The World’s Toughest Karters – The Aussies

Since the UK has produced 3 world champions this year I’ve been banging on about why British karting is able to produce a lot of really great drivers.

 

See “4 reasons the Brits are crushing right now” for more on that.

 

BUT, I think there is a tougher breed of karters out there who are able to take it to the Brits for world domination of karting, but who have the disadvantage of having to travel to the other side of the planet to do so!

……..The Aussies

 

This year I’ve worked with 2 drivers competing at national level in Australia.  From that experience I can tell you the level of competition is seriously high.  My mate at Euroz Performance Jamie Rush confirmed this when he told me the competitiveness in the X30 class in Australia is as high as anywhere else on the planet.  This is why the few Australian kart drivers who come over to Europe to run in World Finals and big events like the SuperNats in the States tend to go straight to the front.

 

Australian karting is super competitive and they produce some of the world’s best karters.  A few notables I can think of straight off the top of my head are Dave Sera, Kip Foster, Pierce Lehane and Jason Pringle.

 

But, why do I say they are the toughest karters in the world?……

 

Extreme weather conditions.

Australian Nationals round Newcastle February 2017 – Temperature 48 degrees!

 

The highest temperatures recorded in the UK ever is 38 degrees in 2003.  When it gets that hot here people actually die (over 700 recorded deaths that year).  When the temperatures get into the thirties on race days people struggle a bit, and you get the odd heat exhaustion victim getting taken to the paramedics.

 

So when my driver told me the forecast for Round 1 of the Australian nationals at Newcastle was predicting temperatures in the 40s, I said:

 

“No way man, they’ll have to cancel it – people will die”

He says “nah mate I’m going and we’ll see what happens”

 

Now, I was dead certain that race would be cancelled, I had no doubts in my mind that they would refuse to allow kids out to race above 40 degrees… no way.

 

It shows what I know…. on race day the mercury hit Sahara Desert levels of 48 degrees and they didn’t hesitate to race.  

Genuine temperature from Newcastle round of Australian nationals – Christopher Sutherland

This includes everyone from cadets to KZ.  I love to talk about how KZ is by far the most physical form of race driving out there, it breaks current F1 drivers who are supposed to be elite athletes. It is exhausting, yet these badass Aussies were out racing in full race overalls, on a race track belting out even more heat than the 48 degrees air temps.  Absolutely incredible!

 

Not only that, this was a national level race – and that means frantic.  Drivers, mechanics and parents running around and lifting karts all day in awnings that must have been like saunas inside.  

 

Let me remind you – 48 degrees!  Even Spain has never seen temperatures like that, and the Aussies barely take notice.  They are out racing at the limit, togged up with the full race kit and operating at their peak. 

 

But can they handle the cold?

 

Further to that, it’s not like it doesn’t get cold out there – this year I was working with Hugh Barter whilst racing the Rotax pro tour in 4 degrees and raining…. Just about as ugly as it gets – so these guys cover the lot.

 

Are the Aussies the toughest karters in the world, I think they could be.  What do you reckon?

 

Check out the book transforming the results of kart drivers world wide.

 

4 Reasons British Kart Drivers are CRUSHING IT at Top Level Karting Right Now

Why are British kart drivers absolutely crushing it at top level karting right now?

 

Danny Kierle – World Karting Champion 2017

Oliver Hodgson – World X30 Champion 2017

Brett Ward – World Rotax Champion 2017 + X30 Euro Champion 2017

Dexter Patterson – World Junior Karting Champion 2017

 

There are lots of nations around the world with great talent and fantastic racing, but I reckon the following perfect storm of factors helps the UK churn out karting talent like no other nation.

 

Reason number 1 – PF International 

Karting1 made a flippant tweet after Danny Kierle won the World title, that winning a clubby at PFi would probably be just as difficult as winning the world champs.  Thinking about it, that is most likely perfectly true.  The sheer density of talent racing at PFi in the X30 classes on a regular basis is incredible.  I think it is conservative to say that at a winter series race, there will be at least ten world class drivers duking it out.  The other 25 drivers will be seriously quick too though!  So if you want to win a winter series race at PFi in Senior X30 it is likely that you will have to beat 3 current world champions in the process.  Where else in the world is that the case?

The intensity of competition at PFi on a regular race weekend is incredible, and this makes the drivers super competitive and of course all the support they have from teams, mechanics and engine builders is top notch.

The quality of the PFi facility is such that everyone in the UK wants to race there, which combines with all the other factors below to create a World level competition there at least once a month!

