Can you spare any change for the swear box?

Given that Junior had unwrapped the new frame on Wednesday evening, it had been a mad rush to get the kart built for the Llandow race weekend. I’d stripped the kart the previous weekend under the cover story that I was embarrassed to look at the old chassis and that I was going to respray it. Junior’s response was to ask if I was going to do it properly this time!?! That’s my boy…

To give me extra time and space (half a cramped garage doesn’t really work that well), I’d even been given permission to use the dining room 😀 so I worked a couple of long evenings and did what I could until I had to take the kart outside before it became too wide to easily leave the house!

I actually got permission to build the kart indoors - I shit you not!

I actually got permission to build the kart indoors – I kid you not!

A late decision to patch the kart seat and drill fresh holes meant we weren’t ready to head for the track until lunchtime but we managed to be late enough to miss the Bristol Rovers v Newport *and* Wales v Italy traffic 🙂

Haven't gone topless in a while...

Haven’t gone topless in a while…

I was pretty confident in my work but history has shown that a newly built kart will lose at least one bolt on its installation lap and so it proved this time (side pod bolt) but Junior came in smiling and exclaimed it was easily the best kart he had ever driven!!! I didn’t tell him that it was easily the most expensive he had ever driven also… The rest of the day went really well, we made a few tweaks and tested used vs new rubber for the race day but Junior looked much more comfortable at the wheel, as if he was having to fight less to get the kart to hit the apexes. It was a good day 🙂

Sunday promised much. Again we had four heats and a final. We had fresh rubber and a new kart and, given the club’s struggles, a grid of seven was very pleasing. For the second month running the karting gods had given us a decent grid draw and heat #1 saw us start in third with the quickest karts in front of us. The odd-numbered half of the grid made their usual better start so Junior got into second but then inexplicably went for a pass on the leader into The Hook. The leader flashed across the front of him and Junior clipped him and span. I don’t know what he was thinking!?! It took some time for his pushers to right him and he ultimately finished well adrift. Luckily for him it happened on the first lap as I had eight minutes to swear at him under my breath before he came in, thereby adhering to my promise never to criticise his driving. He knew he’d screwed up so it wasn’t like it would have achieved anything. Amusingly, one of the pushers/dads had knocked his bumper in on one side when they tried to right him and bumped a kerb so he unclipped the bumper clamp and reseated the bumper before sending Junior on his way… in front of the clerk, bless him! I didn’t see the official result to know if we’d gotten a penalty but what’s another 10s when you are 30s behind?

Pac Man on the data logger!?!

Pac Man on a data logger!?!

Heats 2,3 and 4 were notable for one thing: we took the lead in each race, we were caught and passed by the same driver each time and each time we caught back up and but could not make the move (or, when we did, it did not stick). We made the obvious tweaks between each heat and, by heat 4, didn’t fall away at all but Junior never looked like getting past the winner. We were clearly bang on the pace and possibly a fraction quicker but not in those early laps when we lost out most of all. We decided to gamble on a couple of bigger changes for the final but that is where the day took a big turn for the worse: when the karts came back into view on lap one, Junior wasn’t among them. One of the dads signalled to me that he was off so I ‘abandoned post’ and ran over to find out what had happened. Junior came stomping up the paddock waving his arms like Mr Tickle and I assumed he’d been punted off. It turned out that the fuel tank cap had come off and, despite it being one of the few things that my driver does between races, it was evidently my fault. Worse, he’d bailed out in a stupid place and left the kart for others to clear up. Worse still my new frame was hoisted up onto some tyres!!! And, to cap it all off, everyone assumed I was a numpty for not putting the cap on!!!!!! I wasn’t at all happy. Over the close season, I had promised myself that the days of things coming off were over: my friends can keep their kids on track for a weekend with no dramas and, after our dramas at the final club round last year, I was going to make damned sure we’d be in that boat in 2016. This stung and I wasn’t in the mood to have it pinned on me. I accept that people make mistakes and, since I’d only realised on Thursday that my old fuel tank wasn’t compatible with the new frame, I’d borrowed one from a friend. There’s a chance it was one of those tanks whose lids tighten and then, if you tighten them too far, lose the thread and loosen right off. Of course, I’m well aware of the viewpoint that the mechanic ultimately responsible for absolutely everything…

