ and helps to encourage the family atmosphere that karting can do so well but can also be lacking from other series. It’s a cost-effective series to compete in, with drivers between the ages of 11 and 15 getting out on track. The series is on a level-playing field, with driver skill being the key point. The class not only provdes a place to race but also a training ground for skills development. The series was founded by Father and son, Steve and Gary Chapman, along with Tim Gillard. Together they have over a century of experience within many different aspects of karting, and run the club championship-style series Rissington Kart Club.

Who better than this trio to get any budding World Champion the best of starts possible? There are nine drivers that compete at Rissington on the first weekend of every month; starting in March over ten race weekends. The MSA-recognized class is growing in numbers and recognition, as they have also been invited to race meetings at Shenington, Fulbeck and the forthcoming National Championship event of NatSKA at Whilton Mill in July. THE KART: The Gillard Junior TYRO is the uniform kart used in the series, with Tim himself being a part of the Motor Sports Association Kart Technical Working Group, having built karts in varying competitions. It conforms to international bodywork specifications, as well as being powered by a 95cc Radne Raket engine, which is a TAG (Touch And Go) unit that only needs to be routinely maintained ‘TYRO’ every 50 hours. It runs on Heidenau RDD intermediate tyres, which allow the kart to predictably slide, giving the driver vital experience of throttle and steering control. The engine and gear ratios are sealed, which prevents premature wear and ensures reliability. This also adds to that cost-effective ethos that is a key part of the concept.

The only adjustments that can be made to the kart is tyre pressures and wheel positions, which gives that emphasis on driver progression, but also helps to get the family involved all round. No further costs or upgrades can be made, as it provides a steady set of rules for all to follow. Drivers get up to two ‘taster’ sessions, costing £127 plus VAT, where equipment is provided. That way, families can get a feel for what’s involved before diving in at the deep end. One of the benefits of TYRO is that drivers don’t need to pay for the ARKS test, medical and MSA Pack that cost up to £250. Costs are further reduced as the awning and race management is provided through Protrain Racing, meaning drivers have less kit to buy and they can all club together in a communal space.

We spoke with Steve Chapman, one of the TYRO founders. Stevey believes that TYRO brings back that family aspect of karting that is missing in a lot of the lower tiers. “We encourage the family to come along and be a part of it, as it really is part and parcel of what karting is meant to be about. It is all about having fun and enjoying the racing and remaining friends throughout. The children may be fighting on track, but they are clearly friends off it. We even had a lovely BBQ last year, which makes it so worthwhile.” he said. Driver Aiden Rudge, who is leading the series, which doesn’t actually have an overall title, explained how much training actually goes on during the weekends: “The new people get taught how to drive, told about the rules, regulations and flags.

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There are always people around who know everything about the kart as well.” Olivia Holt, who also races in the series, summed up her love for the sport, having truly been bitten by the racing bug: “I can’t stop karting, as it is in my blood.” COSTS: The kart itself is £2948 plus VAT to purchase, and also comes with a TYRO membership. A kart trolley costs around £160. Tyres cost around £100 a set. Entry fees for a race weekend, including a test day are £105, but will be reduced by a further £10 per day of testing and racing if a karting club membership is purchased at £60 per year. Budget around £500 for race wear including a helmet. All in all, it would be around £1444 per year of competition per driver, which makes TYRO one of the most appealing series to start off in at around £28 per week. TYRO proves that racing isn’t just about winning. Sure, winning counts for a lot but along the way, many clubs and series may have forgotten that people kart for more than just trophies; they do it to learn new skills, make life-long friends, spend time together as a family and most of all, they do it to have fun!

