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!