Facebook power!

Other than being a fanboy, I’ve not actually done much in support of the TKM class but the Facebook group for drivers/dads/mechanics has taken off *way* better than I could possibly have hoped. It was never about numbers although 450+ in four months is good going; it’s about the breadth of people getting involved: from Super One to IKR to…even Tal-Ko (albeit indirectly). It is clear that the TKM community is very passionate about their class. Of course I beat the harder tyre drum from time-to-time but the most satisfying thread so far was seeing Tal-Ko ask drivers what changes they would want to see in order to boost the Super One entry numbers. It even looks as though it may have made a difference 🙂

I still think there is much to be done in support of the lower echelons and it remains to be seen whether Tal-Ko can come up with a reason for drivers to contest some of the ailing club championships (hint: costs). Now back to the tyres…

A mixed weekend at Llandow

It isn’t often that I wonder whether or not to take the kart to the track but Saturday was one of those days; the entry numbers were small and the chance to save a few quid for the Festival was tempting. I put the question to Junior and we decided to go to get some race practice in with one of our friends. As it turned out, I really wish that we hadn’t bothered.

The plan for the first practice session was to bed in a set of brake pads ahead of the  Festival, only the kart had other ideas and it was clear that it wasn’t going anywhere even though Junior insisted upon my pushing him halfway down the straight! The carb that had been duly tested before I put it on the kart on Friday was no longer holding any pressure. With the carb replaced we got the pads bedded in during our second session before disaster struck in the third when we had our first ever engine seize. It happened on the outlap and, from watching the on-board footage, the engine makes an unsual whirring sound exiting MacWhirters before seizing on entry to Chandlers. You know something bad has happened when your driver comes running across the track to tell you about it. We recovered the kart (why does it always stop in the opposite corner of the track?) and assessed the damage: the crank pin had snapped, the piston had hit the head and caused some minor marking on the head although the barrel was undamaged. Happening weeks before what is already an expensive Festival weekend, this was definitely not what the doctor ordered.

I’d never had an engine seize before and was unsure what to do next: the spark plug looked lean but could this have been as a result of the seize rather than the cause. We’d not deviated from our standard carb settings and the carb was popping off ok both before and after the seize. I decided to replace it anyway but what about the fuel? I know for sure that I’d just mixed it and it was freshly purchased only the night before. I’d continue with it.

So on went the race engine. Junior did a couple of laps of the next session but came in after three laps: the pipe had come off of the fuel overflow bottle. A simple fix, only then the kart did not want to restart on the dummy grid. It was starting to look like amateur day at the track 🙁 The carb was fine, we had a spark and the fuel was flowing as you would expect. The engine started with no problems on the stand and we finally got our heads down and set about finding some missing tenths. I don’t think we got closer than three tenths off of the pace but our front tyres had little tread depth indicator remaining by the end so we put it down to tyres.

We were at the track early on Sunday and, if I’m honest, was surprised to see how few people had stayed over. The car park was almost empty. After the early season entry numbers had been boosted by Super One drivers practising and, once the Super One tour had been and gone, the TKM Southern Championships had rolled into town, this was the first month for club drivers alone. Of course it was also the first weekend of the school holidays so that will certainly have taken its toll but the entry numbers were in the mid-thirties, the lowest we’d seen in our year at the track. The JTKM grid was six, probably the minimum you’d want to see but it represented a good chance for us to scoop our biggest points haul, possibly even a trophy! If this were a horse race we’d have started second favourite and a top two finish was our aim for the day.

The first heat marked another low point for the weekend. Junior started in fifth and was stuck in fourth when he was caught by the sole Junior Rotax entrant that was running off the back of the JTKM grid. Normally the Rotax drivers clear off into the distance but the classes were very evenly matched in these track conditions; the Rotax was quick enough to make the lunge into the hairpin off the straight but then held up the TKMs through the rest of the lap. He was certainly having an impact on the TKM race and Junior lost out more than most as he was pushed wide and lost a place to another TKM. He soon made up the place but then fifth challenged again, attempting a move around the outside of The Hook. The karts locked wheels and flipped Junior’s back end around and into the other driver. The race was red flagged and there was a lengthy delay as the driver was treated on track. You don’t want to see any driver getting hurt racing, especially in an incident involving your own lad. The nature of the injury was very similar to the one that junior suffered in April and I know that one of my issues at that time was that neither dad nor lad had come over to wish Junior well as we were packing up to head to the hospital. In this case the driver and his dad were in the ambulance until another came to take him to hospital. You always wonder whether or not to say anything and I feel that you should even if, as in this case, I didn’t know the other dad particularly well. The chance never arose but we wish the driver a speedy recovery.

