My wasted rebuild

After our chain snapping woes at our practice day, I hastily got the engine head off to see what was going on. Data analysis showed that the engine had hit 21,306rpm!!! 🙁

Sh*t! :(

The top piston ring was stuck firmly in place and all evidence suggested that the piston had hit the head. RIP my three-day old piston.The crank was also out of alignment. If there was any positive to be taken from this, the head at least looked ok. I had it collected by a friendly engine builder for a new piston and repair.

Things got worse when I was informed that my lovely new crank was slightly twisted although Tal-Ko assured me that this could be straightened and I didn’t pass up on the opportunity to save £166!

Having run a single Panther chain for the biggest part of 2014, I was fed up with my ‘cheaper’ chains snapping so ordered another trusty Panther and Talon sprocket – I am pretty keen to avoid any future chain woes and will be running my engine stop bolt a lot closer to the engine in future.

Cost of engine repair: £180

Costs since last post: New brake pads, £25; 2x Shell M Oil, £20;Dot 5 Brake Fluid, £10; Gaffer tape, £5; Insulation tape, £2; cable ties, £2; Chain and sprocket bundle, £50

Total spent this year: £1,496

A trip to the engine builders

With the practice engine due a rebuild and my previously stated fear of posting engines via couriers, I recently drove up North to spend the day with my engine builder. It was a bit of a hike but being able to get the engine back same day coupled with the chance to see what goes on and learn more about something I am still largely ignorant made this an easy decision.

It proved to be a really insightful day: Stripping the engine down, measuring the wear on some of the key parts, putting names to parts and seeing where they fit in (I know I could study the Tal-Ko parts diagram but it is not quite the same). Crushingly, my con rod did need replacing 🙁 How an 8-inch piece of machined metal can cost £166 is beyond me. It would have been fair enough had this been a BMW part – perhaps I just don’t appreciate fine engineering? 😉

It was good to learn the measurements of the squish, the head volume, inlet and exhaust ports along with my ignition timing (something else I had hitherto paid no attention to). I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to explain the exact functions of all of those just yet but I am making progress! The builder was pleased with the engine and saw no reason why it would be 0.3s slower around Llandow than our race engine but we’ll run it in and assess if anything has changed. We took the measurements for the race engine too so that we could tweak things if need be.

It was getting pretty late by the time we got to carb rebuilds. It was the first time I had watched a full rebuild – there wasn’t that much to it so I will hopefully do my own in the not-too-distant future! My recent eBay-purchased 820 carb that had seen only one session’s use at Llandow since being cleaned and kitted proved to be fit for nothing more than donor parts since the throttle shaft spring no longer remains held by the body of the carb (yes, we did try another spring) 🙁

You know what they say about stuff being on eBay for a reason…

Cost of rebuild: £436

Total spent this year: £671

Catching up

A rather poor effort on my part has meant a lack of blog articles of late. I blame the Karting Dad Facebook page for the most part – it’s very easy to type in one liners and move on (although I do recommend it for the little things that don’t get written up here!).

So what has been going on in my world? I’ve really just been trying to get everything sorted for the new season. I’ve mentioned before my deliberations over what to do with our chassis, in the end I decided not to get it blasted and powder coated – it just didn’t seem worthwhile. I also came to learn that it (what I thought was a 2010 EVR) was really a 2009 EVR! If you’ve been here a long time, you’ll remember that my original 2009 EVR was suspected to be a 2008 EVXX! There is a lesson to be learned here – remember, you can always ask Strawberry when they imported a chassis. So with two 2009 EVR chassis (I was given one in 2013 that was bent and that I had straightened but never used), I have decided that I’d quite like to test them against one another. We won’t be replacing either anytime soon so I might as well see if Junior finds any difference between them. I sanded, primed and sprayed both (after breaking the nozzle on my first can of OTK paint and covering the lawn) – and they look pretty good unless you get up close so good enough for me at least.

