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OCTOBER 2014 NEWSLETTER HIGHLIGHTS / PREVIEWS

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The Set-up Sheet or Track Sheet.  However you want to refer to it, in my opinion, this is the key to being consistently quick everywhere you go.  There are a number of reasons I say this.  The first would be that you don’t see any professional racing teams that don’t use set-up sheets.  Now your response could be that a race car is a lot more complicated than a kart but trust me, there is plenty of stuff to keep track of on a kart.

The second reason I am a strong advocate for set-up sheets is they help you remember what changes you made which comes in handy both when the kart is fast or slow.  To provide a more pertinent example, I was talking with Rhod Beachner, owner of 2 Wild Karting, whose son Ryan won the S2 ProKart Santa Maria race this August.  He was joking with me saying, “you want to know what we changed on that car…, nothing.”  More to my point he then strongly suggested to Ryan that they better be taking notes somewhere so they can remember that set-up for next year.

Having said that, the Set-Up sheet is only as useful as the notes you put on it and to that point I have written a separate article on how to give consistent, accurate, and understandable feedback., even if it just for you.  (Click here to read the article preview)  In the meantime, I’ll walk you through what I do with my Set-up Sheets to give you a starting guideline.  My goal would be that you adapt some kind of system, even if its this one, use it systematically, and notice an improvement from weekend to weekend or race to race…

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Categories : Editorials, How To's
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Set-up sheets and providing good feedback have as much a place in karting as they do in big cars.

Why would I write an article on feedback?  Why would you read it?  Let’s examine these questions from top down.  Name one top line driver whose engineer and/or chief mechanic says he doesn’t give great feedback.  At that level, everyone can drive, what separates the field is the fastest guys are also the most technical in how they relay what’s going on with the kart to their engineer.

Perhaps looking at the issue from the bottom up will help.  When I started shifter karting, I used to go out with a buddy of mine who was a good driver but was horrible initially on giving feedback.  So, we’d go out for a session, come in, I’d ask him how is kart was and he’d reply, “It’s not good, it’s sliding.”  Well, sliding where?  What part of the turn? Which end of the kart, front or back?  I think you get my point.

To jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, in my second year of racing Opel Lotus in Europe I was lucky enough to be teammates with Derek Higgins for a handful of races.  I learned a lot from Derek especially since Derek’s dad, Vince, ran Jackie Stewart’s Opel Lotus team the year before for drivers Gil DeFerran and David Coulthard.  We were in our hauler for our first team debrief and I was struggling to convey what the car was doing to my team manager when Derek grabs a track map and writes T/I, M/C, and EXT (Turn-In, Mid-Corner, and Exit) on every turn and hands it to me stating, “This is how my dad broke down every session with Gil and David last year.  Go through this map, corner by corner, and write down what the car is doing at each of these points of the turn and we’ll go from there.”  This is one of the more productive events of my racing career and I haven’t looked back since…

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In January of 1990, on 4 days notice, I signed with PTM Motorsport and flew from Phoenix to Zandvoort, Holland for my first test in an Opel Lotus car (150hp, 990lbs, wings and slicks, 0-60 in 4.2).  Up until this point my racing experience included Off-Road, two summers of KT100 kart racing, and three driving schools including some time in a Formula Mazda.

Whenever I moved up to a new car/series, the first thing I always did was warm the tires, get on the biggest straightaway, and floor it to see what I was in for.  Well, this was a big jump and I freaked the bejessus out of myself.  So, I spent the next few laps carefully getting used to the speed, finding my braking and turn-in points, and then came in to take a break and digest it all.

The team owner rushed up to the car and said, “What the hell is wrong?  Is the car OK?  You’re going really slow, you’re in the wrong gears in all the corners….”  My first thought and my reply was, “Everything is fine, I’m just learning the car and the track, I’ll be up to speed in a couple of sessions.”  At that point the team owner said, “No, you need to come up to speed in 3 laps.  Everyone else in this series will, and we race at a lot of places where we you won’t be able to test beforehand.  3 Laps!”