 

Reason number 2 – UK Geography and climate – Density of different kart tracks with tough grids and awful weather

From where I am writing this, I can drive to at least 4 different quality kart tracks within an hour.  These are PFi, Shenington, Kimbolton and Whilton Mill.  These tracks are open all year round for racing and the Brits race and practise at these venues in all weather.  The tracks are all completely different, and strange in their own way so that the drivers gain tremendously wide experience.

The clubs are smart enough to run races that don’t clash too often allowing a driver to race every weekend of the month against tough competition.  This creates constant development in an intensely competitive atmosphere, especially in the cadet classes (more on them in a bit).

Races are very rarely cancelled because of weather, so the drivers here are toughened up in conditions that can only be described as horrific!  The coldest I’ve seen at a race meeting was minus 12 degrees, and there was not a hint of cancellation in the air.

PFi winter series – busy as you like and treacherous!

During the PFi winter races it is almost inevitable to see a dry line appear on the circuit that is exactly one kart width wide, meaning everyone has to run on slicks so going a few centimetres off line can result in disaster. Combine this situation with running under spotlights, heading under the bridge flat out whilst smashing over kerbs at 70+mph  with 30 other nutters trying to beat you is a unique and regular situation for drivers racing in the UK.  For me they are absolute bloody heroes!

 

Reason number 3 – The Brits are mad for it

The UK is motor racing bonkers.  The teams, parents, drivers are all crazy for motor sport.  They are also aggressively competitive, sometimes you could say it goes over the top (we are a bit savage), but it creates such a focused and unforgiving atmosphere that it inevitably produces a wealth of talented and resilient drivers.  Motor racing seems to have a hold on the Brits more than any other nation I know, and this breeds talent naturally.

Weekend off? Run the London marathon in your karting kit – typical lunacy from British drivers!

 

Reason number 4 – British Cadet Karting

I believe that if you can win a British cadet karting championship, there is not a motor racing category in the World that is beyond your capabilities.  British cadet karting is incredible, the drivers are complete racing drivers and so are all their support personnel whether we are talking about the teams or parents.  There is nothing like British cadet karting anywhere in the world for sheer competitiveness and those kids come out of cadet karting ready for any level of competition out there.

UK cadet drivers unusually spaced apart, usually they are fully attached to one another!

If you are used to running in races from the age of 8 years old where absolute professionalism is a given, and the smallest mistake means the difference between a win and 30th position, then running at world level is not daunting at all.  It’s just another day at the office, and these drivers treat it as such!

So if you want to race the best, and test yourself in the toughest racing environment in the world (including any other motor sport category) come and race karts in England. If you can win here, you can win anywhere, in anything!

Check out the book transforming the results of kart drivers world wide.

 

Wet Lines for Karting Explained Video

Karting in the wet is all about staying off the rubber and getting the kart straight to guarantee fast exits. If you slide the rear, or get any wheelspin you can throw away seconds per lap and have no idea why.  So here is a quick explainer video showing you how you can adjust your lines to make your wet driving life so much easier!

For how to use special techniques in the wet and details of how to attack a wide variety of corners check out my book here

Free Book Chapter ‘Master Your Braking – The First Step to Becoming a Great Kart Driver’

 

I get a lot of really positive feedback about how my chapter on braking has helped drivers make a sudden breakthrough, leading to podium finishes and wins!

So, I’m giving the chapter away for free to you so you can can go out and hopefully do the same.

Braking technique is my NUMBER 1 for creating breakthroughs with drivers. I’ve worked with so many drivers who went from average to race winners overnight, just from working on braking alone! For them it was like somebody just switched on the lights, and boom, they are a member of the club.

Here’s what the chapter covers, including detailed diagrams and the step-by-step instructions you need to master every skill:

  • The First ‘Lock Up’ Braking Barrier To Conquer – Mini Lock Ups
  • Taking ‘Lock Up’ Braking Into A Corner
  • Advanced Trail Braking – Taking Your Braking Even Deeper
  • Stable Braking – If Locking Brakes Isn’t Your Thing
  • Braking Super-Deep To Keep The Kart On Its Nose
  • Beware Using The Front Tyres For Brakes And Killing Your Tyres
  • Power Braking: Fast But Can Kill Brakes and Engines

Download a FREE sample chapter ‘Master Your Braking – The First Step in Becoming a Great Kart Driver

I’m sure you’ll love it and hope you go on to buy the full book 🙂

What Would Schumacher Do?

 

Here is a knockout strategy for getting yourself into a powerful mindset when things aren’t happening for you. This could be on track, dealing with your team (could be a big posh team, or your mum and dad) or handling a potential sponsor.

