GETTING STARTED

Getting Started


Karting
Karting is a variant of open-wheel motor sport with simple, small four-wheeled vehicles called karts. Karts  are usually raced on scaled-down circuits. Develop along the lines of either 4-stroke, 2 stroke or rotary engine architecture, these engines can propel karts with between 5hp to 100hp with top speeds from 24km/h to 260 km/h.

The following is a comparison of indicative horsepower (”hp”) which has been extracted from various literatures across the internet (many of these figures are unsubstantiated but they are in a ballpark range to give a feel on the power-to-weight ratios available in kart racing).

Fun Karts - 5 to 8 hp
Rotax MicroMax - 6.8 hp
Comer K80 - 9 hp
Honda OHV 390cc - 11 hp
Rotax MiniMax - 13.6 hp
Briggs World Formula - 14 hp
Yamaha KT100 w/ RLV pip - 18 hp
Rotax Junior Max - 20.4 hp
KF3 class - 26 hp
Rotax Senior Max - 28.5 hp
Rotax DD2 Max - 32.6 hp
German VT250 class - 34 hp
SwissAuto SA250 - 35 hp
Vortex SuperRok - 35.5 hp
TM TAG ICC K9ES shifter - 36 hp
KF2 class - 36 hp
KF1 class - 38 hp
KZ class shifter - 40 hp
Aixro XR50 - 40 to 50 hp
250cc “singles” Superkart - 45 to 70 hp
250cc “twins” Superkart - 70 to 100 hp

Testing the Waters – Fun Karting
Fun karting is a cheap and simple way to sample karting. Often, it can be a fun group activity especially if several friends and family are roped in. The fun karts are karts intended for the general public and are restricted in speed as compared to the competition karts. Fun karts can be rented at the tracks in Singapore as well as Malaysia. For those who do not want to leave the comforts of Singapore, the track at KartWorld offers 10 minute rentals at SGD 40. Just 25 minutes across the Causeway, the track at Plentong Circuit offers 10 minute rentals of fun karts at MYR 35.

Meeting other Like Minded Enthusiasts
Once you’ve tried fun karting and decide to progress further, the next advisable step is to approach existing enthusiasts to find our more about the sport. The internet hosts pockets of information on the sport but by speaking to more than one local enthusiast, you would gain from a broad spectrum of personal views and opinions that are specific to the Singapore and Malaysia karting scene. This information is priceless and can save you unnecessary costs and effort once you have purchased your own kart.

Knowing your Budget
It is said that karting is the cheapest form of Motorsports. The nature of this statement is relative to the size of your wallet. In addition to the initial cost of the kart and the safety apparel, there are regular expenses that can add up substantially over the course of a year. Finding out the average monthly and yearly expenses that an existing enthusiast is paying at the track would provide a ballpark indication as to what it would cost you. The question once you have concluded your research is whether having a competition kart is within your budget and if not, through what other form can you participate in the sport.

Shopping for a Kart
I would like to acknowledge the use of reference material from Bonnier Moulton’s well written primer article on karting which I have localized for this section.

When looking to purchase a new kart, buyers are faced with the most important decision they will make relating to their racing enjoyment and success. There are many pitfalls which if not avoided will cost a lot of money, limit the potential for racing success and seriously hamper enjoyment of a very great sport. Many people quit karting due to a bad or uneducated buying decision than for any other reason. The goal of this section is to help other enthusiasts (hopefully) avoid the mistakes that so many people make. The goal here is not to sell anyone a kart, but to help others make informed and educated decisions which will greatly improve their chances of success on the track, while also saving money and deriving the maximum amount of pleasure from karting.

The key to making a good buying decision is research. It’s critical to take the time to investigate a number of key items before buying any kart. There are a number of good resources available for doing research. If you’re reading this, you have already discovered the best resource…the internet. Using the internet you can examine websites for different shops, manufacturers and visit forums to ask questions. Let’s go over the areas you should research in detail, and discuss what you should look for and what you should look out for.

The first decision to make is where are you going to race and what class are you going to race in. I’m not going to tell you what class to begin in, that is a decision that can only be made by you based on your budget, skill (driving and mechanical) and interest. I will say this, however; approach this decision with a great deal of objectivity. Do not fall into the trap of overestimating your skill. I’ve seen many, many people jump in over their heads and quit karting as a result. My advice is to find the track you wish to race at and go to a few races. Try and determine what class(es) are well supported and look interesting to you. Don’t be afraid to ask other enthusiasts questions. Most enthusiasts will be more than happy to talk to you and give you their opinions, fewer will be willing to let you test-drive their kart. Once you’ve decided upon a track and class you can begin to research the specifics related to purchasing a kart.

