THE KF CLUBMAN CONCEPT, WILL KF SAVE OR KILL BRITISH KARTING [TERENCE DOVE, KARTING1.CO.UK & EVENFLOW COACHING]

POSTED ON: August 21, 2009


By Terence Dove, Karting1.co.uk & EvenFlow Kart Driver Coaching

The KF Clubman concept has been thought up by Paul Fletcher to try and make KF more accessible for the club karter. While understanding the value of Rotax and similar classes Paul feels there is a need for a muilt-engine formula at club level to push competition between dealers and engine manufacturers. He also wants to make sure the class remains affordable.

What he came up with was initially titled KF3 senior. The kart was to have a KF3 engine with a KF2 ECU box and Dunlop SL4 long life tyres. Well he has one ready to test already and we went down to PFi to check out the ‘KF Clubman’!

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We found the Dunlop SL4s very durable, however lap times are effected. But when money is tight who cares about a number on a lap timer?

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British Karting Champion Mark Litchfield had a play as well! The kart used for the test was his trusty Marenello RS2 which he used last year to win the UK’s most prestigous karting title.

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The kart was fun to drive and reminded Will Dendy of his time in Formula TKM

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A missed apex! The Dunlop SL4 tyres need to driven with accuracy!

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The kart handled PFi very well and wasn’t too tiring to drive!

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Everything is the same as a KF3 but with a green KF2 electronic unit. This meant the engine can rev to 15,000 allowing for better low end grunt.

When KF first appeared from the CIK, I thought that it was the end of the world! To me, KF just appeared to be Rotax MAX on steroids with too much grip, and unnecessary front brakes. Then, at the start of the first KF season, Intrepid explosively announced that they were boycotting this years KF season because they felt that they wouldn’t have competitive engines.

Birel also decided to pull out of the first few races of the season due to lack of engine development. The complete and utter domination from Vortex and TonyKart at the European, and World Championships didn’t help the situation. You would be forgiven for thinking it has been a very shaky start for KF!

However, KF enthusiasm has been gaining momentum, and it now looks as if the KF philosophy might be exactly what the UK karting scene needs.

We reveal why Paul Fletcher thinks that Vortex doesn’t have the advantage as perceived by many, and why Mark Rose thinks KF3 as exactly what karting needs. James Mills comments on why he thinks KF parity is better compared to Rotax MAX, and Simon Wright describes why he feels KF3 will be better than Jr MAX. Ex-KF1 racer Ollie Millroy shares his views on KF.

Not forgetting the ‘small guy’, we ask the normal karters what they think about KF, with their main concern pointing towards ever-inflating costs involved with karting.

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Paul Fletcher – PF International Kart Team and Circuit Owner

“The main cost with racing is in travel, hotels, and hiring mechanics. But the actual KF engines themselves are cheaper to run. The crank will last 10x longer than before, so they are definitely cheaper” When asked about KF into club racing he had this to say “Before, when asked by a junior what class to do, I would say Rotax, and the same for a Senior. Now I would recommend KF3, and KF2. It would be great to see Cadets, KF3, KF2, and then KF1 at all the clubs across the country. At the last Rotax Super 1 round there was huge interest in the KF program, and the up coming Winter Series”. On TonyKart’s dominance at the World Championship Paul Fletcher believes that “TonyKart were better organized. They ran like McLaren. I don’t believe the IAME engines were as slow as they appeared ”

Mark Rose – Karting Guru

“The CIK have got it right with KF2, and KF3 I must admit. I run Tom Grice in KF3 and we run our motors for nearly 20 hours. The reliability is 100%. The engine is fantastic.” However, Mark has concerns about KF1 “There should be a limit on data acquisition. TonyKart had 3 or 4 experts from Pi analyzing their data at the World Championships. I am by no means taking anything away from TonyKart, they have the best drivers, and have done a fantastic job, but the average team who wants to race KF1, just can’t compete with these guys. I would like to see this changed”.

James Mills – JM Racing

“In terms of entry level karting KF4 could be the better entry level option for seniors in karting than KF2. But the MSA stamped that out. I believe KF4 would be a better rival to Rotax. As it is, I think that karting will probably still see Rotax MAX as the entry level to karting, and MiniMax as the half way house between Cadets and KF3. I think Junior MAX will suffer.

The KF3 is really good and is exceptional quality. I have run several engines on a dyno and not had one that has lacked performance, unlike what happens with MAX engines. Out of the box 95% of our KF3 engines are competitive…the costs in KF3 aren’t going to be any different than in Junior Rotax. KF2… it’s difficult to say. The initial cost of a KF2 is quite a lot more than a MAX, but once your set up and ready to go, it isn’t bad at all. Unlike MAX, I can give someone an engine that will be good, but in MAX you can’t give someone an out of the box engine and expect them to go to Super 1 with it”

Simon Wright - Wright Karts/UK IAME Importer

“Engines sales of the KF3 will grow very fast. The Seniors will take a while because of the MAX. A lot of people will not feel the need to change over right away from MAX in the smaller clubs, but at larger ones like PFi we will see a change”. When asked about cost Simon said “KF2 costs are very small. I sold an engine in July, and have just had it in for a full service after 10 hours. Before with the 100cc I had it in every weekend. Running a KF3 at club level will be genuinely similar to running a Jr MAX. The KF engines are so similar, and if there is a difference you can pay a tuner to £300 to get it working. Compare that to MAX where you buy a new engine and have no idea whether it will be competitive. And if you want a competitive MAX engine it’s going to cost thousands. Also, you then have to spend money on a sealing agent if you want it rebuilt. With a KF, you can do it yourself”.

