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Christa Kojima karting

Go Karts and Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative

By Mike Kojima

What do guys like Billy Johnson, Dai Yoshihara, Joon Maeng, Tyler McQuarrie and other Pro Drivers do to keep sharp in between events and during the off season?  Karting. We know that most of you like track time, however track time is a precious commodity that is getting harder to come by in this sluggish economy.  As we get older, family and career commitments take away more and more time that used to go to race car maintenance and prep.  Some of us move out of family garage space and have less room in apartments and condos. All of these factors make owning a race car more and more difficult.

Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
Our Intrepid Silverstone TAG kart was updated with 2010 bodywork.  The Silverstone was a 2008 model that we purchased used on craigslist.  The Silverstone chassis is made of tig welded 32mm chrome molly.  The larger diameter 32mm tubing is better suited toward lower grip American tracks and stouter (Fatter) American drivers.  European spec karts are usually designed for more flex and stickier more groomed European tracks with jockey like Euro drivers.  Karting is a serious business in Europe, the top drivers make six figures and factory teams race for TV and lots of spectators.  Many F1 drivers got their start in karting.
Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
Even though our kart is an older 2008 model, it would still be competitive in racing as the main difference between it and the 2010 model is that the side pod bumper tubes are not floating on teflon bushings and the camber/caster adjustment is only 4 way vs the newer karts being 6 way.  At our level this is probably not even a feelable difference.  Christa and I disassembled the kart after buying it used.  The frame was powdercoated by Embee Performance.  Embee also did the high temp coating on the exhaust system.  Christa spent a lot of time cleaning and polishing all of the CNC billet parts that this kart has.  The wiring and plumbing were also redone for a cleaner look and greater reliability.

If you have the will but not the means, all is not lost.  A lot of us are discovering that Karting is a really good and economical alternative to automotive motorsports.  Karts are fast, really fast and probably more challenging than racing sedans to get around the track quickly.  They are capable of pulling over 3 lateral g's in cornering and can reach speeds of over 100 mph on some courses.

Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
The two stroke 125cc Parilla Leopard engine was freshened with new rings and given WPC treatment on the piston, cylinder, wristpin and rings.  The expansion chamber exhaust was treated with Embee thermal coating which widened the powerband noticeably. The engine produces around 28-30 hp and is watercooled.  It uses a spec clutch which saves a lot on the expense of clutch tuning.  Clutch tuning is a major factor in some classes and for TAG, the rules take this out the equation which eliminates a lot of fiddling.  It is not legal to modify the engine or any of its systems.  Only rebuilding and some blueprinting is permitted.  The engine is run on VP 98 race fuel and Motul synthetic Kart engine oil is pre-mixed at a 30:1 ratio.  The Motul is smokeless and burns extra clean.
Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
 Late model karts have 50mm rear axles and three bearings supporting the axle.  50mm axles work better for finding traction with heavier more powerful karts.  In karts the axle is an important tuning element of the chassis and it is available in several different stiffness levels.  The stiffer the axle, the more rear grip you have.  Too stiff of an axle and the differential less rear end will scrub and cost you speed.  The water pump is driven off of the axle.  The axle is adjustable for ride height and track width.  The higher the ride height, the greater the bite, the more narrow the track, the greater the bite as well.  Too high and too narrow you get corner exit drag and hop in mid corner. The axle carriers are CNC billet and all mounting hardware has been upgraded to hard to find metric stainless from Baller Bolts.  We were getting tired of keeping our black oxide and chromate bolts oiled and clean.  Stainless really reduces maintenance and the bolts are never rusted or seized like they sometimes do in aluminum due to the different galvanic conditions of the two dissimilar metals.  We also cleaned up and simplified the wiring and plumbing.  The previous owner was not so neat at this.