  1. Find out which famous driver you respect most – it could be an F1 champion or any top flight driver you really look up to.
  2. Study that driver, watch videos about them and read their biographies.
  3. Gain an understanding of what makes that driver tick, so you relate to them and feel like you know them.

For example I’ll go with Schumacher, since he seems to have crushed every challenge in motor racing – but Senna, Alonso, Moss, Clarke or Villeneuve would all be just as good for me.

Now, when you find yourself stalling, or feeling weak – moments when you feel you are not bossing the situation –  ask yourself what your favourite driver would do.  Here are a couple of examples:

 

1 – “I feel like I’m just not quick enough, but everyone is criticising me and making it worse”

2 – “I know that I have to front this guy and ask him to sponsor me, but what if I embarrass myself”

 

Ask yourself “WHAT WOULD SCHUMACHER DO RIGHT NOW?” Then absorb the answer and turn it into your own strategy.

So, in Schumacher’s case my own answer would be:

  1. I’m going to vow to prepare so well for each track that there is no way I will be slow – then I will psychologically dominate the team around me so that they feel inspired by me – they will never feel the need to critisise me because they will be so full of respect for me as a person!
  2. I’m going to be so full of confidence in my own ability that I will blow this guy away – he is going to think he needs to back me because I am a powerhouse force of nature, and certain to pay him back ten times over!

Now, if you have read enough about your own favourite driver you are bound to find in your memory, a very close example of where they faced the same situation and went for it, they did something that you will remember as very brave, or very smart….

Now all you have to do is, do just that!!

Whatever the answer is….. do it – The point is that the driver you have chosen as your personal favourite, was chosen by you because you relate to them already – so it is very likely that the answer to your question “What would Schumacher do?” will also be what you should do…..

So do  it.

There are loads more practical ways to boost yourself in my kart driving mastery book – check it out

 

How to boss your starts, and avoid being turned to stone!

You’ve heard of Medusa right? – the monster of Greek Myth who was so frightening and horrific, that looking into her eyes would fill a warrior with such dread and terror, that he would immediately turn to stone!

They say Medusa represents the terrifying chaos of nature – and the warriors being turned to stone bit is like how we are all programmed by evolution to freeze when we face a deadly predator.

I mean we’ve all had experience of that – being scared suddenly and freezing automatically, like something has taken us over and commanded us to be perfectly still until the danger has passed. It makes perfect sense that when humans were potential dinner hunted by big bad carnivores, the best strategy was to freeze and hope we don’t get noticed when a blinking great sabre-tooth tiger shows up.

And this primitive programming operates at full strength – ESPECIALLY during kart race starts!

The start of a kart race is about as close as a modern human gets to being hunted in the wild! There are big scary predators out to get you, and nobody has a clue what is going on – it is a sensory overload situation and totally unpredictable.

And what does a human do instinctively when faced by so many threats that it can’t escape from? It freezes so that the big bad predator doesn’t notice them,  and it hopes that once the danger passes by it can quietly escape without being harmed.

This is how so many drivers react to the start of a race, they freeze and try not to do anything that will get them noticed – their priority is survival and without even having a chance to resist, they back out, go wide and let other drivers by.

If you act like this, you are behaving just like an animal that is being hunted, trying to escape, to survive – meek and frightened.  You won’t be able to avoid behaving this way because it is a very powerful instinctive survival reaction – it has kept the species alive in a very dangerous world – BUT it doesn’t help you win kart races.

If this freeze reaction is unavoidable, how do you get rid of it?

You can switch off the freeze reaction by changing the way you perceive the situation from being hunted ready to freeze, to being the predator yourself.

It comes down to a very simple choice:

“Am I going to be the PREY, or am I going to be the PREDATOR?”

The answer is obvious – we all want to be the predator – but what does that mean practically?  It means you have to think like a predator and stop thinking like the prey!

Thinking like the prey

  • Hope that nothing bad happens to you
  • Be ready to steer clear of crashes
  • Be on red alert for danger, ready to avoid problems
  • Safe survival is the priority
  • Defensive

Thinking like a predator

  • Go to the grid with an exact plan of how you will OWN the start
  • When the race starts make your move first
  • Be the actor, not the reactor
  • Be on red alert to take advantage of chaos and pounce on the mistakes of others
  • Offensive

Can you see how the predator and prey have completely different mindsets?

When you are in the prey mindset your brain is ready to freeze you.

When you are in the predator mindset, your brain is in a completely different mode – you are not going to freeze because YOU are the dangerous predator!

So before your next race start, ask yourself “Am I the prey, or am I the predator”.  With a little bit of preparation before you start you can march to the grid as a predator, leave the prey mentality for the other drivers.

