Birthday boy (year 2)

Junior knows not to ask for anything for his birthday – he had about 5 year’s worth of presents around this time last year! He also knows that he’ll get some stuff from various members of the family and it will be kart-related. Birthdays are the time when Junior can get some of the non-essentials that he would really like: last year it was a mirrored visor, this year it was… NEW DECALS!!!

There was a theme to Junior's birthday presents!

There was a theme to Junior’s birthday presents!

Junior had already gotten the nassau and bumper for Christmas so he got side pods and bars to complete the set, all fitted with his favourite British Racing Green decals. I had spent a long time designing decals; first a scarlet red variant of the Tonykart livery, then numerous versions on the British Racing Green theme when he said he wanted the kart to look like it had done when it originally made it’s debut for it’s previous owner. Then Junior saw the Caterham kart decals and instantly knew that was it. It was a bit of blow having spent so much time in Photoshop but it was what he wanted! It took a while to get the printers to nail the shade of racing green that we were after but eventually we were able to supply a pantone for it and we added a few customisations of our own, including the blue and white numbers now that we are no longer novices 🙂

I see that I didn’t add the cost of last year’s presents to the total bill although, inconsistently, I did for his Christmas presents!

Non-essentials purchased (not all by me!): kart decals (fitted) £120, side pods/bars £119

Total spent this year: £1227


I must not buy anything else for the kart!

I had an offer of a bent 2010 EVR chassis this week and, since I was in the midlands, made a detour to pick it up. Of course, whilst I was there I *just had to* get the final few things that I had wanted to get for the new season: a set of new wet rims for my inters, some side pod bars ahead of getting new pods and decals for Junior’s birthday, a Viper exhaust bracket to strengthen our flimsy exhaust and another engine mount so that I didn’t have to switch my mount between the engines. I’m quite please with my purchases; the rims and bracket are new and I saved a fair bit on the side pod bars 🙂 I really do need to stop spending now though – at least the good news is that, other than the few things that Junior wants for his birthday, I cannot think of a single thing I need now. Running costs only from here on…honest!

Whilst the bend wasn’t too bad, the chassis does need a weld as it has a small crack on the brake-side bearing hanger and, although not flattened, it is a bit tatty underneath. I’ll definitely keep it in case something happens to our EVXX chassis but I don’t think I’ll be spending any money on getting it jigged just yet. This also now means that I am very close to owning two complete karts – that does start making you wonder 😉

I’ve decided to change my accounting style a little – not much benefit in a running total of costs since the year dot so I’ll detail this year’s spend and the previous year’s total.

Total spent this year: £374 – OTK engine mount £30,  wet rims £50, OTK exhaust bracket £20, side pod bars £30

Year 1 spend: £4,594

A karting Christmas

Happy New Year!

We had an interesting Christmas this year (ok, last year) in so far as the kids normally still manage to come up with a long list of things they would like despite reaching or being near teenagers. This year was different – for the first time Junior had a list with next to nothing on it: an engine and Gran Turismo 6!

I had been considering getting another engine for some time – I wanted the reassurance of the backup engine should things go pear-shaped on race day and, if I was going to get another engine, I wanted one with a CNC barrel; the majority of racers have them, several engine builders had recommended them so I had decided that would be what we would aim to get. If I am honest, it wasn’t essential and you could make a strong argument that we may have been better off investing the money in more track time. I should point out that I am not assuming the engine will suddenly close the gap between us and the pack (honest!!!) and I know that most of the time remains in his lines and consistency (although there’s likely a big chunk in my setting up of the kart for wet conditions) but you pay’s your money as they say…

Junior was just expecting some money towards his engine – I had pretty much drummed into him that, if we were to get an engine, he’d be getting cash and very little else. He had some money left over from the Great Star Wars sale of 2010, when we had sold off the Star Wars toys he had been collecting since he was 6 on eBay just before Christmas and made £1,000. Advice: always take the boxes of collectable toys from your kids and put them straight in the loft! He still had half of this remaining and my wife had agreed to let him put this towards an engine with Santa donating the remainder 🙂 Between Santa, ourselves and the extended family, Junior got the engine and also a kart trolley (we picked up one of more sturdy folding variants with tray and tyre hangers in very good condition for £50), some long front and rear hubs and a new nassau and front spoiler (ahead of his birthday in March when he’d like new decals).

