Many think that today’s karting with the OK and KZ classes is somehow “inevitable”, that there are no alternatives. Instead, we are going to show you that there have been several chances of racing, and enjoying oneself with the different vehicles from at least three different points of view.
Written by Maurizio Voltini.
One of the things that we often hear nowadays is talk about the economical crisis and what can be done to face it, when they want to determine the faults of the various classes due to how they are technically set up, we hear people saying that somehow “nothing can be done” about the situation, that karts are as they are because they cannot be otherwise” and, we have reached the present classes through continuous refinement and continuous improvement so they are the best classes out.
Now, apart the definitions of today’s various classes we have reached this state more through a series of evaluations (interested and non) and through “patches” put on to try and make up for something or other without admitting any previous mistakes – and the gear class 125 cc is proof enough. This class has barely been touched over the last 15 years and is the most successful class – are we really sure that things couldn’t go any better? Are we sure that we haven’t got what it takes to create a new class with different parameters that could be just as successful and exciting for karters (if not more)? After all, the same things were being said when Rotax came along with the Max project, an engine that was quite different to the ones being then used (100cc direct drive and just the 125 gear class), in fact later nearly all of them looked to similar concepts, first with the various brand cup events and then with the KF classes.
Well, for those with lack of experience or due to personal limits lack the imagination of visualising different karts to the ones seen nowadays in typical national and international events, we suggest you read this article where we’d like to show you that alternatives exist, yes they really do! And also in three different points of view, in three different chapters: one dedicated to what we have, what is already available or what can be easy to see and develop, even if for the time being at different levels of “normal” races seen in Italy; one dedicated to alternative carburetion that sooner or later will be adopted because of the environmental problems; the third dedicated to an alternative basic concept of racing at karting circuits, because you could have a different type of track, with a different background.
We were saying about suggesting karts that are different from today’s karts: but it is very important to explain that you really don’t have to invent anything particular because there are already some being used, both here in Italy and in other countries; “Racing” karts that work, set up differently to the usual concept for the OK or Tag classes.
For example, in South America it is very successful still, and it has been going for a long time, we are talking of karts powered by single cylinder engines that are very much like the old 100cc, but they are 125 cc and power is over 30 horsepower, and you can have them both with air-cooled or water-cooled. So direct drive without a centrifugal clutch or the other, push start, reed induction with the typical diaphragm carburettor. Nothing extraordinary, but you do have a class that works.
Then again, also the usual 100cc of the past decade still manage to provide lots of excitement for kart drivers, when all the real problems that brought about their early retirement are done away with.
Well, the idea of simplicity is still a winning idea also in the third millennium, the classes previously mentioned prove it and so do other class that are in the United Kingdom and in Japan, classes promoted by TKM and Yamaha. In both these cases low profiled technological engines are mounted – air-cooled - and without any extras, however, capable of supplying sufficient power for enjoying yourself: also because when costs are low, you have more people racing. The British TKM Formula is first and foremost for lads that come up from the 60 cc and offers simple karts also as far as chassis is concerned (axle 30 mm, on 2 bearings) with 100 cc with piston controlled air-induction (remember the 100 Junior?) made by Tal-Ko. Then you have the various Senior classes for grown up drivers, with freer chassis and engines up to 115 cc, but always the of the same type, maybe flanged to induction for the various possibilities of equivalence. Power goes from 13 to 20 horse power, speed reaches up to 16,000 maximum revs, and there is also the different one with 4-stroke, a 200 cc of about 20 horse power, always with the same basic concept of simplicity and reliability. Only recently some different types have been allowed to make a class that has however has “resisted” for over twenty years without problems. Also the Yamaha, a KT100, is a very simple engine sold for 700 dollars: air-cooled and piston port induction in this case too, that have made the class very popular.
Well, already now it is possible to go racing with “alternative” karts, they are already being made.
At certain levels it seems clear that races in general – and not just kart races – have to deal with problems concerning the environment. That means, acoustic pollution, air pollution and so on.
