Saturday morning dawns. With it comes the usual adult admin. It never seems to stop, but by 11am you reach the point where you’ve done your good deeds for the day and you’ve got freedom for the afternoon.
Destination: Killarney International Raceway. Specifically, the smaller track right in the centre.
The first stop is for petrol. The attendants at the Caltex near the track have seen these red bottles over and over again. 10l of the good stuff, although you might need a bit more depending on how many laps you plan to do.
Driving through the gate into the track is always a special feeling. You wave your membership book at security and feel like you own a little piece of paradise.
That’s because you do.
The Carbs and Coffee team is lucky enough to have a garage at the track. There’s a long waiting list, but it’s so worth the wait. Instead of dragging tools and all kinds of other racing odds and ends between home and the track every weekend, we arrive in style with little more than a tog bag and our petrol bottles. It’s the closest any of us will ever get to feeling like Kimi Raikkonen.
A DD2 kart is a beautiful thing. With front and rear brakes, two gears and the ability to easily adjust geometry, stiffness, ride height and width, it’s a truly brilliant racing machine. With speeds of up to 125km/h at Killarney and G-forces of over 2G, they are no joke either. There’s a Senior MAX in the garage too, which offers the ultimate in chain-driven karting at Killarney. They are only slightly slower than a DD2 in the right hands thanks to lower weight.
And yes, sometimes pink really is the only duct tape colour that was lying around at a time of need.
The first port of call for any practice day is a walk up and down the pits to say hello to everyone. Things don’t always go smoothly between racing drivers, but there is generally a great atmosphere around the pits.
The second step is probably the most important: mixing the fuel. Rotax 2-stroke oil is mixed with the fuel at a ratio of 40:1. Every driver has a different system, but mine is to wrap insulation tape around the handle of any container that has already been mixed. Pouring unmixed fuel into your 2-stroke engine is a catastrophic and very expensive mistake that you really don’t want to make.
Next up is a visual inspection of the kart and a quick spanner check of all the nuts and bolts. Your kart disintegrating at over 120km/h isn’t enjoyable (I speak from experience). One of the sport’s greatest attributes is that you get to experience the thrill of close combat racing in relative safety. Things do go wrong with the karts, but that normally ends with a broken kart in the grass and a bruised ego rather than a bruised body.
It’s not perfectly safe of course, but nothing fun is.
Setup comes next. The point of a practice day is to practice. Make changes. See what they do. Experiment!
For those of us still trying to reach the sharp end of the field on a manageable budget, the usual setup changes are tyre pressures, front width, seat stiffness, camber, caster and carburetor jetting among others. That’s already a handful and doesn’t even begin to consider axle stiffness, torsion bars or different types of seats.
Miniature Formula 1? Yes.
It’s really the highlight of any week. Spannering with friends and then jumping into the karts to chase each other out on track to see who got their setup right. The benefit of working together is you get to share knowledge and learn at a much faster pace than going it alone.
Karting is the only form of motorsport where you can practice practically every Saturday and be your own mechanic (as long as someone takes the time to teach you how and you invest a lot of elbow grease). There are professional teams operating in the pits and you can usually find their drivers at the front of the grid, but there are also plenty of father-son (or father-daughter or even mother-son!) teams running at the sharp end with small budgets and big hearts.
It’s never too late to start. With kids from the age of 5 getting to grips with the Bambino class, it’s almost never too early either. There are various classes running at all the karting tracks in South Africa. Be sure to visit https://kart.co.za/ to find out more.