The ABkC O plates for the Formula TKM classes are returning to the Maxxis TKM Festival at Kimbolton in August heralding what is expected to be a surge in interest for the plates. “It’s a great move” says TKM boss Alan Turney. “The Festival is recognised as the top event in TKM karting and so having this plate for the winner in Juniors and Seniors will be the icing on the cake.” Some years ago the O plates were held at the Festival and became the most hard fought and highly publicised O plates under the ABkC banner. But since being taken elsewhere they have lost status and size.
By moving the plates to the Festival it will actually save drivers money because within one meeting they will have the chance to race for the titles while also taking part in the Festival – seen as the main event of the year for the TKM classes, going into its 18th year in 2015. The format of the Festival will be changed slightly to split the grids into those racing for the O plates and those taking part in the Festival section – just as it used to be. The event takes place on August 7-9 next year. Full regulations will be released early next year.
2015 TKM Regulations have been largely set in stone. The good news is that the changes for 2015 are aimed at making life easier for everyone
Whether driver, engine builder, or scrutineer the new rules should not cause concern for anyone. Arguably the most significant change centres on something that will affect many but hopefully in a positive way. It concerns the way that cylinder exhaust ports are checked and comes in the wake of the problems created by one rogue engine builder who this year decided to make up his own rules. If you are not an engine expert let me just say that the size and position of the exhaust ports is very important to the overall performance of the engine. Checking them has always been quite a detail and tricky job requiring specialist measuring tools. Tal-Ko have previously supplied a ‘no go’ gauge to test with but it was made to the maximum height size listed for the port at 21.15mm and the reality is no engine has ever been made with ports anything like that big. So to make life easier and more real world, there’s a two-step revision. First the maximum size port has been reduced to 21.06mm.
Second a new port height gauge has been made by Tal-Ko to check at that size. The important point is that in a normal standard engine that tool won’t go into the port but on an illegally modified engine it will drop in easily making it simple to identify. This new gauge will be supplied free to all relevant eligibility scrutineers and recognised engine builders. And if you want one for yourself then it will be available for £20 + vat. The old 21.15mm port height gauge will now become obsolete. The same will also be happening with the inlet port height dimension and I’ll bring you news on that next month. Note too in the new regulations Tal-Ko now has unprecedented powers to permanently mark any component that is illegal and cannot be made legal again. Another step towards killing anyone thinking of cheating, this will help ensure that parts don’t get sold on or raced that are not compliant with the regulations. Moving on you’ll also see in the regs new words added which follow up the clarification on rear bumpers and their fitting to make sure no-one tries to slip in another adjustable one.
Also clarified is the regulation that TAG engines must at all times be capable of being started on the button. The next issue is on Senior weight. A further weight/power band has been added, with a gold restrictor of 20.5mm and weight level: 139kg. This is to help lighter drivers (especially women) competing in the class without the need to carry excess lead. Minimum driver weight will be 44kg. To help reduce the problem of 50mm rear axle cracking you will also be allowed to make use of an axle insert which slides up the inside of the axle to help reduce stress at key areas. Reports say it works well. And then we come to bodywork where as I explained last month the CIK have managed to drop everyone into a tricky situation. What a caring, thoughtful governing body they are! The positive news is that as a result of pressure levied by myself and others in the UK, the MSA have put pressure on the CIK to help make the situation somewhat simpler. Though as of the day I write this at the back of October the situation is still somewhat floaty. But hope that new droopy front noses will be able to be fitted with a converter which stops them drooping. And some sort of compromise will be reached on the side bars to make them sensibly compatible. If you can buy a current stuff then do so – it will make a perfectly useable spare for less hassle!
Well it is that time of year again when those involved in the management, organisation and control of kart racing have to pore over the regs to finalise details for the coming season.
Last year there were significant changes within the TKM 2-stroke classes to move away from TKM homologated karts to any kart meeting the required specification. There were plenty of fears it might cause a problem, but I think the reality is that it has been well received and opens up the market.
In contrast to the mass of changes last year, this time the changes are small and really could be described as a bit of tidying up rather than anything else – that is other than the weight and size issue for Juniors which will be going ahead but on a sensible level.
So just to run through the general changes for the 2-strokes, in no particular order they cover the following:
On materials. carbon fibre or similar chain guards will be permitted. The requirement for a steel or aluminium block to be part of the front bumper fitting is gone. Plastic is now OK.