There wasn’t too much said after that. The car journey was quiet until we were about 5 minutes from home when I said my piece! It is done now. We’ve hopefully both learnt something. We’d otherwise had a good weekend and the kart felt great. We’ll move on so long as nobody mentions fuel caps anytime soon… 😉

The chassis decision

Having originally planned to upgrade after our first year in the sport, if you had told me that we’d start 2016 on a 7-year old chassis my response would have been “I bloody hope not”! Such is karting… we’ve been running on a low tank, fund-wise, for a long time and there are always other things that you need to spend money on just to keep you on-track, especially if you want to compete. I stupidly sprayed the chassis at the start of last year and didn’t give it a lacquer coat(!) so oil and dirt have been clinging to the parts of my spray job that haven’t already flaked off and our chassis… well, it was a bit embarrassing. Something had to change!

Goodbye old friend; you were bloody quick for us last year but it's time to move on!

Goodbye old friend; pound per second, I don’t think many £25 purchases have been around Llandow quite as quick as you but it’s time to move on!

Junior’s birthday was fast approaching and I’d been looking at chassis for quite a while: whereas sellers could barely give them away 12 months prior, the rise of TKM Extreme in Super One have seen tidy Tony Kart Vipers on the used market have become a thing of the past. So what about the Racer 401? For me, this was a more serious consideration: unlike the Viper, its CIK counterpart has evolved in recent years and I couldn’t help but wonder if at some point they might become the chassis of choice for OTK runners in TKM. In addition, they became fairly abundant on the used market at the end of last season although the majority have the “usual scrapes” which typically means running without chassis protectors (have you ever noticed how the underside of the front bar is always the last pic in the listing – if it is included?). A good rolling chassis would still cost £1800-£2000 and then I would have to get a front bar welded in, effectively ruining my investment (I know you don’t *have to* weld a bar in but I would have wanted to). Were there any other options? The Tal-Ko Veloce/TAG engine combination has seen a big rise in sales thanks in no small part to a certain cadet that stepped up last year and was instantly on the pace at most of the big meetings (you know – the bookies favourite for the title this year) 😉 It’s great for the class that more cadets have gone down the TKM route but a non-OTK chassis would mean replacing all of my spares, much of which would not quite be as readily available as the OTK parts.

In the end I opted for a new bare Viper frame: it was cheaper than a rolling chassis and didn’t involve me taking a welder to an almost new kart. I normally find that I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t so let’s just hope it all goes well and we avoid any mishaps that might threaten my investment.

Good job I bought four rolls of wrapping paper!

Good job I bought four rolls of wrapping paper!


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

Race 16: When you pick the wrong tyres…

Our final outing of the season took place at Llandow at the weekend. It was a very strange one weather-wise and nothing like the mild 12 degrees sunshine that the Met Office had promised us. I had opted for a warm setup on the back of our experience last month, where we were setup for changeable conditions that never came on what turned out to be a fairly grippy track. I also opted not to cover the kart on the trailer for the journey across the bridge as untangling the cargo net can take an age and I’d covered the kart unnecessarily for the past couple of months. Driving through the early morning mist and seeing how wet the kart was in the rear view mirror, I was already irritated by the time we arrived and the brake disc was already rusted! We arrived early as I wanted to get the chassis checked before getting the front bar welded in during the post-season. It was one of those things where I was in two minds whether to do it before or after the weekend but we were at the track and I wasn’t sure that Nigel would be wanting to do it after racing on the Sunday. Pleasingly, it was straight anyway.

Junior getting unusually artistic with the camera!

Junior getting unusually artistic with the camera!

I had assumed that the sun would burn through the mist quite quickly but it never really happened: the first couple of sessions were definitely wet and Junior enjoyed overtaking people he wouldn’t normally overtake, albeit with them treading their way around on cold slicks! The third session was more questionable and we went for slicks, not because I really cared whether or not it was the optimal choice but I wanted Junior to get a feel for the trickier conditions. This went badly: Junior really struggled and I just knew that, when he indicated that he was coming in, there was no mechanical issue – I almost waved him on but didn’t in case there really was a problem. There wasn’t and I was annoyed! There was clearly a large gap between his pace on the wrong tyre and those of his more experienced rivals but when was he planning to make a start on bridging this gap – midway through a final when it suddenly started raining??? I should have sent him back out but didn’t, instead making him watch the others to see how they still attacked the corners and made the most of the grip that was available. The conditions continued to affect our practice through the day; although the track had dried, the mist lingered, the track was cold and we really struggled to get the tyres up to temperature. We had another disagreement when Junior decided he’d had enough of my telling him where he was losing time. At that point I really just wanted to be somewhere other than at the track, away from some ungrateful kid that didn’t seem to appreciate how much time and effort I put into trying to make him drive around in circles that fraction quicker. I went for a walk but there isn’t really anywhere to walk in a place as remote as Llandow. Even the cars on the circuit next door were on their lunch break! I went back on got on with it.

