November 11, 2013 at 11:10 am #15276
I am considering karting in 2014 and I want input from racers, ex-racers, and dealer’s input in which class makes the most sense in deciding to race, TAG or Rotax and why? I have done some research into karting and I feel one of these two classes makes the most sense for my needs. In 2010 I had practiced on a TAG kart a few times which is all the karting experience I have to date. I have dirt car racing experience but that goes back 20 years ago, so karting is a new venture for all intensive purposes. At this point in my life (48 years of age) I have some $$ to spend on racing, not big $$, but a few thousand to spend annually (after initial kart & spares purchases) on tires, entry fees etc. My son no longer is racing MX, so I have some ability to race about 10x a year.
With all that said, in our area it appears Rotax & TAG counts are similar so that is less of a factor. My input or inquiry is what class is easiest on motors, tires, clutches, durability & overall expenditures etc. Also, it appears getting a Tony, Birel, CRG, Topkart makes the most sense as well so input on chassis would be welcomed as well. Any input in this decision is welcomed.
November 11, 2013 at 11:56 am #15283
My bad, let me clarify, Leopard vs Rotax.
Millville, NJ NJMP
Yes it seems seat time is priceless.
November 11, 2013 at 7:55 pm #15318
You’ll never accuse me of being a Rotax fanatic but I have to say it is extremely hard to beat in terms of TAG packages for someone wanting to get in to the sport and turn a lot of laps. The biggest factor is that it actually starts every time you hit the button. The lower rpm’s and being counter balanced also make it less likely to vibrate itself, and you, in to oblivion. The rotax ignition, exhaust and clutch are a lot more robust too than any other TAG and won’t typically let you down without warning.
The carb on the Rotax is unnecessarily tricky but there isn’t an option unfortunately. It is fine for lapping days but you’ll spend some time and testing to get comfortable with it to be able to fine tune on a race day.
The Rotax will also run 2-3 times longer than any other TAG package which helps offset the additional initial expense.
November 12, 2013 at 8:44 am #15368
If there is a good Rotax Max Challenge series nearby, then I would pick the Rotax. If the nearest series is TaG, I wouldn’t pick the Rotax, as it’s been rendered uncompetitive by SKUSA when they added a 20lbs penalty this year. The Rotax is relatively competitive if the track has a lot of mid-range but will get killed if the track has lot of point and squirt turns.
I’ve run Leopards, Motori and Rotax and the Rotax is by far the more reliable engine. In fact, right now, they are offering a 12 month warranty. I don’t believe that any other engine supplier even offers a one day warranty, I think that says a lot about reliability and robustness of the package.
Like Dan said, it’s easier on the drive train because of the lower RPM, chains and sprocket seem to last forever. I think the lower RPM contributes to the longevity of the motor, you can go 2 seasons on the bottom and 1 season on the top.
With the advent of the new generation clutch, the package is unbeatable for reliability It’s not the sexiest sounding or looking motor but very utilitarian and damn it’s nice when the starter work every time. Get a powered kart stand and you can go to the track without need for help.
The carb is not complicated, just find someone or a shop that knows what they are doing and have them set it up for the track you are running. The carb is very forgiving once set up right, especially if you run the same track.
November 12, 2013 at 8:47 am #15370
Me and my friend are in the same boat as you, and the majority of the answers have already been provided for you. I will give you a few of our situational decisions, and maybe it can lead you to a properly based decision.
Class Size: This is a huge thing for us, we have been racing everything together all of our lives, and we love competition. ALSO, we just recently got done building 2 SCCA STL class honda civics, and the class in florida literally died over the off season. My thing is I will ruin 10K worth of racing machine if I am out there with 15-20 people, but I refuse to risk my money to race 3 people.
