Articles

11-02-2006

 

MKC gears up for Superkarts

 

Section: Drivers Section

Author: Roger Polak

 

MKC had a crack at the 125 Max Superkarts class at Winton last Friday. Here's what happened

 

 

MKC kart setup guide Too much grip!
Author: Roger Polak, James Sera, Steve Polak

 

 

Recently we saw the first hot race weekend we've had in many months and at Oakleigh this happened to fall on our Club Championship meet. So we had qualifying, which meant new rubber for many people, two heats on Saturday and a longer pre-final and final on Sunday.   Naturally the track itself was one of the hot topics and whether it was grippy or not. The MKC team drivers discussed this too and came to our own conclusions.

 

Now remember that our pointers here won't fit in with every other driver's experiences, mainly because setups vary as do driving styles and tyre pressures etc. So what we're trying to do here is give our perspective on the track condition and offer a few view pointers that you may find helpful at future hot race meetings.

 

The times in qualifying were the fastest we had seen in a while. High 39's for Leopard. High 43s for clubman super heavy and James Sera broke the lap record with a 40.846.   So the track was certainly fast at the start of the meeting.   But would it continue to take rubber and grip up. We had our doubts but thought we'd wait and see how things went. Although straight after qualifying I thought the times would slip right back, as they have at many major race meetings this year.

 

So what causes the track to go slower than qualifying and even slower than Friday's practice when there were far less people at Oakleigh?

  1. The tyres are faster when brand new: This isn't true for every class but certainly the faster classes will get a bit of time from new rubber. As long as your kart setup is right.
  2. Karters drive cleaner lines in qualifying: In qualifying we all tend to drive neater lines to get the best lap times. There is much less passing and so you don't have karts going ‘off the line' and bringing sand and dirt back onto the racing line.   When racing starts karts search for space all over the track and go off the line to pass.   People also drop wheels off more in racing and have offs, bringing junk back onto our previously clean race line.
  3. We do more laps in racing: We commonly do more laps in racing and so the kart is setup to not go off for the race duration, sometimes at the expense of early race speed. Of course the best drivers are capable of setting fast times on colder tyres and so that's one reason they skip off into the distance in the first lap or two. This can make or brake you in short races like we see at Oakleigh.
  4. The track can grip up: The track can get grippy across the weekend too and catch some karters out with their setups. But there are varying degrees of this and so you need to be vary careful when making big changes.

The reality is that many karters will blame slow lap times on the kart ‘gripping up' even though this might not be the case. The first symptom they notice is that the kart feels like it won't come off the corners as quickly as before and it feels sluggish. This can be true, but there are other causes for slow corner exit speed.

  1. Too fast into the corner: This can cause the kart to hop and buck (a common complaint at the carrousel at Oakleigh) because the driver has been too aggressive on turn in.   Then we can get push in the front and the kart fails to lift rear wheels correctly. In severe cases the driver runs off the race line and into the dirty track, which hurts the lap time too.
  2. Chassis set too stiff: Again this stops the kart lifting up the inside rear wheel and prevents the kart from releasing properly. Taking seat stays off can help or removing bars. One confusing aspect of this is that these are also steps we take to release grip too, so the driver can get confused as to why changes like this are affective.
  3. Heat: We are racing on a grippier tyre in the clubman class now and this can cause the engines to work harder.   This has a massive affect on the engine temperature and once it goes over say 225 degrees C the bottom end power drops away dramatically.   If your engine is running at over 250 C then you can bet you're losing huge power off the turns right there. Making it feel like the chassis is gripping up. Get into the habit of choking or airboxing the engine to help keep it cool at hot race meetings.
  4. Too low tyre pressure: If you set your tyre pressures too low then you get more flex in the tyre side wall and more rolling resistance.   It can make you feel like you're towing a trailer. Try setting your pressures at 8 pounds for a couple of laps and you'll see what I mean.

Here are what a couple of MKC drivers thought of the track conditions last weekend and their thoughts on grippy tracks.

 

 

Steve Polak Clubman Superheavy Qualified 3rd

 

 

 

On a scale of 1 to 10 how grippy was the Oakleigh track on Sunday?

 7

 

Was your kart setup for a grippy track?

I knew grip would be there, but luckily I wasn't looking to dial grip out of the kart. I used a reasonably wide rear to stop the rear from sticking too much to the tarmac.

 

What's an example of a grippy track you've raced on?

Geelong can get very grippy in summer, especially when I raced the Vic closed a few years ago. In the wet Portland is unbelievable. You can almost get away with slicks in the wet, it is that grippy. Portland has the Vic open this year too.

 

 

James Sera 1st in Clubman Light 3rd in Leopard Light

 

On a scale of 1 to 10 how grippy was the Oakleigh track on Sunday?

6

 

Was your kart setup for a grippy track?

No. It wasn't greatly different to our normal clubday setup. Our tyre pressures weren't much lower than clubdays.

 

What's an example of a grippy track you've raced on?

Todd rd at events like the Vic open and City of Melbourne.

 

Any other tips James?

Keep the tyre pressures a little higher and use axels and hubs to control the grip. Also remember that in karts you are aiming to make as much grip as possible without the tyres going off.

 

Getting the setup spot on isn't easy and so talking to other competitive drivers (like the MKC team) can help point you in the right direction or at least give you a second point of view. Remember too that if you strip too much grip out of the kart it may never ‘come on' and set fast lap times.   If you have a little too much grip it may go off towards the end of a race, but at least you'll be fast for the majority of the event.  

 

The ideal setup will have you possibly slipping around in the early laps of a big final, then getting faster as the race winds on to have you in an attacking position at the race end. We can't tell you what the ideal setup is here, because that will vary from race to race, day to day and driver to driver. But try not to get ‘suckered in' to building a low grip kart setup for a track that's not that sticky.

We know that this can all be quite baffling and so MKC is planning to hold some customer test days in the coming months were we can all go down to the track and experience some wildly different setups. For instance we'll have you drive your kart how it would normally be setup, then build in massive amounts of grip to show you what that feels like too. We will be holding separate test days for Monaco and Tecno drivers and these days will be free to MKC customers. Stay posted for the dates.