….3 Laps?  Are you kidding me?  Is that even possible?  Not only is it possible it is actually extremely beneficial.  The quicker you come up to speed and learn the track, the quicker you can start working on your set-up and look for the subtle nuances in the track that will gain you time.  The guys that learn the track the fastest will get a head start on setting up their kart which will be a distinct advantage as the weekend goes on since you can’t afford to be off or “miss” a session these days.

So, how do you learn a track in three laps?  Let’s break it down…

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Don’t worry, axle changes are easier than they appear!

It’s no mistake that I am starting my How To series of articles with changing the axle.  First, I still remember as a new karter how daunting the task looked so I want to give all new karters the reassurance that A: you can easily do this and B: once you get your steps down using tips from the newsletter and develop a consistent routine, this is actually only a 15-20 minute job.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, axles are one of the biggest tuning components on your kart.  Why?  Well, with no suspension a kart’s “spring rate” is determined by the chassis design and flex at the front and the axle’s flex at the rear.  Most karts these days have interchangeable front bars to change the spring rate of the front of the chassis.  Nonetheless, the majority of a kart’s front spring rate is dictated through chassis design and tubing thickness.

The rear of the kart, on the other hand, relies on the axle to attach the kart to the tires.  Therefore, that distance of metal axle between the rear tire and the kart is essentially the kart’s rear spring rate.  Just as spring choice is the starting point of all big cars set-ups, axles are the starting point of all kart set-ups.  To boil it down even more simply, when I arrived at the track when I was racing big cars, the first thing I’d ask my engineer is what springs we were starting on.  Today, if I am going to a new track and am trying to get a starting set-up, the first thing I determine is what axle am I putting in the kart to start the weekend with.

So that being said, I have broken the article down into two parts…

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As a follow up to September’s article on Quick Change Caster, hopefully you have put the Quick Change Caster Set Up on your kart and are now wondering when and why you would use it.  If your kart has adjustable caster pills and for some reason you have not have put this set-up on, I highly recommend doing so, it will change the way you tune with caster.  To be more specific, since the base caster for any given chassis is set at the factory and changing it in the traditional sense was always a big time consuming task, I never experimented with caster.  Now I try a caster change almost everywhere I go. So let’s break down what caster does and why you would use it…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Rain ShotFirst of all, hopefully you’ve either read or heard of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story of a driver told through the eyes of his dog, hence my title.  Great read but will not make you quicker in the rain.  The following will however.

I know that the sight of rain clouds on the horizon of a kart track strikes fear in many a competitor.  You can see it in their face and can see it in the poor turnouts on rainy race weekends.  It shouldn’t.  Rain shouldn’t be viewed as a threat, it should be viewed as an opportunity.  Rain is the great equalizer, the leveler of the playing field.  Who builds your motor etc. all goes out the window in the wet.  Being successful in the rain can be broken down into 5 simple components:  1)  a good rain set-up (which I outline in the free trial of FIRESTONEKARTINFO, click here to receive yours), and 2) four basic on the track tasks I outline in this month’s FKI

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This may be my most controversial article.  Why?  Because if you go to any kart shop, go online, or talk to people at the track, they will have conflicting views on how to tune with axles.  Some will tell you that if you want to reduce rear grip, you have to soften the axle.  Others will tell you, quite categorically, that the only way to reduce rear grip is to stiffen the axle.  So who is right? Funnily enough, depending on which chassis you run, they could both be right.

I will give you a perfect example of how this is possible.  In the Tony Kart chassis lineup, they have two chassis that share the exact same frame geometry but have different tube thicknesses.  The Racer EVR uses 30mm tube thickness while the Krypton KRX uses 32mm tubing.  I have attached their homologation photos below.  (For those skeptics in the audience, print them up on thin paper, hold them over each other, and yes, it’ the exact same geometry.)  Anyway, if you want to reduce rear grip with the 32mm Krypton chassis, you need to soften the axle.  If you want to reduce the grip with the 30mm Racer chassis, you need to stiffen the axle.

