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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]