For floortrays there is a new general rule and drive towards making them safer. Too many have sharp exposed corner edges which can cause a lot of injury. In future such items must be made safe, if necessary by bending the tray upwards at such areas.
Brake and throttle pedals are now free in terms of make and fitment, though unless driven by a disabled person, they must be retained as foot operated.
There is a revision to the rule on the new style noise box which allows and indeed recommends the fitment of a wet box which may now be retained by affixing to the noise box itself so long as no holes are drilled through into the air pathway. A sensible move which will open the market to suppliers of some neat devices I have seen. But note only to be used when official conditions are wet or open.
One quite significant tweak is to extend the twin piston ring Junior engine rule which requires the top ring to be free for at least half of its circumference at all times. Previously this had not applied to the Extreme engine with its one piston ring because it was never seen that a coked-in ring could be an advantage. However it seems some tuners have been experimenting with this so to nip it in the bud the new rule says no top rings stuck in position whatever the engine/class.
As previously detailed there are also the changes being introduced to ensure smaller Junior drivers are not swamped by over heavy karts. New maximum kart weights have been set down, a minimum driver weight in full race gear set at 38kg with a minimum height in race boots at 135cm.
The reality of the above weights and height is that it is very unlikely any average size driver will have any problem meeting them. What it is intended to do is prevent way to small kids becoming the victim of an accident with an over heavy kart. The TKM stepping stones of weight and restrictor size have already taken away such dangers and this is just a fine tuning of the situation.
This means that we can now keep the starting age for Junior TKM at 11yrs instead of it being raised as first suggested by MSA to 12yrs or even older.
As far as the TKM 4-strokes are concerned very little in the way of change. A tiny tweak to the available main jets, and a recommendation that when using the Enduro style radiator the exhaust manifold be protected by a heatshield as an alternative to webbing wrapped around. In fact thinking about it, both would be the perfect answer!
The only major change for 4-strokes is the switch for the Seniors to the Green label new age Maxxis tyres for dry weather which are proving so outstandingly good in maximising performance yet also providing astonishingly long life.
Only the other day I was told that after an experienced driver had done 200 laps he put on new ones and only found a couple of tenths. On the previous tyres it would have been at least half a second. A true peace of engineering quality for which Maxxis should be congratulated.
One change that is definitely chalked up for the 4-strokes is a likely addition of a TAG electric starter system similar to that used with great success on the 2-stroke engine. The technology has to be slightly different because of the high engine compression but it is hoped to have the whole thing tidied up and ready to sell early next year. A great boost it should be.
Finally as a general rule across both TKM 2 and 4-stroke Junior classes comes the suggestion that the two classes should race together wherever there is a demand. The two have performance similarity within hundredths of a second so why not?
Now while we are on the subject of regulations it is worth underlining the importance of being on top of them metaphorically. I am always amazed at the number of drivers and (dare I say it scrutineers) who are not up to date on the regulations.
If you are going to compete it is essential that you look through the regulations each year and see where things have changed. Some changes might seem very minor but if you get caught by one of them it could ruin your racing for the day if not longer.
Remember the scruts do a horrible job for which they should be thanked, and might not want to chuck you out, but if you have something which is out of order then it could get you excluded. So very important to read the rules and note the changes which are always underlined. There is no excuse for not knowing the regs since they are available for free download off the www.tal-ko.com website and also in the official MSA Kart regs book and TKM regulations book.
And finally… off to the Kartmania show shortly where Tal-Ko will have a stand displaying lots of TKM 2 and 4-stroke equipment as well as the demon new Veloce karts which have been giving outstanding performance.
The stand will offer a reasonable range of popular engine spares and tools, though clearly not everything! And as usual company boss Alan Turney and class co-ordinator Grahame Butterworth will be holding one of their workshops helping new and old drivers to get the best from their kart and engine. Don’t miss it!
This month it is time to go back to some basics to clear up some ill-founded paddock gossip regarding carburettor settings for the TKM BT82 used in our 2-stroke classes.
For the simple fact is that by not paying attention to the simple guidance Tal-Ko give on carb set up, quite a few drivers are losing out big time on performance and also reducing the life of their engine.
There are a couple of fundamental reasons for this and it seems to be a trend that goes in cycles as new people move into the class so let’s do our best to stamp this one out promptly.
