Custom kart racesuit

The problem with regular racesuits is that they a) very rarely come in green b) very rarely impress from a design perspective and c) very rarely fit your driver perfectly. If you are ~170cm and as skinny as a rake, you’re pretty much out of luck finding that perfect fit. I think that, when I last looked, Junior spanned at least three different sizes in terms of height, waist and chest measurements!

We started looking at the custom option. The problem was that the custom options from the Sparcos et al were coming in at over £1,000! Friends of our had a custom racesuit from Grand Prix Racewear (GPR). That cost around £400 and it was impressive enough that they were our choice for Junior’s custom racesuit. I downloaded their racesuit template and headed for Photoshop!

This one was relatively straight forward. Following on from the classic influence on our kart decals, we’d be stepping into the 70’s for our racesuit inspiration:

Steve McQueen Gulf

Surely the most iconic racesuit of all time?

The stripe down the top half wasn’t enough, however, and some other randoms had already improved upon it:

 

Looking good, Chaps!

Ok, so I hadn’t actually had to do too much thus far. The problem was that we needed something on the back. The first draft borrowed the Lucas Oils logo:

Ok, so the back looks a bit rubbish

By the time we got to v3, things were looking much more like it. I had devolved responsibility for the back logo to GPR and updated the design to give the sleeves a bit of jazz. Do you like the overhead view I found on the internetto help illustrate the striping? I think it was from a resuscitation dummy originally 😉

Now we’re cooking!

Just before I placed the order, I got cold feet about my measurements and so used Kartmania as an excuse to take my driver into GPR (they are based at Silverstone) to have them measure him. It was a bloody good job that I did – I fear the suit would have lasted about six months with my measurements. If I could recommend one thing, it would be to have your driver measured by the professionals!

The suit came in time for Christmas. I knew that the colours weren’t guaranteed to be identical to my illustrations (since the suit is stitched from coloured fabric and not printed like some newer manufacturers do). The colours were fine. Initially I was a little disappointed with how thin the material was and, within three months, the sides had worn thin from rubbing between Junior’s rib protector and the seat stay bolts :/ It was at this time that GPR and I had a little disagreement about whose fault this was. In the end, they took the suit back had stitched additional panels on each side to cover the thinning. I never again left uncovered seat stay bolts on the seat! Considering that Junior has had the suit since the end of 2014 and still wears it today I can say that, once you know that you need to take a few precautions with seat bolts, the quality of the suit is perfectly adequate. In fact, I’d choose a thin material again next time since Junior is much cooler in the summer than he ever was in his lined Sparco suit.

I would mention one last piece of advice: steer clear of the knock-off suits that you see advertised by various overseas sellers on social media. Although our suit was also made in Pakistan, I know that it is properly homolgated. There is more to homolgation than just embroidering some letters on the neck. Some of those suits you seen on Facebook look like you’d need shoulders broader than The Hulk too… 😉

The debut in February, 2015. He might pull on his crotch from time to time but he still says it fits!

Custom kart decals

Things have been a bit quiet on the track front; either race organisers were booking events 300 miles away or they were booking them the day before one of Junior’s ‘A’ level exams 😉 Since neither ticked my strict ‘can we race this weekend?’ requirements, there has been a but of a lull. The kart has been prep’ed and is ready to rock and roll. It has had a complete brake overhaul following our spinning out of the final at Hooton where Junior never really found the brakes to his liking. I’ve topped up on some spare parts and bought a new (used) bumper for the first time *ever* and I thought that I might spend some time on the blog. Junior is in the process of saving for a paint job for his new lid so now seemed like a good time to put together some guides for those looking to customise their on-track appearance. Welcome to Part 1: Custom Decals 🙂

Here is the starting point:

Our race debut at CPKC, three years ago!

The thing about kart decals is they need to look good. I spent hours in Photoshop putting various designs together in a bid to find something that struck a chord. Initially I was thinking ‘red Tony Kart Variant’ but it quickly became clear that Junior wanted to keep with the British racing green theme that we inherited when we bought our first kart.

Looking (and failing) to find something that we could build upon…

Having worked on custom decals, racesuits, race gloves and helmet designs, I can only tell you that you’ll normally know the second you see that magic design that really hits the spot. Unfortunately, these weren’t really doing it. Turns out custom decal designs are quite hard. Then, when searching for inspriation, I saw this and I knew…

The Caterham CK-01

It turned out that Caterham had planned to start their own budget kart series based around an in-house chassis design and an X30 engine. It went by the wayside when the Caterham motorsport arm collapsed although the karts they had made were sold when a large chunk of the F1 team’s assets were subsequently auctioned. I hadn’t really wanted to simply copy someone else’s design but this was the design that Junior wanted from the moment he saw it. Their kart even featured the FP7 nosecone that I was intending to move to (simply because I thought it looked much cooler than the M4 at the time).

Now I needed to find someone to print the decals. Kart David are one of the biggest kart decal printers in the UK and they are local so they were the logical choices. At that point I needed to get my requirements onto one of their templates. You can do as little or as much of this as you like; the printer will do the design for you if you are struggling or you can employ a designer such as Hilleard Digital Media, whose work I can also recommend. One of my concerns was that the colours wouldn’t be *exactly* what I wanted. I didn’t want there to be any room for misunderstanding, so I was pretty explicit about my requirements 😉

When you know, you know

There was a fair amount of toing and froing but the results were really pleasing.

Farewell nice, new decals! :/

I’m not sure we’ll ever really change the design although the carbon fibre effect was new and improved in v2.0 when we moved to Extreme. I was initially concerned that it made the decals look too dark so had Kart David produce a proof featuring a couple of alternative shades (that we decided against):

v2.0 of the decals feature a carbon fibre effect. I like! 😉

When we had the first decals made, I was a bit wary of fitting them myself so had Kart David do that part also (for a small fee). It would have been fine though; the soapy water and hairdryer method has subsequently worked very well for me.

This bodywork lasted exactly one month! :/

In summary, you need to:

1. Really know what sort of thing you want. Search the internet for inspiration. Save images of existing decals that you like so that you can give any designer an idea about what you are after.  The more you give them, the closer their initial design will be to your ideas.

2. Find a decals printer that has templates for your bodywork and work with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes (I’ve always hit double digits for version increments!).

3. Kiss goodbye to those shiny, new decals the second the adhesive dries!