I’ll start this with a well founded karting cliche:
Just get a Tony Kart, that way you always know you are ok with set-up, all you have to do is put the thing on the ground and you are good to go!
It’s something I say all the time, and so far nobody has told me – “that Tony Kart you told me to buy was a nightmare to set up”.
Now, I’ll follow that up with another scenario that I’ve seen repeated over and over:
Someone decides to start a kart team and wins the contract to supply a chassis in the UK that hasn’t been seen for years. Next step is to get a driver on that chassis who is seriously quick and able to put the new chassis at the front of the grid. That driver agrees to drive in the team because he has been offered a free drive. All cool, until testing shows that the new kart isn’t quite on the pace….. the new driver gets frustrated and the new team starts hemorrhaging cash buying bits and burning through tyres and test days, trying to make the new chassis work.
This can be a disaster for the team investing the money, but for the driver this can become a transformative experience, and I’ve seen very good drivers become absolute masters after one of these experiences!
If you commit yourself to making a chassis work – like really fall in love with the idea of making a kart work – then you can push your abilities to drive to a whole new level.
So, let’s say the driver who gets the free drive really loves the kart’s sticker kit, the suit colours etc and desperately wants to put the kart on the front of the grid. He is committed to testing everything until the sweet spot is found. This is opposed to the driver giving up and returning to his trusty OTK chassis (which happens often and is fine by me).
Anyway, when a driver really engages with making a kart development process work, they have to unlock new levels of sensitivity to what a kart is doing, and deliver exceptional feedback to the team.
Here I’m interested in the way a driver changes when he desperately wants a set up change to work, how he drives with a super-heightened sensitivity to any signs that a new part is delivering an improvement. Suddenly the driver’s attention goes from standard fast driving level, to a superfast fibre-broadband level where every little feeling the kart gives is analysed for a sign that the kart could get faster, they open up their mind’s capabilities to search out every possible clue that they are making progress.
In my opinion this doesn’t just come from practise and seat time, this step up in ability comes from a desperate and heartfelt desire to take their precious kart to the front.
This is where the team and driver can truly become one, working together in harmony, swapping axles, going through different grades of seats and even chopping chassis tubes off and welding in new ones. The driver who is used to being able to access flow or get in the zone on track, starts to notice that the whole test day is done in the zone. All the set up work, discussions with the team and mechanics have that same feeling of flow.
In this way a driver grows their capability, they go form being another quick driver – to being an absolute master of the kart.
Now, more often than not, that process does not create a chassis that wins everything. Usually the team and driver finds some success, but everyone who might buy the chassis realises that it only works for that one super-star driver! So the project fails usually.
Eventually the team cannot keep the driver in the team for free, and he goes back to his old Tony Kart – but now he is UNBEATABLE! The process of developing a kart- even though ultimately it failed- has transformed the driver.
His mind is now operating on a whole different level, he’s opened up new abilities and mental bandwidth that no other driver has – he’s moved from good to great.
So if you are looking for an alternative to a Tony Kart in the senior and junior categories, and you want good reason to go for a chassis because you like the stickers, then I say go for it. If you really commit to that chassis, and put your heart and soul into making it work by testing everything you can, then you will be greatly increasing your skill as a driver!