It wasn’t until we hit 15psi (I’d never before exceeded 12psi) that there was any real sign of wear and, of course, we had to get off of the warm setup! At that point, our pace was looking ok; it was clear from last month that there was a fair chunk of time to be found from some of the lines that Junior was taking and he seemed to adopt a conciliatory approach in looking like he was actually making an effort (as opposed to disappearing with his mates between sessions). He did show some improvement. Our straight line speed looked quite good but we just didn’t seem to be getting the power down early enough when exiting onto the straight. I’ve often wondered whether Junior is just trying too hard: taking too much speed into the corner, forcing him to enter early and compromising his exit speed. With regards to this particular corner though, his heavy crash into the barriers back in August may have been/may still be inhibiting him. After our earlier disagreements, it was a positive end to the day.

Race day came and although we were at the track by 8am, I still found myself rushing to get the kart ready for scrutineering (note to self: remove the sprocket protector after practice to make aligning the chain with the race engine that bit quicker!). The track was damp first thing but, by the time we got to the warm-up, it was clearly a track for slick tyres. After our back-to-back 2-6-6 draws, it was very nice to be drawn 3-5-7 😉 I had passed on my instructions (the amount of time and money I put into this ‘hobby’ of ours, I expect the right to say what I think and for him to listen to it, whether or not he chooses to take any notice) and, in this case, he ignored it: gifting away the inside line as he sought a wider entrance in the hairpin and getting passed by the bloke in fifth. This allowed the second placed kart an easy move to cement his position and we started the race in earnest in fourth place. We gradually fell back through the field with Junior complaining of massive understeer. This is where my inexperience was becoming a factor – we’ve not really had to contend with unpredictable conditions until Clay the previous weekend, where we had performed similarly poorly. I brought the front end in and moved the back out, the thinking being that we had too much rear grip and it was pushing the front end on. Our tyres pressures, not as high as they were on Saturday but still higher than I’d normally have been racing on, could well have been a factor.

Heat #2 was disappointing: The first eight karts were separated by 2.5s and we lead home the final three some 6s adrift and 0.7s off of the pace. This time the problem was power – we had none, apparently. Anywhere. I checked the carb, which was fine and I was left scratching my head. It wasn’t just Junior struggling – I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I’d normally have phoned a friend at this point to talk through the symptoms only, this week, he was next door racing us!!!

I changed the engine for Heat #3; we had been running fairly well towards the end of the Saturday on the ‘practice’ engine and, with little to lose, I wanted to see if there was really a performance problem. If I am going to take a punt, I find the third heat to be the perfect time as you can revert to your former setup over lunch. The race saw a fairly well strung out field and us in a close battle for sixth with a couple of karts that were quicker than us. Junior was clearly harder to pass and only lost sixth place on the line. Although he had had a decent tussle, the people we were fighting with were 0.5s quicker and we were now a full second off of the pace!

