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!


Super One learnings

Super One is impeccably organised

I guess it should come as no surprise for the pinnacle of karting in the UK but I was thoroughly impressed with the way the event was run. I felt very welcome as a guest; there was no clique factor or being officious for the sake of it. Officiating standards were generally very good, helped by the Clerk retaining GoPro cameras after each race so that any incident could be reviewed swiftly. There was some contact that went unreported but they were on top of most of the big incidents and there were plenty of contact warning flags.


The grey area on this one is huge but there is no getting away from it: Some of the privateer entries are a joke. I do feel for organisers on this one: If someone enters as a privateer, how do they challenge them? You have drivers carrying the team decals that run themselves, drivers without team decals in the awning; Are they just renting a roof over their heads? What if you just get the odd bit of ad-hoc team support? Or someone who has been a team driver all season then does one round on his own? A real privateer is a dad/lad combo, the bloke running out the back of his own van, doing his own thing but how do you ensure that you hand the privateer prizes to these people and not the driver who’s enjoying the paid support who is just looking to bag another trophy? Some of my closest friends run team decals but would legitimately consider themselves privateers. The appearance of team decals doesn’t help the impression. If you are in, you are in. If you are out, you should probably consider replacing the decals if only for appearance’s sake.

I’d make entrants declare their status at sign-on, something like “I declare myself to be running as a privateer. I am not running in a team awning, have employed no support service, nor will I be in receipt of any ad-hoc support from a race team.” It’s either that or stop awarding a privateer prize IMO.

The only time that I felt ripped off was…

When I had to pay £7.50 to buy a bracket to fit the transponder that I had rented!!! I know it was only £7.50 but it should be included in the £10 rental.

The only time I was cross was…

When the juniors were made to carry/push/shunt their karts through scrutineering for weighing after qualifying. JTKM drivers should not be treated the same as everyone else: A Direct Drive engine doesn’t work like other karts. Some of these kids are 13 and expected to be able to lift their karts from the end of the queue in parc ferme through the weighing area and out the other side and then somebody moans that they’ve left their karts in the way! It’s great if you have the technique right but, if not, you’re going to be putting a big hole in the nosecone in the not-too-distant future. Parents should always be permitted into parc ferme to help move the karts, putting them on the trolley if necessary. It’s just common sense…

A 20 minute tyre window is not long enough for some

20 minutes to remove old tyres and fit a new set of slicks would be a bit of a rush for me at any time but, as a guest, I had a set of wets to fit also!!! Fortunately, tyre fitting was open throughout the practice Friday so I was able to work at my own pace 😉

I really miss Henry Beaudette’s commentary

When we arrived at Llandow in 2014, the first thing that struck me was how awesome Henry’s commentary was. Not only hearing him commentate on Junior’s race but also to keep abreast of what was going on out on track whilst I was working on the kart. Race weekends have been poorer for his absence since he left ‘home’ a year ago to work on bigger and better things. The club’s loss has been a gain for the bigger national karting events. Can we book him for The Festival? 🙂

Super One cadet racing is so entertaining

Even as a race observer at the final corner when the S1 circus visited last year, it was hard not to get dragged into the rollercoaster that was the cadet races. I made sure I took a little time out from the mechanic duties to catch the finals this year. *Way* too much money being spent there though…

I’ve grown to tolerate Bambinos

But only since they afforded me extra time to work on the kart!

TKM is definitely the people’s class

TKM is grass roots karting in a nutshell. At the driver line-up, you could spot the TKM drivers a mile off: they were ones where standard retail suits and plain white helmets were prevalent! It is great to see healthy grids at Super One (the impact on the club scene is another matter). I did wonder whether they might get treated like the paupers when it comes to paddock spots but, having only been to one round, I couldn’t possibly comment any further! 😉

No Friday practice for TKM makes a club weekend essential

I had this debate with dads who were telling me at the start of the year how cheap it would be to do the series. What, you mean you won’t be attending a practice round??? It just isn’t possible to do the Super One weekend only. Not without being in the position where you are still learning the track on the Sunday.

Junior TKM lacks a little strength in depth this year

I mean no disrespect to anyone but you could probably pick the race winner from one in four or five drivers this year. The lead still changes hands a fair bit but the front group seem to have that bit in hand over the rest of the field. It is something of an evolutionary time for the class having lost so many drivers to X30 in 2014 and then to Extreme at the end of last year. The grid number is healthy and this year’s rookies will undoubtedly be all the better for their debut season.

The TAG and Direct Drive engines are very close (if your DD is strong enough)

I’ve said plenty on this before but the fact is that we were pretty close to the country’s best JTKM drivers and very likely the best engines that money can (or perhaps even couldn’t) buy. I believe our engine to be strong but it certainly wouldn’t be the best around. I think there are several reasons why DD might be falling behind: The outlawing of those ‘golden’ motors that were legitimately within fiche but fell foul of the updated regulations after the engine scandal effectively removed those select few DD engines that had been held in such esteem. The best of the rest are slowly being Extremed as their owners move up. The pool of the smaller bottom end DD engines gets smaller each year and I’ve never seen a new DD engine (DD owners tend to be buying second-hand although I’d love to compare one with out engines). I do believe that the variance in DD engines is wider than the variance between TAG engines (age alone would one reason for this). You definitely need a strong engine to *compete* on a DD at this level.

I’m glad we didn’t move to Extreme

Staying in JTKM in Junior’s 17th year has proved a wise move and our final year in juniors has been an enjoyable one thus far. I look at my friends whose lads have moved up and it seems like a struggle at times. The racing is definitely much harder, especially in the pack. I think that Lady Luck plays a big part is navigating the weekend without incident. I think we’d have struggled in Extreme. And I’d be gutted if our race engine didn’t Extreme well!

Alan Turney lurks in the TKM Owners Group

I met Alan Turney for the first time and he was very pleased with the way in which the TKM Owners Group has evolved. You could argue that’s obvious, since a successful class bosts profits but I felt it went further than that. More interesting was that he actively follows the group. Anyone spot the lurker? 😉

You need to try a Super One round

I was really nervous ahead of the weekend but it was a really enjoyable experience. Of course it helps that Junior did so well and I think he it really helped him take his driving up the next level (actually I think it forced him to!). If you are half-decent at your club and Super One pay a visit, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it 🙂

New decals (but for how long?)

Having arrived from the US on Thursday afternoon following a two week work trip,a race weekend is hardly the ideal kind of R&R to overcome jet lag. The trip meant that my kart preparation took place much later than I would have liked – I got the tyres sorted out that evening and spent today drilling the side pod bars, bending the nassau brackets to fit the much wider nassau, fitting the new bodywork and setting the kart up for the practice day tomorrow. At least the kart looks all shiny and new but you can’t help but wonder how long they will remain in that state!

Look at me - I'm all shiny and new!

Look at me – I’m all shiny and new!

I am hoping that they at least get through day one but I have know idea really what to expect – do people consider new decals as trophies?!? That would be kind of ‘scum of the earth’ low but I know they will get marked sooner rather than later – must try hard not hold that grudge when the time comes 😉

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