The incident put a dampener on the rest of the day for me. Back on track, the grid was down to five and our fourth place finish in Heat #1 had put us on the back foot. We had successive second-placed starts to come (we weren’t able to secure what would have been a first pole position draw at Llandow in a field of five license holders and one novice driver so I’m not banking on us ever getting one!) which is a very poor place to start and, indeed, Heat #1 had seen all of the odd-numbered drivers take the first three places into the The Hook. We got dropped to the back after contact in The Hook on the first lap of Heat #2 but Junior drove really well to recover on take second. In Heat #3, Junior had a great start – almost too good as he was too close to the leader to tuck in and third managed to get enough of his kart up the inside that Junior had to give up the place but again drove well, secured second and, for the first time of the day, set the fastest lap.

Junior was tied for second on points and, luckily for us, lost out on second owing to an inferior Heat #1 finish 🙂 He started third for the final, secured second in the first corner and made up 10m or so on the leader to be in his tow after three laps. Having been widely slated for battling too early last month, he was happy to tuck in and pull clear. Things looked promising but it wasn’t to be. Junior had a poor lap in which he lost a good 20m and then found himself losing more ground with each lap. Whether he was trying too hard to make up that ground or whether his tyres, which had done the two days of the Welsh Champs, were just going off I couldn’t say. Possibly it was a combination of the two. We finished three seconds adrift although again set the fastest lap and had at least kept the leader (who won every race) honest for a bit.

Our best-ever podium finish is not something to be scoffed at even with the depleted grid. We’ll take that and the positives from some more strong pace and hope to add a little more consistency next month. For now, I’ve an engine repair to address before the Festival.

Cost of race weekend: Entry fee £100, petrol (car) £12, fuel (kart) £8

Total spent this year: £2,690

Five more minutes of fame!?!

After the visitor surge courtesy of The Kart Bandit, I was contacted by Karting Magazine who were interested in me writing something for the magazine. This was both exciting and fear-inducing in equal measures; it isn’t every day that you get an offer to write for national magazine but would I be able to write stuff that people who are paying for a magazine actually want to read??? It’s one thing to write a bunch of ramblings in a blog but this felt like there was much more at stake. We agreed that I would write for a three month trial period to see if it worked for both parties. I wrote a piece on the costs of karting, sent it off and heard no more until BOOM – it’s been published! 😮

So what is it like? Well, the magazine increased their font size after I submitted the article and had to cut out around 150 words, the result being that it doesn’t really flow like I intended (it took me a long time to get it down to 650 words and still keep some semblance of the story!). Does it still work? I’ll let you be the ultimate judge.

Now I have to start planning next month’s article…

 

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? 😀

My Dad went to Kart Mania and all he bought was a fuel can and a roll of duct tape!

It wasn’t quite like that but I liked the headline at least 😉 Kart Mania on Saturday was an interesting experience, something I wasn’t really planning on attending but I had  wanted to get Junior properly measured up for his new suit and Grand Prix Racewear being on site gave me the reason I needed. Even though the suit was already paid for, I still managed to spend £140 before we even got to the show as we bought Junior some boots and gloves. I say ‘spend’  but the boots and gloves will be passed on to the grandparents so not hitting the KartingDad books for FY14.

Driving through Silverstone, past the various famous corners, Junior and I were getting excited like a couple of kids; “Dad, can we come next year?”. He was obviously referring to the Grand Prix and not Kart Mania; “Not unless you give up karting” I replied. In fact, I had looked at the ticket prices earlier in the week but there wasn’t any realistic chance of us attending. Unless of course he really does decide to pack it in!

Kart Mania consisted of two exhibition areas and two ‘Kart Boot’ areas.We checked out the kart boot area first; it was much smaller than I had expected – there were some tempting OTK axles (didn’t really need them), some FP7 bumpers (at new prices) and an interesting Junior Ginetta display (£28,000 per year for your, Sir… at which point I told Junior to get out of the car 😉 ).

