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chaparral
chaparral Dork
10/10/16 6:29 p.m.

"For those who like racing, I advise the karting and to do it with love and dedication" - A. Senna. GRM readers tend to regard karting as a fringe and mystical activity. It's just the least expensive and most straightfoward way to the muscle-stretching world beyond 2g. I've raced karts for a few years and would like to pull away the mythology.

I will start by giving and then ignoring three pieces of good advice on purchasing a kart:

1) Buy the newest, best-condition machinery you can fit in your budget, to minimize the deferred maintenance that you must catch up on before entering competition. Strongly consider new equipment even if it means moving down the performance scale, as all kart parts are stressed above the level that allows infinite or even long life.

2) Purchase from a local racer, kart shop, or track, so that spares and knowledge about this particular kart are readily available.

3) Try or rent karts in different classes on practice days, and then choose a kart in the slowest class that you can enjoy when all alone.

However, when a "shifter cart" came up in my local Craigslist three miles away, I went to a big woodshop and saw this 2003 Birel CR32ST (z) with a TM K9B (zz) forlorn under a pile of sawdust. The owner said "the brakes are bad", which usually means "there's a little air in the lines or a soft master cylinder, so you'll need lots of travel and pressure", and pushed me across the parking lot. I was in third gear by the time I discovered that it actually meant "There are no brakes whatsoever, even with the master cylinders bottomed out".

Once I had spun it out safely (zzz) the negotiations started. I saw there was more to be gained by cleaning out the shop than by knocking down the price, so I came home with a shifter kart, kart stand (zzzz), 10 extra wheels and tires, and 4 rain wheels and tires for Challenge money.

z Birel is a large Italian kart manufacturer. "CR32" means "front brakes, R-style frame, 32 mm frame tubes", and "ST" confirms that the kart was made in 2003

zz TM should not abbreviate their name. It stands for "The Monster" which is entirely appropriate. K9B is Kart, 9th engine design, B revision

zzz As safely as a 45-horsepower kart on 10-year-old tires with a sticky throttle and no brakes can be spun out on a random suburban Detroit street

zzzz It is difficult to work on or race a kart without a good kart stand. They don't depreciate from their new price of $180-$270, because they will outlast anyone's time in the sport

chaparral
chaparral Dork
10/10/16 7:25 p.m.

Here are the photos of what I ended up with. Note how much room there is left over on the 5'x8' trailer. Some people have big enclosed trailers that double as shed, workshop, and tent. Calculate what that does to your budget. You may find it cheaper to stay in motels and stow it in the garage or basement between races, especially if you travel far enough that the fuel cost of a 10 MPG truck fully-freighted versus a 25 MPG car and trailer is a major part of the budget.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
10/10/16 8:23 p.m.

Subscribed!

bentwrench
bentwrench Dork
10/10/16 8:41 p.m.

I used to put my Kart in the back of an Astro van.

If you weigh over 180# dont bother with Karting.....

Breathe on the straights, because you can't in the corners!

chaparral
chaparral Dork
10/10/16 8:58 p.m.

In the last installment, I'd just spent enough money to feed me for an entire year on a dirty old kart that barely ran, didn't stop, and didn't steer.

The next step was to load it onto my long-suffering roommate's long-suffering Saturn wagon so I could work on it in the pits whenever he was out on track on his Paid Off Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R.

I started with the brakes. Birel has unusual brakes, with the calipers using a wheel cylinder like that of a drum brake to push a long pad against each side of the disc. This has several advantages. The cylinder can be cylindrical, simplifying sealing. The thermal conduction path from the pads goes pad - backing plate - lever - fulcrum - lever - cylinder, so the brake fluid and aluminum cylinder are exposed to less heat. Finally, the pad is the shape of a banana and has a very nice pressure distribution. The whole assembly is held together with taper pins that are capped with really funny-shaped E-clips. Some trial and error with the retaining ring plier pins found a pair that took them apart very quickly.