BKIA – Industry body assisting karters

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BKIA Chairman Martin Collard

Although the British Kart Industry Association (http://www.bkia.co.uk) is often seen as a trade bloc for the UK’s karting-related companies, as the “Industry” association the organisation is there to benefit everyone in karting. As their website says “the BKIA is a non-regulatory, not for profit, trade association representing the views and interests of its members – the British kart trade. It also aims to help and protect karters and newcomers to the sport”.
Martin Collard, owner of Dartford Karting, has been chairman for the last year, and Paul Gladstone is the administrator.
A new business doesn’t automatically get to join, and will be given a list of requirements, and engine builders will be inspected. Once approved, they must adhere to the BKIA’s comprehensive Code of Conduct which includes selling safe and legal products and supporting chassis and engines for at least the period the product was homologated for plus another three years. The definitive list of members is on the website at http://bit.ly/dxxWMl and includes manufacturers, retailers and associated businesses.
In a sport where many people go into business as the next step after they stop racing, there can be potential for problems when they don’t attend to the boring minutiae that is essential for running a business in a risky sport. For example, to be a member of the BKIA a company must have adequate insurance. It could be needed if a driver is injured on the track due to negligence, or if a team looks after equipment for a customer and it gets stolen, which is unfortunately getting more common. On a similar note, a trader who imports a less common product whose stock is stolen could go out of business if it isn’t covered and leave racers with no source of parts.

The BKIA also works with the MSA Kart Regional Committee to make sure any regulation changes are as cheap and convenient as possible for competitors. For example, the introduction of the new CMR childrens’ helmets was delayed after the BKIA put forward their opinion. The same thing happened when the Blue Book mandated the CIK08 bodywork, which the MSA hadn’t realised was the previous version and was now not available, and discussions are in progress about the ban on chassis protectors (see Noteworthy, p16) without which some chassis won’t last.

Complaints that pricing isn’t consistent, for example between a shop and their trackside outlet, are also investigated, but fortunately no one has had to be expelled due to unfair trading.

Areas that the BKIA is moving into now are group discounts and training sessions. The Association is in the process of negotiating a discount with Premier Inns for kart racers at hotels near circuits on race weekends, and if that is successful look out for more deals. Dannie Pennell of Dadson Motorsport is planning to introduce training to help beginners get started, which will be under the BKIA banner.

The BKIA will also arbitrate in disputes between consumers and traders to find a solution that is fair to both sides. A racer bought a chassis from a well-known British company and it broke, and a replacement was supplied which broke again and the matter went to the BKIA. After some investigation, it was found that the kart had been crashed and it wasn’t as clear a case of a faulty product as it first seemed. After mediation the company offered a discount on a kart and both parties interests were protected. Anyone with a problem with a BKIA member company should call the administrator Paul Gladstone on 01903 241921 or email info@bkia.co.uk.
Helping out racers as outlined above also helps the traders, as they can have confidence that if a commercial relationship breaks down then they won’t get ripped off by someone trying their luck. Lobbying the MSA is a positive too, as although it could be seen as ideal to the industry if everyone is forced to buy an upgraded widget, in reality it is contrary to the long-term health of the sport as many people will lose patience and spend their hard-earned cash elsewhere.

Setting up insurance is less painful too, as the BKIA has affiliated brokers with schemes for the kart trade.

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The BKIA promote the sport and will sponsor this year’s KartMania show

JAG and Zip have agreed to require prospective Rotax and Comer sealing agents respectively to be members of the BKIA as any problems with companies they have endorsed can reflect badly on them, so the safeguards are very welcome. Anyone homologating a Cadet chassis with the MSA needs to be a member as well, and major traders like Dartford Karting only give trade prices to members.

If your dealer is a BKIA member, it demonstrates their commitment to the sport, and in fact most members have been in karting for a long time. However, newer companies are very welcome and there are concrete advantages as well as increasing consumer confidence.