Onto the exhibition halls: First things first, we went to the Llandow Kart Club stand to reserve Junior’s number for next year. For some reason I was surprised to see clubs represented at the show, in particularly Llandow, as I’d have thought that most attendees were from the central/southern part of the country, but the stand was really impressive and here’s hoping a good few more followed our example in signing up. I was little taken aback that I had to pay membership as a parent!!! You all know my stance on the PG license and charging the parent for club membership was a novel one – it’s not something that Clay Pigeon Kart Club do. Then again, a friend has told me numerous times that Clay is one of the cheapest places in the country to kart. On this occasion, I wasn’t going to make any waves – the club needs to survive given the grid sizes this season and I was [relatively 😉 ] happy to help fund that. The first hall contained mostly kart clubs along with some of the governing bodies and Karting Magazine. I took the opportunity to tell the MSA my thoughts on their efforts to reduce the costs of karting, much to Junior’s amusement. I did my unimpressed face as the freeze on prices for 2015 was explained to me before I launched into my biggest gripe (no – you’ll never convince me that there is a need for a PG license, tough – if some knuckle dragger can’t control their temper their kid should be punished and, if you really had to have it, why isn’t it included in the cost of the driver license?). I progressed onto the adult medical requirement before my adversary saw his chance “Well, thanks for giving us your feedback”. Fair play to the lad if it was said with sincerity. I’m not certain it was though!

The retro karts in the adjacent hall were fascinating. The Superkarts were as impressive as they were plain scarey. I don’t think you’d find anyone with the kahunas to drive one in our family! That was really it for us; we had some lunch and did another lap of the show. It was then that we realised that we’d missed one of the kart boot areas earlier! This time, I dusted off the wallet – a new 5l fuel can for £1 and a roll of pro duct tape for £2 was too tempting an offer to pass over 😀 The rest of the kit being sold was pretty pricey, easily above eBay prices. I guess you needn’t be in any rush to sell half way through the first day so can afford to mark your prices up. There was still time to chat with some of the clubs where Junior would like to race – Kimbolton (would love to race the Festival) and PFI (such an impressive track but £60 membership required for a single visit – talk about a barrier to entry!).

We’d done the rounds and were ready to leave by 1.45pm. I was glad to have gone but there was much more that I’d like to have seen: Tal-Ko (I know they sent out an email about how they’d sooner reach out to their customers directly but I do wonder if I’ll be seeing them at a track near me any time soon), Strawberry Racing (I’ve a million questions about Tony Kart setup!), twice the number of sellers in the kart boot area (I had imagined this really would be a giant car boot sale for kart bits) and a track where you could see the retro racers/ superkarts running and test the latest chassis or engines (this would have been a great chance for Iame to show drivers what they are missing if X30 is as good as people say it is). I think that, had I had £1500 in my back pocket for a nice rolling chassis, I could easily have spent it. It is what it is though – I was happy to have attended but I’m not sure I’d go again.

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

Race 10: our worst performance since our Novice days :(

The August round of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Championship was a weekend to forget. It started ok – we put 15 minutes on the race engine but spent the remainder of the day chasing 0.8s. Ok, we were on some fairly old tyres but there wasn’t much fun to be had. Sunday promised to be better – the forecast was for heavy rain, which was just as well as we were looking to stretch a set of Maxxis slicks three race days!

Sunday morning was very wet. Wet that was until just before we joined the dummy grid for our 3-lap warm up. We ran in the wets but the track was already starting to dry. Worst still, we were on second race – there would be no time to change from the *very* wet setup I have concocted. Given that we were probably four teeth higher than most others on the grid, we fared as expected and were almost a second off of the pace. The day progressed but the same could not be said for our performance; we put in the same lap times on three different sized sprockets (ranging from 77 to 82!) and had our first ever ‘DNS‘ in Heat #3 – I had cleaned the carb and then put the gasket on upside down. Unfortunately, the carb managed to prime on the stand but it doesn’t tend to start very well when not drawing fuel and I gave up as I pushed him around The Kink. Driver wasn’t please at all. I told him a carb gasket had torn… 😉