Availibility and knowledge: Where we race in Ocala, FL. Tony Kart is the go to chassis. Allbeit Tony Kart, FA Kart, Cosmic, Expirit, but all tony kart nonetheless. Also our home track OGP only stocks TK parts because of this. Their travel team, and race team all run Tony Karts, so clearly this decision was pre-determined for us. I refuse to have a race weekend ruined, or ended because I broke a part I cannot get because nobody carries it. If I break something and they are out of stock, well that is just dumb luck, and I chaulk it up as a lesson learned. Obviously also because they race, own, operate, and sell TK clearly the knowledge to help us with the tuning learning curve is there.
Reliability: I have read great things about all the TaG, and Rotax FR125 motors. I have also read bad things. The bad things usually seem to stem back to whom the builder was, more so than the product itself. I believe if you find a QUALITY engine builder, its just like a real car engine, or dirtbike engine. Everything is only as reliable as the maintenance program you put fourth.
For us we chose Rotax Masters class, we are both 30 but we meet the minimum weight of the driver without helmet of 190+. Another reason we chose the Rotax motor is that it essentially gives us more classes to run. I can run TaG Heavy and Rotax Masters during the FKCS, if I wanted to. All without changing a thing, will I be as competitive? Probably not, this will be my first year in a kart. Closest thing I have is 1/4 midgets, see the similarity at all?
All-in-All it comes down with like everything you do. What is popular in your area, what type of support can you get, and what is the best bang for the buck.
I hope this helps you out,
November 12, 2013 at 9:00 am #15375
Rotax seems to have good reliability and easier on the kart as well as smoother. Yeah the Leopard starter is always an issue it seems. I have received some advice that Rotax turnouts @ NJMP are light. I know Leopards are plenty in this area and yes I am a believer the deeper the class the better!! Leopards seem like they do need rebuilds sooner but they are up there in the RPM range so not too much of a surprise.
What about tires, this seems to be a real issue with karting, new rubber is important and @ $225 for a set of 4 seems to add up quickly.
Thanks for all the responses, this is helpful!!
November 12, 2013 at 9:05 am #15376
Tires from what I can tell are a spec tire dependent on the class you choose to run.
Unforutunately there is no real getting around that aspect, unless you have a local that is sponsored for tires and runs a practice session on a new set and disgards the old set.
We have the FWT coming into town for us, so I am hoping to score a couple sets myself, not going to be racing, but attending nonetheless.
November 12, 2013 at 10:36 am #15382
Yes familiar with Etown, that’s where I had done some practicing and every time my son would race MX at Etown I would venture over and watch if the karts were running. Yes the KT100 seems fairly popular without spending a fortune. Certainly a good way to develop driving and becoming smooth!!! I notice it is easy to “overdrive” a TAG.
November 12, 2013 at 11:15 am #15385
I run a Leopard but have driven both. Have to agree that overall and on average the Rotax is more reliable. The starters suck on both motors.
But it’s still racing and I’ve known Rotax owners who’ve broken down constantly and Leopard owners who never seem to have to do a thing. Anyone who buys a used racing engine banking on it being low maintenance is deluding himself. That being the case, I’d just go with what is most popular at the track you are running at or with the used kart package that gives you the best overall deal.
I wouldn’t worry much about the chassis, so long as there is a current importer. Look at the chassis running in the supernates. Any of those will work and will be plenty competitive at the club level.
Serious advice: Buy a ribtec or other quality rib vest. Do NOT try and save money here by buying something on eBay or from K-1.
Some of the Leopard expenses can be offset with home rebuilds, unlike the sealed Rotax. I’ve done 4 at this point and that motor is about as complex as box of corn flakes. Also, 20 hours (rough Leopard rebuild cycle) is a lot of seat time. Assuming you are not burning up practice miles and are just club racing, it will last you that entire 10 race season.
Tires? My first racing season I ran about 9 races plus occasional practice days and, due to a promise to my wife, did it on two sets of tires. Since I was slow anyway it didn’t make much difference.
November 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm #15429
For where you are in the country: Get a Rotax
For what you are looking to do in karting: Get a Rotax
To save yourself lots of grief: Get a Rotax
For your age: Get a Rotax
If you tip the scales at over 200lbs: Get a shifter
If you want to race SKUSA, WKA, or USPKS: get a Leopard
I don’t hate Leopards, they just don’t make much $ense. …to me anyway!