We were lucky to be in the pits at Autobahn Country Club. Scuderia Stradale, the importers of Radical Sports Cars in the midwestern USA, is headquartered there. I took the little E-clips off both master cylinders and all three calipers and found a quiet place on their bench to put new O-rings in them. The calipers and one master cylinder cleaned up nicely, but I would have to get a master cylinder rebuild from a Birel dealer. I settled for rear brakes only for now - while the front brakes provide more deceleration, a 125cc TM ICC engine in a low gear can drive the rear wheels with enough force to push locked front wheels down the road. They lent me the little bottle-on-a-stick bleeder, which is necessary because most kart brake master cylinders do not have reservoirs. If you see a theme of "This tool costs $50 and allows a silly design to save $2 and 100 grams per kart" developing, you're not alone.

The engine had spark, compression, and timing, and ran well for a few seconds at a time. That pointed to a fueling problem. I started by replacing the old, cracked fuel lines, and instantly discovered that it pumped plenty of fuel directly into the crankcase through the vacuum line . ICCs are forgiving, but it seems a bit much to expect the crankshaft to do a good job as a carburetor. Dell'Orto fuel pumps have some hieroglyphics on them. Without a handy decoder ring, I used a 5' fuel line to draw and blow on various ports of the fuel pump with another line in the tank and found which connection path actually used a pulse to move fuel from the tank to the carburetor.

It ran! I drove it around the paddock and parked it until I could get the rest of the parts I needed.

chaparral
chaparral Dork
10/10/16 9:08 p.m.

In reply to bentwrench:

The heavier adult classes allow for a 190-205# driver to make weight with careful part selection. I'm about 180 and need one of the "big" engines (like a Parilla X30 or Vortex RoK TT) to compete in TaG racing. I struggled with inadequate "little" engines (an old ICA 100cc engine and a PRD Fireball) for two years at East Lansing, a track that rewards instant response and a big kick off the corners.

I finally have an appropriately strong engine.

chaparral
chaparral Dork
10/10/16 10:33 p.m.

This is an exploded view of a Dell'Orto VHSH30 carburetor.

Dell'Orto Carburetor

Whoops, wrong photo. Try this one instead.

Whatever engine you go karting with, you will soon know what the inside of your carburetor looks like, especially if the previous owner left fuel in it for several years. If you're lucky, the jets will be numbered and the manufacturer will tell you what each one does.

CRC carburetor cleaner is ferocious stuff. There was enough of this green stuff to paint the inside of the entire carb. Fifteen paper towels later it was clean.

Sometimes easy packaging runs contrary to good engineering practice. This water pump allows for a good hose routing.

The 180-degree hose you need to have the synchronous belt on the axle drive the water pump forwards while you drive forwards is Carquest part number 88431. I'll upload the photo when my email actually transfers it.

Note that the kart ran before these changes. You can run a kart for a little while with problems - but it's always more expensive and you'll be slower than if you'd fixed it properly.

MattGent
MattGent Reader
10/10/16 10:41 p.m.

I went this route about 15 years ago, with an older White chassis and CR125.

That thing was an absolute blast, and made me a better car driver. Your mind and reflexes have to work at such a pace, it makes you hyper-sensitive to the movements in a street car.

In retrospect I should have saved more money and gotten something newer and cleaner, and supported locally. It was a bit of a basket case, we ran a handful of practice days and autocrosses before I got rid of it.

When my son is old enough, maybe give it another run.

Cactus
Cactus Reader
10/10/16 10:57 p.m.
bentwrench wrote: If you weigh over 180# dont bother with Karting.....

I really wonder what kind of times I could do at the rental place if I lost the 150 pounds it would take to get me below 180.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/11/16 12:02 a.m.

180lbs... I haven't weighed that since high School freshman year... I'm 225lbs now. What's cheaper? A bigger engine or a gym membership?

novaderrik
novaderrik UltimaDork
10/11/16 12:24 a.m.

my 255 pound ass barely fits in the seat of the rental karts at the local track.. i'll have to settle for the next best thing: my 95 Neon on the road course 150 miles away at Brainerd if i ever get that back together...

bentwrench
bentwrench Dork
10/11/16 6:53 a.m.

Driver weight affects not only power but handling. (seat location, and tires. Big guys dont get bigger tires....)

When the kart weighs so little, the amount of weight you put in the seat DRAMATICALLY affects how it works!

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
10/11/16 7:08 a.m.