A Beginner’s Diary: Part 4 – Into the Fray

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Leaving the pits for my first race heat seemed a pretty comfortable experience. After the practice of the previous day, there was a familiar routine to getting the kart round on cold tyres while keeping up the pace with the drivers ahead. The “Esses” at Forest Edge in Hampshire were no longer the obstacles of dread. So as the karts in front weaved left-right to get heat into the tyres, I followed the herd on this Sunday morning. This weekend I came armed with 8 fewer kilos at the scales after a crash diet, so could enjoy the luxury of adding weight to the kart to get to 177kg, as well as a better fitting suit.

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One thing I hadn’t tried before was the rolling start and it was uppermost in my mind through the decent into the “Wingers Dip” and the long rise through the back of the circuit. To get things moving, half the track was cut off for the rolling start which meant short-circuiting the Bus Stop chicane along this back straight. As the pack turned right, I caught sight of the lights over the start-finish line and realised that now it was racing — For Real ™. Except that it wasn’t as the pack wasn’t properly formed up so another lap we did. Good news for me as it always takes three laps to get any decent heat into my tyres.

 

So back through the Esses, Wingers and Up Hill the karts flowed once again. As we reached the chicane, the pack was properly assembled and after the turn right, this time it was going to happen. A second later, 125cc engines roared like the Charge of the Light Brigade. My 28-odd horses were in full flight past the start-finish line, but quite a distance back from the kart ahead. I didn’t care too much as crashing at Haynes Loop was something to be avoided like the plague. Starting at the back was probably a good idea as the pack soon peeled off into the distance.

 

The first few laps were conservative even by my standards, but I stayed on track and passed a couple of drivers who’d ended up in the dirt. By lap three I was in full flight, caning chicanes with wild abandon and hammering through Haynes with all the grip my CRG machine could muster. This was awesome fun. It wasn’t long before the inevitable blue flag was waved in front to signal the fastest karts were behind me and needed to pass. I moved offline to allow them to keep their fast lines and race pace. Then — as if from nowhere — the chequered flag appeared – just as I was getting going.

 

As we peeled off the track I was relieved I had finished in one piece. Soon I was back at the Wright Technology Centre, where my Race Engineer, David, assessed the performance. “A bad start …” he rightly concluded. Rather than keep close to the back end of the machine in front, I was so far back Cornwall was in sight. I knew to be really competitive you needed to literally push the kart in front over the start but I’ll try that when I get more experienced. Analysis of my lap times on the Mychron 4 revealed consistent 47s laps which was brilliant for me. On the weekend session beforehand 49s felt to be on the ragged edge so “seat time” was really paying dividends. David’s father, Colin, asked how the kart felt and to me it was great … lots of preparation the previous day had delivered a really good set up.

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Saturday’s work was invaluable and I strongly advise all newly-approved ARKS racers to do as much as possible. I’d reached the stage where I was no longer fighting the kart, instead easing it through the twists and turns of the track. I was still a few seconds off race pace but I’m confident this will fall with more driving. Another experienced 177 driver at Forest Edge is Chris Hartridge, whose son also races with Wright Racing. First thing that day, he and David took me on a track walk and talked through each corner for grip, entry point, throttle and braking position. It was an excellent lesson in preparation. For example, going into the Bus Stop, I should blip the throttle to pump fuel into the carburettor and that should make it much more throttle responsive out of the corner. On the exit, I should also take some kerb as the slight unloading of the kart will allow the engine to build revs more quickly in time for the straight. It made a difference.

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Another tip is to gauge performance with another competitor. There are six 177 ARKS newbies, and my chosen “shadow” is Rob Ruddy. He’s a bit faster than me and a bit more fluent around the track. By using him as a benchmark I’ll hopefully improve at a realistic rate. I put that into effect during Saturday practice and examined where he was strong and less strong on track. I’d discovered I could catch him through the corners but lost him in the straights. Haynes gave me good traction and exit speed and by the time of the Esses I could get close to Rob. Another opportunity was into Wingers – and it was here I tried an overtaking move. As we accelerated through Down Hill, Rob left the door open through Ansons turn, so I dived into the gap. We were wheel-to-wheel as both karts emerged from the corner on full throttle. Forces were pushing my kart towards the outer edge of the track and this, of course, was where Rob was positioned. He ended up with two wheels on the dirt as I pushed through the corner, but thankfully nothing more dramatic than that. It felt like a good move, albeit perhaps a bit too ambitious on my part.

