I will never forget watching my first regional kart race. Every class brings something special and different.
The Bambinos are always a favourite, running on the half circuit with helmets on their small bodies that end up making them look like bobble head men. The slightly older kids put on an exceptional display of concentration and competitiveness at an age when most of their peers are figuring out how to focus in maths for more than 5 minutes.
Once you get to the teenage classes, all hell breaks loose as these young drivers fight for a chance at a career in racing.
Clubmans offers adults a wonderful entry point into karting, with a friendly environment and a welcoming atmosphere based on camaraderie and shared learning. That’s where I started in mid-2017 and my recent kart rebuild diary can be found here:
Rebuild Diary Part 1
Rebuild Diary Part 2
Rebuild Diary Part 3
(PS: that kart is currently for sale)
Most of all, I’ll never forget watching my first DD2 race. These karts are the pinnacle of short circuit racing, giving the ultimate combination of speed and precision. DD2 stands for Direct Drive 2, because these karts are not chain driven and they have two gears. The engine note is completely different to the Senior Max karts and must be heard to be believed when there are 15 karts murdering the tarmac at Killarney.
I was fully expecting to be in Clubmans again in 2019 with the rebuilt kart, but the universe had different plans for me.
A brilliant, hardly-used CGR DD2 was offered to me at a price that I could afford. Well, almost. I sold my Alfa Romeo MiTo QV and bought a fantastic 2000 model Alfa Romeo 145 (for R45k – a story for another day) and this second-hand DD2 kart.
I’m now in the ridiculous position where my kart is worth more than my daily car. If that isn’t commitment to racing, I don’t know what is.
The first Saturday practice of 2019 arrived and with it came Whatsapp pictures of my kart waiting for me in the pits at Killarney, prepared by EMR Kartsport. Despite having 18 months of karting behind me, I suddenly felt like a deer in the headlights.
I was nervous!
The gap between Clubmans and DD2 is vast. It’s like getting out of a decent hot hatch and climbing into a Porsche GT3. Where the average Clubmans kart is undoubtedly an exciting machine to drive, the DD2 feels like a purpose-built missile.
If you haven’t grown up doing karting, the biggest challenge will be learning how to brake properly in a kart that only has brakes on the rear axle. It’s an art not to lock up the rear and spin, especially if you “lick the envelope and send it” down the inside and off the racing line, Daniel Ricciardo style.
Several times in my early karting career the envelope has gotten lost, landing up in the grass or in the side of someone else’s kart. Danny might make it look easy but trust me it isn’t.
The DD2 is completely different, because it is the only class that has front brakes. That means it behaves like a high-end performance car under braking, rather than a traditional kart. If your driving frame of reference is based on road cars because you didn’t kart as a kid, then the feel of a DD2 in the braking zone and on the apex will be a lot more natural for you.
The power is just immense, but so is the torque. The kart launches off the apex like an angry swarm of bees. Second gear is just as ferocious, as the kart builds up speed to a top-end of over 125km/h. That’s quick when your family jewels are a few inches off the road.
I was warned that fitness would be a major challenge in DD2, because of the impressive lateral G forces generated by the kart. My neck quickly confirmed this after the first session. My body confirmed it the next morning.
Unable to even get out of the kart after the final session of the day from sheer pain, I sat staring at my steering wheel and remembering just how hard I’ve worked to get here. I’m completely besotted with my DD2.
Making the jump to the premier class is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The other great decision was to start in Clubmans and get 18 months of karting under my belt before attempting to tame this beast.
But the best decision of them all? Starting karting and fulfilling my lifelong dream of racing. It’s food for the soul.