The first basic that people get hold of is that allegedly 2-stroke engines go faster with a lean (weaker) air fuel mix. It can be true of some types of 2-strokes, but it depends on the design of the engine and in the case of the BT82 it certainly does not apply.
So while obviously the engine doesn’t want to be flooded with fuel, it will not get faster and faster the more you weaken off the mixture by screwing in the jets mostly because by running it too lean you are also causing the overall engine temperature to rise which is not good for engine power! All air-cooled 2 stroke engines run faster when cooler!
In fact the opposite is true. If you put an engine on an accurate dyno, you discover that in reality it likes to be quite juicy and rich for best power, especially in the very important mid-range which is where most running is done.
The second fundamental which confuses people is that the Walbro carb has two jets which can be adjusted which effectively interact with each other. On many carbs the low speed jet is non adjustable which leaves it simple as to which one to adjust.
By getting the matching of the pair wrong you can seriously compromise not only the power from your engine, but also its life because too little fuel mix means too little oil lubrication and therefore potential engine death!
It is perhaps worth adding a third fundamental which is that while years ago many people had a basic understanding of air-fuel mix because it was something you had to set correctly on your car, these days it is all done by fuel injection and on-board computers.
So right back to the start. The fuel mix which goes through your engine has two basic functions. The petrol is the stuff that goes bang and gives you power. The oil mixed in with the fuel gives you lubrication. The amount of both of those going through is controlled by the jets – screwed in means less (weaker) and out means more (richer).
The other element in there is air which is what is sucked in through the carb air cleaner and obviously you want as free a flow as possible so that means a nice clean air filter element.
Now the slow speed jet, which has a screw head on it, is a small diameter jet aimed at supplying the engine with fuel used at low revs. The size of the jet is geared to this low level of fuel quantity required.
The high speed jet – the one with a bar across it for easy adjustment on the move – is the one that has the size to cope with the greater volumes at high revs. Note both jets are marked with an L and H respectively.
The two jets must be balanced to give the correct overall performance through the range and the starting point suggestions for the jets are given freely by Tal-Ko in their books of regs available to buy or on their website in the 2-stroke running section. Go to www.tal-ko.com
Now the fundamental mistake that people make here is to listen to the paddock gossip which says that you should screw the low jet right out and leave the high speed one only open a fraction. No, No, No!!
By doing that you will end up with an engine that has holes in its power curve and be much more critical on having the mixture setting just right. Most fundamentally, at high revs it will starve your engine of its life giving fuel and oil mix, causing overheating and drastically reducing its life.
Let me just repeat – the jets must be correctly balanced. A tad either side is no problem. A large chuck out of sync and the whole thing turns into a problem.
So to start from scratch, the low jet should be turned right in gently with a small screwdriver until it feels shut. Do not force it too far as damage will occur. Then turn it back out to two full turns. Screw the main jet in and then bring that out to just less than half a turn. Now those settings will give you a ‘rich’ setting which is a good safe starting point.
If you have a clutched engine the first thing you need to do at this point is start the engine and see if it will tickover smoothly with these settings. If it does then great. If not then trying screwing the low jet in a small amount to see if the tickover speeds up and smoothes out. Once you have that setting then you are ready to go on track. If you have to turn in the low jet 1/8 of a turn then simply turn out the high the same amount so that the sum of the 2 jet settings add up to 2 1/2 (2 on Low + 1/2 on High = 2 1/2 Total)
Whether clutched or direct drive you now need to assess the feel of the engine. And the good thing here is that even if you are a Dad watching from trackside you will be able to tell. Ideally you want the engine to be giving out blue smoke for the first lap or so, reducing down to maybe just a small puff when going back on power after a corner.
The thing you are more likely to get on those fairly rich settings is something called 4-stroking. We won’t bother to go into explaining the techy reason, but it is basically a point when the engine will not rev any more and goes flat sounding at high revs on a straight. That is a sign of being too rich.
Now it is very important to get your engine to initially 4 stroke so that you know where you are with your settings especially when you change carbs, engines etc and this will aid you to then adjust the main jet in a small amount at a time each lap until you just lose the 4 stroke as you are about to brake at the end of the longest straight!
Once you feel/hear a nice crisp note all the way down the straight you have got the right setting. Then you should have an engine ready to race and win!
It is all very simple stuff but you would be amazed how many people do the wrong thing and listen to gossip which leaves them seriously underpowered. So be rich and powerful!