 

Attaching yourself to a team is a must for the new driver. The experience of those in the know vastly outweighs the costs. On one of my practice laps, I lost all power though Haynes and coasted into the pits. God knows what had gone wrong. Back at the WTC, David and Colin set about the fault finding process with careful examination of the carburettor, fuel pump etc… The fault was traced back to a dead spark plug, something which also drastically curtailed the success of Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull in Bahrain a couple of weeks later.

 

While they don’t all cost of the earth, replacing parts does mount up. During one of the Sunday heats, while negotiating Haynes, I was whacked up the rear and the front of the CRG ended up tangled in the steering mechanism of Rob’s kart. The pile up was caused by another newbie barrelling in further back on cold brakes and tyres. My first reaction to this first racing accident was to throw my hands in the air and swear into the helmet. Once I had engaged brain, I realised I needed to get going. Un-mating the CRG from Rob’s chassis got me moving once again – with no apparent damage. The kart felt good through the Esses and into Wingers. It was only on my return to the pits that I discovered the right hand-steering track rod was bent like a banana. A quick repair job got me out on track for the 177 Final. Race completed, we waited for the results and it wasn’t a huge surprise to learn I was last – even though I finished. But the differences with the winner, Nick Maton, were stark. His average speed was 52.10mph, mine was 46.22mph; his best lap was 43.19s, mine was 47.31s. Also, the fastest guys were quickest around lap three; the novices mostly lap 6 to 8. More homework needed on where I’m losing time and more seat time for sure (I already have a few ideas).

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Even though karting is seen my many outside the sport as a bit of recreational fun on a Saturday, it’s interesting to see current F1 drivers using karting as a serious training tool. Last year it was no surprise that Michael Schumacher trained on KZ-class machinery to see how his neck – and general fitness – were coping. The lack of power steering and considerable forces on the body make it a discipline to keep establish racers “honest”. Felipe Massa at the Bahrain Grand Prix also referred to karting during his rehabilitation. And it was heartening of all to learn that Mark Webber had got out in a Rotax machine a week before this year’s Australian Grand Prix – albeit for fun more than anything. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see him at Forest Edge. I’d even bring a few tinnies for that Saturday evening.

 

Next time: Forest Edge track gets an overhaul – with awesome results

 

 

 

 

PICTURE CAPTION TEXT:

 

Kart_1: 8 kilos lighter meant a new suit

Picture: Stephen Rees

 

Kart_2: Charging through “Haynes” – great grip out of this corner

Picture: Stephen Rees

 

Kart_3: On the brakes into the tight “Bus Stop” chicane

Picture: Stephen Rees

 

Combat_1: Battling with Rob Roddy into “Wingers Dip”

Picture: Edward Partridge

 

Combat_3: Closing in for the pass on my fellow ARKS novice

Picture: Edward Partridge

 

Combat_4: “…I have you now young Skywalker….”

Picture: Edward Partridge

 

Chris_H: Chris Hartridge’s invaluable track walk and tips saved at least a second during practice

[note to Mark: his name is spelt correctly] No picture credit needed

 

Pack: The kart in front is – whatever you like apart from mine

Picture: Edward Partridge

 

Spark_plug: Race engineer David isolating the cause of engine failure: a dead spark plug

No picture credit needed

 

Wheels: Colin Wright using lasers to adjust toe-in

No picture credit needed

 

Wheels_2: Colin Wright using lasers to adjust toe-in

No picture credit needed

 

Gearbox: Gearbox boys waiting for the green flag for practice

Picture: Edward Partridge

Beginner’s Diary: Crash and Burn

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Chris was having a good day before he scared himself and his wallet!

