Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Rotary Club

No, I haven't gone all sensible middle-aged business man! This was something quite, quite different and very exciting....

I've been trying to tie up this test in an Aixro kart for some time, but "life" kept getting in the way. Aixro? WTF that? Take a look, dear reader:

Aixro is a rotary engine with major applications in the military, used in things that need constant power. So they're pretty powerful and very robust too - the last thing the forces want is their equipment falling out of the sky and into the hands of whoever is the enemy this week. In the trim I was testing, it was giving just under 50bhp which sounded pretty exciting in a machine weighing under 200kg with even this under-tall driver on board.

Truth be told I was a bit nervous as I turned up at Whilton Mill. I was greeted by the wonderful wail of the Aixros in full flow - it turned out there were around half a dozen testing. "My" kart was sat there waiting for me, looking so innocent. I gulped again, last time at Whilton had been in C100 and I nearly wiped out the son of a former F1 world champion. I was also so slow that I vowed not to race karts again, a promise I have broken only twice and both times have proved that it was a good promise to make.

First session in the kart - an Energy chassis - and once the external starter was removed I took to the track. It was all so docile idling through Whilton's pit lane, and as soon as I got out on track I eased the throttle down. Actually, that wasn't too frightening, now if I just squeeze a bit more going up to Christmas - OHMYGODTHAT'SFAST! With the instruction that there was no rev limiter so "keep it below 11k" ringing in my ears, I could barely see the dashboard, my eyes were vibrating at a different rate to the rest of me. Just seeing where I was going was a problem, especially on the bumpy start/finish straight. The left-hander that's normally flat in a TKM/Rotax was a definite brake, then through the right and head up to Christmas and OHMYGODTHAT'SFAST! Gradually I picked out a few apexes, and I could see the rev counter on the dash. I could afford to make a right cobblers of that first corner and still find somewhere near the same revs - with the TKM if you don't get the preceding corner right, then the speed has gone.

After a few laps, I pulled in. Turned out the tyre pressures were w-a-a-y too high. I also had a turn on the brake bias to push it further forwards, and so I went out again. The machine was transformed for me. Much smoother and I was able to pick out apexes - and even sometimes find them when I wanted. Also the brakes inspired more confidence.

I did several sessions, all of them less than 10 laps because I'm so race un-fit. Arms, legs and lungs were all bruised from the experience but the kart was absolutely awesome. By the end of the day I was confident enough to push and "go for a time" and duly managed to take a couple of tenths off what I'd done so far, tried again and missed a few apexes and braking points - time to give it back to the owner I think before I spin it or worse!

I was really impressed with the kart, it allowed me to feel like a racing driver again much more so than the TKM does. I think I did a 47.2 on a day when "Mr Aixro", the driving force of the engine, was doing mostly high 45s. OK not that good, but I wasn't the slowest and I think I was on the same pace as the kart's owner. And given I've only twice driven a kart this year, I was actually pretty pleased.

There's no doubt that the engine is expensive, but rebuilds are so few and far between that maintenance costs are much less than one would think. The sheer exhilaration of driving was like nothing else I have experienced in a kart, pressing the throttle made the straight just disappear beneath my wheels while the corners leaped up at me. The front brakes didn't manifest themselves particularly, I guess I wasn't using them hard enough. I was told we were pulling just less than 80mph up the hill to Christmas, and I will admit to missing the apex a couple of times which quickened the heart rate!A bit more testing and fiddling would no doubt have got the kart exactly to my taste.

Would I buy one? In a trice, if I had the cash! Would I come out of retirement and race it? Definitely YES! Great kart, friendly scene what's not to like?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Missing a Dunking at Dunks

Woke up this morning, Bank Holiday Monday, and it's pissisting down out there. We certainly were lucky to get back from Dunkeswell Kart Track before we got soaked, just a few spots of rain as we tidied away failed to dampen the enthusiasm for a very good weekend. It would be so different if we were racing there today, a veritable Dunking at Dunks!

Attaq Motorsport was represented by Alex Tyler, TKM Alonso 32 and Ed Gamble, TKM Wright 98, for the first TKM grid at the South West Championships for around 10 years. Alex had been instrumental in pulling the grid together and to judge by the feedback the grid will be back in 2015 when Dunkeswell will also hold a round of the Southern TKM Inter-Club Challenge. Helping us out was reigning Clay Pigeon Junior TKM champion Steve Le Cocq (Kosmic TKM 31) who will be debuting in seniors later this season. 

With open testing on Saturday followed by timed qualifying, there was everything to play for from the off and after practice Alex and Ed went onto race engines and tyres with high hopes. So it proved, in Q1 Alex put in a front row lap until it was taken off him for a white line indiscretion which left him 7th while Ed gridded 5th. In Q2 it was Ed on top in 4th with Alex unable to find a "tow" and languishing in 6th on the grid of 11 karts. 