Karts are compact and easy to store, they are also much easier to work on than a car.  The costs of maintenance are much lower and the cost of entry can be lower as well. If you pick the right class, or if you are a casual driver, you can nurse a $160 set of tires for a season and engine servicing for a couple of seasons.  A professional engine blueprint/rebuild is often less than $1000.  If you want to race competitively, then you must change tires and service the motor more frequently but the prices are a fraction of what the same costs would be on a race car.

Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
A KG Cobra Head ram air box was used.  The black velocity stacks are the class mandated restrictors that act to limit power.  The Cobra Head intake uses ram air to get the most air past the restrictors at speed.
Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
The rules require a chain deflector to protect the driver from a broken chain.  We used a Noonan Racing carbon fiber deflector.  We also used a Reginia O-ring chain.  O-ring chains are a lot stronger but can suck a little power.  That's why they are usually only used for the more powerful classes.  Motul synthetic grease was used to repack the bearings.  Motul Protect is used to keep raw parts like the rear axle from rusting.  The third bearing set screws are not run to allow more axle flex in our application to free up the chassis on corner exit.

A new state of the art racing kart can cost from $5000-$10000 depending on what class you choose but that is a fraction of the cost of constructing a race car.  Used but still very serviceable karts can be found for as little as a few hundred dollars with good used and competitive examples going for about half the price of a new kart.

Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
The Tilllotson Diaphragm carb uses crank case pressure pulses to move fuel from the tank to the carb.  The Parilla engine is notorious for breaking throttle cables due to a funky cable routing in stock condition.  We cured this with a Burris cable relocation kit.
Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
The spec pipe cannot be modified but we gave it the Embee thermo barrier coating treatment which seemed to actually broaden our powerband.  Keeping the heat in the pipe makes the scavenging pulses stronger.  The hydraulic brake uses a vented and fully floating rotor on a CNC billet hat, just like a big car!
Karting, Cheap Track Day Alternative
 A TAG kart is self starting with an electrical system and a battery.  Starting is push button convenient, one of the reasons why we love TAG karts.  Other people do too, TAG karts are now probably one of the most popular karts for senior classes.  The cool thing is that this is making used HPV, KT100 and even shifter karts cheap and plentiful on the market.  You can also see the frame's adjustable third rail which tunes bending stiffness.  This affects the amount of wheel lift and drag on corner exit.  Lighter drivers usually prefer to leave it out or with very little tension.  We prefer it in with a slight amount of tension.
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Comments
Blue-Civic-Hybrid
Blue-Civic-Hybridlink
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 6:13 AM
What do you really consider cheap? I've always wanted a KT100 powered kart but it seems like they are either $1500 or higher used. For that price, I can get a 1990 Miata and be able to drive it on the street. Down here in San Diego we have a pretty good online board but I have yet to pull the trigger on getting a kart... push me in the right direction!
Blue-Civic-Hybrid
Blue-Civic-Hybridlink
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 6:13 AM
What do you really consider cheap? I've always wanted a KT100 powered kart but it seems like they are either $1500 or higher used. For that price, I can get a 1990 Miata and be able to drive it on the street. Down here in San Diego we have a pretty good online board but I have yet to pull the trigger on getting a kart... push me in the right direction!
spdracerut
spdracerutlink
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 7:16 AM
@Blue, to go RACING, Karts are significantly cheaper than going car racing. A good cage in a car will cost you a few thousand dollars. You'll need a trailer, a place to park the trailer and race car, lots of spare parts, brake pads, tires, rotors, etc.

To just do a track day in my Evo, I calculated that it cost me roughly $500-$600 taking into account wear and tear. That's not even racing.

Just the fuel cost in towing a race car vs a kart to the race track is significant. A full set of race tires is not cheap, and to be ultra competitve, you probably want a fresh set for each race weekend.

And then to fix race damage.... it's has to be a lot cheaper to fix a kart than a full-size car.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 7:55 AM
Blue Civic, I prefer the HPV classes over the KT classes because the KT classes allow pipe tuning and clutch tuning which must be done to be competitive which adds a bunch of test cost and complexity. In the HPV classes these parts are spec so no messing around, just arrive and drive.

