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JANUARY 2017 NEWSLETTER PREVIEWS

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YOUR KART TUNING AND MAINTENANCE SOURCE

The CIK bumper – not the prettiest piece on the kart but definitely worth having and tuning.

The CIK rear bumper.  I first saw one in Europe before they were mandatory here and I have to admit I didn’t like them.  I thought they took away from the beauty of the kart’s lines and looked like a clunky afterthought.  Then, after the 2006 SuperNats, even if they hadn’t become mandatory I was going to get one.   Here’s why:

At the 2006 SuperNats, I qualified 9th but had a better race set-up so I was able to move up in my heats.  In the second heat however, as I hit the brakes to go into the first corner on the first lap, two drivers hit me from the rear.  One climbed up my right rear and took out my pipe, the other climbed my left rear and took out my radiator.  In a split second I had a $1,000 accident and a DNF that I couldn’t avoid from a driving standpoint.  What I could have prevented was being taken out mechanically by having the CIK bumper instead of the old style tubular bumper that leaves the rear tires completely exposed.  So, instead of starting the main in the top 5 (this is where the driver who qualified 8th started because he stayed out of trouble and finished every heat), I started 15th, blowing any chance for a podium (finished 7th).  This is the main reason I now have a CIK bumper on my kart and seeing how it has been caved in behind my rear tire twice now after I finished a race I otherwise might not have, it is worth every penny.

The CIK bumper will change the way your kart handles so don’t expect to just bolt it on and go.  You are going to want to spend a few sessions testing different combinations to get the desired handling effect you are looking for….

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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It’s the New Year, time for resolutions, and after a couple of weeks of really bad eating and most likely the consumption of way too many adult beverages, you promise yourself that this year you will be in better shape.  No more just hanging on instead of attacking in the Main.  No more declaring the last race “a two Red Bull main” and then seeing what happens (I’ve done this before, the Main went OK but I didn’t sleep for a while).  This is the perfect time to start talking about how to train for karting.

It’s funny, when I was racing in Europe you never really heard anything about drivers training until Michael Schumacher burst onto the scene.  Obviously his blinding quickness helped bring attention to this subject but mostly everyone seemed amazed that he would be on the podium and not even sweat after an entire F1 race.  The next thing you know there are a plethora of articles on how it makes sense to be sure your driver is in shape so he can take advantage of the $2 million the team just spent last month developing a new aero package to gain 3 tenths.  What’s the point if the driver’s laptimes are going to fall by 3 tenths midway through the race because he is tired.

I figured I would start this series with the one exercise that, given a choice, I will pick first and focus on when I know I have a race coming up.  I have always said that the more I do this exercise, the better I feel in the kart, especially toward the end of a 20 lap Main…

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It’s freezing cold out, your track may be covered in snow, and you haven’t even touched your go kart since your last race.  Now is the perfect time to perform an Annual Checkup on your go kart.  While I recommend going through your kart before every race (I’ll cover this subject in a later issue) there are still some things you should definitely look at annually to be sure you don’t miss something to prevent a DNF during the season.

To that point, one of your new year’s resolutions should be no “preventable” mechanical DNF’s for 2017.  By “preventable” I am talking about mechanical error – forgetting to tighten a gear or carburetor, a fuel line falling off because it hasn’t been checked in two years etc.  If your gearbox breaks midway through a rebuild, that’s bad luck.  I’m talking about the stuff you can control.   I personally don’t think preventable mechanical DNF’s should EVER enter into your karting equation.  The races are short, it’s a single-piston engine, and you have enough time to prepare the kart between race weekends.  Have I had a preventable DNF?  Yes, and it has cost me a race win (and obviously many hours of much needed therapy, but I do feel better writing this).  All the above being said, this is what you should be checking and replacing on your go kart this off season…

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In the Seat Position & You article, I discuss how to determine if your seat position is incorrect.  I mention that if your kart is unresponsive to major changes and consistently has the same handling issue regardless of a variety of changes you make, chances are the seat position may be the cause.  For instance, if the seat is too far forward, your kart will suffer from perennial oversteer – so move the seat back and up.