To give Junior his dues, his approach to the final was fairly lighthearted and positive – he drove around at the back whilst attempting to control the oversteer and looked like he was having fun. I thought his driving in to the pits on his final lap prior to taking the chequered flag was him proving a point but it seems that either he got it wrong or they showed him the Last Lap sign prematurely as he was so far behind! With hindsight, I guess the tyres just don’t last three races at Clay. I really wish Tal-Ko would reverse their decision to produce softer tyres – the fact that the Clay IKR series uses the SLC and mandates that they be used for three races is a big attraction for 2015. I bought a new set of slicks from the shop just to cheer Junior up 🙂

Cost of weekend:£35 practice fee, £50 race entry, £24 petrol, £7 fuel
Cost of accessories: sprocket protectors: £18, fuel hose: £1, new slicks: £150

Total spent this year: £3,260

Buying a kart (2nd Edition)

This comes up a lot on the forums so I thought I would update the articles I wrote on this in February and March last year! So what do you need to consider?

It is worth pointing out firstly that, if you are new to karting, you aren’t going to take all of this in straight away – it’s hard to write a guide that doesn’t bamboozle newcomers but is complete at the same time! Read it, learn from the forums (Karting1.co.uk is a very friendly place for noobs to ask questions), talk to some kart owners at the track, start to build up an idea for what you want – things might be a little clearer when you return!

1. What class of karts are raced at your local track or what are your mates driving?

Even if you have no plans to race now, you should bear this in mind. Why find that you need to replace everything in 9 months once you are bitten by the bug and want to start racing? Visit the local tracks on a practice day and chat to the other owners – you’ll find they have much more time to chat on a practice day compared to a race day. Ask everything and anything but bear in mind that everyone will have a different opinion – what works for one driver will not necessarily work for you! Contact the local kart club to get some expert advice and ask if they run open days where potential new owners can test drive a kart – why turn down the chance of a free go? Of course, if you already have mates who are owners then this may well answer this question for you.

2. Set your budget

Before you can go about finding the right kart, you need to set your budget. A Formula TKM kart from 2009 will start at around £600, a RotaxMax-engined kart nearer £1000 (if you are considering Rotax, you need to know that the engines must be sealed by a licensed engine builder if you are considering MSA racing). You can obviously spend more and look at much newer karts. You will also see older, cheaper karts around, many of which will be described as TKM 100cc karts. The key is whether the kart has a Tal-Ko BT82 engine – if not, you are looking at a much older engine for which part availability may be limited, as may your race options.

When I use the term ‘TKM’ from here on, I mean Formula TKM…

3. I’ve picked a class but how do I buy the ‘right’ kart?

Your options will be to buy a complete kart which just needs you to add fuel or a rolling chassis (everything except the engine) where you must source the engine parts yourself. The benefit of the former is that you can arrange to meet the seller at the track and test everything for yourself. With the latter, you can more easily perform a visual inspection (of the chassis without the engine mounted) but you won’t get to feel how it handles and, when buying the engine, you will really want to see it running to be sure it at least fires up ok.You may also need to source the carb/exhaust/starting system separately.

4. I’m going TKM, what engine type should I get?

You have three TKM engine options: Direct Drive, Clutched, TaG (Touch and Go). Direct Drive is the cheapest and simplest but the downside is that it needs a push start – either doing it yourself (and then jumping in) or having someone to do the pushing. If you can overcome this (it’s easy once you know how, apparently!), then you’ll find troubleshooting a whole lot simpler. Bear in mind though that, if you spin out on track, the engine will cut out and you will need to push start yourself once again. A clutched engine uses a centrifugal clutch and requires an external starter. If you spin, the engine should not cut out. Both Direct Drive and Clutched engines will have either cast or CNC-machined cylinder liner ports. Cast ports were used on the older engines. CNC-machined ports feature on engines after serial number 6500 (and all TaG engines) although you cannot use the engine number alone as a guide as the previous owners may have swapped the parts around. CNC-machined engines are generally considered to be better and command a price premium.

A TaG has a touch-button start system using an on-board battery. The wiring loom for TaGs has seen numerous upgrades, each more reliable than the previous version – you will want to know the age of a TaG engine and also whether the loom has been replaced at all. Because of the loom and battery, there are some tuning modifications to the TaG engines to offset the excess weight.

Engine prices for Direct Drive engines will fall into one of three categories: non-CNC £250-£350, CNC £500-£600, an ex-Super 1 (the national race series) engine (with some proof to back up any lofty claims) £750-£1000. Bear in mind that a new Direct Drive engine costs £1200, a Clutched engine £1300 and a TaG £1650.