No - this is not the Strawberry Racing paint shop...

No – this is not the Strawberry Racing paint shop…

The ‘spare’ has also gone to the welders to get the front torsion bar welded in. In the meantime, I’ve built up the chassis that we used at the back end of last season and it’s pretty much ready to go. I was hoping to get to the track at the weekend but Llandow’s owner/driver availability can be patchy, especially at weekends and they were mostly full with arrive/drive bookings.

No bodywork - the extremists would approve ;)

No bodywork – the extremists would approve 😉

We’re also sweating on our MSA licenses after my tardiness in getting them sent off – the MSA quote a 15-day turnaround and we needed them 14 days from the day of postage! Fingers crossed…

Costs since last post: £28 – 2x OTK spray paint plus something else that escapes me! £20 – wedge for OTK steering boss; £15 – Strawberry Mychron/Alfano support for OTK wheel.

Total spent this year: £235

End of year 2 accounts

I remember when I posted my first year accounts, a friend told me I’d spend £4,000 in year two. I didn’t believe him: this year would just be racing costs since we already had everything else that we would need so this year *had* to be cheaper, right?

Year two’s magic number is £4,683 😮 On the back of a year one spend £4,594, that day one prediction of £4,600 per year is looking scarily good! Before you ask me for the lottery numbers this week, I’ll admit that that figure included the cost of buying the kart so I am definitely overspending, especially when you consider that £1,131 went on non-essential items. This is the full breakdown:

Running costs – £2,853:

  • Licenses/memberships – £94
  • Practice fees (12 sessions) – £470
  • Race fees (13 race days) – £664
  • Wet tyres (one unused, three used – all from forums) – £165
  • Slicks(two sets) – £300
  • Engine/carb rebuilds – £608
  • Petrol (for the car) – £353
  • Fuel (for the kart) – £141
  • Bridge tolls – £38

Perishables – £246

  • Bolts – £31
  • Brake fluid/seals – £25
  • Sprocket carrier/protector (eBay) – £33
  • Chains (2) – £34
  • Exhaust flex/wrap – £47
  • Fuel hose – £7
  • Seat – £40
  • Carb gaskets – £25

Repairs – £453:

  • Axles (2) – £144
  • Weld – £10
  • Exhaust bracket – £20
  • Exhaust cradle – £12
  • Steering column – £42
  • Bumper bolts – £21
  • Engine (crank alignment) – £170
  • Jig check – £34

Non-essentials – £1,131

  • Engine mount – £30
  • Additional wet rims – £50
  • Mag rims – £100
  • Decals – £120
  • Bodywork – £119
  • Hotel – £130
  • Engine upgrade – £425
  • 2010 chassis – £25
  • Bearing hangers – £30
  • Additional carbs – £70
  • Carb tester – £32

The running costs for next year will be interesting since we will be buying more new tyres although that may be offset by less track time as Junior enters the run-up to his exams. As for the non-essentials, some of the luxuries were birthday presents etc and the engine upgrade was effectively trading in our old cast barrelled engine nearing rebuild time for a CNC barrelled engine with 90 minutes on but that is still a fair amount of money that could possibly have either been saved or invested in track time. Talking of which, how much time did we get? Unfortunately I seem to have lost the data from June and July but, minus one practice day and three race days, the count was 1,048 laps around Clay and 590 laps around Llandow.

See you in year three? 😀

You know you’ve made it when…

We're famous! Or is that infamous!?!

We’re famous! Or is that infamous!?!

So I was sat on the sofa on Saturday afternoon, having a tea break midway through getting Junior’s kart sorted for Clay this weekend and browsing the forums (as you do), when I got tagged in Facebook comment by one of my friends. It wasn’t immediately obvious what was going on: there was a photo of our old chassis in my garage that I had posted on the blog shortly before I gave the friend the chassis to use for his dyno testing. I had just replaced it with our ‘newer’ chassis and, as it was an old (2008) chassis showing signs of another crack, I was happy just to avoid keeping it in some form of service and not chucking it in the skip!