So, in the absence of any new toys (isn’t it a shame when they stop wanting toys for Christmas?), Junior spent most of Christmas playing GT6 (it is pretty good, by the way, although he mostly kicks my arse royally when we compete in the time trials!) and I am  hoping the new engine does prove to be quicker than our current one. I have to admit, I’ll be more than a little disappointed if it is not!

Total spent so far: £5,264

Every little helps

I’ll point out at the outset that I haven’t started buying my sprockets from Tesco! This has been an expensive month and the realisation that we needed much more wet practice (I still cannot believe this hadn’t dawned on me sooner) meant the expenses for October weren’t finished.

Most importantly I needed waterproof clothing – the Weise motorcycle jacket ordered from a vendor on eBay arrived one day after ordering and fits very nicely thank-you. Hopefully the trousers will arrive soon also. Secondly, I have ordered a used OTK engine mount to replace my mount which does not appear correctly align with the engine – not much flexibility there in terms of retailers (eBay again) but, when it came to the perishables (restocking on replacement bolts and getting another set of mechanics gloves), I started looking for opportunities to save some money. I spent an hour or so scouring everyone’s favourite auction site looking for some of the things that aren’t specific to motorsport and therefore can be bought without paying the ‘motorsport tax’ (ok, so it’s not a tax – more of a premium). Prices vary but I saved a few quid – 30% on mechanics gloves, 20% on high tensile bolts. Shame they were low cost items but it all helps, right?

Purchases: £20 Weise Waterford motorcycle jacket, £20 IXON motorcycle trousers,  £39 OTK engine mount drilled for TKM, £4 Maxiflex Ultimate gloves, £5 20x high tensile M6 45mm bolts (for sprocket carrier), £3 20x M10 high tensile screw bolts 40mm, £3 20x M10 high tensile screw bolts 45mm (for chassis/bearing carriers)

Total spent so far: £3,825

It’s almost time…

So we’re on the eve of our first race weekend!!! The overwhelming enthusiasm that saw me wishing most of this week would pass as quickly as possible has been dampened somewhat by the weather forecast. I do share a 6x3m awning with another Dad but his lad is a couple of months behind us from a competition-readiness perspective (or rather – he shares my view on not chucking them in until they are ready) and I don’t have the space in the Clio or the trailer to bring it with us. We’re going to have to stick it out if it gets very wet although working out the back of a Clio in heavy rain is no fun I can assure you.

Having only just seen the worsened forecast, I got to the camping shop 15 mins before closing this afternoon to try to get some waterproofs. Unfortunately I arrived as the shop keeper was getting into her car having decided to call it a day and, after watching me for a few mins (presumably making sure I wasn’t about to throw a dustbin through the window and help myself), she wound down her window, told me she had just put the alarm on and that I’d have to come back. Customer service, anyone? :/

Anyway the past few weekends have been all about getting set for the race. It’s been an expensive time what with the repairs after throwing a chain and I’ve also bought several sets of used slicks that each had a day’s wear (I figure we’ll race on used tyres at least for the three meetings we plan to do this year), a set of Doulgas SE rims (I wanted another set of rims to avoid having to change tyres overnight between the practice and race days) and a couple of additions for the toolkit (deep 10mm sprocket, front sprocket remover). As far as actually doing things is concerned, the maintenance has gone something like this: new front and rear sprockets fitted, chain guard cut/fixings fitted, transponder mount fitted, bearing carrier replaced, exhaust springs and wrap replaced, new manifold holes drilled, sprocket carrier protectors put back on, HT lead replaced, kart cleaned, front and rear chassis height changed, seat stays adjusted, Tillett 40mm washers added (to comply with MSA seat mounting regulations), engine mount adjusted (the mount does not appear to allow the engine to sit perfectly square so the chain is pulled at a very slight angle – need a new mount but the kart pot was empty!), front and read chassis height corrected (stupidly moved it in the opposite direction, even after blogging about rear chassis height!!!) and finally… swapped the front practice tyres over! 🙂