November 13, 2013 at 8:30 am #15463
I had a Rotax once, so glad I sold it. Everything on that engine cost $500 or more. When I bought it it was legal. In the course of a year or so they came out with required changes/upgrades to the cylinder, the balance gears, the clutch, the airbox, the ignition system and some other things I can’t recall right now. It had almost zero resale value, finally found a parking lot racer and let it go for cheap. I’ve been racing kart for over 40 years, been through allot of stuff, now I run a $60 clone motor I got from Harbor Freight and loving it.
November 14, 2013 at 3:22 am #15553
I to am thinking about leaving Rotax and moving to Lo206 or Leopard. would like to know what you guys think.
November 15, 2013 at 7:57 am #15713
If you have Yamaha available, run in that direction… quickly… without looking back…
TAG is fine – it’s fast and has some decent classes but if you are starting out there is no better package than the Yamaha. Seriously, buy a Yamaha and have fun and stay in the sport for a bunch of years without breaking your bank, ribs and interest.
The idea that TAG or Rotax is a good entry level point is something that people with short term agendas perpetuate.
November 15, 2013 at 8:39 am #15716
I have had some advise in the Yamaha direction & I have thought of that as an option. The Leopards do corner hard and do have an impact on the ribs, lol. When I had my TAG (leopard) I was surprised how hard these things can corner!!
November 15, 2013 at 11:22 am #15736
Uhhhhhh, Where does the perception come from that a TAG kart will corner harder than a Yammie? Corner speed should be the same.
November 15, 2013 at 11:23 am #15737
Corner entry speed? Throttle off the corner?
November 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm #15742
Appreciate the insight, I get it, makes sense. After I sent the last post I thought about it in the sense of having to slow down considerably more in a TAG and the fact that you don’t burn the tires off the corner with a Yamaha etc. etc. I did try a Yamaha kart, I was impressed. I have considered even picking one up for learning purposes and developing “smooth” driving skills before going the TAG route. Here’s a question, a Yamaha 4 hole can motor develops roughly how much HP?
November 16, 2013 at 7:04 am #15775
November 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm #15898
In ballpark numbers the Yamaha Can is in the 14 horsepower range, Yamaha Pipe 17HP, Leopard 28HP.
On a 3/4 mile size track (more or less) the difference is about 3-4 seconds with each jump.
November 19, 2013 at 6:56 am #15998
Ive had a Sonik, Leopard, and now a Rotax. By far the most expensive to keep going was Sonik than the Leopard. Rotax is the most reliable affordable engine out of them all. 24 hours on engine and nothing has broken. Just basic maintenance.
Will have new piston and crank and rod checked this off season. Its first time back to a Rotax service center. I could keep going finished 2nd in points 3 years in a row with this engine in CES Tag Masters.
Enjoy blowing up a leopard if you get one…..
November 19, 2013 at 7:00 am #16001
Thanks for the insight Jeff. I am leaning that way (Rotax). I am looking for reliability, if it takes a few more $$ to have reliability, then so be it. Went to NJMP and asked a few individuals, they really had positives for the Rotax and the counts appear to be decent.
November 19, 2013 at 10:23 am #16011
November 19, 2013 at 11:49 am #16016
Not sure I follow you with that reply?
November 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm #16047
Wade My kids and I got into karting and somehow we ended up with a bunch of karts. We have 2 moto shifters, 1 4 stroke shifter, 3 clones, 1 Briggs World Formula 1 Aixro Rotary. and 3 Rotax.
I like to work on my own stuff but reliabilty is more important. I’ve found the Rotax to be the most reliable and overall the cheapest to run. Ours are in the 30-40 hour range and I’ve never done anything other than routine maintenance and that you can do yourself. You just can’t pull the head or split the case. I’m told that around 50 hours or so they need a top end and the bottom checked which seems to run $500 – $700. They’re so popular around here I’ve got lots of choices to get the work done plus parts are everywhere and the knowledge base is huge. They run a balance shaft so they’re smooth. They only require 93 octane we use non ethanol pump 93 @ $4.00 per gallon. The jetting can be a little tricky but no big deal. All and all they’re a good ride and IMO the best choice for a first kart.