This is a perfect example because I had been battling an oversteer condition since I bought my new kart.  Having tried many changes to rectify the oversteer, I felt my current seat position is too far forward  so I vowed to move the seat farther back and up and do a follow-up article here…

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Don’t skimp on your Bead Breaker Tool – a good one will make the job much easier.

Ahhhhhhh, the black art of changing go kart tires by hand (as opposed to using the nice, expensive kart tire changing machines).  Some guys get it and others, even people who are very mechanically inclined, don’t.  I will try my best to show you all the tricks in December’s newsletter but keep in mind that it is a bit of an acquired technique, so stick with it if at first you don’t succeed.  Let me warn you, if have shoulder or wrist issues, proceed with caution, as changing go kart tires is a bit of a workout, especially with certain rims like Birel and certain tires like Dunlop and Vega.

You will need a bead breaker (and don’t skimp here, a good one is a must as it will save you time and aggravation beyond the price difference).  Borrow someone elses’ or ask around to be sure you get a good one.  Also, find a piece of old carpet about two feet wide by three feet long to work on, this will save your rims and more importantly, your knees.  My last piece of advice would be to complete each step for all the tires before moving on to the next step.  This will make the whole process much quicker and minimize mistakes…

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A couple of years ago, my karting wish came true, kind of.  It rained at the SuperNats.  Unfortunately, the G1 class was I was racing in at the time was scheduled for the morning sessions and it rained on one afternoon.  Too bad, it would have been a great test of my rain set-up, just look at the guys in front of me on the grid.  Fabrizio Nannini and Antonio Dettori were the factory Energy drivers sent over from Italy.  Emilio Padron and Eduardo Martins are from Brazil, and Kelly Baker is from Seattle.  I’d be willing to bet they all have substantial experience and success in the rain.  It would have been interesting to say the least.

All is not lost however, as Ethan Wilson, who I’ve raced against before in the ProKart Challenge and who has since moved over to the TAG Masters class with much success (ProKart Challenge Champion in 2010, SuperNats Winner 2013), used the Rain Set Up I outlined in the Trial Issue in his 3rd Heat Race.  I saw Ethan the day before the rain and told him I had printed FKI Trial Issues with the rain set-up and he should at least check it out.  He agreed and took a copy back to his tent.

Ethan came back to my tent the next night and with a huge smile on his face and gave me one of the nicest compliments I could receive by telling me, “I did everything you said in the Newsletter and won my heat in the rain!”  But what is more interesting to me and one of the main reasons I started the Newsletter is what he said next.  “You know, its funny, I am looking around at the other karts on the grid and thinking, I’m not doing that…, this is different…, that’s an interesting direction…Then I thought, what if all of those guys are wrong and I’m right?  So, I just put my helmet on and went for it!”  Congrats and thanks Ethan, nice work.  Now would be a perfect time to delve into how I arrived at the rain set-up…

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Yes, you can tune your go kart with tires just like the big boys do (you hear about it all the time when they interview crew chiefs after a pit stop.) More importantly, you can dial yourself out of the ball park if you don’t understand how tire pressures affect the handling of your go kart. Before you read much further, however, I highly suggest you read last month’s article Tires 101 and Beyond to be sure you have prepared your tires for maximum performance before they hit the track.

To simplify the basic premise of tire tuning, once you are in the tire’s optimum psi range, think of tire pressures as follows…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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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 car 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 ok, 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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It is appropriate that I am picking October to talk about ride heights.  I just finished a street race in Lancaster, CA and will race the SuperNats is a parking lot next month and parking lot tracks are the only place I seem to really mess with ride heights.  The initial premise is fairly simple, raise the chassis (ride height) to gain grip and lower it reduce grip.  How you use it gets a little more interesting…

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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.  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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