The most obvious decision you will have to make is what brand and model of kart to buy. Whether you are buying new or used, a mistake here can be difficult and expensive to overcome. There are countless manufacturers of karts in the industry today; some good, some not so good. Each manufacturer has a host of different models designed for specific applications. It’s critical that you select a good brand and the appropriate model for your particular application. When several models for the same application are offered from a single manufacturer, be sure to do additional research to determine which model will best fit your needs.

Generally speaking, kart manufacturers can be broken down into two major categories; European and non-European. Currently, European manufacturers are viewed as superior with several notable exceptions. The plain fact is that kart racing is a much bigger sport in Europe than anywhere else. As a result, the European manufacturers have more experience and markedly more resources to devote to research and development and production than their American counterparts. They also have a very structured, rigidly controlled and very competitive arena in which to test their products against one another.

The European manufacturers are primarily based in Italy and can be divided into The Big Three and The Rest. The Big Three are the dominant forces in karting in the world today; they have the most resources, the largest production facilities and as a rule are the trendsetters in kart design. These three manufacturers are TonyKart, Birel and CRG. The lion’s share of races in international competition are won by these three brands. Aside from the Big Three, there are countless other European manufacturers, some large and some which can only be considered boutique brands. Quality ranges from excellent to not so good. Many of the smaller European kart manufacturers rely on one of the Big Three to produce their karts to their own specifications.

Apart from European manufacturers, there are several notable brands that have made a name for themselves in the world stage. Two of these names are Sodikart (made in France) and Arrow (made in Australia). Both these manufacturers produce quality frames and parts that are equal to the standards established by the Big Three. For those looking for lower cost options, China made brands such as SQ and Road Rat are popular chassis used for fun-karts. What the China karts lack in design and assembly finesse, they make up in their construction of tough, durable frames.

I’m not going to tell you which brand to buy and I’m not going to tell you that one is the best. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as ‘the best’ brand of kart. Rather, I believe that there is a group of karts which stand out from the rest. If you limit yourself to selecting from a this group of brands you should end up with a good quality kart, one that is high-quality in design with high quality components and for which parts and support are readily available. There are other high-quality brands on the market, but for the new karter I recommend the safe approach.

Finally, I said this once but it bears repeating, when several models for the same application are offered from a single manufacturer, be sure to do additional research to determine which model will best fit your needs.

Orphans, boutique brands and oddballs. If you stick to my advice above, you won’t have to worry about these, but if not, here’s what to avoid at all costs. Orphans are karts that have little or no dealer support. This is primarily a concern when buying a used kart. There are many brands which are no longer imported or are imported in very small quantity. These karts can be very difficult to get parts for and even harder to get support for. The same holds true for boutique brands and oddballs. Don’t buy a kart because you want to have something unusual or different. You will regret it and you’ll have a hard time unloading it after you realize your mistake.

A kart, no matter what the brand, is only as good as the people who put it together. This is a plain and simple fact. Constructing a kart from a pile of parts takes experience, knowledge and a lot of little tricks. A hack can take a great chassis, great engine and all the best components and turn it into a pile of junk. Believe me on this one, I see it all the time. You want to select a shop that builds the kart in-house from quality components and who has the knowledge and experience to put the kart together properly.

Also worth considering is whether the kart was constructed in-house or on an assembly line. Many shops sell karts that are built somewhere else. They order them complete and avoid the labor of putting them together themselves. If the shop is staffed by hacks, then this is a better alternative than having them put your kart together. But the best alternative is to find a shop that knows what they’re doing and have them build the kart in-house. Karts built assembly line style typically have the following faults: a) They are built using the cheapest components, not the best components. b) They are built by drones, not by racers. As a result, they usually require some updating to be competitive and suffer from assembly line quality, such as flimsy brackets which break after a few races and construction that is not optimized for competition.

It cannot be overstated how important support after the sale is. It’s critical! You want to select a shop that can help you get the most out of your kart. This means a staff that understands how a chassis works, how an engine works and how to tune them for optimum performance. A kart is a deceivingly complex machine and it takes years to develop an understanding of how they work and what steps need to be taken to address a given handling condition. You also want a shop that stocks commonly needed parts for your kart so you never have to miss a race or practice because they couldn’t provide you with what you need.