November 20, 2013 at 6:41 am #16071
Thanks for the insight. Question for you, how about the tune of the Rotax, IOW’s it has a main & pilot jet, as well as a needle (various needle tapers??) like a traditional motorcycle carb, is there like a tune sheet on the Rotax, if it were say 80 degrees, you would use XX main, xx pilot jet, & xx needle & clip settings etc and be real close to a proper tune? Or am I way off base on this? Again, my reference point is motorcycle motors etc.
November 20, 2013 at 7:52 am #16072
Wade, not sure where the carb regs are at today with the Rotax, but generally speaking it’s pretty much main jet and clip position that you’ll play with. There are various free “cheat sheets” and websites where you input weather conditions, etc. that you can use in order to get started with jetting, but ultimately, the best way is to get a weather station and do your own testing from there because every engine and carb WILL be a bit different.
All the engines have +’s and -‘s.
The good about Rotax:
- Very reliable engine
- It’s a sealed package, so theoretically all engines should be close, and it really comes down to driver, chassis and carb tuning
- It’s easy to be in the “ballpark” with jetting, which means you’re not likely to lean stick the thing
- Rotax isn’t trying to develop the “latest and greatest engine package” to beat the Max, so the engine isn’t going anywhere and the rules aren’t likely to change “too much” over time
The bad about Rotax:
- It’s a sealed engine package so you can’t do your own rebuilds (but seriously, this only affects a VERY SMALL number of people who would tackle this)
- It’s a sealed engine package, so you CAN CHOOSE to spend big money with the builder to have them pick and test for the “best” combo of sealed parts to gain an advantage (but again, anybody can test and match parts on any engine)
- It’s a sealed engine package, so if it is torn apart in tech, you have to pay someone to re-apply a seal (seriously, this might be the only thing about the Rotax that truly sucks compared to any other engine)
- It’s not always easy to maximize your jetting (ballpark is easy, but “dialed in” not so easy)
- Rotax does come out with updates every so often, and they’re generally not cheap (on the other hand, other engines tend to get replaced completely) – generally at the club level, you get a grace period to update to current specs, so this applies most at the higher levels
The other engines are good too. The biggest differences are that they’re not sealed packages (several advantages or disadvantages, depending on your point of view) and you might give up a little in reliability mostly because with a carb that can be tuned on the go, it’s easier to keep pushing the limits and work the engine harder. It can also be harder for an inexperienced driver to be in the “ballpark” on carb tuning. That said, it’s easier for an experienced driver to get “dialed in”. Just like the Rotax with it’s updates, the original Leopard is rarely seen anymore, as it’s MY09 Leopards, with talk that Parilla might be heading towards the X30 in the future. The original ROK was “upgraded” with the ROK TT. Etc.
Karting isn’t always cheap, but none of these engine packages have to be expensive to run.
Pick what has the best numbers and/or support locally and have fun.
November 20, 2013 at 8:00 am #16073
Great insight, this is the type of info I am truly looking for. It confirms some of my knowledge base as well as it adds to it. If I were to buy a new chassis (have a few in mind) but I wanted to get a good used Rotax package, what should I be looking for since I know upgrades/updates have been added to the Rotax through the years. I want to get something that is good from the get go, rather than buy a used Rotax package not realizing I might need some the updates.
November 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm #16110
The Clutch/side gear up grade was the biggest around $500 in parts. So try to find one that has the new style clutch and steel side gears.