Then the penny dropped: the blog had been shared by The Kart Bandit!!! In case, you aren’t on Facebook and don’t read Karting Magazine(I really don’t need to explain this do I?), The Kart Bandit is famous for crash pics and memes (I had to look up what that meant initially!) and generally entertains the karting community. It’s followed by all the kids and most of the dads so my Facebook notifications went through the roof for a couple of hours!

I’m not sure what people make of the blog really and I’ve always been amazed when I meet strangers who comment on it. It was originally intended to help noobs but has really become more of a diary, a record of my karting accounts and some of my more printable ramblings. Of course, I’ve always tried to make it entertaining and having endured more than our fair share of mishaps hasn’t harmed in this respect – I think it resonates with people since we’ve all come through the noob phase. My concern is that I should be moving on from this phase at some point, right?!?

This is what happens to your web traffic when you get a mention by The Kart Bandit!

This is what happens to your web traffic when you get a mention by The Kart Bandit!

Things that break when you want it least…

You gave yourself that afternoon to prepare the kart (in daylight) for the weekend. You did something else first that took an hour and you have a parent’s evening at 6pm but it’s ok: all you need to do is change the axle, clean a few things up and put on the engine, carb and exhaust. You’re tightening the brake caliper bolt. You go to give it one final turn and then ‘CLUNK’ – the brake caliper bolt shears midway between the bearing hanger and caliper!!! Cue repeated heavy swearing…

Luckily I managed to drill out the bolt and reassemble the kart, rush my tea and get Junior to school! I’m still not fully comfortable with the disassembly of the brake system and am yet to ‘fly solo’ when it comes to bleeding the brakes but this will change tomorrow since it’s my only free time before the weekend – just one of those things that I have to learn to become competent at.

Other semi-interesting things that have cost me money this week: I stopped by the local engine builder to confirm that the engines were legal following the illegal engine modification scandal. I was pretty certain they were good – the previous owner is easily the most knowledgeable person I’ve met in TKM (I guess when you are spending Super One money, you have to be!) and had assured me that there was nothing to worry about but it was one of those things that you just have to have done so that you know without the slightest element of doubt that your engine is legal. Both engines were legal. Unfortunately both had crank alignment issues – we almost certainly damaged the newly built race engine when we ran it in with what I suspect to have been a bad hanger/bearing combo. It’s been a tight month karting budget-wise and I could definitely have done without any engine bills 🙁

Decision time!

Racing twice a month was never going to be sustainable despite us having done so for the past two months. Our participation in the August round at Llandow Kart Club was never really intended but the great time that we had, Junior’s enjoyment of the track and little things like the novel addition of the reverse grid Bonus Race meant that we were going to have to make a decision sooner or later. Clay Pigeon Kart Club offering a shortened practice Saturday for their September round, together with my work commitments preventing us from making the Llandow practice Saturday meant we could again race twice but the time when we would have to choose was always going to arrive. It’s all down to money, effectively; there is no way that our budget stretches to a new set of slicks every month, which racing twice a month would demand (at least when one of those tracks is Clay). Hey, Tal-Ko – bring back harder tyres and our budget might stretch that bit further!!!

The decision was entirely Junior’s. Yes, he’s in the Clay championship and has all of his friends there but, as enthusiastic as he is about karting (and he really is one of those who would enjoy two hours driving around in circles in the rain), the contrast between the atmosphere in the car on the way home after the Clay round a few weeks back (where he had beaten his PB but we’d only ever been hanging on to other’s coattails) and the journey back from Llandow the very next week (where, to be honest, it was pretty much the same thing except we were in only our second race there and were making really good progress) was massive. I think that, with the new slicks at Clay this month, we both expected a little better but that, following on from a disappointing month in August kind of opened the door to us trying something else. There is definitely no point is spending the amount of money that we were/are without Junior getting a decent amount of enjoyment out of it.