At the risk of sounding cliché, you get what you pay for. This overly used phrase holds true when buying a kart. It’s fairly simple to find a bargain priced kart, but in most cases you discover down the road that your great deal wasn’t so great. You may find that the kart you got such a great deal on has poor quality components and after you replace them you’ve spent more than if you would’ve bought the more expensive kart. Or, the craftsmanship is so shoddy that you spend more time replacing broken parts than driving. If you’re budget is tight enough that you can only afford the bargain priced kart, then you should seriously consider looking for a used kart.

Once you have an idea of what you want from a shop, how do you figure out if a given shop has the qualities you’re looking for? It’s not easy… First of all make sure your bullshit sensor is operating at peak efficiency because you’re going to need it. Some shops are going to tell you three things: Their stuff is the best. Everybody else’s stuff is junk. They do all the stuff outlined above and more. If you take them at face value then I’ve got a bridge you may be interested in.

This is where you’re going to have to do some of that research I spoke about earlier. Your best tool here is simple observation. There are some fairly simple methods to determine if a shop meets the criteria I outlined above- let’s go over them.

Step 1 - Watch the staff: Almost every kart shop is staffed by people who race. These people are one of your best indicators regarding the quality of the shop. If you’re looking at local shops, go out to the track and see how the staff performs, look at their karts and ask them some questions. If their kart is a pile of junk, yours will be too. If they can’t make their kart handle, they won’t be able to help you make yours handle. If their motor is slow and/or runs poorly…well you get the picture.

Step 2 - Watch the customers: If a shop makes it past step 1, then proceed to step 2. Watch how the customers of the shop perform. Are there a lot of them? Are they competitive? Are their karts always falling apart or breaking? Proceed to step 3.

Step 3 - Talk to the customers: Ask them how their experience with the shop in question has been. Would they buy another kart from them or would they go somewhere else? If so, where? Ask them if they are able to get parts when they need them or help with tuning their chassis and engine. Take advantage of these peoples’ experience, be it good or bad. After all, the customer is the window to the soul of the company.

Truly, your best tool for determining if you don’t want to do business with a given shop is your bullshit sensor. Take my word for it, you don’t want to rely on a shop where the primary means of communication is bullshit. If it sounds like BS, smells like BS, it’s probably BS. The other key indicator is a shop which slams its competition as a method of promoting itself. A good shop will positively promote itself with its performance and the satisfaction of its customers. A poor shop will generally not have these options and will be reduced to trying to drag the competition down to its level. If you hear the BS, or the shop starts slamming its’ competition, do yourself a favor and take your business elsewhere.

New versus used - What’s right for you? As with anything, there are pros and cons to both new and used karts. Certainly, a used kart is less money and for those on a tight budget it is the appropriate way to go. However, there is nothing quite like a brand new kart. While it won’t have that new car smell, it will be tight, clean and sweet.

Karts do not typically hold their value well, a new kart will lose a large amount of its resale value the first time it hits the track. Once it’s been on the track, it becomes a used kart and will fetch used kart prices. However, top brands will hold their resale value longer than lesser brands. Keeping that in mind, here are some advantages and disadvantages to buying a used kart:

Advantages:
• Used karts typically come with some spare parts
• A quality used kart will already have all the bugs worked out
• A used kart has already seen the majority of its $$ depreciation
• A used kart is cheaper than a new one!

Disadvantages:
• Many (most) used karts are just that…used. And in many cases they are just plain used up.
• A used kart may be outdated either in terms of chassis, engine, components or all of the above.
• You never really know if a used kart has been bent, broken, blown up, crashed, flipped or all of the above.
• A used kart will typically require some work ($$) to get it ready for next year.
• If a used kart has been raced for a full season, the engine will most likely require a rebuild over the winter.
• A used kart will never be as tight, nice and sweet as a new one.

So when should you buy a used kart or a new kart? Below are some guidelines.

Buy a used kart if:
• You are a beginner and just want to give karting a try.
• You are on a tight budget.
• You want to move up to a higher class but can’t afford new equipment.
• You are buying a kart for a child who has never raced before.

Buy a new kart if:
• You want the best equipment and budget is not a huge issue.
• You are serious about racing and plan to move up to regional or national competition.
• You want to move up to a higher class and budget is not a huge issue.
• You are buying a replacement kart for a child who is serious about racing.

So, if you’ve decided that a used kart is the way to go for you, what should you look for and what should you look out for?

My guidelines for buying a used kart are similar to those we’ve discussed for new karts, with a few important additions. Let’s recap.