November 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm #16115
Wade- I’m an old geezer and have a leopard, and have run a rotax. Running these things at a competitive speed is a chore and, if you get stuck to the track, absolutely brutal. Neither is cheap, and as has been mentioned both have drawbacks. If you go Rotax, make sure to bring a spare fully charged battery. Its the only way to start them, as they can’t be started by an external starter (no mag). So if the battery is flat, you don’t start. I don’t think you have to keep the motor sealed if you don’t race rotax, and can do some of your own stuff. You will find the tax has a flat spot in the middle that can be frustrating if you drop the rpm’s too much. The leopard will shake you to pcs., and make sure you have an external starter, the brushes to tend to give out on the starter. I warm mine on the stand in the morning to get heat in the motor to help starting. You sure you won’t look at a Yamaha?
Easier on the wallet, last a long time, less to fall off, no $400 trick carbs, (tax) starters locking up and taking the crank off (leopard) and at the end of the day you can still walk around and load up your stuff. Regardless, have fun.
June 12, 2015 at 5:36 am #49761
Do yourself a massive favor and don’t start in the deep end of the pool. These engines cost a lot more to run, eat up consumables at a faster pace, and you will learn way more about how to go quick and have more fun starting with something less powerful. Get a servicable used Yamaha package and go have some fun for a couple seasons. Learn how the carb works and how to fix everything when it breaks.
Then decide if you want to spend the big bucks to go faster.
June 12, 2015 at 10:28 am #49778
So what happened, did you drink the 125 coolaide?
June 13, 2015 at 4:51 am #49796
Walt, I did go with a Tag set up last Fall, Leopard. Counts in NJ PA NY region are good in those Leopard classes. Low & High speed needles and your done, simple. Fairly straight forward, still gotta go over the drivetrain parts though, clutch, clutch bearing, chain, sprockets etc. enjoying it!
so I guess I did drink the cool aid?
June 13, 2015 at 2:13 pm #49808
You drank the less deadly of the two coolaids now you may enjoy adjusting your carb without taking it apart and consulting the weather station. However, I can no longer help you my friend because, I am 100cc man.
November 11, 2013 at 11:53 am #15281
First thing I’d ask is where do you plan on racing?
Do they have a Rotax class. I think about karting is it’s very localized on what’s popular in that area.
Rotax is a TAG. TAG or Touch and Go is a genetic name for a group of “like” engines. The cost is similar for each. Rotax is just a single engine class, but can also run with other TAG engines. Which is why I said where do you plan on racing above?
As far as the kart, about any kart can win. Some are easier to tune, but again go with what’s local or at least have a local kart shop that can assist you. For a beginner, most of the time it doesn’t matter what kart you drive, the learn curve is steep. Buy some tires and go drive drive drive.
November 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm #15321
Hi Wade, Do yourself a big favor and call Grandproducts and ask for Jimmy Schultz. <span>(215) 244-1940</span>
Tell him Walt Gifford sent you.
P.S. Unless you have a burning desire to run in the Rotax max challenge stay well away from rotax for so many reasons.
November 12, 2013 at 8:54 am #15374
I have spoken with Jim Schultz about a year ago @ GP Inc., its about 40 minutes from me. I am familiar with his career many years ago. He seems to give good advice (objective), not necessarily what is his best interest!!
November 12, 2013 at 10:31 am #15381
Have you seen the class structure at Englishtown? There are options other than Tag$ or Rotax$. Pick up a good used kart with a KT100 for about $1500 and have a blast. Tires last forever on a 4 hole can kart.
November 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm #15428
Have you seen the cost of rmax parts ? Hahaha what a joke. You have to pay a “certified” rmax center to do any engine work; top end let’s say. I don’t get why anyone would spend more to go slower.
November 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm #15741
I don’t think so Wade.
In this comparison the karts will be on the same tires and if the driver is getting the maximum out of the machine corner entry will be the same. Admittedly the TAG will have to slow more before entry.
Throttle off the corner, Same thing applies and in fact the edge might go to the Yamaha, again there is only so much cornering traction available so theoretically they should be the same. Observation; At NCMP a Yamaha will out pull a TAG off of the slower corners for several yards, then the parties over.
November 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm #15760
Leopards aren’t the only tag engines. They are if your name is wka and you want to impose a monopoly over the series by penalizing a better built motor.
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