Up until this point, it had all been going swimmingly well. The previous practice session saw my best performance to date in the kart at Forest Edge in Hampshire. The fast run-up to the bus stop chicane was particularly memorable for a rather audacious overtaking move – which actually worked. I knew my victim was vulnerable when he kept looking behind him rather than focusing on his line.

 So by the time of the next session, my spirits were high. The kart was feeling good, even with the same tyres which had been running since last summer with some five hours of life on them. I’d got used to predicting the sliding nature of the machine through the corners and judging how fast to push it through the new fast right-hand corner at Wingers Dip. And boy is it fast now. The approach has been straightened so entry speeds are much faster into the turn where skilled drivers pull up to 3G. Plus the fact that the corner is off-camber makes it a hugely challenging section and a joy to attack.

On this subsequent practice session, the track was a little damp and this made it all a bit more fun. I was closing in on a couple of guys in front too and settling down into the rhythm of a race. The ultra-slow corner just before the start / finish line was uneventful … in fact too much so as I can never get enough speed coming out of the turn to maximise my exit over the curb. But once away over the start I can generally floor it through the subsequent corner before braking into a right-hander near the entrance to the pits. Getting on the power early here is vital to getting a good approach to the next re-profiled corner, which heralds the beginning of the new straight.

But something was not quite right.

After pumping the throttle out of Haynes Loop, I released for a dab of brakes for the next corner. Trouble was there was no release and as I turned the wheel the kart just continued ahead … inexplicably power was still very much “on”. Ahead I could see several drivers having an “off” at this corner, no doubt caused by too much speed for what was by now turning into a slippery track. The kart continued charging forward and I tried avoiding the beached drivers as best I could with a bit of frantic hand action at the wheel. Thankfully the CRG careered into a gap between the other karts and my machine bounced and skipped over the rough terrain. What felt like a lifetime of course was only a few seconds. I had no idea where the kart would end up and the awful noise and violent jolts through the seat sent telepathic shivers through my wallet back at the Wright Technology Centre.

Brain eventually engaged and I found the “kill” switch to cut the power. Chief Engineer David Wright bounded over and quickly identified the problem as a stuck throttle. Apparently these can become frayed over time, particularly if water gets in as it reacts with a chemical lining the inside of the outer cable to cause the metal cable to wear. Bits of wire then become trapped and refuse to release the throttle cable into the “closed” position when the foot comes off the pedal.

A video of that little incident can be found at MyKartingWorld.net labelled  karting_2.wmv. I attach my Go Pro Hero Wide video camera to the radiator cap which gives you a great view of the action.

Next time it’ll be the Southern Championships at Forest Edge and – with the promise of warmer weather – should be another fantastic experience. I have yet to experience the full capabilities of Rotax Max on hot, sticky tyres. I wonder how I’ll do….

My thanks once again to everyone at Forest Edge and the Wright Racing Team.

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There’s a video of the incident at kartingm.ag/b45huF

Cadet Column – Little Green Man Championship

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“It’s just a piddling Little Green Man Championship, after all.” That was how one parent described last year’s LGM Series. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I suspect that most of the drivers taking part would have heartily disagreed.

No less than 58 IAME cadets participated in last year’s Series and there’s been an increase of 14 this time around. That’s almost twice the number bothering to show up for the S1 British Championships. Off hand, I can think of only two S1 entrants who didn’t also take part in the LGM and that says quite a bit about how this competition is generally regarded. Having said that, I don’t suppose Teddy Wilson would wish to swap his British title for the huge LGM cup recently claimed by Tom Wood. I remember speaking to the 2004 Little Green Man Champion, Jordon Lennox-Lamb. He’d also finished as runner up in that year’s S1 Comer Cadet Championships. Had it not been for the round at Silverstone being cancelled, thus preventing him from dropping his worst score, Jordon might well have won the Stars of Tomorrow Championships which, in those days, carried a British title. He echoed the sentiments expressed earlier by his predecessor Jack Harvey.