 

Find out more about taking control of your kart races, and dominate – in my book here….

Why Struggling with a Weird Chassis Can Transform a Good Driver into a GREAT Driver

 

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!

Here’s why:

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!

 

 

If a karting picture can paint a thousand words…. this is it!

Oliver Scullion F100 - Photo credit Alex Evans EVSRR

Oliver Scullion F100 – Photo credit Alex Evans EVSRR

Blimey, it’s been over a year since I’ve written any articles here, or anywhere else! I haven’t felt inspired until now, today, when I saw the above image that encapsulates the raw and pure beauty of what a zero-compromise race tuned kart does.

That picture contains everything you need to know about driving the most perfectly adapted racing machines on the planet – the 100cc racing kart.

These are the only machines in existence that can connect you to the art of driving so directly, without numbing your senses or protecting you from the brutality of the insane revs and vibrations that bruise and deafen you.

It’s all there in a finite moment –  the delicate balance of braking and slide, the sheer grip trying  to pull the front tyre off the rim and the slight over-steer angle betrayed by the middle spoke of the steering wheel.

You know he is moving fast, the pull on the tyres show you that, but you also sense the poise of the driver from his posture.  He is fully in control and put the kart in that position with confidence. You also sense that despite the angle of the kart seeming to point at the steep kerb, that he will have that front left tyre describing a perfect arc around the base of the kerb without upsetting the stability of the machine one iota.

You can see where he is, and you know where he is going without the need for correction or reaction. He’s going to carry that slide all the way to hit a late apex, and the kart will straighten up and pre-load ready for the following right hander…. it’s all in balance and harmony.

Assuming you would like to emulate this artful way of driving a kart, here’s how you can do it.

Master the art of trail braking for maximum style points.

Ollie Scullion is superb on the brakes, especially at putting the kart into a slide when he firsts hits the brakes and holding that slight angle as the kart enters the corner.  He does it in the photo at Fulbeck into a tricky little chicane and into tight hairpins elsewhere with seemingly little effort.

It’s mesmerizing to watch, and despite having worked with some of the best karters in the world I still marvel at the guys who can do this, lap in lap out.  I haven’t worked with Ollie myself, and am just an admirer of what is to me the most entertaining aspect of watching drivers at work.

How to do it

The key to getting this skill is in appreciating  the importance of how to release your braking pressure as you enter a corner.  You need to lock the rear a little when you first hit the brake, which is the easy bit and amply described in previous articles of mine.  But the tricky bit is regulating the brake after that initial lock up.

When you get into trail braking you might find at first an overriding temptation to release the brakes suddenly to bring the kart back into line.  However if you want to hold that slight degree of slide all the way into a late apex so you look like an seasoned pro, you’ll need to learn how to resist that temptation to suddenly get off the brake.

Instead, practice gently regulating the braking pressure just enough to maintain the angle of the kart.

Release the brakes too much and you will straighten up requiring you to steer the kart into the corner. Use too much brake and you’ll need extra opposite lock leading to some ugly angles caused by the extreme geometry built into karts.

You need to find a sweet spot, where you will be able to directly control the angle of the kart with your left foot.  You might be making multiple tiny adjustments of pressure to hold the kart at an angle, or you may be able to hold the pressure almost constant.

When you get the hang of holding a kart at an angle using braking pressure, you will feel like the kart is saying ‘yes!! this is how I want to be driven’.  Karts love to be put in a set like this and they will reward you with a lovely sense of constant grip and stability, and will guide you through a corner without drama…….if you let it.

It is not easy at all, in fact I think it’s what separates a good driver from a master so it will take time and patience – but when it clicks you’ll be buzzing like never before in a kart.

Understand the hidden benefit of trail braking with style.

These days on ‘modern’ karts there is no great requirement to brake so stylishly.  You can brake in a straight line mostly, and carry your braking gently into an apex without having to set the kart into any kind of over-steer.

However, if you learn to trail brake and hang the rear out ever so slightly you can develop a heightened awareness of pre-loading a kart, and ultimately push the development of your senses beyond those of other more regular drivers.

You’ll be able to extract that little bit extra out of your kart because you will have developed a finer sense of grip and an ability for timing that isn’t normal, it’s extraordinary.  Learning how to initiate the turn in of a kart aiming at a late apex not by steering more, but by holding onto the brake while the front tucks in is a special skill well worth learning.

In my opinion this will set you a cut above, even if you don’t exercise this skill every time you drive a kart.

And by the way, if you want to taste karting in its ultimate form head over to the F100 website.  Big grids of karts from the sport’s pinnacle era. True no limit karting is alive and kicking.