What about costs for the small budget club racer? “The problem you have there is ‘trying to achieve the impossible’. Karting is expensive. The thing with KF compared to MAX is value for money. They only cost a few hundred quid more but you know you’re getting an engine that’s good or equal to any other engine out there.”

Ollie Millroy – Ex-KF1 Karter

“At first it was quite hard to get used to the KF1 due to the lack of power compared to the 100cc engine, but as far as racing goes, I thought the reliability of the KF engines was much better than the old engines. However, some say they don’t need to be rebuilt as much, but everyone was still rebuilding them every race”. On whether costs could increase for the normal club racer Ollie had this to say, “Yes they could, although if you have a look at racing in Europe there is no TKM and not a lot of Rotax compared to the UK. They seem to manage better. I think one of the main problems with karting in the UK is that there are just too many classes”

What About the Average Club Karter?

The positivity towards KF is very large from the big players in karting. But what about the average Joe, how will KF affect them? The CIK have already pointed out that KF will be -

More Attractive:

- Reliable, but nonetheless very high-performance

- Identification of hobby drivers with professional kartmen

- Modern complete package

- More adequate for newcomers

We asked the Manchester and Buxton Kart Club legend, and the archetypal average Joe - Chris Kasch - what his thoughts are on KF, whether he can afford to ‘identify with professional karters’, and if he thought KF would be ‘more adequate for newcomers’.

“I’m a little suspicious about it to be honest, and that’s probably down to little snippets I’ve read about shortages of engines and teams not be able to compete etc… Basically, I don’t feel like I know enough about it as a club driver and that’s where the suspicion comes from.

I kind of like the idea of having a recognised national class that everyone can progress through, rather than this fragmented nonsense we have at the moment that only succeeds in diluting grids. But the cost element of KF really does worry me.

I used to race in Rotax for two years but got to a point where I didn’t feel like I could compete properly, mostly because of the tyres (a little bit on the engines too). I race on a ridiculous budget. I make my tyres last three, sometimes 4 meetings and in TKM I can almost get away with it, that’s why I chose TKM. It’s cheaper to compete in TKM. The engine rebuilds are more often than the likes of Rotax (and we’re led to believe KF), but they are cheap, and I can also have an engine that I know isn’t too bad compared to the top drivers.

What’s happening with KF on the tyres? Are they going to be sticky tyres that need replacing every meeting? Engine rebuilds…how often? (and by that I don’t mean silly claims, I mean how often to be competitive), and how much? Also, will I have an engine that’s competitive that doesn’t cost the earth to get?

My fear is that us low budget drivers aren’t going to be able to race in this new series/format and if it takes hold then we will be slowly squeezed out of karting for good. The worst thing is that there isn’t much information about to allay any of these fears, probably because the governing body’s don’t know themselves if the balance is struck correctly. It could be great, but experience tells me that it will be cocked up and we’ll be in a bigger mess than we are now”.

Sam Murphy is 16, and a complete ‘newbie’ to the world of karting. Has the CIK’s promise of making karting more attractive to newcomers actually holding true with guys like Sam?

“With karting I haven’t really paid much attention to it until the last few months. Only until now at 16 I am starting to save up for a kart to be able to get started in karting. With karting, it always seems to be a sport for the ‘rich kids’, which hasn’t made me focus on it as much as I could, as I’m not rich. Luckily for me Buckmore Park is only 5 minutes away, which makes it easier to get information on karting.

I have been seeing around websites and forums about a new class called KF, I’m not actually sure on the whole concept of karting classes as I am still learning but have heard that the KF package costs £2k for just the engine. To me this is crazy money and doesn’t attract me to the sport in anyway as I don’t have that kind of money to be spending on a kart and most people who are interested in starting karting wouldn’t either.”

Sam Blake is a driver getting ready to make the move from TKM (one of the cheapest classes) to KF3. He says,

“Going in to the last round of TKM Super 1 we fully expected to be staying in TKM. Hearing the news of the new TKM regulations the choice to move to KF3 was a no brainer. The prospect of competing in much smaller grids will take TKM even further away from mainstream karting.

Our main concern of moving into KF3 only occurred with the initial outlay. The engines at the moment cost twice the amount that a TKM would, but later in the year when the bare engine is available it will bring the cost down. We rang Strawberry Racing expecting the CIK chassis to be much more expensive than the TKM chassis, but on studying the spec it is no more expensive than the TKM chassis e.g. no stickers, no steering wheel etc… and furthermore with £300 of the Tonykart, it was a very good deal.”

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So, is KF going to save British karting, or kill it?

The jury is still out on that one, but I am optimistic that KF could be the class that can stitch together currently fragmented British karting. If KF thrives we could be in a situation where karting is united across Europe, and possibly the World giving each manufacture more motivation to promote karting as a whole, rather than having classes competing against each other for numbers. However the purchase cost of a KF engine is something we need to keep a close eye on, as it could be the decisive factor in the success of KF.

Visit www.evenflow.co.uk to get a free copy of Terence’s ‘Advanced Kart Driving Techniques’ E-book.

Do also visit www.karting1.co.uk for more articles, interviews and videos by both Terence and Allan Dove.

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