At 6'5" and 220 I would have never been competitive but would have had fun (according to the guys at NOLA motorsports park the spring before they hosted the worlds,) due to drag and weight.

At 250 that probably isn't helping.

As awesome as karting is (and it really is awesome, and not a fringe mythical thing as the OP suggested) it has it's limitations on reasonable participant size.

I am all for going out for a good time, but paying a chunk of funds knowing that it is a physical impossibility for you to be competitive gets old real quick.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/11/16 8:26 a.m.

I raced indoor karts for a season with some reasonable success, actually. It beat me up though and I threw in the towel after some friends and I pulled off a 2nd overall in an endurance challenge and I couldn't get out of bed the next day because of bruising all up and down my rib cage. It's hard on the body.

What it really was good for though was sharpening my sedan driving over the winter here in the NE where it's hard to get seat time in anything but an ATV or snow machine for 4 months. When spring came I was quicker in the sedan for having raced a kart every weekend all winter.

That was a lot of words to get to my point: You can try karting at a pretty competitive level without buying anything except a helmet and gloves if you have an indoor facility that caters to leagues. It isn't cheap but it's the least amount you can spend and be racing anything anywhere with decent competiton.

bravenrace
bravenrace MegaDork
10/11/16 8:31 a.m.
chaparral wrote: In the last installment, I'd just spent enough money to feed me for an entire year on a dirty old kart that barely ran, didn't stop, and didn't steer. The next step was to load it onto my long-suffering roommate's long-suffering Saturn wagon so I could work on it in the pits whenever he was out on track on his Paid Off Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R.

I resemble that.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/11/16 8:41 a.m.
Huckleberry wrote: What it really was good for though was sharpening my sedan driving over the winter here in the NE where it's hard to get seat time in anything but an ATV or snow machine for 4 months. When spring came I was quicker in the sedan for having raced a kart every weekend all winter. That was a lot of words to get to my point: You can try karting at a pretty competitive level without buying anything except a helmet and gloves if you have an indoor facility that caters to leagues. It isn't cheap but it's the least amount you can spend and be racing anything anywhere with decent competiton.

To go further, as I agree that the time I did some very light time indoor karting helped my autocrossing a lot...

For those wanting to learn how to drive better- karts are "unforgiving" of mistakes. Not that they will crash- but they will illustrate what part of your driving is slowing you down. Spend time with fast people and learn.

This is one reason I was able to be a pretty good autocrosser.

(my only problem with karts- the driving nausea would come on faster when karting than in a car. odd)

NorseDave
NorseDave New Reader
10/11/16 8:42 a.m.

There's an indoor go-kart place about 25 minutes from me that, at least historically, I only make it out to once a year - on my birthday. Why, I don't know, but.... I have been thinking about doing one of those weekly leagues they have - I think they're 6-8 week seasons, and you get maybe 3 races per session. I don't recall it being crazy expensive - actually I think it was quite a bit cheaper than if you just bought the equivalent number of open session races. May have to look into this, since the b-day is coming up and will be going back for sure. I have to admit, I can't imagine driving a 3-hour endurance race though. 14 laps (at ~25s/lap => ~6 minutes) and I'm spent. Huckleberry, how long were the driving stints ?

n8
n8 New Reader
10/11/16 9:04 a.m.

I raced a TaG kart for a couple of years in a regional/state series. At the time there weren't any local club level races and that was my only option if I wanted to race wheel to wheel. It was a ton of fun and definitely sharpened my skills. I got out of it partly due to costs and the lack of seat time value that I got out of it. The other part was that I was the self funded "old guy" at the ripe old age of 25 racing in a class of 16 year olds that weren't afraid to tear up dad's equipment. It's tough when you're not quite old enough to race in the old guy class but you identify more with their mindset.

If I were to do it again, I'd go the 4-cycle route with a Briggs L206. The running costs are way cheaper for every aspect. TaG and Shifters eat tires and brakes and you don't get many hours out of a rebuild if you run them hard enough to be competitive. Not to mention that all the future F1 kids and their dad's seem to stick to 2-stroke classes.

For the arrive and drive option, Endurance karting is a fun and somewhat affordable karting fix. I did a 6 hour race last year with two friends and we managed 2nd overall. For that a rib vest is absolutely crucial if you want to walk the next day.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/11/16 9:10 a.m.
NorseDave wrote: Huckleberry, how long were the driving stints ?