Dunkeswell rolled out a great evening for the Championships, with a hog roast, quiz, karaoke and disco on the Saturday evening. The next morning we just squeezed our first race in before the "Quiet Hour". The two Attaq drivers diced throughout the race, Ed taking 5th and Alex 6th but both were pipped by fellow Clay TKM racer Luke Barton. Like Ed and Alex, Luke is having his first year in seniors and very much running at the front end of the grid.

So far so good, but with about 20 minutes to go before Heat 2 we discovered a crack in Alex's axle, a possible cause of transmission problems we'd been trying to diagnose all morning. All hands to the pumps to whip the spare axle complete with hubs, disc and sprocket from our spare Tonykart which "just happened" to be in the trailer and drop it into the Alonso. We made it to the grid by the skin of our teeth without chance to put race set up on, but the chain guard was fouling and we decided to non-start instead of risking further damage. A shame, but based on the hindsight of 2013 when a snapped chain buzzed an engine and effectively brought an end to Alex's Junior career it was the right decision. Ed kept Attaq's flame burning with a stirring 5th chasing Luke for position. 

Starting the Pre-Final from the back was never going to be optimal but Alex took on the challenge with relish, especially as Dunkeswell is one of his favourite tracks. While he made great progress to finish 5th, right on the bumper of 4th, Ed had a nightmare of a start and dropped right to the back and so had to fight his way through to latch on to Alex with a couple of laps to go. A great dice ensued between Alex, Ed and James Lovell of TW Motorsport who just held the Attaq drivers off over the final tours. So close was the last lap, that those of us watching at Pit Bend were convinced Ed and Alex had taken each other off at Hangar, the furthest point from us. As they burst into sight, we could only see James's kart and crash helmet and it wasn't until they peeled off into the Bus Stop we were actually sure there were three drivers in a very close train.

And so to the Final, with Alex on 5th and Ed 6th - about where we had targetted on positions, but so much closer to the front on lap times than we dared to hope. Alex was caught at the start and dropped behind Ed, but was given time to re-group as Luke's engine was running slightly below par. Alex managed to slip by Ed on lap 8 and latched onto Lovell's bumper again hoping to replicate the overtaking move he pulled on the Intrepid driver in Heat 1. But it wasn't to be, James had him covered and flashed across the line in a fine third with Alex less than three tenths behind. Ed was with him all the way, until Luke's engine suddenly came back with a bang and he set fastest lap as he squeezed through to 5th place.

With Alex 4th we had the excitement of full scrutineering. Despite the weighbridge's best attempts - we religiously mark the fuel level when we finish every race, and according to the scales we were spot on the minimum 146kg limit after every race despite having a higher finishing fuel load each time - we then stripped the engine down for inspection. There has been a lot of controversy lately about illegal TKM engines and the top four had a thorough going over with all measurements checked minutely. Suffice to say we all passed, but it's still nerve-wracking. It just proves you can have good TKM racing without cheating.

So no trophy this year for Attaq Motorsport, but we're really pleased with finishing 4th and 6th overall in a good-quality field. We'll be back next year to try and go at least one better, preferable three. 

5th and 6th on the grid for the Final - Alex (32) and Ed (98)

Alex, Steve and Ed prepare for the Final

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kerbing the Yellows?

There's been a lot of chatter on car racing forums over the past few months about the new penalties for crossing kerbs and regarding "double waved yellows".

As a karter, all I can say to the car drivers is "Nah, nah, nah, naaah, nah"

The following is an extract from the minutes of the last Association of British Kart Clubs meeting:

"There has been some confusion about whether Kart Circuits have to use the new double waved yellow but the MSA confirmed that Kart Circuits do not need to use double waved yellows.In answer to a question the MSA representative confirmed that the new track limit rules do not apply to long circuit karting as well as not applying to short circuit as Section U has its own rules."

The link to the extract is here:

So karters rejoice, you can wreck your chassis to your hearts' content and launch yourself across the kerbs with impunity! And yah boo sucks to you car racers who complain that they can't - maybe it's time to get into real racing!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Lots of water under the bridge...and over me!

It's safe to say that the Winter of 2013/14 will be known for its storms, floods and general wetness. We're lucky to live in a sheltered rural area well away from rivers and seaside, so have avoided the devastation.

Why then for a hobby and a job do I insist on going to kart tracks at former airfields, wet and wild at the best of times? And this winter they have been the wettest, wildest, most God-Forsaken spots in the world, little oases of misery totally surrounded by water. What a plonker!