So Llandow it is, for what I would expect to be the rest of the season at least. Junior is really enjoying the track – I guess it is a case of ‘a change is as good as a rest‘. You could argue that we should persist at Clay and keep trying to improve. It’s a valid point and one I considered but this is just a hobby for us – we aren’t on the road to F1 and the fun element is essential. There are some down sides to moving – the TKM community is a lot smaller as there is no senior grid, which is a shame, as I really enjoy the social scene! That said, there are still one or two from Clay that we know quite well and Junior seems to make friends fairly easily. The JTKM grid is, like Clay, just about enough with a grid of 7 or 8 regulars. The club itself does appear to be in a much more precarious position in terms of entry numbers but hopefully they will find a way to boost the numbers to something approaching sustainable. The biggest downside may prove to be abandoning my share of our 6x3m awning – I could still bring it but I don’t have any room in the Clio or the trailer and I can’t see myself buying a smaller one this side of Christmas (or do I mean, I can’t see my wife authorising a spend on one?). But no matter – we’ll make the most of whatever conditions we find ourselves in! Next weekend will seem a bit odd as I twiddle my thumbs and watch my friends on AlphaTiming but I’m looking forward to our October round…

When is a race day too short?

It’s going to be a busy day at Clay this weekend as there are four guest classes at the track – Junior Blue, Formula Blue, World Formula and RAFMSA will all be sharing the Dorset countryside with us. And that sets of my track time alarm!!! As my Facebook friends, or at least those that are still following my whining ways, will confirm I do go on a bit (which would be ok were the Club Competition Secretary not on there as well!). So, although I’ve said this elsewhere, I want to reiterate my appreciation of the job performed by the CompSec and I am sorry for any social media ear-bashing that you get from me on behalf of the club (even though it isn’t aimed at you)!

I do seem to be alone in being hung up on track time. For Junior, a race is too short if he is doing well and too long if things aren’t going quite so well. We’ve had a few too many long races at Clay recently :/ Other drivers don’t seem to mind and the Dads are happy that a shorter race day will mean lower costs, with less tyre wear, less fuel, less potential for damage but at what point do the races become too short to warrant the £150-odd cost of a race day? We moved from A&D karting initially because the value for money of owner driving was greater – £72 for 24 mins track time in the Castle Combe Club Championship whereas we were spending around £120 for 90 mins or more when we started doing practice days and in a much quicker kart. Obviously those costs spiral when you start racing. I’ve always been keener on longer races as we need the race experience and Junior typically wants to drive as much as he can. With the race days at Clay having gone from 8 min +1 lap heats and a 12 min + lap final earlier in the year to a 6 min +1 heats and 9? min + 1 final last month, I feared the worst but the club has managed to preserve 6 min +1 lap heats and a 10 min +1 lap final. I’m not sure how the officials and track staff will view the 15 minute lunch break!

The even bigger bee in my bonnet for this round was the potential for the club to decide to once again start the (slower) Junior Blues ahead of the (faster) JTKMs in a combined grid. They did this in March which had disastrous results for us as we were involved in an incident which saw us off at the fastest corner and then our kart was hit whilst I  attempted to remove it from danger (as the little darlings seemed to be unaware as to what exactly a yellow flag meant). I still begrudge the £72 it cost me to replace the two-race old axle (no, I haven’t done enough karting yet to shrug this kind of outlay off!) but it could have been a lot worse (for me physically, had I not dropped the kart and jumped out of the way) and I’ll always be suspicious that my subsequent comments online (you can do the detective work yourselves) were the cause of our black flag the following month. So my Facebook wall wasn’t quite the happy place I would normally expect it to be of late and I held off from entering until the grid issue was confirmed – we’ll have our own grid and won’t have to contend with slower karts in another class starting in front of us just because they have a ‘big race’, taking defensive lines against faster karts that they aren’t even competing with, or running them wide, or trying to run me down!