The changing of the tyres was a minor success – the first time I had done this alone although, as the tyres were 200 laps old, it was easier than it might otherwise have been. I was pretty chuffed with myself as I admired the newly fitted tyre – until I realised that I had put it on the same way it had come off! :S

So we’re pretty much all set – the transponder (pleasingly seems to hold full charge even though its not been used since February!), cordless drill, starter battery and GPS watch are all sat on charge on Junior is getting focused (aka upstairs playing Codemasters F1 2013 – I can recommend the Classic Edition :)). I haven’t had a chance to ensure my HT lead is good having borrowed after our problems last time but we should be ok. Wish us luck… 🙂

Purchases since last post: £10 used sprocket puller, £120 three sets of used slicks incl postage, £100 used set of Douglas SE rims (might have paid a little over the norm for these but I really wanted before the race weekend so my ability to wait for something at the right price was lost), £4 10mm deep sprocket.

Total spent so far: £3,630

Changing tyres ain’t easy!

This week I bought a bead breaker, a tyre removal tool and some tyre paste as I wanted to get some fresher rubber on for this weekend and I cannot keep asking another Dad to host me whilst I use all his stuff to change tyres. There are two parts that I really struggle with: getting the tyre removal tool disc into rim (so that you can run the tool around the tyre prior to removal) and then working the tyre onto the rim. I think it’s just my general patheticness as an office boy: getting the removal tool in place is about brute force and working the tyre onto the rim seems to be all about finger strength – and I don’t really have any! Changing the wets last time wasn’t too bad but the new(er) slicks I just put on were some else entirely. Once again I can only claim credit for half the set but I’ll be on my own next time so more practice is inevitable.

Cost of tools: £25 bead breaker and removal tool, £3 tyre paste

Total spent so far: £3,227

The kart… it works (I think)

I had been meaning to investigate the cause of the problem that caused an early end to our day at Dunkeswell the following day. I needed Junior to be home to help me get the kart off the trailer lid and onto the trolley (the wife refuses after hurting her back the only other time she tried – I won’t take that one any further!) and I had the kart all ready for his teatime arrival so that I could replace the fuel tank and try starting the kart. It was pretty dark when he got home at 9:30pm!!! Barely light enough to get everything replaced/checked never mind starting at 2-stroke go-kart in the front garden at such an unsociable hour. It had to be done though although a couple of quick starting attempts proved fruitless and I quickly threw in the towel.

Ten days passed (is it just me or is the kart easy to ignore when you know you have a problem to resolve?) and I mustered just enough enthusiasm to try again. The carb was holding the fuel ok but the kart just wasn’t firing up. I rested the plug on top of the engine and tried starting again to gauge the health (or otherwise) of the spark – there was no spark! I replaced the spark plug with a couple of the spares although one of the few pitfalls in buying a retirement package is that you’ve no idea as to the quality of the spares. Could three spark plugs all be bad? I made a note to myself to buy a new plug just to keep for troubleshooting and wondered what I could next. I’m still not great at engine problems but the only things I could test were the PVL coil and the ignition HT lead – both of which I had 🙂 The HT lead was the quicker win so that got replaced first. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a spark and then subsequently hear the engine fire up. I couldn’t run it for very long but it started a couple of times. The HT lead did suffer some damage when Junior had a Rotax drive over him but it had been fine until now. Ho hum…

Our race plans have been set back though – we need another good practice day now so it’s looking likely that we’ll head to Clay this week and hope for the best.

An ActionPro CM-7200: Happy Early Birthday to me!

Junior knew the score when we bought the kart – as far as birthdays go, that was pretty much it for some years to come. His birthday was 7 or 8 weeks after we bought the kart and, from us, he got very little although we said the family could get together to buy a few karting luxuries that we wouldn’t have otherwise bought. The most useful advice you will be given when karting on a budget is to buy only what you need – it’s excellent advice and, looking at my expenses, I don’t think I’ve done too badly in this respect; especially given my impulsive nature. There is one are where I really do harbour burning desires to spend unwisely and that’s on technology – in this case, data analysis. Technology is my day job – I love it. I love gadgets. I would like to do as much as possible in this respect and the expansion options for the Mychron really do excite me! Of course,these really are luxuries that I cannot afford – we have the Mychron data key and I spend a fair bit of time post-session looking at Junior’s laps in Race Studio 2 but it’s hard to see myself ever splashing out £200 on a GPS module, second-hand or not.

