NKC vs MSA

So, after Hooton Park at the weekend and with our missing the next round at Rowrah, the NKC season for us is already 40% done! I hope to write up a Hooton report at some point but I’m also hoping that the results appear on Alpha Timing at some point so that I can see lap times etc :/ Has NKC been the right move? Yes… mostly… Am I too MSA for non-MSA? I think so in some respects! It is still too early to tell but, since I returned to the blog with the new-found purpose of chronicling the journey into non-MSA racing, here are my current thoughts on what’s good and what’s not-so-good on the greener grass that is NKC…

The Good

  • The People: Although we have only spent five days in the company of the folks on the NKC tour, we’ve seen no animosity towards fellow drivers whatsoever. Drivers do make the odd mistake (after the weekend, we can vouch for that!) but they are quick to ‘fess up, shake hands and move on. TKM was renown for having a strong community and that is still the case to a large extent but I wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be the budget class any more and I think the community has suffered for it. NKC has that old TKM community feeling in abundance. It’s full of people with one goal: to enjoy a weekend’s racing. You probably could spend your way to the top but nobody is arsed enough to bother. Both Junior and I have have made some very good, new friends and, when we actually get some sun, I’m looking forward to some evening beers with the boys. Whilst there is strong competition at the front of the grid, the determination to win at all costs is refreshingly absent. We don’t use the drop-down bumpers at NKC. They just aren’t needed…
  • The competition: If I’m honest, part of me feared we’d be 10s down the road in every race but there is a really strong group of drivers at the head of the grid. I think we have had four or five winners in the opening two rounds. Better still, they get on really well with one another.
  • The organization: NKC is run by a couple of drivers who combine trying to run a race weekend with trying to race a race weekend. It’s an unenviable task; you’ll never please everyone (me) all of the time but the gents do an admirable job. The weekend itself runs as part of the Bambino Kart Club, who have been very welcoming towards a bunch of budget racers with their ‘dodgy’ push start engines 😉 I thought we may be seen as second-class citizens but certainly hasn’t been the case.
  • The tyre: I cannot pretend to sit here typing as it if I really understand how this tyre works best and I cannot tell you what they’ll be like at the final round but I don’t lose any sleep over whether I can stretch a set of slicks to a second race day. This is how TKM should be.
  • The tracks: Ok, so I wasn’t that enamoured with Hooton Park but you cannot really complain about GYG, Lydd, Rowrah, Whilton Mill and Clay Pigeon (even if we won’t be heading to Rowrah on principle of driving seven hours to race a go-kart!).
  • The budget: Some of the drivers have a single set of slicks and a single set of wets. That’s an annual tyre budget of £260 for *the season*. The MSA in me had to buy another set of wets so that we have an intermmediate tyre option and, being new to the grid, we had to buy a set of hard slicks for practice (there really wasn’t any point in practising on the Maxxis tyres!).
  • Live Streaming: The season opener was streamed on Alpha Live. Although they were otherwise engaged for Hooton, it looks likely we’ll be streaming again at Rowrah 🙂

The Not-So-Good

  • The rules: One of the MSA dads I was chatting to at the end of last year was knocking non-MSA racing as the rules ‘change midway through the season’. I’d discounted that; this non-MSA, where the ony red tape attaches your rev counter to your HT lead. The regs were posted in October for all to see but there is a little more to them than first met the eye! My beef is with the ruling on restrictors, it is one of things that will bother few but the need for lead weights has always been a real bugbear of mine. In NKC, you need to declare your restrictor at the start of the race day. The regs state that this can be changed with approval from the CoC so I figured that was just to notify them that your weight would be changing. Um, nope – we found out on race day that you run what you declare with no changes.  Restrictors are considered a tuning aid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a bit dumbfounded to be honest. After the engine parity, the restrictor system is the class’s greatest selling point. You might argue that I’m still acting like a JTKM dad but bolting stupid amounts of lead onto your seat has always been a big issue for me; our kart is typically ~20% heavier than most others. Sure we could run the restrictor where we’d be at a disadvantage on half of the tracks and anywhere it rained. The restrictor is tried and trusted. Although there has always been what is considered an ‘optimal’ restrictor in Junior TKM, this is Extreme… you could put a poll on the Facebook group and 95% of respondents would tell you that unrestricted is the way to go. Pointless rules are for the CIK/MSA. It almost feels like a ruling made out of fear of the unknown.
  • Tuning aids: Ironically, you are actually allowed tuning aids in the form of torsion bars and caster/camber kits. The deviation from the normal TKM rules was enough of a deterrent for at least one person I was attempting to sell NKC to just because they didn’t want to be buying torsion bars and wasting time testing camber kits. We run the caster/camber kit (great for aligning your wheels in the absence of a jig!) but they have a point – NKC would benefit from being simple TKM with harder tyres and no droppy bumper. Job done.
  • The warm-up lap: You may have seen the amount of time it takes for the grid to join the track on the Whilton live streaming. Let’s just say that it takes a bit of time for us all to get off the dummy grid! We now have two rolling laps (although we needed a third on occassion at Hooton!). I’ll get used to this. Eventually 😉
  • Alpha Timing: I have no idea why (I’m assuming that we pay for a full service) but we only get Live Timing and no results on race day. You get used to being able to analyse sector times minutes after a race on Alpha Timing’s Results service. I’m struggling to get used to not having it…

Despite the negatives, I’ll defer whether or not we are doing the right thing to my driver. After Whilton, he would definitely have moved back to MSA racing had I offered him the chance. After Hooton, I gave him the choice of racing next at Kimbolton or Lydd. He chose Lydd…