It all started as early as the first Saturday in January with Connor and Ed splashing their way round Clay Pigeon on our recently-acquired Tonykart hire chassis. The puddles on the way were so deep we nearly lost the Peugeot and trailer!.

A week later it's dry and warm at Autosports International with the Racewear Roadshow (when of course it wasn't raining outside!), then a week later it's back out in a south Wales deluge at Llandow with Oli on his Rotax. Zack and Alex were driving the TKM TonyKart, and the airbox had more water in than most peoples' baths at the end of the day! On the Sunday it was merely "soggy" at Castle Combe, a great improvement on the monsoon of the day before. I was over-seeing some of our junior karting hotshots who were receiving one-to-one tuition from the team at Go-Faster Training, and it was a nice respite to be working with pull start 4- strokes for a change!

It was supposed to be Clay on the first Saturday of February but along came the next set back - the Peugeot suffered terminal breathing problems and was in no fit state to drag the trailer, so we had to cancel. A day catching up on office work then, and the Sunday saw the first round of the Combe Karting Junior Championship.Still damp, but great racing and a chance to to see how the training had improved the drivers.

Peugeot-less, a Mercedes Vito day van was purchased just in time for the Clay shakedown meeting. Alex was keen to test on the Saturday ("I haven't driven a kart since December!" he wailed) but the storm forecast as The Beast hit Dorset that day so I put my foot down. Many of our hardy friends did make the trip to the kart track and even stayed in caravans - chapeau, mes amis, chapeau, I stayed at home in the warm and deserved the "Wimp" comments! Sunday was windy but mainly dry, and after we caught Jinder's awning making its airborne way to Dorchester decided our own Gin Palace could stay in the back of the van.

The Shakedown was a great success for the Club, and we're looking forward to more of the same this season as Clay Pigeon Kart Club seems to have hit on a sweet formula. 25 TKM Extreme/Masters drivers heading out of the pit lane at once certainly sharpened up the reflexes of us pushers I can tell you! For once we drove home in the dry and in daylight - was spring on the way?

Don't be silly! One week later and we are back in at Clay in rain with the hire kart - ah well, it was nice while it lasted. George and Liam faced greasy conditions and coped really well in very low temperatures. At last the days are lengthening and we drove home in the daylight again, Alex frustrated that I popped the Tonykart back into the trailer rather than put him out on it :-/ I was cold, son, and hungry! Combe the next day was starting to get warm - NOW is spring on its way?

It certainly seemed like it the next weekend and where were we? In a cowshed in Warwickshire! The Race Retro exhibition is normally a pleasant start to the racing season, but this year it seemed like an imposition, stopping the serious business of racing...

Still the weather has turned hasn't it? At the beginning of March Zack, James and I hauled the Tonykart down to Forest Edge and Connor had his first taste of TKM on slicks - that's more like it! Steadily whittling his lap times down under the eagle eye of Go-Faster Training, Connor looks to be heading off to Club 100 when he finishes his time learning his craft with Attaq Motorsport.

Next day down to Llandow with Oli and his Rotax - guess what, it's raining! How can two consecutive days be so different? Today is more about learning than the last time, and I played race engineer for a while and found him a couple of seconds in set up alone. When the rain intensified from heavy to monsoon we called it a day, packed up the Gin Palace and came home (drenched). I had one last job to do, deliver a racewear parcel to a customer that runs a pub just up the road from the circuit. The atmosphere was warm, convivial and I really needed a pint.....but no, back into Attaq's crew bus for the drive otherwise I'd be there still.........

We're looking forward to the Clay race weekend in a couple of days' time. This will be Alex's first championship race as a Senior, and with 25 TKMs entered again it's going to be mega. He's testing on the Saturday and we're kipping at the track overnight so the crew bus will become a camper.

So after a lot of water under a lot of bridges since we last had a day van - I was about 10 years old and we had an old Thames Trader, called a day van because it took a day to get anywhere - but here we are again, camping at a race circuit. We've been through sprints, Thundersports and racing around Europe but it always comes back to this - motor sport is sitting around in the half-dark, frozen, drinking cheap beer while the tales get taller and we love it!

A lot of bridges. A lot of water. Most of it over me.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


We're exhibiting at Race Retro February 21st - 23rd 2014! We're in Hall 3 (the Outer Darkness) as usual, and look forwards to seeing you there.

First time to Race Retro? Then check out our 2-minute Showguide below!

Getting round the show is easy. You go first into the Posh Hall - that's major championships and clubs, the important people. Then you wander through the rally specialists and the art stands before you come to the Tunnel of Civilisation at the end of which you're in the Outer Darkness. This has lots of motor bikes, smaller motor clubs and great value racewear traders, and the glorious chance to rummage amongst the history of our sport with photos and memorabilia. It's a lovely place to while away the hours.

