Practice 2: one to forget

Our second practice session took place on Saturday. It was in doubt throughout the week; primarily because the weather forecast looked downright miserable. In the end, we decided to go for it and hope it didn’t rain the whole day. This was our first truly solo session – no friendly experts on hand, nor other noob Dads for moral support. We left late (again) but this time there were no stops for trailer adjustments; I had my cargo net in place to keep the cover on the kart and a couple of removable bits of ply wood to support the full width of the rear tyres with no overhang. So far, so good but then it started to go a little ‘pear shaped‘.

First, whilst the cargo net had kept the kart cover on the kart, it hadn’t stopped the front of the cover from coming loose and flapping around. Consequently, the kart cover had split and frayed in at least four places (does anyone make covers suitable to cover karts on top of trailers?). Then, during the pre-flight checks, I fired up the engine with the remote starter and Junior gave it a bit of throttle which duly stuck open – cue very loud, revving engine and lots of looks as Dad frantically tried stopping the engine. The brakes didn’t do it initially although what seemed like minutes was probably only 5 seconds. I don’t really know why this was – removing the airbox, I could see that the carb butterfly was open more than it should have been but only a little. The throttle was opening and closing ok although I subsequently realised that the throttle cable swivel assembly was upside down, so whether or not this played a part I am uncertain. Anyway, one carb change and successful remote start later we were ready to go. Pleasingly (and one of the few good things to have happened over the day) was the kart bump starting very easily once again – no waved yellows needed! Disappointingly, the kart decided it was going to head straight into the pits at the end of the out lap as the rear hub and wheel came off at the top bend and veered into the pit entrance. This was a little embarrassing given we’d had a wheel come off during our first practice day because I had negated to check the nuts between sessions. I put the wheel back on the axle and pushed the kart back on the trolley as discretely as possible. Junior pulled the wheel off as we were passing a couple of Dads in the car park but I scolded him and quickly put it back – I don’t think anyone one noticed 😉 Luckily the kart was undamaged and I added hub checks to my list of post-session checks… I cannot and will not let this happen again!

Then the real problems started – the kart stopped on track during our next outing with what had sounded like the chain coming off. It had but we’d also lost an engine mount clamp. I had been suspicious of the engine mounts during our first practice day as the chain was looser after every run and sometimes the engine would be flush against the engine restraining bolt when I had left a gap of a few millimetres prior to a run. I had a replacement bracket and bolt amongst the spares and fitted the engine once again, making sure the bracket was tight. Junior made it back to the pits complaining something felt wrong and when I looked, the chain had came off again. Getting a little bit annoyed, I started to wonder whether the front sprocket was worn but, as this was one spare part that didn’t come with the kart (and if I’m honest, I am not sure how the front sprocket is fitted), I changed the rear sprocket (it was getting colder/wetter again so I was planning this anyway) and fitted a longer chain before sending the kart out again. By this point, Junior had lost all trust in the kart; driving very hesitantly and a few laps in, he stops on the exit of Billies Blind once again. I find that the engine is once again mounted on a single clamp which this time has worked loose, leaving the engine rather precariously fitted to the chassis. I’ve now had it too!!! I pushed the kart straight to the shop to get an expert opinion from Mike, the shop owner. Mike took the engine off and checked everything over – bolt and engine threads, chain, sprocket – the latter is worn but still ok, as is the chain which has a tight spot but wouldn’t have caused the problem. We decided to fit some OTK engine mount clamps, which look much bigger/stronger and put everything back together. Mike had some contrasting views on the chain (tighter than I’d been running before) and the engine restraining bolt (flush against he engine – I understood this would put stress on the chassis but I was happy to try anything at this point and I’ll research this again later) and we went off for another go. Finally!!! We had arrived at 10:00, participated in only six of the twelve 20 minute sessions but at 15:40 we managed a full session with no dramas. It was nice to see Junior attacking things a little without actually looking fully committed (understandably so I guess).