What to look for in a used kart:
• A top name brand chassis.
• A quality shop to support that chassis brand.
• The appropriate model for your application.
• Not more than 2-3 years old.
• A nice package of spare parts with the kart
• Model that is the same as the current model (e.g. not a model that is no longer produced.)
• An engine that if blueprinted has been done by a well known, reputable engine builder.
• A kart that has not been abused and has been maintained well.
• No orphans or oddballs.

A few final pointers on buying used karts:
• Never buy a kart sight unseen.
• At the very least request a photo from different angles (top, bottom, side, etc..)
• A kart that has been raced on a national level will typically have the best stuff, BUT, it will have been driven very hard.
• If you find a used kart that you are interested in, call some dealers that sell that brand and get their feedback.
• This applies to buying new or used karts: If you are on a limited budget, don’t blow the entire wad on the kart, especially if you are just getting into the sport. You will need a host of additional items to go racing such as safety gear, stand, lubes and so forth.
• Always, always, always look at the bottom of a used kart you are considering purchasing. If the frame rails are ground flat or dented, find another kart to buy.
• Rock chips are fine, but d-shaped frame rails are not!

Hopefully this article will help you make a wise choice when you buy a kart. At the very least, it should provide you with a framework from which to approach the decision making process. Whether you buy new or used, following these guidelines should help you avoid any major catastrophes.

Finally, my disclaimers: First, not all kart shops are of the BS variety I described. In fact, the majority of shops are professional, knowledgeable and courteous. But the BS’ers are out there and you owe it to yourself to separate them from the pack before you open your wallet. Second, this article is comprised solely of my opinions. I think they are educated opinions but there will undoubtedly be people out there who disagree.

Deciding on a Track
Residents of Singapore have a limited choice of karting tracks. There is the Tuas track, the KartRight Speedway track near Discovery Centre, the KartWorld track and the planned track at Changi in 2011. Some Singaporeans choose to kart in nearby Johor at the Plentong (formerly Permas Jaya) track whilst a few others choose to make their way during the weekends to the Sepang and Elite tracks just outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Should you seek variety, there is also a track located offshore in Batam.

There are differences in the cost of karting at the various tracks. The scope for the cost of karting includes periodic costs such as storage, track fees, servicing and repair costs, cost of petrol for karts and vehicles, cost of kart parts, etc. Due to the higher cost of living, the cost of karting in Singapore is going to be higher than the cost of karting on tracks in Malaysia. The average cost to warehouse a kart in Singapore is SGD 100 to SGD 150 monthly. In Malaysia, enthusiasts pay an average of MYR 100 per kart per month for storage. Tracks in Singapore are also going to be smaller given the scarcity of land. Convenience and the travel time to-and-fro are also key factors to consider. Karting in Malaysia would take up the better part of 3/4 of the day.

Finally, the enthusiast that is just starting out and has not accumulated a store full of spares should consider starting at a track which has a workshop and mechanics that can help service or troubleshoot any faults and which also has the necessary spares (for your brand of chassis and engine) on hand. There is nothing worse than having to call it a day because there are no spares on hand when a replacement is urgently required.

Shopping for Karting Apparel
Before you get out on the track, the minimum safety apparel you are going to need is a karting suit, gloves, karting shoes and a helmet. If you are starting out with fun karts, a cheap helmet, gloves, a motorcycle jacket and jeans are fine. When you get turn serious about the sport, try to invest in good quality accessories. A Snell certified karting or auto helmet, gloves with leather padding on the palms, CIK level 2 suits and karting shoes that bind the ankles and hold down the shoe laces are all important equipment to protect yourself from the knocks and tumbles of karting.

I have two opinions on gear; the first being that you need to find apparel which is comfortable to use. When you are comfortable, you are better able to focus on the job at hand, which is driving. Apparel that feels too tight or too loose will prove to be an unnecessary distraction. Having said this, certainly you get what you pay for; i.e. cheap items can and sometimes do feel cheap and less comfortable than apparel made from better quality material.

The second being that in the event that you find yourself with extra cash and are wondering if you should upgrade your accessories, spare a thought to consider spending that money with a good tuner who can teach you how to set your kart up, tune your carburetor, and give you advise on driving.

Growing your Knowledge base

A ready form of reading material available in the American and European karting forums. I recommend registering with eKarting News and Karting 1 forums. Some of the discussion threads are very insightful. The best Asian-based forum I found is KartingAsia. KartingAsia has the participation of enthusiasts as well as regional distributors from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand as well as from the US and Middle East. There are frequent dialogues between local enthusiasts, distributors and series organisers. Many of the regulated racing events are announced and reported on via this forum. For karters in Singapore and Malaysia that are looking for a simpler form of karting or who wish to sample the sport, there is the KartingEdge forum in which periodic fun kart and 390cc events are organised.

