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09/20/2012: TAG Karting Videos

Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
Here's just a few helmet cam videos of me in the TAG kart for my first few races.

The first video is on very old tires with very little grip left, you can tell I was sliding around quite a bit:

The second video was on new tires, I gained over a second and a half!

Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
So as I've mentioned I bought a kart over the winter. I have a Arrow AX-9 which is around 5 years old, with a new PRD Fireball engine package. I've really been enjoying karting so far, and I have to say, more so then I ever did racing the car in the past 2 years. The night before a kart race now, I feel mostly excitement; before a SCCA race I felt mostly anxiety and stress. After a kart race I feel exhilaration; after a car race, I felt mostly relief. Every time I've gone out I've just gotten better and had more fun. I hope that trend continues! Here's a few points as to why so far, I'm enjoying karting over car racing.

The simplicity. A kart is a much smaller and simpler machine compared to a car. On the kart, between races I need to clean and inspect the kart, charge the battery, lubricate the chain and a few other things, check the spark plug, buy and mix some gas, and mount a set of tires a few times a season. Maintenance on the car involves a lot of additional tasks, for example just the basics include changing the engine oil, tranny oil and rear end oil, changing brake pads and rotors (x4) and bleeding the brakes. These tasks are more time consuming then the basic maintenance of the kart. Stuff is going to break on any racing machine, but the stuff that breaks on a car is generally more difficult to fix, requires more tools and frankly, on a 2500lb car, can be physically harder for a scrawny guy like to complete! Finally, I can store and work on my kart in my own single car garage (and still park my car in it most of the time too) while with the car I had to store it an hour away so working on the car was pretty much a whole day commitment. And if I need my mechanics help on something, I can get the kart to him in a minivan or suv by myself, instead of a truck and trailer. For my second kart race all my help backed out, but it wasn't a big deal, I was able to run the kart myself, and even load and unload the kart myself. I never felt comfortable enough to run the car without help. Overall, I found the preparation time for a car race was around 4 times longer then that for the kart.

The affordability. Our race car cost about the same to buy as it cost me to get my kart and motor and have it set up by an experienced kart mechanic. Some people might say, that means karting is expensive, it costs the same amount to buy a tiny kart as it does a whole racecar! However, the cost to run the kart for a race day is in the range of 5 to 10 times cheaper then running the car for a weekend. Broken down by day, my estimate is, karting operating expenses are 2-4 times cheaper compared to car racing. This is an "apples to apples" comparison of a club kart race vs. club racing in an affordable car class. Sure, some will point out a kart race motor costs almost as much as one for a car, but consider the big expense items for a low budget racer (kart or car). Kart tires (which aren't cheap themselves) still cost 1/3 of what it costs to buy and mount race tires. A full size race car goes through brakes much faster then a go kart, and there are 4 times as many pads and rotors to replace. And the race car uses approximately 6-8 times more fuel then the kart per day on the track.

The performance. I stated above that the initial costs to enter car racing and kart racing were about the same, but for the car, we bought into the cheapest competitive local club racing class. We were like the Formula Vee of production car racing. For the same price I bought a TAG kart, which is typically the second fastest karting class available in the US after a Moto/ICC/KZ2 shifter. If a shifter kart was F1/IndyCar, TAG would be GP2/Indy Lights, much higher in performance then a Formula Vee! In the spec RX7 race car, we had 110HP/2500lbs and went 110MPH on the front straight at summit point. That's less horsepower and less top speed then my Honda Civic street car! For me, racing is more about the racecraft and technique rather then the speed, but still, having lower performance then a economy street car is certainly not that exciting. At 28HP at 350lbs, my kart has two times higher power to weight ratio than my race car! In our spec rx7 class, we ran a spec DOT "r comp" tires, which offered good grip, but not as much as a true racing slick. In the local TAG class, we run medium compound racing slick tires, and with a rear width of 7.1 inches, they're about as wide as the tires on the spec rx7! The result is according to my data and rough calculations, the kart generates at least 25% more cornering force compared to my race car. (2gs vs. <1.5gs)

The helpfulness. My friend referred me to his old kart mechanic who helped me set up my kart and get the parts I needed, all for a very reasonable price. When I went to pick up the kart he showed me the basic things I needed to do to maintain the kart and get it on the track. I can't tell you how helpful this was. My first few times out I didn't have to worry about if the kart was set up right or if the thing was about to fall apart. These were all things I didn't have when starting out in the RX-7. And once at the track, everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Don't get me wrong, overall the SCCA paddock was very friendly too, but with cars things are more spread out and a bit more isolated. The kart club environment just feels more open and relaxing to me. And although karting is very fragmented, it's honestly still closer then club car racing. In karting, there's many different chassis brands, but ultimately 2 different basic chassis designs, and a dozen or less popular motors, across all karting! Chances are, the guy next to you will be able to help you if you have a basic problem. At an SCCA weekend, among 200 entries there might be 80 completely different cars. And if you're in a mazda and the guy next to you is in a ITA Honda, or heck, a formula car, he probably doesn't have a clue about your car. Further, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of guys running TAG karts in the country, while there might be 50 or so actively running a Spec RX-7 or IT-7. So it's a lot easier to find information online if I have any problems are questions about my kart.

That's just my honest feelings, YMMV. As I've said before, I don't regret going club racing in SCCA, karting has just been a better fit for me right now. If you want more concrete numbers, My next posts are gonna be an analysis of the costs of our club racing team vs. my costs in karting so far, so stay tuned!
Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
I wrote a bit about this topic previously. Now that I've got a kart and am looking to buy something to transport it in, I'm revisiting this issue in more detail.