Great, you say, that doesn’t help me at all.  You’re right, it doesn’t, and this is where the websites, shop owners, and fellow drivers end the conversation.  It’s their way or the highway.  So how do you tell which direction to go on the axle, I’ll tell you and the answer is simpler than you would ever imagine…

TonyKart Racer EVR (30mm Chassis) Homologation Drawing.  Same geometry as the chassis below but uses exactly opposite axle change to achieve the same goal!

TonyKart Krypton KRX (32mm Chassis) Homologation Drawing.  Same geometry as the chassis above but uses exactly opposite axle change to achieve the same goal!

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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The Bux Circlip Tool – just this side of magic!

There are a few specialty tools in karting that are a must-have.  They make your karting life so much easier you wonder why it took you so long to buy it in the first place.  This month’s Kart Tool of the Month – the Bux Circlip Tool – ranks highly if not first on this list.  The Bux Circlip Tool takes a job that may be one of the most difficult in karting – installing circlips – and makes it so easy, safe and quick to perform it’s not even funny.  As you will see in the article on rebuilding your own top end earlier this month, installing circlips is not only tricky to perform, but very difficult to describe.  There is a definite technique and art to installing a circlip and it is very difficult to do so without scratching the outside surface of the piston (or the inside for that matter).  Add the constant threat of the circlip springing out of the piston and flying into oblivion never to be seen again and you can see my point.

The Bux Circlip tool eliminates all of the above.  After reading the directions to quickly set the tool up for your piston type*, using the tool is literally this easy:  1.  Place the circlip on the end of the installer (pictured on the left above) making sure the circlip opening is in line with the groove on the installer handle, 2. Place the adapter/sleeve assembly (shown on the right in the picture above) of the installer snugly into the wrist pin bore.  3.  Insert the installer into the sleeve with the groove facing up (12 o’clock position) and slide the installer through the sleeve until the installer bottoms out and snaps the clip into place as shown in this link: http://www.fastech-racing.com/bux-circlip-tool.html.  That is it!  It will literally take you 15 seconds a side to install your circlips with no risk of losing the clip or scratching the piston. The Bux Circlip tool has single-handedly taken one of karting’s most difficult jobs and made it one of the easiest.  At $39.95, you will seriously wonder why you didn’t buy one yesterday!  You can find the Bux Circlip tool at Fastech-Racing. So, go online (http://www.fastech-racing.com/piston-tools/) or call Fastech (888-333-4181) today and save yourself time and aggravation for years to come.


* Tip:  Carefully remove some of your old circlips and use an old piston to set the depth of the adapter/sleeve assembly to your piston type.  Then practice installing an old circlip into the old piston to make sure you have everything set properly.  I found this very helpful.

While FKI is written primarily for the Sprint Kart racer, I know that some of you may also catch the occasional road race.  I will admit that when I first got into karting I swore that I would only kart on kart tracks.  I used to constantly say that “If you want to race on big car tracks, get a big car.”  Then in 2010, the ProKart series stopped at the Streets of Willow, a 1.6 mile road course with over 100 feet of elevation change.  The “Streets” features a 270 degree “Bowl Turn” with 20 degrees of banking (you could watch karts go through there like they were driving on a wall as you approached the turn), two 100 mph straights, a double right hander that perfectly emulated the long, double right hander (Turn 2) at Magny Cours (one of the best corners in all of Europe) and a blind, flat-out 90 mph kink.  Needless to say, I instantly became a huge fan and immediately erased my stupid “big car, big track” saying from my vocabulary.  But the big question I had going into the weekend was – how do I set my kart up for a road race?  Well, luckily one of my friends road races all the time and gave me the perfect (race winning) set-up which I will now impart to you…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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There are a couple of areas mechanically when you first get into karting that are fairly intimidating.  The braking system immediately comes to mind as one, the other would be the changing the Top End.  These are two areas where you feel you don’t want to get into the unknown and make a mistake as you definitely don’t EVER want to lose your brakes and you certainly don’t want to accidently do anything to cause your motor to lose power or blow.  Well, luckily changing the Top End, much like rebuilding the braking system, is fairly simple and straightforward.  Once someone walks you through it, it is relatively easy.  So let’s see what’s underneath that cylinder, take away the mystery, and give you the confidence to change your Top End like a pro…

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Categories : Engine Tuning, How To's
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