Ethan Ackroyd

Starting Karting

Before you race……

Anyone can start racing at the age of 8; but the only class that you will eligible for is the Cadets. {see details below}. The Cadets upper age limit is 13, meaning that you can race to the end of the year of your 13th birthday.

Initially you can buy a Start Karting pack from the MSA {Motor Sports Association}. These can also be purchased from an ARKS {Association of Racing Kart Schools} school. This cost about £40 and contained your novice licence application form.  Before you can race, you have to take the ARKS novice test to obtain your MSA competition licence. The present cost of the ARKS test is about £77.00. There are various schools around the country where tuition is given and ARKS tests can be taken. The test involves driving around the circuit at competitive speeds for several laps with other Cadet drivers. During these laps, you are observed by an official. Afterwards there was a multiple choice questionnaire, which checks your understanding of flag signals, race procedures and regulations. Having passed the ARKS test, you can send off for your Competition licence and  enter your first race as a Novice.

Protective clothing……

One of the main requirements before you can drive around a kart track, was to be equipped with the approved protective clothing. The requirements for the clothing are specified in the MSA 'blue book'. The crash helmet and race suit have to meet approved standards. Strong gloves and boots that cover the ankles are also required. You can also wear a body protector and neck brace.

The Kart……

There are currently three classes of Cadets. They can and often do, race together. All have centrifugal clutches {the clutch engages automatically as the engine revolutions rise} and two of the class engines are started by pulling a recoil starting cord. The person attending the kart, usually a guardian usually operates this. The typical top speed of these karts is around 60 mph, which seems considerably faster when you are only about 10cm off the ground! One of the top Championships is the BRDC Stars of Tomorrow, which takes the form of the British Cadet Championship. The three Cadet classes are Comer Cadet, Honda Cadet and WTP Cadet.

The principle difference between the classes is the type of engine used:

Comer Cadet ~ uses a 60cc sealed two stroke Comer engine. Any engine builds have to be carried out by approved service agents.
Honda Cadet ~ uses a four stroke Gx160 engine. This no longer has to be sealed. These long life engines are very low-cost
WTP Cadet ~ this uses another type of 60cc two stroke engine. The latest B5 engine has an electric push-button start. The engines are sealed and like Comer Cadets have an engine logbook.

Most circuits run the Comer Cadet class, but not all clubs run the Honda and WTP Cadets.

There is a variety of chassis that are used; Zip, Shark and TonyKart are just three of the makes available.  The modifications allowed to the chassis are specified in the regulations, along with a minimum weight limit. This includes the weight of the driver, protective clothing and the fuel in the tank. If the weight is below the minimum requirement, currently 97kg, ballast weights have to be added to the kart in a suitable position. The choice of final gearing sprocket is free and is quite critical for optimum lap times. Knowledge of the circuit, weather conditions and maximum engine revs obtained during testing, all help in deciding the 'best' gearing.

For all of the Cadet classes, only two types of tyre are allowed. These are:-

Dry Tyres ~ Dunlop SL3 'RAC'
Wet Tyres ~ Dunlop KT3 'RAC'

Tyre pressures are free and can make a considerable difference to lap times and tyre wear in the various conditions. Yet again, experience will help in deciding the 'optimum' pressures.

Most karts these days have 'onboard' digital displays, often mounted on the steering wheel. These give engine temperature information, maximum engine revs and lap times. All of this information is stored for inspection after the testing or racing. Timing is obviously very important in any form of motorsport but arguably not quite so important in kart racing, as the starting position during the heats is not decided on times. I will explain more about this in the section called 'On Race Day'. Even so, the lap times give a very good indication on how competitive the driver and kart combination is compared to other competitors. Each kart carries a small {about 50mm x 80mm x 15mm} electronic unit, called a transponder. This is, normally mounted behind the seat and senses the metal strip set into the track surface, normally at the start/finish line. Some circuits have more than one strip, giving the driver sector time information. Each transponder is individually coded, so race control can produce lap times for each kart and keep a record of finishing places. The transponders are normally checked by race control before racing begins.