Chief attractions of the Outer Darkness (besides us) are the Fire Engine Bar and the Ace Cafe. Feed yourself up with hot victuals before moving on to the Arctic Circle. This is the unheated, uncarpeted Autojumble, usually a mix of private and commercial concerns. You can stock up on consumables at bargain prices (WD40, saw blades etc) and maybe find a little gem in the spares section. But you may need to do it in several short visits, it is just a cattle shed and mighty cold even on a nice day!

So who needs to buy a Show Guide? Print this out and you won't get lost!

Here's a quick peek at last year's stand, this year it's Focus On...Custom Racewear so please do come and say hello!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Cats, MAFs, EGRs and a rant....

It's not often I have a business rant, but I was on "a well-known internet auction site" the other day and found an indoor karting centre selling karting overalls. Clearly they get them from the Far East for their own use, and over-order as a little profit centre. Or simply because they don't last that long, which is my experience!

So what really got my blood pressure up? It was the phrase "sizes may vary by up to 10 per cent". TEN PER CENT? WTF?!?!?!?!?! That may not sound much, but I'm 6'2" tall, which means I could end up buying a suit made for someone either 5'9" or 6'7" - and consider the chest variation as well, you could be buying a suit for someone nowhere near your size or shape with, presumably, no recompense because you were warned!

Some years ago one of our suppliers introduced a new CIK suit which was well-priced but the sizings were atrocious. We don't sell it, because we stand by our promise to replace or refund if you are not completely satisfied, and we could end up losing a great deal of money simply because we care. So, although the big European brands *seem* expensive, they are the result of many years R&D into everything from materials to sizing. They are subject to stringent quality control tests and, most importantly, I am proud to stand by them. I'm really impressed by the new Sparco KS-3 (the Rookie replacement) and the OMP version of the same name. Gosh, nice they've both pushed the boat out on inventive product names...

Both feature strongly on or re-vamped web site, which will be live in a few days subject to a couple of problems being ironed out.

Rant over!

Cats, MAFs and EGRs are joined by DPFs- catalytic convertors, Mass Airflow Meters, Exhaust Gas Recycling valves and Diesel Particulate Filters are all part of the solution to my Peugeot 406 running problem. Each one is an integral part of the anti-pollution system on the car, any one of them can have failed, and the cost goes up the deeper you delve. I've checked all the cheap stuff, it seems to be OK so it's the Cat or the DPF I reckon - and that gets expensive. We've had to cancel our test at Clay this weekend because of the breakdown, I hope I get it fixed before next weekend when Alex is due his first race in Senior TKM.

Better stop ranting then and get on with it!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Le Midgetmax est mort, vive le Midgetmax

Its with great regret we report the passing of Midgetmax.

In truth, Midgetmax has done sterling service but should have been pensioned off years ago, when I sold my final MG Midget racer and ephemera of years of Midgeting. Through the 924 years (that sounds so long, in truth I only raced it once!) I clung to the moniker because, well, "you never know."

Midgetmax was my screen name on eBay when I started buying parts. It became my trading name when I bought, broke and sold MG Midgets and I own the URL, this blog is under the name of midgetmaxracing and I still have a midgetmax blog somewhere, so it's kind of grown. Oh I think there are a few "forums" I use various forms of the name but probably the less said about those the better. Ahem!

As an aside, despite being an avid MGCC man and therefore steeped in the history of "Midgets" the only Midget I actually owned was my RWA FISC car which ended life embedded in the tyre wall at Zandvoort. Not my fault, honest, I wasn't even in the same country at the time LOL. Everything else I've run has been an Austin Healey Sprite - such is the way of the world!

NB for those that don't understand these acronyms, Google them.

So what's caused the end of Midgetmax? Simples - the purchase of an old Tonykart EVX kart! I now have NO racing cars around the place but THREE karts and one of them purchased with me specifically in mind! Woohoo! I found it on Fleabay last week, made an offer and went to Derbyshire on Thursday to collect it. Pretty good nick, I'm just waiting for the rain to ease off so I can get it prepped for its first school day on 4th January, and I may even get the chance to sample it myself - looking forward to that ;-) 

S-o-o three years ago we bought an old kart "just for Alex to have a go on". Today we've got 3, a big box trailer, gin palace awning and we run a racing team. Funny how things go.

As for the name...TonykartMax doesn't sound right so I thought of TKMax but it appears someone's beaten me to it so...

Le Midgetmax est mort, vive le Midgetmax

And anyway, I'm too tight to buy a new URL!