It depends on the number of team mates. We had 3 guys and there are a minimum number of stops required and one kart change to level the playing field.

The races were 2 or 3 hours. Our strategy was usually to do long stints and stop/go and other teams would swap out every 15 minutes or whatever worked best for them. Fatigue is a real thing if you are not accustomed to a suspensionless missile with heavy steering effort and > 1g even on concrete at 50mph so it varies a lot. Which is me politely saying if you aren't kinda fit you might not be able to stay in there for 20 minutes in the beginning. Seriously. After my first 1hr stint in a 6 hr enduro I had to be helped out of the kart and couldn't grip a drink bottle for over an hour afterward and - and that was after a full season of 2hr races (doing 20min changes).

I'd say to sign up, get with a team and let the chips fall. You will have a great time and figure the rest out. If it's anything like the place here - everyone is pretty cool and helpful.

All this talk about it - maybe I'll go back this season. It's been 4yrs but now my kids are old enough to be eligible for the league - we could do a whole family team. Hmmmm. Not sure I want to afford the 3x multiplier for all of us but that would be really cool.

RevRico
RevRico Dork
10/11/16 9:10 a.m.

I'd thought at 280 I was past weight limits for carting. Then I got to talking to my friend and local autocross hot shoe, who is only 2 inches and 10 pounds smaller than me.

He's currently one of the fastest people at the nearby indoor kart center, which has me convinced I'll be able to do it no problem.

"The karts have no suspension, being fat makes you the suspension"

When I lived in Cali I passed on a bunch of carts people offered me, now that I'm back out east and see the market, I'm kicking myself at passing them up.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
10/11/16 9:18 a.m.
RevRico wrote: I'd thought at 280 I was past weight limits for carting. Then I got to talking to my friend and local autocross hot shoe, who is only 2 inches and 10 pounds smaller than me. He's currently one of the fastest people at the nearby indoor kart center, which has me convinced I'll be able to do it no problem. "The karts have no suspension, being fat makes you the suspension" When I lived in Cali I passed on a bunch of carts people offered me, now that I'm back out east and see the market, I'm kicking myself at passing them up.

The fastest guy on our team by a full half second a lap was 70lbs heavier than me. He used to be a factory CRG rider in his youth so... has chops. He moves his weight around on the chassis, bounces it just right on washboards to get grip when others are spinning and other trickery I haven't managed to glean from him... but skill goes a long way to maintaining momentum and leveling the playing field to those skinny brats effortlessly blasting around. If you don't have to gain or lose the amount of speed that others do - you don't care so much about acceleration (plus they bounce further when you shove them) :)

simontibbett
simontibbett Reader
10/11/16 9:21 a.m.

I would love to have a kart on the side, just no real big races close by though. We have AMP which has an amazing kart track but I am not sure what their race schedule is aside from rentals and member stuff.

NickD
NickD Dork
10/11/16 9:35 a.m.

We have a guy who runs in our chapter with a CRG Road Rebel with that TM 50hp engine. That thing rips. And he got it for cheap, less than $3500 including shipping from Vegas. It was part of a CRG-backed team out to Vegas at some celebrity race. Max Verstappen was part of the CRG team at that race, so although he has no way of knowing if he drove it (doubtful) it was at least one of the brother cars.

For sheer performance, it's hard to beat at that cost. 0-60 in under 3 seconds, 0-100-0 in under 10 seconds, a top speed of 140mph (when geared), he has used the same set of slicks for 3 years and it burns less than 7 gallons of fuel in an autocross season. The biggest turnoff for me is how bad it beats the driver up and the fact that I'm 6'4" and 240lbs.

Furious_E
Furious_E Dork
10/11/16 9:39 a.m.

We just had an indoor cart track open up within the past year or so about 25 min away from me. Seems it's all arrive and drive style and they feature all electric driven carts. I haven't been able to check it out yet, but just emailed them about winter leagues. You're all a bunch of dirty damned enablers

NickD
NickD Dork
10/11/16 9:41 a.m.
Furious_E wrote: You're all a bunch of dirty damned enablers

You're just figuring that out?

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