“Mike Mills has done a superb job with the Little Green Man which has to be the best presented championship for cadets,” he declared. “It’s contested by a lot more drivers than any other competition but, if I’m being honest, I’d rather have won a British title as it carries far more prestige.” Jordon’s word still ring true ten years later. That’s how things should be and I doubt if even Mike Mills would want to see the British title devalued to such an extent that it becomes of secondary importance. Nor would it be right for such an honour to be moved from S1 to a club based series like the Little Green Man. If that ever happened, I believe the LGM Series would lose so much of its character that many contenders would desert in their droves. Although it doesn’t carry quite the same prestige as a British title, however, the Little Green Man crown is probably harder to win.

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As Oliver York’s mechanic and mentor Roddy Taylor remarked more than 12 months ago, winning this championship requires a cool head in adverse circumstances, rather than being necessarily the quickest. In 2014 Tom Wood certainly demonstrated that he possessed this particular quality. A couple of days after Tom’s Little Green Man win at PF, Mike Mills suggested that I might work out the points scored from all of this year’s major IAME cadet championships to see who would emerge on top. These were S1, LGM, Kartmasters and the “O” Plate. I think Mike expected the outcome of such an exercise would be either Wilson or Wood emerging on top. On this, he was only half right.

Scoring 40 points for a win in each competition, 38 for 2nd and then diminishing by 1 point per position, I came up with the following rather surprising tally; Teddy Wilson (148); 2. Kiern Jewiss (142); 3. Jonny Edgar (140); 4, Zac Robertson (139); 5. Dexter Patterson (138); 6. Tom Wood (135). Interestingly the first three positions mirror those from S1. Tom Wood’s relatively poor showing is entirely due to his involvement in collisions at both Kartmasters and the “O” Plate. Equally, Edgar’s score was affected by missing two of the Little Green Man rounds. It’s not meant to be a serious exercise, of course. Very few would rank an “O” Plate title as being equivalent to S1, but coming up with an accurate weighting procedure is difficult when there are so many arguments as to the merits of each. Ultimately, I think it’s fair to say this year’s four main championships all produced different winners, but Wilson and Wood claimed the two titles that really mattered in most peoples’ eyes.

The Age of Assent

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Oulton Park Cars December 2010You’ve got to love Sebastian Vettel. As he crossed the line to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and consequently become the youngest F1 World Champion in history – he cried like a girl.

Inside his Arai helmet, the young German dissolved into a weepy mess of snot, tears and sheer joy. Unbelievable. I love you guys, he told his pit crew in a barely decipherable breathless mumble.

At 23 years and 135 days old, Vettels success was not only historic, it could also prove to be a game-changer.

Over the years, the age of former karters reaching Formula One has become progressively younger. The late, great Senna (born in 1960) first contested the World Championships in 1978 and only started racing Formula Ford in 1981. Much as his rise up the order was meteoric he was in Alex Hawkridges Toleman by 1984 Ayrton left karting very late by todays standards.

So too did Alain Prost, who arrived on the GP scene when he was 25. If Sennas progression was rapid, just look at Jenson Buttons. In little more than three seasons, he went from karts to Formula Ford, Formula Three and then F1. He was 20 years and 67 days old when he signed for Williams.

Ironically, Lewis Hamilton was the next driver to cause a stir. He made the grade at 22-years old and became World Champion a year later, aged 23.

Then came Vettel, who although he made his debut at the age of 19 was only the sixth-youngest driver in the sports history to do so. The honour of being the youngest is currently held by Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard may not have the same reputation as Little Schumi but his route to the top has been every bit as impressive. He started racing cars in 2005, won the British F3 title in 2008 and, at 18, was the youngest ever to do so -he then eclipsed Mike Thackwells (19 years 182 days) record as the youngest man into F1, at 19 years 125 days.