Flag Signals……

flags

Officials are positioned around the circuit to help with any incident, observe and report on driving standards and to give information to the competitors during the testing and race sessions. The method used for this is by means of a variety of flag signals. Knowledge of these is essential and as I have said before, is tested during your ARKS test. The flags currently used in kart racing are as follows:-

Green Flag ~ start of the race.

Green flag with Yellow chevron ~ False start. The drivers must reform the grid and restart.

Blue Flag ~ Another driver is about to overtake you.

Yellow Flag ~ There is a danger ahead on the track. This could be another kart that has spun off the track. All drivers must not overtake until the next marshal post that is not displaying a yellow flag.

Yellow/Black quartered ~ All drivers must slow down and form up behind the leader. No overtaking or racing until they pass the green flag at the start line.

Red ~ All racing must stop immediately and drivers must proceed to the start/finish line until directed to stop by a marshal.

Black/White diagonal with white number ~ The driver with this number is warned of a driving problem.

Black with Orange disc and white number ~ The driver with this number is being warned of a mechanical problem with the kart. The driver must return to the pits immediately.

Black with White number ~ The driver with this number must return to the pits within one lap of receiving the signal and report to the Clerk of the Course.

Yellow with Red Stripes ~ Slippery surface ahead. This could be oil spilt on the track.

White ~ Ambulance or service vehicle on the circuit. It also could be a slow moving kart.

Black/White chequered ~ End of the race


On Race Day……

Several weeks before race day, we have filled in an entry form and sent it to the Club's Competition Secretary. We are then informed by post that we have an entry, normally about 1-2 weeks before the race. Race day is usually very hectic and people normally get to the circuit the night before the race. Quite often testing is carried out the day before the race,  so testing can be done on the Saturday. The first thing that needs to be done on race day is to sign in at race control. For my age, I also need a guardian to attend and sign in. I also need to take my competition licence. The next task is to have the kart and protective clothing checked by a qualified scrutineer. Every part of the kart is checked for safety; this includes wheel nuts, steering play, wheel bearings, engine fixing, seat security etc. Also engine logbooks are examined and compared with the engine fitted. If the kart passes scrutineering, an official sticker is placed in a prominent position on the kart. This gives visual evidence that the Kart has been to and passed scrutineering.
Finally, a drivers briefing needs to be attended. This takes place normally in the assembly area of the circuit and is given by the Clerk of the Course. Reminders of race procedure are given, along with an indication of new features of the circuit, such as bend alterations surface changes and collecting and assembly areas. It is very important to attend this briefing.

Now practice can begin, normally in order of the various class races. Cadets normally practice first. The number of laps is normally only three, but this gives enough time for the track to be assessed and the kart to be given a final testing. After everyone has practised, the heats for the various classes begin. Some circuits have two heats, some have three. Grid positions in these heats are not determined by lap times, but are allocated to give every driver an equal chance of success. So for example, if there are two heats, you could be drawn on pole position for heat one and last position on the grid for heat two. One exemption is for Novice drivers {someone who hasn't received a full competition licence}; the driver in this instance will always start at the back. The points obtained in the heats determine where you will start the final; so for example, if you finished the first heat in 4th position and finished the second heat in 12th position, you will start the final in 8th position, or thereabouts. The race control publishes the exact positions before the final begins.
The finals usually run after the lunch break and can be run over a variety of distances, depending on the track length and time available. A typical number of laps for Comers is anything between 10 and 17. Trophies are normally presented to the top three positions, although sometimes the forth position also receives a Trophy. Points obtained in the final and sometimes the heats, count towards the annual Club Championship.
After the racing is complete, it is just a matter of packing up, hopefully collecting a trophy, helping Dad and going home. and of course looking forward to the next race meeting!

I hope this has been useful to anyone new to karting.
 

 

 
 

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