More Reading and Visual Material
There are other sources of karting-related media (text and video) that enthusiast can acquire to learn more about the sport.

I recommend a yearly subscription to the Vroom International magazine which is an Italian publication that is translated and available in English. Vroom has various technical articles each month as well as coverage of the various CIK-FIA events being held around the world. The hardcopy magazine has lots of great photos which makes it a better buy than the softcopy version if you can afford it. Vroom can be found at http://www.vroom.it/en/

In addition, there are large numbers of karting videos on http://www.youtube.com as well as on http://www.youkart.co.uk/and to those who want more, there are instructional videos and books on topics from driving technique to mental preparation to chassis setup and engine rebuild (check the KartingSingapore website for reviews on the books and videos that we have tried and are recommending).

Participating in Races
There are several kart racing events that are held in Singapore and Malaysia.

These events start from a sampler level such as the K1 series which are held at fairs in the public housing estates, to novice events such as KartingEdge’s 390cc races and then there are the blue ribbon CIK-FIA recognized events such as the Malaysian Rotax Max Challenge and to those looking for even stiffer Asia-based competition, there are the CIK-FIA Championships which are held in Macau and Japan every year.

In respect to the tracks around Singapore and Malaysia, do check with the track in which you wish to kart at – some tracks hold Open category races in which there is little or no chassis or engine scrutinizing for homologation requirements whilst conversely other tracks organize homologated one engine-one tire requirement events.

In the spirit of eventually having a Singapore series of our own, I would encourage enthusiasts who reach a comfortable skill level to consider participating in a few rounds of the Rotax Max Challenge events in Malaysia.

Credits to Guy Ermer, founder of BlackDog Racing for providing the following information on how to obtain a racing license so as to compete in any national and international level events:

To participate in any racing event it is essential to have a license issued by the governing body. In Singapore this is provided by the Singapore Motor-Sports Association. The SMSA issues licenses yearly and they are valid from the 1st January to the 31st December only.

You will need 3 x passport photos. You have to be an SMSA member to get a license. Membership costs SGD 50 for a year.

SMSA will issue you with an international Kart license which costs SGD 100 for a year.

Medical Insurance is mandatory and costs either $160 for a year (covers SGD 10,000) or SGD 300 for a year (covers SGD 20,000).

If you are a not a Singaporean citizen or PR you must have a valid work permit or dependents pass.

If you are not Singaporean you will be asked to supply an ASN release letter from the governing body of the sport at home. This letter should state they have no objection to you having a competition license.

You will have to go for a simple medical exam to confirm you are fit to hold a competition license. The medical can be done by your doctor and costs about $80 depending where you go.

If you plan to partake in the Rotax Max Challenge in Malaysia (“RMC”) and you have never raced before you will be issued with a restricted license that can be used in Malaysia only.

After 3 races your license can be upgraded to an Asia zone license. This means you can race anywhere in Asia.

From there you can upgrade to a full class C license.

SMSA can be contacted at 6227-7889 or via the email smsa@pacific.net.sg

For those who are looking for a way to race the Malaysian RMC series, they can contact Guy Ermer at http://www.blackdogracing.com.sg/ . BlackDog Racing offers several different support packages for Singapore-based enthusiasts who want to race in the RMC.

Useful Tools and Spares to have on Hand
Murply’s law states that if anything can go wrong, it will – and this is true in karting.

Before setting off on a shopping spree for spares, enthusiasts should first purchase the chassis and engine. Whilst some parts are interchangeable across different chassis brands and engine types, there are many other items that are specific to the brand or model of the chassis or engine.

Whilst coming to grips with the various tools and specifications of your engines and chassis, you may initially wish to begin the sport with the support of the workshop at your local karting track. Any replacement parts required can be obtained on a Just-In-Time basis.

Eventually, you may wish to begin stocking up on various expendables, tools and replacement parts – to which I would personally recommend sourcing out your needs from Fastech Racing, a US-based shop and KartPartsUK, a UK-based shop.

I have made multiple purchases with both shops and have received very good customer service and as an added benefit, the shops allow Singaporeans to pay via credit card (please note that Fastech has a dollar limit on first time customers).

I like using both shops for my equipment needs depending on which chassis or engine type I am shopping for.

Fastech Racing has a website at http://www.fastech-racing.com/ and they can be contacted by email at info@fastech-racing.com

KartPartsUK has a website at http://www.kartpartsuk.com/ and they can be contacted by email at info@kartpartsuk.com

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