However, it was Hamiltons success that really started the scramble for younger drivers. Vettels recent triumph has simply reaffirmed the validity of doing this for many. Naturally, this has had a direct effect on karting and raises the question, what is the right age to graduate from karts to cars?

Curiously, opinion is divided.

The enormously well-respected and successful Ricky Flynn, owner of the eponymous Ricky Flynn Motorsport team,urges caution in the current climate. Aware of the impressive impact that Vettel, Hamilton and to an extent Alguersuari have all made, Flynn nevertheless argues that drivers and their parents should not be counting the candles on the birthday cake but assessing whether or not they are truly ready.

If you leave [karts] at 17, youre not going to get an F1 contract. If you go at 15, its a total disaster. You can do senior racing at 15 and I think its best to do a minimum of one year in say, something like KF2.

Flynn cites the arrival of increasing numbers of driver managers in the karting paddocks as a destabilizing influence. Its horrendous. At the last Super 1 round it was like vulture city. Scary. Theyre trying to poach everybody and for those that sign with a manger, youve just got to hope that theyre sensible.

He regards managers with some suspicion, believing that many have their own bank balances and not the long-term careers of their clients at heart. With many youngsters in karting stating that they want to become F1 drivers, and the excitement created by the likes of Hamilton and Vettel, Ricky suggest that some overlook their lack of knowledge about the karters real ability and sell them the dream of F1 too soon.

There have got to be stricter controls. We (team owners) have to have an entrants licence but to be a manager, theres nothing. Ten years ago it wasnt so bad, there were no shark-infested waters. Today, its a pretty hideous world to be in. The key advice I would say for those looking to make the move from karts to cars and build a professional career – or even aim at Formula One – is that you need to be mentally ready, very strong in your mind and mature.

As the first ever British Formula Renault champion, Flynn is wholly familiar with the world of car racing and says sometimes youre only in the car for a total of 40 minutes all day. The racing is almost easy, its how you stay focused whilst youre waiting that is important.

Other factors rather than age should also guide your career path. If you have a tall lad and hes 6 3, go down the saloon route. You have to be realistic and in most cases forget the F1 dream. Only six drivers are not paying out of twenty two on the grid. Dont be blinkered to the reality of the situation. Think How can I have a career in world motorsport? If you end up in the DTM earning 400,000 euros a year, its not a bad life. Dont disregard any options. You can make a nice living and enjoy it.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Harfield of Williams Harfield Sports Group, disagrees.

I think it has changed quite drastically over the course of the past few years. It used to be guys of 17 or 18 going to FFord (from karts). Now theres a saturation of classes and teams wanting younger drivers. Look at Tom Blomqvist (at 16 the youngest ever British Formula Renault Champion) and Nyck de Vries people want drivers like them, real head-turners.

Lack of high profile success in karting should not be a reason to remain in the sport, Chris argues. Being a good karter doesnt automatically constitute being a good racing driver. You have to ask yourself, Do I want to be a Formula Renault champion at 16 or a kart champion at the same age? You have to be in a car at 15!

When asked if he thinks motor racing managers are more open minded about potential drivers than are given credit for, he responds with an emphatic yeah. Far from dismissing karting, Harfield says it is an important building block in the creation of a drivers career.

It teaches you that you need to be competitive, to know and deal with pressure. You show your mettle when youre racing wheel to wheel and if you come out on top that shows me something. Some drivers are ruthless and would rather crash than finish 2nd. I know it sounds ridiculous, but car teams like that.

For managers such as Chris, who monitor developments in karting and follows the sport, showing rapid development is something that excites their attention. You look at how quickly people pick things up. Take Callan OKeeffe for example. He went from Bayford Meadow to World number three in one year. Thats really impressive.

