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At the 2010 SuperNats, I and three other drivers I race with decided to work together and share information with great success.

If you continually get caught out on your set-up over the course of a race weekend due to the changing grip levels, this article is for you. It is widely thought that multi-car teams out perform single-car teams at every level of motorsport. Why? Because the drivers and engineers on multi-car teams share information and cover twice as much ground in half the time to arrive at an optimum set-up quicker. How important is this at the karting level? Well, the three other guys I race with felt it was important enough to all be on the same exact chassis for the 2010 SuperNats that two of us, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and I, bought new chassis to match the ones owned by the other two drivers on our “team.” It was also fortunate that three of us ran in the morning sessions, three classes apart, and the fourth driver ran in the afternoon session (more on this later).

Just so I am clear, I am not suggesting that you need to buy another chassis or convince your friends to take up karting to “form” a multi-kart team (although your kart shop owner will love you). It is possible to accomplish the same goals even if you are on your own at the track. Let me explain…

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What does happen to your kart’s Toe setting when you set it on the ground?

If you’ve been around go karting long enough you’ve heard the claims:  “Your chassis won’t work properly without the factory seat.”  “You have to toe your go kart out ‘X’ amount on the stand in order for it to be neutral (0 toe-in or 0 toe-out) on the ground or you’ll just be scrubbing speed down the straightaway.”  Or, “You have to set the go kart with toe-in on the stand in order for it to be neutral on the ground.”  Which claim is true, which is a myth?  Has anyone ever actually tested any of this to know for sure?

Out of sheer curiosity, I have decided to tackle these and other go kart myths I have heard over the years, and trust me when I tell you, some are absolutely hilarious.  Nonetheless, I will begin the Myth Buster Series with the mystery of Toe-In.  Why Toe-In?  Well, I have actually never tested it myself and therefore fall into the camp of relying on sources I believed to be reliable to determine where I set the toe.  Before I wrote this article, I used to set the toe with the marks just over the centerline of my Sniper Gauge giving the kart 1/2 mm total toe-out.  I changed my setting for the SuperNats after reading an email from a subscriber in Australia on this very subject.

So, which way, if any, does the toe move from the setting on the stand to the setting when you sit in the go kart on the ground.  Being one of those people that try to envision what happens when you make a change or adjustment to my kart, I have mentally come up with theories that could explain either side of this myth.  If you don’t know the answer, see what you come up with theoretically while I explain the methodology used to solve this myth once and for all…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Drive your own race and stay out of trouble!

One of my subscribers asked if I could address how not to become so emotionally involved during a race that you end up just following guys instead of getting around them.  He went on to say that for him personally, he becomes so fixated on the guy in front that he starts to turn-in too early and pinches off the corners during the heat of battle.  After the race, he can’t even recall how his go kart was handling so he is at a complete loss to make any changes to improve the kart before the next race.  So the question is, instead of just going to the track and pounding around with his buddies, is there anything he can be working on to address the above issues?  The answer is yes.  In fact, there are a number of things you can work on so this will be the first in a series of kart driving drills designed to not only help you improve your times while on your own, but help your racecraft as well.

But first, a little history.  When I started karting, I had the privilege to kart with Page Jones, son of Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indy 500 winner; 2-time Baja 1000 winner; Trans-Am, Sprint Car, Midget Champion, and one of the best drivers this country has ever produced.  We are family friends with the Jones’ so I lived at their house, prepped my kart at their shop etc.  One of the best things about this experience and the reason I mention it is Parnelli would occasionally come to our tests and races and would give both Page and me advice whenever he thought we needed it whether we were at the track and at home.  As I was brand new to karting, he gave me a lot of advice.  As I write this I realize that everything I mention here, I’m just reiterating what he told me…

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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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Categories : Editorials, How To's
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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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Categories : Editorials, How To's
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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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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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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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Categories : How To's
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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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