The HPV is a simpler piston port motor and more robust and can go longer inbetween rebuilds. It has a wider powerband and makes about the same power.

I bought an HPV kart not running for a few hundred dollars with a 2004 CRG Heron chassis. I got it running with 60 bucks in parts and I actually like this kart better than my high tech intrepid TAG kart. Look for a write up on this kart soon. My Friend got a nicer late model trick HPV for $1400.

For me a track weekend costs around $1000 if I don't crash or break anything. This is cost for my truck fuel, race car fuel, hotel, food, entry fee. Not to mention the expense of me having to own a big truck and trailer and have a place to put the truck, trailer race car.

For $1000 bucks Christa and I can easily go to the track 10x.
sticky667
sticky667link
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:33 PM
actually the TAG uses a dry clutch. the HPV can use wet or dry.

i'm sure Mike will get into this eventually.


I've been eyeing a 2008 tony kart from my buddy.
nissannx
nissannxlink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 1:06 AM
Way to go, Christa and Mike. I certainly enjoy following the progress and was wondering how karting was going this season. Keep us up-to-date!

Mike, is Christa beating you yet? ;-)
Steve
Stevelink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 2:04 AM
Great article. Cost is a no-brainer with typical overnight trip for a HPDE (not racing) easily runs $500 out of pocket unless you make the trip in one day, and even then I'll spend $100 on fuel easily, and that's for a car I "arrive and drive". Club level racing is usually a 2-day deal so the real bill (before I consider equipment, wear and tear) starts pushing $1000 if I do a competitive TT event second day. Bare minimum cost is at least $300 and usually closer to $400-500 for even a one-day event. Even if you go the Instructor route and track fees are less or waived, it quickly becomes damn expensive. 10 events last season, do the math...not pretty.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 2:50 AM
What's missing here is the mention of public tracks. I've been working at a public track for over a year and a half now, and the karts, while very detuned, are an even cheaper way to race. Our track uses Sodi karts which are detuned and strengthened for the rigors of day to day abuse by people who aren't driving something they own. Because the karts are so equal, they really force the driver to push themselves and learn new tricks. We have a few dirt tracks around the area and in the off-season, all the sprint car guys come and practice every few nights. At $150 a month for unlimited racing, it's the cheapest way to keep in shape. And there's no maintenance, no broken parts, and if you break your kart, you just hop in the next one.

By the way, this isn't the cheap junk beach style go karts with limiters and remote kill switches, these are 50 mph detuned race cars!
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 5:17 AM
I only see two pedals. Call me ignorant, but how do you start from a stop and shift? Is this some kind of clutchless setup?
Fly'n_Z
Fly'n_Zlink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 5:35 AM
Yup Dusty you're ignorant :) These are not shifter karts and as such don't have shifters. They use a centrifugal clutch. I'm sure Mike will correct me or explain it better if I'm on the wrong track.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 5:46 AM
Fly'n_Z is right. It's a wet clutch like you find in a scooter.
Blue-Civic-Hybrid
Blue-Civic-Hybridlink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:35 AM
Mike, thank you for the response and I am looking forward for the article for the HPV class of kart. Any online classifieds besides craigslist that you can recommend for karts?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:38 AM
Peter, call Comet, there is a link at the end of this article. THey have parts for your Kart, many of the parts actualy interchange between brands. This is the US distributor.

http://www.tnrkartsports.com/default.aspx
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:41 AM
Typically HPV's use a spec dry clutch. TAG karts use spec dry clutches. KT100's have highly tuneable dry and wet clutches.

A shifter kart has a sequential constant mesh tranny. The clutch is a hand clutch and is only used to get the kart going off the line.
Peter Medina
Peter Medinalink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:57 AM
Mike has been helping me out with getting a kart setup. It has been a little bit of pain for me since I went with a kart that is hard to find for parts, but I'm learning. I picked up a European Biesse kart, and without knowing, it is quite hard to find parts for it. Right now, I've got a brake caliper to fix and no seals to buy. So, it is important to pick up a Kart that is well supported with parts.