5. What make of chassis should I get?

This is all a matter of personal preference. If you are buying from a manufacturer or trader, you can test drive the options and see what feels best. You may find it really boils down to availability of spares – is there an on-site shop at your preferred track and, if so, which manufacturers parts do they stock? Will you be buying replacement parts direct from the manufacturer or looking to buy used from eBay? There are plenty of options but you’ll find that OTK (a brand that encompasses the TonyKart, Kosmic, Alonso and Exprit brands of kart) parts are by far the most commonly available in the used markets.

6. Where should I buy?

You have a few options here. You can buy new or nearly new karts direct from the manufacturer. Obviously, this is the most expensive option but you should be confident of getting a decent piece of kit. You can buy from a trader – they are generally very helpful in making sure you get something that suits you, you’ll have some comeback if you encounter problems in the short term and, if they are based at the track where you drive, you’ll have a source of assistance in those times of need (and there will be plenty). You can buy from an individual – either through contacts i.e. the local club, via one of the big two UK kart forums (www.karting1.co.uk and www.karting.co.uk – the latter tends to have a more active ‘for sale’ area) or via eBay. Avoid eBay if possible – that’s the place where the karts that haven’t sold anywhere else end up. It’s a great place for spares but not necessarily for karts and engines. You may also see retirement packages up for sale from time to time; these can offer very good value for money and the spares can prove to worth their weight in gold in the long run.

7. How do I avoid buying a dud?

If you are new and do not have expert friends, it’s very hard to be certain. Buy from a trader would be the easy advice. You need to ask the right questions but, even then, you will ideally need to visually inspect the kart and then test drive it.

8. What questions should I ask?

  • What make, model and year is kart?
  • Where/when was the kart last used/raced? (you can lookup the previous results on the club’s result page and check for DNFs if you are as paranoid as me but also be a little wary of a championship winning chassis – they won’t necessarily have had the easiest of lives)
  • Is the engine Direct Drive, Clutched or TaG?*
  • What is the serial number of the engine?*
  • When the engine was last rebuilt and by who? (you can verify this with the rebuilder)
  • Does it have a cast or CNC-machined barrel?*
  • How many hours since the last rebuild? (a TKM engine needs a rebuild after 8-10 hours and cost between £300-£400!)
  • On what bore is the engine? (TKM engines have a range of bore sizes, the maximum bore size for a Junior TKM engine is 51.40mm, for a Senior TKM engine it is 54.75mm. The point here is that, if the engine is on it’s final bore, it may be needing a new barrel at the next rebuild and that’s not cheap)*
  • Is the chassis straight/when was it last checked?
  • Does the chassis have any cracks/re-welds/rust/flattening? (yes to any of the above will heavily impact the value of a chassis)
  • What size rear axle does it have? (30mm tend to be found only in older karts, 50mm is the standard nowadays, converting from one to the other will cost extra)
  • What sized seat is included? (if it isn’t your size, you’ll be needing to buy one before you get out on track)
  • In what condition are the tyres?
  • What is the condition of the bodywork?
  • Exactly what spares are included?

* TKM specific questions – I am sure there will be other questions specific to other classes, it’s just that I cannot help you with them!

9. What are the essentials?

You will need:

  • An external starter (if going TKM Direct Drive or Clutched)
  • A kart trolley – to push your kart from the pits to the track
  • A data logging system (Mychron or Alfano) – the Mychron 4 is generally recognised to be the best of the affordable bunch
  • Some fuel cans, preferably different colours (one for mixed fuel, one for unmixed)
  • Fuel filters

10. What spares do I ‘need’?

You will want spare:

  • Tyres
  • Hubs
  • Sprockets
  • Chains
  • Carbs

You might want to consider spare:

  • Axle
  • Bodywork
  • Stub axles
  • Track rods
  • Bearings

11. What about perishables?

  • Chain lube
  • Carb cleaner
  • Brake cleaner
  • WD40/GT85
  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Fuel hose
  • Mechanics gloves
  • Cable ties
  • Hose clips
  • Nuts/Bolts

12. And tools?

  • Spark plug spanner
  • T-Bar socket (for wheel nuts)
  • T-Handle Hex/Allen Key set
  • Ratchet spanner set
  • Snippers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Metal ruler

Feel free to post questions or suggest improvements 🙂