December 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm #39203
I know you’ve seen this post a million times, the I’m-new-to-karting-help-me post. This one’s no different (well, maybe a little different). I’ve been doing research and talking to folks, but you all are such a knowledgeable group so I had to ask!
Background: I have some track experience–built my E36 M3 into a track car & tracked it for a couple years, took the Skippy 3-day racing course, tracked my brother’s Spec Miata but never w2w raced it, now doing LeMons in an E30 (one race, so far, another in Jan). My brother is a regional/national SCCA road racer and I support him at all his races because the track is my absolutely favorite place to be. Although I would love to road race, I have seen the costs first hand and I just can’t afford it.
I did an arrive-and-drive day in single speed 125cc race karts at Sears’ kart track (once Infineon, now Sonoma/Simraceway, I’m old school so it’s Sears forever) and while my back and ribs took a pounding, since the seat was nowhere close to fitting me, it was SO much fun. I’ve decided I want to give kart racing a shot, in hopes that it will both teach me tons and scratch the driving/racing itch without breaking the bank (too much). My husband is a mechanic so can do a lot of support for me, and I have a 3/4 ton diesel pickup so transporting the kart won’t be difficult (it’ll be a dream compared to towing around the enclosed race car trailers!).
The most local track to me is Sears. I’m in Walnut Creek (NorCal) so there are a number of fairly close options, like Kinsmen, BlueMax, etc. I’m planning trips to local kart shops in the next couple of weeks to get a better sense of local classes with decent attendance. I’m a 39 year old female, 5’5″ and a bit chunky for my taste these days at 132 lbs ;) I’m pretty fit & athletic and while I know karting is physically demanding, I’m up for it. I will get out and practice & get some coaching before I race, so I probably won’t race until the summer . I’m all about learning progressively & not starting out with bad habits.
The challenge in my mind right now is what chassis & engine I should buy. I am hoping to go used chassis and new engine. While I know not to touch a shifter this first season out, I may want to race 80 Master’s at some point, since that seems to be a well-attended and not too dirty class around here. I’d like to get a chassis that can work intitially with a single speed (TaG with X30? Rotax?) but can be used later with a 80cc shifter, if possible.
If anyone on here has input about local options for someone like me, I’d welcome your thoughts, however, my main question for the general karting populace is can I/should I go with a 30mm chassis instead of a 32? I am definitely a finesse kinda girl–I am much more at home in cars on the twisty, technical stuff (Sears, Thunderhill 2 mile) than I am on the big, fast, balls-out stuff (Thunderhill 3 mile), so I’m leaning toward 30mm, given my style and size. Does driver size/weight really matter, though, since I’ll have to ballast up to the minimum weight and would 32mm, then, be a better choice?
Thank you and Happy Holidays!
December 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm #39204
Holy crap, that was a long post, now that I see it posted. Sorry I was so verbose, geez!
December 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm #39206TJ KoyenModerator
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of good initial research.
With your background I would say you would be best served starting in a class like TaG and then moving into shifters later. TaG is a super quick class, but it seems like you’ve got a good enough racing background to not to get into too much trouble with it.
Most chassis that are suitable for TaG are also suitable for shifter classes. It just takes a few add-ons like front brakes usually.
With your size, a 30mm chassis will probably suit you better, but it depends on how much ballast you’ll have to add for whatever class you’re running. Your best bet is to figure out what the local shop is supporting for chassis brands and start there. Almost every manufacturer builds a 30mm and 32mm version (there are also 30/32mm hybrids out there) of their karts, but some brands (Tony Kart and it’s variants) are known to be softer and more flexible, that may play into your decision as well. It’s important to keep in mind that your body weight is super crucial in how the kart handles. Moving around in your seat and using your body in different ways on-track can really affect the kart’s attitude. So even though everyone has to be at a minimum weight, someone who is smaller has less weight to throw around and has to deal with all kinds of ‘dead weight’ on the seat. I’ve been in the same boat my whole life, I’m 130lbs now, and I have around 60lbs of lead on my kart to hit the 355-365 weight for TaG. The 30mm kart lets you induce more flex into the chassis through your body and it will react a bit better for you.
I can’t advise much on the local NorCal scene since that’s thousands of miles away from me, but it sounds like you’re off to a good start with visiting local tracks and shops. That’s what everyone is going to tell you to do on here anyway, as it really is the best way to get an idea for what’s going on in your area. Karting is very regional in regards to what engine package or chassis brand is supported.