Just like Mike, there is plenty of sorting out to be done. It is best if the kart can fire up and be ready to go. Karts don't even need a trailer, so it makes it easy to run, it fits in the back of my van, I can wake up early on a Saturday do a 4 hour session and be back home faster than a round of 18.

There are kart specific tracks like Apex, or Adam's kart track, $45 track fee & $10 pit pass is pretty inexpensive. That's a 20 min session at an indoor.

Since there are plenty of empty industrial parking lots by my building, I plan on getting a transponder, & some cones & I can actually work on my driving & tuning whenever I want to.

And I might even design an adapter to get the Kart on the Dynapack to play with tuning.

-Peter
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 8:03 AM
So does a shifter Kart have an actual transmission? Is it auto or "stick"?
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 12:34 AM
very funny timing of this subject... I've actually been considering on parting out (at least some of) my car and buy a kart setup...

How much do u have into this project? I think it would be something pretty cool to do with my kids too...
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 1:05 AM
Also very interested in the HPV writeup!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 1:15 AM
probably 5k for both karts.
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 1:50 AM
hmmm... that's not bad!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 2:52 AM
It would have been a lot cheaper if I had settled for a less blingy HPV-4 older kart. I actually enjoy the older HPV Kart more. It is lighter more nimble and less edgy. I can throw it around and have fun. The TAG is bigger, faster and less forgiving. The HPV is still much faster than K1 and high end rental karts. Since I suck, that is good enough. I don't want to get to serious about karting since i am so hyper competitive that it can easily get out of hand. I just like enjoying time with my daughter and I can actually play with her since she is better than me in every single ball time sport!

I spent a few hundred dollars for the HPV and a thousand more rebuilding it. I didn't have to do things like get new bodywork or powdercoat it but I like having nice looking stuff.

I think they are plenty of nice ready to race HPV's for around $1500. If you have a membership, you can drive all day for $25 bucks at Adams. That is so cheap.

Come on guys get karts, we can have MotoIQ kart days at Adams!
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 3:02 AM
See, this is why MotoIQ rules. As much as I loved Sport Compact Car, it is exceedingly cool that Mike Kojima and Dave Coleman actually respond to comments in their articles here.

This site rocks.
Blue-Civic-Hybrid
Blue-Civic-Hybridlink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 6:03 AM
I want to get a kart now! Any suggestions on where to look at some locally?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 6:29 AM
Craigslist.
Peter Medina
Peter Medinalink
Thursday, September 02, 2010 10:15 PM
I checked TNR, no parts, forever backorder

My update:

So I found a 2-4 yr old Biesse chassis with an HPV on Craigslist, picked it up, brakes are shot, $300 to replace, no starter, needs new chain, decent tires.

Can't buy brake parts so my only option was to rebuild or replace with another brand. Luckily, I know plenty about how seals work & how they are designed. U-cups leaked on the first re-build. Took out the seals, found tons of crystallization behind the seal. Seal durometer was still good, bore was still good. A little brake cleaner, & brillo pads & I'm back in biz, perfect sealing.

Engine has good compression. Mychron 3 works well.

$1000- kart, 2 stands, spare seat, Mychron 3
$50- fluids
4-5 hours of my time
$70 brake pads, chain, plugs

I'm ready to rock.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, September 03, 2010 12:25 AM
On Christa's kart, I took apart the MC, the cup seals seemed to be ok so I just cleaned it out and it worked fine.
Peter Medina
Peter Medinalink
Saturday, September 04, 2010 10:40 PM
I went out to Apex Racing in Lake Perris yesterday, and I have to say that this is a great place to practice. $45 gets you all day practice, they're open until 9 pm, with lights coming on for night racing. AIM transponder on site. The atmosphere is quite friendly & laid back too. Just make sure your Kart stand has off-road tires for pushing around.

