By Steve Chapman, Jan 11 2019 12:30PM
With the Tyro Junior Karting season now over and next season’s calendar published, our teams should be looking at their equipment with a view to make sure everything is ready for a March 2nd start at Little Rissington.
Everyone naturally looks at their engine as being a possible weak link in their performance, but they seem to down play, or not realise, what achieving everything for your team requires. If we talk about any team and why they are successful there are four items which make that success (1) the driver (2) the engine (3) the chassis (4) the team manager/mechanic. The balance is equal they all contribute equally, three are not enough without the fourth element.
Drivers improve for a number of reasons, but most of all they improve though racing, not through testing as most people seem to think. Testing is useful for jet settings but charging round for lap after lap without expert guidance hardly changes the driver’s performance and can lead to bad habits that are difficult to break! Other test areas like Tyro wheel positions and tyre pressures are so well researched that it is probably not worth changing from the recommended settings, and anyway they may only be improving due to the conditions on the test day! Racing teaches everything, throttle control, braking, racing lines, concentration and the variants that are required to overtake. These areas are all needed, but are only seen in their true light during the high pressure situation that is racing! So if progress is to be made by racing, we should see a young driver attending as many meetings as possible. When the Chapman family were winning British Championships year after year that was achieved through racing every single weekend of those years! So, the first point, if you want success through the driver you have to be out there racing.
The engine is important, but day to day on track it is the setting of the carburettor that is the most important contributor to where performance may be gained. Keep checking the carb filter and filter the fuel itself before use and most carb problems go away, particularly if that is combined with an annual carb service. Engines will gradually have a loss of performance over the 50 hours expected from a Tyro between major services, but with an engine the complete internals may be changed making any engine as good as new. Second point, be aware that environmental conditions will dramatically effect the carburettor, hence engine performance. If you want to test it is the carb that you need to understand, so it should be the carb adjustments that should be tested. What happens if the low end setting is too rich or too weak, the high end setting too rich or too weak? Never adjust the high jet to less than 35 minutes without having checked the colour of the top of the piston during a previous session, double check with Steve or Nathan! Having first recorded your current race carb settings, you may test these variants at a circuit where you can come in, change and go out again; virtually the same conditions so a valid test. However, do not do this until at least two test sessions have been run by several classes which will clean up the track and make you adjustments valid.
Very very often a totally neglected part of finding performance is the chassis. The frame takes quite a battering and this is magnified if the driver is prone to bump into things, particularly if hitting barriers. Any incident that bends any of the consumable chassis parts should be investigated. A simple shunt may bend a track rod, but has it bent the steering column, stub axle, a wheel, or even the rear axle? An annual chassis check is equally as important as having an engine checked over in a minor service. But checking realigning etc etc is fine, but please have in your mind the chassis is stiffening up all of the time and this changes the chassis characteristics and this makes a negative change to performance. In the area at the front end of the sport why do you see the drivers using three chassis in a year, stiffness change means performance change. So, as many of you may eventually have the internals of an engine changed you should also consider buying a new chassis and moving all the parts fitted from your old to you new frame? It is asking too much of a driver to send them out on a five or six year old frame.
The team manager/mechanic is a far more important person than most of you seem to think. Setting up the kart so that nothing falls off is a good start! However, if you want your driver to progress you must start putting in effort too! Its fun to stand and watch with your friends, but it is far more assistance to your team if you view your driver on different parts of the circuit and ask why if their line is not the same as the top drivers in the class. Just as we do, you will be given an amazing set of excuses, because that is all that they are! Never be happy if you have made adjustment to the outfit and the driver comes in saying they are very happy. The only area that should interest you is the lap time. Anything that does not improve lap time is of no use if you intend your driver to become a top driver. You should always have a stop watch in your hand. Yes, it is very nice to have those times on your dash, but they do not tell you the compete truth. If you are watching your driver and taking lap times, you will perhaps see a lap far better than the others; why did this happen? What did you see that was different? Was it a different line or some late braking? Whatever it was you need to have your driver doing it all of the time. This is how you progress, to stand watching with your friends may be very enjoyable but hardly helping your driver.
The most difficult area is the driver’s temperament. You must learn to read them and pick you moment to criticise, but you must learn to criticise because without criticism how can the driver overcome their errors and improve?