The top level of the sport lost Super KF from the World, European and British Championships this year, and it is looking far from healthy in the WSK. With 18 competitors in the last round of the European Championship, KZ1 looks like it is next for the chop by the CIK-FIA for 2011 as the regulations say there must be 20 entries for a championship to go ahead.
There have been some incremental improvements in the Super One package but it has had little or no effect on the entry levels, and we’ve lost the top class for the first time ever. John Hoyle has been tireless in seeking the opinions of competitors, but as KF2 driver Jordan King’s father Justin says, “they need to talk to all the drivers who aren’t there, not just those who are”.
The racing is pretty poor at the moment too. In the World Championship at Cordoba, Argentina in 1994, there was 0.15s difference between 1st and 70th. In the first WSK World Series round this year there was 0.25s between Armand Convers and everyone else and there were less than a third of the drivers!
Mark Rose, who is perhaps the most dedicated of the team managers, is getting disillusioned for the first time.
“Super KF is finished,” he says. “Unless you are one of three people you aren’t going to win.”
He is relatively happy with KF3. “If a young kid spins off they need to be able to get going again so they need a clutch. The only thing wrong is the carbs as everyone is running expensive carbs and no one knows how to set them. It’s OK if you are a Super KF driver with 25 years experience.”
Rose’s opinion is that we should concentrate on saving KF2. It is already the World Championship for the first time this year at Zuera in September. “The brakes have got to go, the clutch has got to go,” he says. “There is a way of engaging the gear on the drive sprocket, CRG have got a prototype system, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t go back to push starting. 125cc is fine as there’s lots of power, and if they want to limit power there should be a maximum sprocket for a track.”
Front brakes first appeared in non-gearbox in 2004 on Sodikarts in the hands of Arnaud Sarrazin and Nelson Panciatici, and at first were only used in the rain. They are still banned from Rotax and KF3. In the next homologation period though everyone had a 100cc chassis with front brakes and they became de rigeur in Formula A and ICA, then in Super KF, KF1 and KF2.
Rose argues that the brakes have destroyed the racing that makes karting unique and valuable. “The braking distances are so short a muppet can get round the corner,” he contends. Personally, I haven’t seen a truly classic race since Oliver Oakes won the La Conca round of the European Championship in 2005.
In the last decade, the price of a rolling chassis has doubled to around £3000 for most of them. Paul Spencer of Strawberry Racing once told me that he thought he was pushing it when he raised the price above £1500 for the first time! He says he doesn’t make a great deal more on karts and parts though.
The Tonykart factory team uses datalogging systems that are estimated to cost £8000 per kart including a system to adjust tyre pressures on the go. There is even reputed to be a message that pops up to tell the drivers to take it easy before they break something. How can your average driver with a bit of talent and an ordinary budget compete with that? No wonder European KF2 Champion Jordan Chamberlain has gone to the CIK’s U18 World Championship after a difficult few races in Super KF.
The wiring looms on the KFs are also prone to breaking down, and provide numerous opportunites to cheat which therefore means to spend a lot of money. With just one wire to the battery to the starter and no ECUs there would be far less scope.
Last year KZ1 looked as though it could be the new premier class with 80 entries for the World Cup, including F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari. There was a greater concentration of experienced and professional drivers and the mainly amateur KZ2 drivers moved up for the occasion. This year, the only engine to have is one tuned by Tec Sav and they cost £3000 a race, and the factories have divided themselves between the CIK races (Intrepid and Maranello) and the WSK (CRG and Tonykart) leaving entries in the teens in both. Hopefully things will improve for the World Cup.
I asked Mark Rose why ordinary karters should care if we lose the KF and KZ classes, after all Rotax Max makes up a huge proportion of British racers and they have a highly successful international racing scene.
He said “Rotax is going the same way, although the one good thing is that the engines do actually last 20 hours.” Of course Rotax, and TKM since the beginning of this year, uses the same karts as the KF classes so there are knock-on effects in terms of costs and you could argue that more damage is done to the equipment in Rotax during racing.
“Karting is in crisis, the KF classes are sadly uneconomical and other categories that run sealed engines have become vastly over expensive and chequebook racing has prevailed,” says Andy Cox, the organiser of the planned Kart Grand Prix class. It’s understandable that he says that, but the lack of power valve, front brakes and engine sealing could be argued to be a step forward. In Italy the class is aimed at drivers who are still hanging on to 100cc engines, of which there is still quite a healthy scene there.