Just for reference for future readers, about the best time there was 42.xx seconds for a 130 lb 14 yr old in an HPV 4.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Sunday, September 05, 2010 8:05 AM
I wonder if we caused a run on HPV karts, Craigslist normally has all sorts of examples for under $1500 and they are none for sale now. The ones that are for sale are $2000.
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Monday, September 06, 2010 12:52 AM
Any tips or links on what to look for when selecting a kart?
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Monday, September 06, 2010 5:27 AM
I took my oldest son to one of the many local sprint track (4 with-in a 2 hr drive) and actually got a chance to try out 2 karts after the races..

The result: I'm parting out my caged KA-t S13 vert and buying the family some karts, safety gear, a TIG welder, plasma cutter, and some other shop equipment!

It's been really tough for the past couple of yrs perusing full sized racing, and karts is something we can do as a family--not just watching daddy!

Thanks for putting this out there for guys like me!

Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, September 06, 2010 8:45 AM
I think look for a popular class in your region if you want to race. TAG and HPV are popular classes for clutch kart. Stock moto is popular for shifter karts.

When you see a used kart, make sure you can get parts for it. Tony, CRG, Intrepid, Top Kart, Bierl and Sodi have a strong dealer networks. Don't get too old of a Kart. A 2003 or later one is probably better.

Two strokes are really simple, chances are a used kart that has been sitting won't run because the carb is gummed and dried up. If it has compression you can probably get it to start if you are sharp mechanically. You can use this as a bargaining point.

If you have kids, Kids class and cadet carts are plentiful on the used market as kids outgrow them all the time.
Peter Medina
Peter Medinalink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 1:00 AM
I'd say that if you're mechanically inclined, look out for the ultra cheap ones. The guy may be getting quotes to fix that are just beyond their means right now and discounting for that reason. Getting one with a Mychron on it already was handy for me, because I could trouble shoot many things knowing the RPM & head temps. The usual applies, check for spark, is it flooded, too much oil in the pre-mix=drain the gas.
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 3:14 AM
I have 2 options for my area... Box-stock, and TaG.

I tried a box-stock.. It was pretty fun, but really low on power. I'm going to the other track where they race the TaG karts a lot and see if I can try one of those out as well. The bang-for-the-buck factor for the boxstock class is very tempting tho!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 3:41 AM
What is Box Stock, that is not a regular recognized class. Is it a KT100 with the box type pipe?
Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 5:40 AM
Its a 4-stroke "Clone" engine. I think "box-stock" may be a southern slang term.

top speed of about 65mph, very limited on pwr, but it's REALLY easy on tires and maintenance... Engines last 2 yrs at least; tires 4~5 weekends of practice and racing from what the guys told me.

I want to get to the state races eventually tho, so I'm trying to decide if I should try a "momentum kart" like these, or dive right into the higher classes..

Just_Wanna_Drive
Just_Wanna_Drivelink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 5:47 AM
VERY few guys run 2-strokes at the track I went to Saturday. The clone class was pretty full tho.

Clone engine = $500 new
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 6:42 AM
It's not a popular class here, in fact none of the three clubs in this area have it to my knowlege. Sounds like a good class though.
Peter Medina
Peter Medinalink
Sunday, September 12, 2010 5:38 PM
Getting one of these karts is probably one of the best things I've done in a while. There are ton's of empty asphalt on weekends where I am. It is pretty easy to setup an impromptu test track in some secluded area, setup a transponder and work on your driving.

Loaded up the van, gassed up the kart and was driving in under 1/2 hour.
Mike Hawken
Mike Hawkenlink
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 9:12 PM
How much are WPC treatments on these small engines? I've always wanted to know how much it costs but I'm too lazy to calculate the surface area of anything I'd do it on.
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