And with that, it was time to go – there was a birthday party waiting at home! Unfortunately there was still time for one more hiccup – the trailer jockey wheel worked loose on the way home, dropped down and got wedged beneath the trailer. I could have swore *a lot* but I am very good in front of the kids; the last time I swore in front of one of them was when Nicholas Bendtner spurned a late chance to put Arsenal through against Barcelona at which point I jumped up and shouted in disgust “That was sh*t, Bendtner” in the direction of the TV although, to be fair, it was complete and utter sh*t! All he had to do was bring the ball under control and stick it past the ‘keeper, instead he demonstrated what is known on the terraces as ‘the touch of a rapist’. But I digress… 😉 the trailer wasn’t budging, my son had friends waiting for us at home and I had to call the AA. Then the hail came down, so we sat it out in the car whilst the kart was buried in ice. When the storm passed I managed to lift the trailer, free the wheel and cancel the AA call out although it was scant consolation by that point!

I never did think it was going to be easy…

Cost of day: £12 petrol to get there, £15 petrol for the kart (only 3l out of 10l used!!!), £35 practice fee, £30 engine mount clamps and bolts

Total spent so far: £2278

My first obstacle

The second purchase of my (our!) karting career – a 5’x3′ Franc trailer with jockey wheel (uber-important when you will be dragging a kart around on top of it), cover and spare wheel. I’d been looking at trailers on eBay, Gumtree, Preloved and Trade-It but found this one was still for sale on the Karting1 forum having initially discounted it. A steal at £225 🙂


Towing was a really big obstacle for me – everything about towing (towing capacity, trailer gross weight, weight distribution, noseweight, hitchlocks) was alien to me until now. The trailer was further away than I was really hoping to travel and it would be fair to say I was in fear of towing a trailer up the M4. My fears were unfounded and, although it bounced around a bit and I was overtaken by lorries (including six artics!) for the first time *ever* as I tiptoed down the A34, it all well very smoothly and I held my own on the motorway 😉

With the limitation of towing behind a Clio, I was very keen to get a fairly lightweight trailer that would fit inside my (hitherto full of junk) garage and obviously the smaller ones are cheaper. A kart measures roughly 6′ x 4.5′ so I was keen to go for a 5’x3′ trailer and not a cheaper 4’x2.5′. My inspiration came from this Flickr image. I have my 12″ thick 6’x4′ ply sheet and some timber to make a frame; the plan is to sit the kart on top and ratchet strap it down.

Some alternative ideas that were discounted (the left image looks the part but has no cover for the trailer contents, the right uses a 7’x4′ trailer – a little large for car and garage):

9028tn_Dax 218 kart

Total spent so far: £490 (towbar, trailer, ply sheet, timber) – £10 under budget!!!

The Three Big Questions #2: Is this for me?

Probably the biggest barrier to buying a kart was concern over whether the Dad/Mechanic role was really for me. Walking around the paddock area and watching the Dads busily tinkering between every session really made me doubt whether I would a) be able to do it and b) enjoy doing it. I’ve never been mechanically minded; I didn’t really know how an engine worked; what a piston did, or a carb, crankshaft – you get the idea. I spent a lot of hours reading forums such as those found on the and, as well as collecting strange looks from my other half as I watched YouTube videos such as ‘How A Carburetor Works‘! In the end I concluded that, whilst kart maintenance was something definitely out of my comfort zone, I was going to go with it – hopefully I’ll pick enough of it up to get by in the first few months.

As it turned out, there was a second part to this role I had not foreseen – transporting the kart!!! I own a Clio and changing cars was definitely not something I was prepared to do. Obviously if you have a van or a nice 4×4 then this might not be an issue for you but I *really* did not fancy the idea of towing. I looked around for lightweight options and quickly realised that trailers like this weren’t going to be in the running and it was only when someone recommended the camping trailer and board approach that I became more open to the possibility of towing. It still feared me with dread – what with the kerb weights, towing weights, noseweights (there’s a great resource to be found on the National Trailer & Towing Association web site if you want to find out more).

I wasn’t overly convinced about maintenance or towing and my clearance of this hurdle was more of a slump over than a jump but never mind – onto the last question…