So why should the average club or Super One driver should care about the mostly privileged drivers in Super KF and KF2? It’s hard to imagine a footballer on a pub scene being apathetic about the England football team’s useless World Cup and there are opinions being bandied about from the lack of home-grown players in the Premiership to the enforced separation from the WAGs.
It’s difficult to find racing to watch that is anywhere near as good as international karting at it’s best and I think it’s worth preserving on that basis alone, after all, most of us started off as racing fans.
If we don’t look after our home grown karters and their international karting opportunities, we won’t keep producing the best drivers in a sport that we do actually lead the world in. Even though I’m one of the biggest advocates of karting as it’s own sport and mutter in frustration when the head of the CIK implies our main purpose is to keep up the supply of talented youngsters to cars, it’s undeniable that that’s where many teenagers’ interests lie.
Lots of attention is being paid to Bambino and Super Cadet at the moment, good and bad, but just a few years after getting that foundation, it makes economic sense to go into Formula BMW at 15 before Super KF and often KF2, even though it’s far from clear whether cars at that age are at all helpful. The system certainly hasn’t yet produced a GP winner. KF2/Super KF and their predecessors brought us Hamilton, Button, Raikkonen, Alonso, Schumacher and Senna and many others.
So you’ve decided you want to make the move to TKM for next season. But then there’s the big question – what type of drive-line to choose, TAG, clutched or direct drive?
So what are the differences? In general driving terms on the track there is little to tell because the clutch on the TAG & clutched models is always engaged like direct drive unless you come to an almost stop. However in the wet the clutch has the advantage of allowing you to brake and lock the rear wheels without the problem of the engine stopping which can be a problem on a direct drive. And of course the clutch gives you a huge advantage when something happens on the track. You can spin and re-join the race or come to a halt avoiding accidents and then just drive away providing of course you have set up the correct tickover so the engine does not stall. Here are some more detailed points:
TAG (Touch & Go)
FOR – The easiest with an on-board electric starter. An automatic centrifugal clutch so you just press the throttle and go. Ultra easy to start by the driver with stop start push buttons and quick re-starting should the engine die giving maximum confidence for the driver.
The engine is uprated with larger exhaust and raised compression to increase power and overcome the additional weight on the crankshaft of the starter system. Pole positions and wins at top championship level confirm its performance.
AGAINST – It adds about 4.5 kilos to the weight of the kart which is fine if the driver is well under the weight limit but could be a problem for drivers near the limit. It is more expensive to buy (about £450 extra) and more complicated to look after requiring good care to wiring to ensure no problems.
FOR – Gives all the ease of an automatic centrifugal clutch and the benefit that brings should you spin off, but without the complication and weight of TAG system. The engine is started by a mechanic with a remote hand-held electric starter unit (a bit like F1) and if the tickover is correctly set up then the engine should not stall if the driver spins off. It is only a shade heavier than direct drive and simple with no on-board wiring to worry about. If you don’t like the clutch or simply want to test it as a direct drive unit then it can quickly be converted by removing the clutch and fitting in its place a special long direct drive sprocket and nut.
AGAINST – You have a fairly heavy starter unit to carry around. If the engine does stall in a spin on the track then you can only re-start with this starter. Clutched engine costs about £120 more than direct drive plus extra cost of about £290 for the hand held starter. Purists will say it is slower than direct drive engine but a clutch has been used to win the British championship in the past so don’t take too much notice!
FOR – The simplest, lightest and cheapest; less to go wrong making it idiot-proof. No wiring or battery chargers to worry about. Purists will say it’s quicker. Certainly gives the driver the most absolutely direct connection with engine and kart. You can use a smaller 9 tooth sprocket on tight tracks which the TAG & clutched units cannot.
AGAINST – It is a chore lifting and push starting. In the pits at least you can use a wheel pusher device to help, but if you spin on track then it is down to the driver to do it themselves which is hard work. Juniors will only get re-started on-track with a helper. A definite no if you have any back problem.
So over to you for final choice. For my money with a Junior I’d always go with a clutch, be it out-board or TAG started. It gives them the best possible chance.
For a Senior, the direct drive does have the advantage of simplicity but I’d still argue that having a clutch just makes it all so much easier and more pleasurable.