My karting addiction meant I was looking around for toys that I could buy under the ‘Dad’s birthday present’ excuse, despite not really being able to benefit from them personally! I had looked into action cameras a few months back just to check things out (as you do). Obviously the GoPro HD Hero is the clear market leader but, at £200+, was not a justifiable karting purchase. It was at that time that I came across the ActionPro (or the Astak CM-7200 as it’s known in the US) – it was a cheaper rival to the Go-Pro HD Hero 2 and YouTube video comparisons looked very good, if the colours were a tad rich for my tastes. I didn’t really think more about it until I read of a new ActionPro model and, with my birthday coming up, I wondered…

The original ActionPro is no longer available in the UK although a quick search on showed they are being sold off in the US and for as little as $100. A £70 punt on what was a very reasonable camera (720p @60fps or 1080p @30 fps, with remote, waterproof camera, several mounts and memory card) became very tempting. The company did seem to get some criticism for their reliability but I considered the pros and cons and took the punt.

It arrived a couple of weeks back and I took it for a test on The Swarm at Thorpe Park last weekend – I was quite impressed with the image quality although the sound is indistinguishable when the camera is inside the waterproof case (I’d have posted the video if I didn’t sound quite so drone-like in the footage!). The case is, however, the only drawback that I have come across in my initial tests: it cannot be powered on inside the case!!! The camera has three buttons on top – record, power on/off, take photograph. The case has only the record and photograph buttons! What bright spark designed that? Never mind, I will need to switch it on before mounting it at the start of a session and use the remote to start recording.

I fixed the mount onto the nassau yesterday evening and ran a few tests to see what angle/view I wanted. I’d really like to have gotten a view which showed Junior’s pedal activity but couldn’t do it without filling the picture with kart and obscuring the number plate on the nassau. This is the view I have settled on:


Not sure the micro-SD card is large enough but it will be fine for testing. Looking forward to Dunkeswell on Saturday 🙂


Visor protector: Racing Optics Shield Protector

Junior got a red mirrored visor for his Bell KC3 helmet for his birthday a couple of months ago. I subsequently realised the importance of some kind of visor protection and so the visor has been shelved ever since pending me sorting something out. Bell make tear offs for the KC3 but I wanted something a little more protective and could find little alternatives on these fair shores. In searching, I came across the Racing Optics range of shield protectors. It seemed like just the job although there were no reviews to be found and Racing Optics declined to respond to my email asking about their suitability for use on a KC3.

I took the plunge anyway and a friend picked up the 3421CP3 Clear Shield version for me on a recent trip to the US. Each packet comes with three protectors (one missing from the image below, which was taken after fitting!), each with three removable layers and are fixed to the visor via a small adhesive strip around the protector. IMG_4942


I removed the clear visor from the KC3 and then noticed that the mirror visor had a small scratch on one edge. It definitely wasn’t there when we got it and the visor has been sat on a shelf in it’s protective sleeve ever since! I took a deep breath and counted to ten… 😉

I assumed that, being generic, the protectors would be undersized: the opposite proved to be the case – the protectors are about 10mm too tall. Now I’m not the best at fitting adhesive covers, as Junior would vouch with the cover I stuck to his iPhone, so the thought of having to cut and fit the protector didn’t fill me with joy. The bottom of the protector was a nice flush fit along the bottom of the visor so I decided to trim the top. This might pose an issue if and when water gets between the visor and the protector but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I marked the centre of the protector so that I could position it centrally on the visor and mark the cutting area. It took a few attempts as I didn’t cut enough off initially but it looks ok:


It was then that I realised the new visor does not have a visor sticker so Junior may have something to say next time he is driving into the sun! Not having thought about this sooner was a bit annoying and I might get one and stick it over the top of the protector – I am undecided on that. It will also be interesting to see how easily the final layer of protector comes off although I am not banking on having to remove layers all that often. I think it looks ok – like so much of the past four months, it’s a learning experience!


Cost of shield protector: £20

Total spent so far: £2,442