Onwards and upwards anyway 😉 I am quite looking forward to this Sunday and it’s a shame that a shortened practice (more Formula Blue inconvenience 😛 ) mean that it is not really worth our while in running on the Saturday. We won’t get to run the final check to ensure the axle is good after our issues as our last practice day but Saturday will be a relaxed day spent getting the kart setup. After our dire weekend last month, we’ll be on new (as in 2014 new) rubber for the first time on the new (as in 2010 new-to-us) chassis and I am really keen to see how we go. Of course, four 7th place finishes wouldn’t be conducive to a happy trip home.

Have fun if you are racing this weekend 😀 If you see what appears to be a ginger rocket in the southern skies at around 7:30am, you’ll know I’ve arrived to find someone in my pit space 😡

Spent since last post: New carb popoff tester, £32; lots of TKM carb gaskets, £25; a 35ft roll of exhaust wrap (still haven’t found one with any longevity and if you want to try some of this titanium stuff, come and see me in the pits!), £35.

Total spent this year: £3,749

Farewell, Trusty Steed

With a newer chassis in the garage and on the back of a dire weekend, the five evenings following the Clay race weekend were spent stripping the old chassis (the one sold to me as a 2009 EVR that turned out to be a 2008 EVXX). It was the first time I had fully stripped the chassis so it took a bit longer than I had planned. I had some changes planned for the new build – Junior’s XS sized OTK seat was a bit too ‘XS’ and I had purchased a brand new MS sized Tillett T11 from the UK Karting Market Place. In addition, I decided to replace the carbon fibre and Kevlar floor tray that the kart’s former owners had very impressively crafted with the standard EVXX floor tray – we had no need to save weight and, in using the floor tray instead of adding another kilo of lead, I figured the weight was better placed . Finally, I had borrowed and OTK steering wheel to test against the C-K-R wheel – when watching Junior at Clay, he had been a lot more twitchy on the wheel than his peers and I wondered if the smaller wheel was preventing him from making the finer adjustments necessary in the fast corners.

We were under a bit of pressure time-wise as I had been tempted into taking the kart to the practice session at the Llandow (I still continue to type this ‘Lladnow’!) Kart Club practice day but we made it. And I wasn’t even changing tyres at 11:30pm on the Friday evening!

Out with the old...

Out with the old…


In with the not-quite-so-old!!!

Time to start thinking about karting again

It’s been three weeks or so since I took Junior’s kart out and in that time I have done… absolutely nothing to do with karting! Sure; Junior’s kart needed re-assembling after I replaced large chunks of it a) to fit me and b) in case I broke stuff but I hadn’t really felt the inclination to put it back together again. The break has been good but it was time to address my lack of attention as we race again next weekend and I won’t have any free time next week. So the kart looks shiny and new again. Or as shiny and new as it can look after the contact we had last month!

Although I have spent no time on it, I could soon be spending a fair amount of money! Both the race and practice engines are coming up for rebuild 🙁 and with a few non-karting expenses to balance, I’m under a bit of pressure budget-wise. I have been considering for some time what to do with our practice engine: it’s on a 51.4mm piston and the options were obviously to just continue with it, rebuild it in a couple of hours’ time and, if/when the time came for a new bore, make the Extreme/new barrel/sell it decision at that point or to sell it now and use the funds from the sell, together with the saved rebuild money to buy another engine. I’ve decided to do the latter and have sourced a CNC-barrelled engine with 90 mins running time that I should pick up next week. That still leaves the race engine also coming up for rebuild and I might just have to retire that one for a month or two. The imminent costs have also spurred me into action to sell some of the stuff that came with the retirement package that I have no need for, so if you are after some tidy OTK M3 side pods/bars or some MXP rims, there are some an auction site near you 😉

Underneath there is a racing machine, honest!

Underneath there is a racing machine, honest!