So onto the final: I was considering what changes to make over lunch and, as we had been slower in Heat #3, the race engine was back on. With the times coming down, I was considering changing the axle to lose some grip but then the rain came. The first three finals saw the grids all opt for wets but it hadn’t rained since lunch and didn’t look like it was going to rain any further. This really would be a close call. With two laps of the other class final remaining and everyone waiting on the dummy grid, nobody had any wheels on. At Clay, I’d have been glued to the Alpha Timing screen that faces out of the office window at this point, glued to the lap times for clues. Unfortunately, Llandow doesn’t have a screen in the office window and I’ve banged the Alpha Timing drum before now. From what I have seen at Clay and Llandow, it’s simply miles better than MyLaps. I will have to do my own timing in future but the track still looked damp, in contrast to how it had looked when it really was drying on the Saturday, and Junior had shown a preference for an inter tyre in similar conditions only the day before. Someone behind us blinked first and went with inters, my mind was already made up – we were off the pace anyway and had little to lose (other than our third choice wets) – and we fitted inters as the rest of the grid went with slicks. I was quite pleased with this as it meant that, if the gamble worked, we’d have a real chance. Having only ever having had to toss the coin once before, in our very first face thirteen months ago, I had a 100% record with my tyre punts. Until now! The race started and I knew almost immediately that this was going to backfire; the speed that the leaders carried into The Hook proved beyond doubt that this was absolutely not a slippery track :/ Being ‘guided’ off onto the grass moments later didn’t help our cause although it proved to be the only opportunity we’d have to get any moisture into the tyres! We fell further away from the main pack, leading the back three but losing two seconds per lap. The leader’s times were insanely quick – the track seemed faster than it had been all weekend. Junior held off the challenge of the only other runner on inters but that was little consolation although at least he could see the funny side when he came in. Speaking to the other Dads after it appeared that it really had been a very close call but we were one of only two who had gotten it so badly wrong :S It was another learning experience and my only regret was that I had upgraded our ‘worst’ inters the previous week!



It was a strange weekend – I don’t normally fall out with Junior (although we bicker like a couple of old women) and, although Saturday ended well enough, I was still a little peeved. Sunday had again shown up a lack of race pace but whereas the previous week at Clay I had been convinced that it was Junior’s lines and/or him trying too hard that was the main issue, this week I was looking a little closer to home – it had shown up my lack of real understanding of how to deal with grip (both the lack of and when to lose it). Could this have been the reason that Junior was again struggling?

So our season is over and I am looking forward to six weeks off. Karting really does dominate my personal time so it will be nice to take a bit of a break. I will be working to get a better understanding on the grip issue though: longer/shorter axles, axle types and front versus rear widths as I was struggling at times – it certainly wasn’t my finest hour. I don’t get that much in the way of detailed feedback from my driver but it could also be that I am not asking the right questions. It would be one thing for Junior to be taking his time to get the track right but it would bother me a lot if I were impeding his progress so I will be spending a fair amount of time researching and my good friends can expect a question or twelve in the not-too-distant future 😉 I’ll also be spending a little money on our chassis: I was unsure whether or not to spend any money on a £25, four year old chassis but I don’t like it looking tatty. I’ll be glad to get the front bar welded in as it is a nagging doubt in my mind as to whether Junior has suffered for my not getting it done sooner and then I plan to have it blasted and powder coated. In the New Year, we’ll get everything together and look to get a few practice days in, perhaps even some coaching! 😮

Cost of weekend: £95 practice/ race entry, £26 petrol, £13 fuel, £34 – jig check, bead retainers, throttle spring

Total spent this year: £4,375


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!!!

I must not buy anything else for the kart!

I had an offer of a bent 2010 EVR chassis this week and, since I was in the midlands, made a detour to pick it up. Of course, whilst I was there I *just had to* get the final few things that I had wanted to get for the new season: a set of new wet rims for my inters, some side pod bars ahead of getting new pods and decals for Junior’s birthday, a Viper exhaust bracket to strengthen our flimsy exhaust and another engine mount so that I didn’t have to switch my mount between the engines. I’m quite please with my purchases; the rims and bracket are new and I saved a fair bit on the side pod bars 🙂 I really do need to stop spending now though – at least the good news is that, other than the few things that Junior wants for his birthday, I cannot think of a single thing I need now. Running costs only from here on…honest!

Whilst the bend wasn’t too bad, the chassis does need a weld as it has a small crack on the brake-side bearing hanger and, although not flattened, it is a bit tatty underneath. I’ll definitely keep it in case something happens to our EVXX chassis but I don’t think I’ll be spending any money on getting it jigged just yet. This also now means that I am very close to owning two complete karts – that does start making you wonder 😉

I’ve decided to change my accounting style a little – not much benefit in a running total of costs since the year dot so I’ll detail this year’s spend and the previous year’s total.

