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Archive for Chassis Tuning

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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If you have been reading your FKI’s and testing diligently, eventually you will notice certain tuning patterns emerge from your go kart chassis.  Pay attention to these patterns as every go kart has what I will term “tuning relationships” and once you see the pattern, you will dial yourself into any given track condition so much quicker.  Mastering tuning relationships can be the deciding factor between having a top-five go kart or a winning kart.  The quicker you get close to your ideal set-up, the quicker you can experiment with the smaller things to find that last tenth to push you much farther up the grid.  So what exactly am I talking about?  Well let me run you through a couple of examples which should help you determine your kart’s tuning relationships regardless of your chassis type…

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Why are there circles drawn on this seat? Read on to find out…

If you have been in go karting long enough, you have definitely heard the claim that you need to use the factory seat in order for your go kart chassis to work properly and be at its optimum.  Most likely you will hear this from a kart shop owner which is interesting because there is no extra financial incentive for him to say this since the seat is usually included in the price of the go kart.  The shop owner could actually make a little more money by convincing you to buy an aftermarket seat.  So why do they claim this?  Is it true?  And what if, like me, you don’t fit properly in the factory seat.  Are you giving up time by installing a more comfortable aftermarket seat in your go kart?  Let’s find out…

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