Palliative are not enough, the system must be completely changed if you want to contrast attacks made by environmentalists. Overlooking the fact that very often it might be easier to have a border of panels or trees that have a sound absorbing effect alongside the tracks, this would reduce sound emission with any type of kart, and would bring about a “green” solution, let’s see what can be done to make karts more ecological. For example, problems connected to petrol could be dealt with using alcohol as fuel. Quite an easy solution, seeing that already karts fed on methanol or ethanol have already raced in le America and that, above all there is no significant power loss due to the high number of octane. And there are the “political” benefits using alternative and ecological fuels. When it comes down to it, however, the noise problem would not be solved and you would still have gas emissions slightly more dangerous compared to petrol. What if we passed tp GPL? There have already been experiments here and gas emission would diminish quite a lot (they can be halved), which is one of the reasons why they are thinking of using it for indoor karting circuits where burst engines are used. However, there is some technical harm of a different nature: to guarantee enough autonomy for a real race you would need a big tank, too big to be mounted on a kart, and above all, there are no technical problems for mounting the system with 4-stroke engines, but there would with the 2-stroke: just lubrication, which can no longer be dune using a fuel mixture.
So here we are, undoubtedly a drastic solution is making its way in, but one that would solve all today’s problems connected to ecology: an electric kart. Probably the less experienced will be turning up their noses, thinking of poor performance, but they are wrong: electric engine have a remarkable point torque and on accelerating they have always performed surprisingly well. The real problem, usually is, battery duration, but here too the problem can be solved especially in karting races. In fact, during the races, compared to normal car races it is rather limited. Besides, technology concerning batteries has took great steps forward over these past years, and already they are accumulator units available that don’t weigh much and they offer many amperes per hour. We must that as long as we were living the boom of electro-solar cars, when factories were working on this new technology and everyone thought that the future with electric vehicles was imminent there were lots of races ran by a specific federation where karts powered by electricity offered great performance. Then gradually these races disappeared, only because they realised that industrialisation was sot just round the corner like many thought and factories lost the “drive” in taking part and/or sponsoring them.
Things are now changing and kart technology for electric karts is, however, already present. Factories such as OTL, for example, supplies the karts for indoor karting circuits, but they can make them even better performing. Besides, already on kart rental circuits “for all”, electric karts are depotentiated so as not to cause problems for drivers who have little experience; and still performance isn’t that bad. You get 20 hp from the most (not racing) sportive model. Already today, it isn’t at all difficult to make an electric kart that goes faster than a “normal” one. The only thing to be careful with – and we are thinking about the definition of technical regulations – is that an electric “overfed” engine is very fast indeed, but engine life suffers tremendously. Apart this, there are no other elements that say it is no good passing to electric karts. On the contrary, it might be a good idea if the sports authorities thought about it as from now, maybe introducing just one experimental class.
THE BASE CAN CHANGE TOO
Up to now we have seen that it is possible to get alternative karting depending on the different parts, parts that are different from the usual one seen. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it must be limited to the vehicle, on the contrary: already now you can enjoy a different sort of karting on today’s karts. For example, you can us a different type of track. No, I don’t mean move to car racing circuits, but even those are different when racing in a kart, quite boring, and not at all exciting. And if a return to town circuit is out of date, we could think of a plain oval asphalt track. Maybe not even one with tarmac, just a dirt track. Not dirt-track karting, which are in fact t real tube shaped just a bit smaller, but using normal karts on a dirt track, something like the ones used for “endurance races” powered by 4-stroke engines, which when driver on circuits with little grip and adequately levelled do give an exciting sensation due to derive style, continuous correction and enormous power considering the possibility of traction.
Few have taken up dirt-track kart racing in Italy, except for some circuits where they do rental karting, but it is something that could be taken up when we think of alternative karting, something different to the usual traditional events in case these have difficulty in poking up due to the economical situation. Also because, anyone can see that a dirt-track is much cheaper to build and keep compared to one with asphalt. A recent experiment on the track being built in Pescarolo near Cremona, Northern Italy, while waiting for the track to be tarmacked has proved that it can be exciting to race with the usual rental karts mounting slick tyres. In the meanwhile they are thinking of keeping a dirt track, no tarmac, near the proper track. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that there are already rubber tyres made especially for kart, for circuits with no asphalt; apart from the fact that the rain tyres or the ones for “mini tractors” might work just as well.
Among other things, in the USA they have managed to mix a bit of all these concepts together for their Midget-kart racing on small oval circuits (normal for the States) where the track can either be with asphalt or without. Obviously the karts are particular, with very small wheels, karting engines and the chassis similar to the real Midget more than karts. But once again they have proved that what counts is to do things with the right spirit.