Good luck and welcome.
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December 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm #39210Jim DerrigParticipant
Agree with TJ (as usual). My background was similar to yours. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about moving to shifter any time soon. My skippy instructor said the next step up from a 125 shifter is an Indy car, and he was not exaggerating much. Will Power–yes that Will Power–showed up at the Supernationals kart race in Vegas last month racing TaG Masters (the class you’d be in) and finished 3rd. Didn’t win a single heat. So I wouldn’t worry too much about TaG being too slow or too easy and needing to get out of it and move to shifter after a year.
Engine selection likely will depend on what is being raced at the track/series you chose to participate at/in. Both X30 and Rotax are the present “flavor of the month,” and they are roughly similar in terms of performance. Note: Rotax just introduced a series of upgrades, so make sure you get the upgraded engine and somebody doesn’t sell you an old one without full disclosure.
December 20, 2014 at 9:31 pm #39218Patrick HaneyParticipant
Don’t be afraid of the 80 shifters, with your background in racing, it would be a good challenge. I did some SCCA racing back in the day and started out running 80s at Monterey last year. Good group of drivers and some close racing. Look into Jon Ban’s Nor Cal Shifter group that runs in your area they have 7-15 karts at each race and he puts on a great series. The 80 shifter package is the best bang for the buck (my opinion) on the west coast and its expanding. Good luck.
January 2, 2015 at 10:50 am #39778
Since my post up top, I’ve visited 2 local shops & talked with some really knowledgeable folks about the local karting scene. Your responses were very helpful, as well, and I’ve got a good idea of direction for now.
I got great advice to get a used chassis with the tabs/bracket to convert to shifter; also, a kart with existing front brakes that I can take off for now would be good for future options. I’ll run Rotax Masters or Senior this season, and hopefully move to 80 shifter in the future. I’m leaning toward buying a new Rotax Evo to take advantage (or not) of the warranty.
Rotax Challenge and 80 shifter both are apparently very popular and well supported local classes. A challenge for me is that the Rotax Masters min weight is 405, so that will mean 80 lbs on the kart! Lame. I thought my size & weight would be an advantage so this is pretty disappointing. I can try Senior, at 385 lbs, but then I have fast and reckless teenagers to contend with, according to the local shop owner & series manager.
Thanks, again, for your wisdom!
January 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm #39787Jim DerrigParticipant
Rotax runs pretty high minimum weights, so you might look around to see if any of the local clubs allow you to run at something less. For example, the IKF (International Karting Federation) and TaG USA weights are about 15-20 pounds less than Rotax Challenge. You might look for a local track/series that uses those weights. Since you are first year and (presumably) not looking to qualify for the Rotax nationals or internationals, attending races certified for the Rotax Challenge Series probably isn’t a priority.
The good news about your situation is that if you run a race where they’re using those lower weights, it’s a heck of a lot easier to lose weight by pulling off ballast than by dieting.
January 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm #39914Charles KanebParticipant
TaG karts typically weigh 175-190 lbs, so with race weights for TaG Senior between 350 and 375 lbs, and racing gear around 15 lbs, that calls for a driver weight between 145 and 185 lbs. If you get a Rotax, Rotax International race weight is 365 lbs. Talk to the race director and see if they’ll let you race as an over-age Junior – you’re a lot closer to the Junior weights (320-340). If not, take a look at the race weights and choose an engine that has one of the lighter values. The good news is that the less powerful engines (EasyKart, PRD, Leopard) are usually cheaper. If you’re brutal on equipment the Rotax Evo warranty might be worth it.
I’d suggest looking at the results of the last season at the tracks you intend to race at to help choose a chassis brand. Most of them are good these days, including CRGs, Tonys, Birels, Intrepids from Italy, Arrows from Australia, and Margays from St. Louis, Missouri.
If you intend to run a shifter later, you’ll want a chassis available with front brakes. You’ll also want to look around for a spindle/hub/front brake combo for your kart in the eKn classifieds.
Renting a Briggs 206 or Clone kart for your first kart weekend before you buy your own will allow you to get used to the race weekend and get through your first race starts in traffic without having to worry about a kart that’s doing its best impersonation of a cruise missile.
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