To starkly illustrate his point about why drivers should graduate from karts to cars at 15, he recounts the experience of talking to Kris Nissen VWs Head of Motorsport whilst at a DTM race in Germany. He was talking to a 19-year old F3 driver and he said You didnt win the championship, youre done. You wont make it to F1. You have to be a bit of a freak if you want to make it in the conventional sense. Jack Hawksworth could be one hes been staggering (in his first two FRenault meetings).

According to Harfield, with only 24 potential opportunities as a driver in F1 each year, you have to be spectacular. But which car classes should be considered? It would be a no-brainer to put a karter in a Formula Ford, he says bluntly. Renault is a massive step from karting but if you do an intermediate class, which I consider Ford to be, youll learn a lot.

After his trip to Germany, he also says that series like the ADAC Masters can play a vital role. Ultimately, youve got to be around the manufacturers. If you take the Formula 3 Euroseries, its looked at by the manufacturers in the DTM. British F3 isnt. Youve got to position yourself in front of the right people. ADAC Masters has effectively taken over from Formula BMW and can put you in touch with influential teams like Mucke Motorsport. Furthermore, ADAC is only 150,000 euros a season and VW, who power the cars, are making a massive push in motorsport. Whats more, VW are able to offer guys in the F3 Euroseries a drive for not much more than teams are charging in British Formula Renault.

Porsche and Audi are also starting young driver programmes, as is their parent company, VW itself. With a DTM car actually being of monocoque construction like a single-seater, rather than a true touring car, and with huge amounts of power on tap, the premier German series is now a holding bay for F1 drivers.

That said, he also suggests that America remains the land of opportunity. The States are where Id send young drivers. Teams will find, and share, sponsorship if youre good enough and if you win Indy Lights, youre racing in Indy car. If you win in GP2 youre not automatically in F1. How old do you have to be? Id say how old can you be to make headlines that no one else has done?

Mark Godwin, regarded as the engineers engineer when it comes to Formula Renault, responds to my question about when is the right time and age to move to cars with some caution. Its a bit of a minefield, he says choosing his words carefully before speaking again. It depends on which championship and formula you go into. The age of the driver as well. There are different levels of maturity between 15 and 16-years old and 17 and 18. It also depends on how mentally strong you are.

15 is okay but dont bite off more than you can chew, he warns. You might be big in karting, but youll be at the bottom of the pile when you start car racing. The earlier you make the transition, the easier it is to cope. However, an 18-year old will be better equipped as an individual.

Although he now runs his own Formula Renault team, MGR, Godwin hints that the Intersteps Championship should be considered by drivers aged 15 or younger.

You can stay in karts too long and become institutionalized. Some drivers, when they finally cross into cars, find that they cant afford to spend too much time in the different formulae, as time is against them. This puts pressure on them to perform and affects the time in which they have to learn but also their confidence.

A kart racer who only knows how to set a kart up will often try to set their car up in a similar manner, which is counter productive. As Mark confirms, There is such a big gap between Formula Renault and karts.

Prompted for an insight into what team owners look for from kart racers considering the next stage of their career, he delivers a valuable insiders guide as to what to do – and not do.

Id say do whatever championship gives you the best value for money, and remember that all formulae teach you different things. If you want to discuss what a team can do for you, ring up and say wed like to come and see you and have a chat. Dont just ask how much? Cost is important, but if you do your homework, youll know what the costs are going to be anyway. Besides, anyone can bullshit over the phone about how good they are or what they charge. Similarly, dads ring up and tell you how good their kid is. I need to talk to their son or daughter and see what theyre actually like. Personal contact is important.

In motor racing, just as in any other sport, results are what matter. Mark, like all team bosses will quietly look at a drivers track record beforehand, but he says he doesnt draw conclusions from what theyve done in karting. You cant dismiss people who finished 10th. Naturally, you do look for winners but sometimes you unearth little gems who are not all winning kart races. There can be reasons why theyre not, so you have to keep an open mind because you never know what you might find.

Which of course leads to the acid test – and the perfect answer to the original question – we get them out in the car and see from there.