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Part 2 – Chassis and Engine

Now, to the chassis and engine. Your best bet when beginning is to find good used equipment. I’d recommend this route for several reasons:

  1. The obvious one is cost. I paid in the region of $2300 for my chassis and 4 strokes engine when I started whereas new it would have been around $3000 just for the chassis. Add on the extra approx $1000 for the engine, and it was just out of my budget given I knew I would have other “stuff” to purchase.  That was back in 2005. In 2016, depending on brand and model, a new chassis is going to cost more than in 2005 however it is still possible to get a good used starting chassis and engine for around $2500.
  2. It may turn out that after running a season or even just a few races that karting just isn’t for you.
  3. Usually the used karts for sale come “ready to race”. That is they include a bunch of spares, a clutch, gears, etc.
  4. The owner of the used kart can be a wealth of knowledge for the newcomer on chassis setup, motor tuning, etc.

With so many different types of chassis out there, what do you pick? Really, for a beginner you can’t go wrong with most makes of chassis. The main things to look for when picking a used chassis is cracks or bends in the frame. When racing, the kart chassis flexes an incredible amount and although they are designed and built to withstand this, over time the welds may crack and the frame will weaken. The chassis could also have been involved in an incident and no longer be straight. Typically, a chassis is good for at least 6 years before fatigue may show up so try and pick something that’s less than 6 years old. The following video (made in Australia) is a good watch for anyone looking to get a kart.

Buying a kart

Next comes the engine. For newcomers, you pretty much have to start in the 4 strokes classes specially if you are going to race locally in the Ottawa area. These are less powerful engines than the faster 2 strokes, but most of the local racing  takes place in the 4 stroke classes as it’s much cheaper than the more powerful 2 strokes. Believe me, when you’re 2 inches from the ground, it feels like you’re doing 90 MPH not the 90 KPH that is their approximate top speed! So, the engine of choice for the 4 strokes is the Briggs Local Option 206. This engine will power the kart via a centrifugal clutch and single gear system. It is very reliable and requires little maintenance other than the periodic oil change. A new and race ready Briggs LO 206 costs about $1100 + tax. This short informative video from New Zealand tells it all about the Briggs engine.

The last two components for part 2 of this series are tires and oil. Tires are probably the biggest single consumable cost for the race season. Generally, each tire manufacturer has several compounds available. The softer compounds will heat up quicker but will wear faster. Likewise, the harder compounds will take longer to reach optimal operating temperature but will provide a longer life. In rain conditions, different tires are used because the slick type of tire used in dry conditions do not evacuate water therefore are very slippery on a wet track. If you are going to race with NCKC, the tire of choice in dry conditions is actually specified so that everyone races on an equal basis while rain tire is usually open and left to the choice of the racer. How often you will change tires is a personal choice that will greatly affect your operating cost. I know very good racers who run the whole season on the same set of tires and others who will use 3 or more sets during the same season. Tires can be obtained at the track from a number of dealers and will cost around $260 plus tax per set of 4.

Oil is the next consumable that you’ll go through quite quickly. Generally, after every race week-end, you’ll need to change the oil to protect the performance of your racing engine. The Briggs engine use a quite small amount of oil (around 420ml) but it has to be a high quality oil because of the load placed on it. Some oil manufacturers offer specialized race oils but the best advice here is to ask a dealer what they recommend. Like tires, oil can be obtained at the track from a number of dealers.

That’s it for part 2. Part 3 will cover the rest of the “stuff” you’ll need – namely safety equipment, tools and other helpful tips.