First off, how big is a kart anyway? I actually own two karts now, A Margay Brava and an Arrow AX-9 (long story but I bought the Margay first and it turned out to be not so suited to what I wanted so I lent it to a friend, and bought the Arrow that I race now). Both karts are a typical CIK style sprint kart, which are used for all junior (age 12-15 in the US) and senior classes throughout the world for sprint karting, such as TAG, KF2, shifter, etc. The maximum rear width of a CIK kart is approximately 55 inches, and the kart are typically run near the maximum width. Note, a gold cup style kart (typically used for 4 stroke classes) is supposed to be at least a few inches narrower. Length wise including the bumpers, the Margay is about 70 inches long, while the Arrow is 74.

Karts can be taken apart to varying degrees which significantly lowers the dimensions. The bumper assemblies on karts vary and of half a dozen or so I've inspected, generally the front can be taken off with just a few clips or bolts, while the rear may not be so easily removable, depending on the kart. On my Margay, both the front and rear can be easily removed to trim 10 inches or so off the length. Neither of my karts has a full width rear bumper, but most karts now come with them and I believe they are required to run at least halfway across the rear tires. Taking the front and rear hubs and wheels and both sidepods off takes minutes or less and leaves the widest point of the kart the width of the rear axle, minus a full width rear bumper if you have one. The most common axle sizes from what I gather are 50 x 1020mm (what the Arrow has) and 40 x 1040mm (what the Margay has) so taking the wheels and hubs off saves about 10 inches off the rear width. If you leave the front wheels on, my current setup on the Arrow measures around 46 inches wide. Additionally, if the rear axle and front spindles are also removed, the actual frame measures only about 32 inches at it's widest point and 60 inches long.

So what cars, trucks, SUVs and vans will the kart fit in? I've compiled some notes and specific dimensions for some vehicles below. I've broken the vehicles down in 3 categories.

Yes. Can most likely transport a kart with easily with little disassembly: Generally, any modern minivan or full size SUV fits in this category. I figure if the cargo area is at least 72 inches long, and 46 inches wide at it's narrowest point, it can transport a kart with at most the sidepods, rear wheels and hubs, front bumper and maybe the rear bumper off. (Rear bumper is tricky since I don't have a full width one, but a lot of these large vehicles are pretty wide a the very rear by the liftgate, so you might be able to get away with leaving it on). Most of these vehicles also have enough overall cargo volume to fit a kart stand, tools and a box or two of spares and personal gear as well.

  • 2008+ Dodge Grand Caravan/ Chrysler Town and Country Can transport both my karts with only one sidepod and one rear hub off. Could probably work just with the hubs pushed in.

  • 2001-2007 Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town and Country Slightly smaller then the newer generation, but I was still able to take my Arrow kart with just one sidepod and rear hub/wheel off, along with everything I needed for the track with room to spare.

  • 2001-2007 Toyota Sequoia Was able to take the kart with one rear hub, sidepod and the front bumper off. Tighter fit for the kart stand and all the other stuff versus the minivans, but still pretty easy.

  • 2007+ Chevy Suburban 49.1 x 101.8. Super long cargo area but still not wide enough to pass kart through wheel arches.

  • 2007+ Chevy Tahoe 49.1 x 81.4. Super long cargo area but still not wide enough to pass kart through wheel arches.

  • Maybe. Might be able to make it work: Most mid size SUVs and comparable vehicles fall in this category. Although the minimum width dimensions might seem tight, consider that you might be able to load the kart without passing the whole thing through the narrowest point, so the front wheels might be able to stay on even if they can't pass through the rear wheelhousings, for example. Most these vehicles do have considerably less cargo volume so it might be kinda tight fitting everything else you need for the track in. But they should get better gas mileage then the bigger vehicles, be more practical as a daily driver (at least for me) if you are going to use it as that and should still be capable of hauling a small trailer if you decide to move on to that. Don't take my word for it on these, I think it would be close and you should do the measuring of the vehicle and your kart yourself!

  • 2010+ Toyota 4runner 45 wide x 68 long. A little short but could work with front and/or rear bumpers off or front seats moved a bit forward.

  • 2004-2009 subaru outback 42.2x73. Good length but the narrow gate opening would be a big challenge to work with.

  • 2010+ subaru outback 43x66. Looks like the newer generation is shorter then the last one.

  • 2006-2012 rav4 43 x 72. Although usually considered a compact SUV, it is actually pretty big. The side hinged door makes me question if the kart can get through the gate though.

  • Unlikely or no way: Most compact SUVs and wagons/hatches are really just too small although some might seem promising. Since the bare frame is pretty small, you might be able to get away with using these if you only need to move your kart a few times a year (like you store it at the track and take it somewhere else for the winter, or just need something to pick up a kart, but I don't see any way to use these as a primary means to transport a kart to the track.

  • Honda Element 42 x 55-67. By the looks of the exterior I would have thought it's way to short but some people seem to claim it works. This is by far the most promising vehicle of the group I've found and maybe belongs in the group above.

  • 2003-2008 Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe 38.75 x 55.5. The cargo area looks flat and practical, but it's just way too small.

  • 2008-2012 ford escape 40.7x 66.7. MIGHT work.

  • 2007-2011 Honda CRV 39.5 x 60-67.

  • I will try to add to the list if I do more research.