Total spent this year: £374 – OTK engine mount £30,  wet rims £50, OTK exhaust bracket £20, side pod bars £30

Year 1 spend: £4,594

Just when you think you’re ready to rock n’roll…

I’ve spent every dry weekend day this month (admittedly, that isn’t that many) getting the kart sorted for our first outing of the year. Cleaning, checking seat fitting, replacing worn nuts and bolts, new axle, new sprocket carrier, replacing tyres on rims, changing the brake fluid – it looked like we were set for a potential return to the track this week. That was until a friend confirmed that the crack in the paintwork around the engine side bearing hanger was actually a crack in the chassis and would need welding 🙁 It is in a common spot for TKM karts, maybe I paid the price for running the engine stop bolt too close to the engine mount – because of my early problems with engine mounts, I had always backed the bolt off by 1mm or so but, as one of the other Dads pointed out, the vibration alone will likely negate that. The fact that my stop bolt was just a bare hex bolt, with no plastic head to dampen any vibration may not have helped. Or maybe it was just one of those things with a 5-year old chassis.

Anyway, that necessitated taking a half day to get the weld done at Brightweld – it doesn’t look *too* bad and I need to rub down the paintwork and paint the repaired area. Whilst I was there, I stopped off at Hobzie Motorsport to pick up a better engine stop bolt and he also delivered the good news that my 2009 EVR looks more like a 2008 EVXX!!! Great news, huh? :S

The icing on the cake was, of course, the inevitable rain that soaked the kart less than a mile from my house. Still hoping to make it out this weekend. The engine stop bolt might be a tad looser too…

The rear view

Leaving home with this in the rear view mirror normally gives me a buzz. It’s a shame we were going to the welding shop. In the rain.

Total spent this year: £244 – new axle £72 (funded by my finding a wodge of cash in Junior’s money tin courtesy of Junior’s Nan!), weld £10, engine stop bolt £2

Total spent so far: £5,668

Warning: motorsports can be dangerous!

Sorry for not having posted recently – as you’ll soon see things have ‘interesting’ of late :S I’d been spending quite a bit of time on the kart: I needed to put the engine back on following it’s rebuild and, whilst the engine was off, I had wanted to give the back end a good clean but had trouble removing the sprocket carrier so I was keen to put that right.

I spent three successive evenings working on the kart last week (when it comes to kart maintenance one thing invariably leads to another), firstly tackling the sprocket carrier: it was a little awkward as the sprocket protector was still in place on the brake side of the carrier but tap by tap, I managed to knock it with a hammer (lubing, hitting each arm of the sprocket carrier in turn and repeating until free – all whilst I had a pair of screwdrivers carefully tapped into the slots on the carrier to help free it from the axle. I got there in the end!

Whilst cleaning the back end, I noticed that the chassis was running at it’s lowest setting:

Tonykart chassis height

This is how you would set up a kart in hot weather, where you had too much rear end grip (you would typically raise the axle in the wet when you want to raise the centre of gravity) but this was not how I wanted the kart set up whilst Junior is still learning to drive so I removed the axle and set it to the standard (middle) height. And of course, I took the opportunity to clean the chassis around the bearings whilst I had the chance 😉

I then decided to adjust the seat as my measurements were some way from the Tonykart recommendations. With hindsight this might not have been a great idea: it took a long time, Junior got hacked off holding the seat in place and I don’t think I ended up much more ‘optimal’ than I had started out. And I forgot about the weights when putting the seat back on.

Ah, the weights… the highlight(?) of last week!!! Having weighed Junior at Llandow I reckoned we needed 7kg of lead and the black restrictor to put us at the correct race weight. I already had 3kg that came with the kart and I bought a 4kg lump for £15 from the forums, it just needed fitting – 3kg went on the side of the seat (low on the brake side to offset the engine weight). After hammering the lead weights flat so as to fit flush to the seat, it was pretty straightforward. The 4kg weight had other ideas – I hit it flat and held it in position to mark the drill holes. My marking pencil had disappeared so I went off to fetch it, holding the lead in place against the seat in one hand. As I went back outside the lead slipped and I instinctively (and stupidly) put my foot out to break the fall!!!!!!!! Painful was an understatement.

I got back from hospital just before 2am with very swollen, very sorry looking broken toe. Funnily enough, I haven’t done anything on the kart since! I have a injured toe photo that I took in A&E that was very popular with my Facebook friends but I’ve decided not to post it here 😉 I am hoping to be fit enough to run Junior at Clay on Saturday but push starting is an obvious concern. Fingers crossed…

Cost of an especially damaging 4kg lead weight: £15

Total spent so far: £2,925