Brand New to Karting

Where are you located?

very bottom right corner of Michigan

What age bracket are you in? Junior (<16), Senior (16+) or Masters (30+)

Senior 18+

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your mechanical ability, or willingness to wrench on things?

10 being a senior F1 engineer and 1 being the type of guy to ask for blinker fluid at Midas… like 5

Talk a little about your racing experience so far.

Only race experience is in Forza, illegal drag racing, and Orlando Kart Center

What’s the main thing you need help with to get you started.

Direction

I have a lot of questions regarding this sport but ill give you some background. I dabbled in the idea of karting a few years ago but i’m coming back to it now that it could be a reality. I am 18, 5’10 and 135lbs (trying to get big). I am fairly athletic as I ran track, xc and played a little bit of football in high school. I am a novice motorcyclist (ive rode dirtbikes from 125cc to 650cc and a 1000cc harley). I daily drive a 96’ 5 speed Ford cobra svt. I love Motorsports its like a dream of mine to be able to race at a level like F1. I’m currently going to college online for mechanical engineering. I like to believe that I have talent being that I usually do everything in my life above average when I put my mind to it (not trying to sound cocky btw I know there is no room for that).

I live an hour south of Detroit and I want to race 125cc shifter karts (or 175cc if I went with that IAME). I could spend anywhere from 4-5 grand to be ready next season. My goal is to win something in a championship because I have never won an award in sports but I love competing. I have the shop and a trailer already. I don’t have a place to race or know anybody who races except MX guys. I know my dad would be disappointed if I put any money into this but I see it as the cheapest avenue besides sim racing (I plan on getting a sim rig as well which will reduce budget). Any advice on where and how to start a career would be helpful.

Note: ive been researching different organizations and their classes. I keep seeing this kart class called KZ. I know it has something to do with the EU championship karts but I dont actually know what it is.

For karting, I’d avoid putting on more muscle mass than is required. Light is fast.
Swole is slow.

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Not a shifter guy but that seems a bit low for the big boy class. For perspective a very sorted used 1 season old chassis with a freshly
rebuilt 125 tag (x30, rotax) and mychron etc will run you about 5-6K, I’d think. So, you might need a few more dollars given the greater complexity of a shifter. Maybe someone who races the Honda or the iame 175 can pipe up about what a seasons rebuild costs looks like.

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Yea whatever it takes I guess. If its worth it I could spend more I am still in the beginning phase

KZ is the Modena engine that is what is run at the tippy top levels in Europe. So, Bas Lammers etc. it’s the pro gearbox class, basically.

In the USA, Marcos Oldhaffer’s f-series has a KZ field I think. They are mostly in the NE (fseries).

Oh ok. I also saw a KZ/175 class in stars champion series

I think SKUSA, which is a big national series, tried or is trying to address US shifter racing. There appears to be a transition from the Honda engine so prevalent in the USA in progress. I may be incorrect, bt I think Honda has stopped manufacturing the engine (but still many parts available). So. from what I recall, the 175 IAME shifter was SKUSA trying to identify an engine package that could be long-term replacement for the Hondas.

Welcome!

Off the cuff, even with your previous experience, my advice would be to try out a 100cc or 125cc TaG at a track near you, perhaps Michiana Raceway Park. I believe they have an arrive and drive package in a Rotax Max which is a single gear, 125cc kart with about 28HP.

Shifters are badass, but you better go in with both eyes open. Most people who start out with a shifter (especially a KZ\KZ2) end up selling the kart shortly thereafter. They are full-on racing machines and come with the ongoing costs\maintenance of one. Dollar for dollar they are unmatched on four wheels for racing performance, but compared to other classes they definitely require more commitment

I’m not saying this to put you off, but we’d like to have you stick around the sport for a while and shifters are incredibly demanding of your time, conditioning and budget compared to other classes.

4-5K will get you a KZ but really not enough to buy a good 175 setup. The other thing with shifters is that opportunities to race them are somewhat limited around you, and the opportunities that exist are pretty top level.

The class that you’ll have to travel the least for and have the most options for tracks is Briggs 206. It’s a four stroke engine that needs minimal maintenance, easiest on your body and wallet. Sure it’s slower on the straights, but having a bunch of other people to play with keeps you busy too/

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I appreciate the response. I understand that the opportunities to race a shifter around me is low. Lets say I did get a 125cc TAG. How long can I expect to be driving before I can get into a race and compete? Also how much money does it cost to get into one and is there even a point where you dont have to pay tons of money to get into races? Like will you get to compete for free if you get good or is it pay to play all the way until the high level.

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It’s hard to say because it depends on so many factors. How many opportunities you get to drive. How quickly you adapt, the competition level at the races you enter etc. Basically you’ll compare your laptimes from testing with those racing and/or play with those same drivers on practice days.

Used, you could probably get a decent setup for $2500 on the low end.

I guess that depends on what tons of money means. For sure there are drivers that work with teams and get deals. Ultimately it’s about relationships. Another thing you could do is work for teams at various races. You’ll get good exposure to the higher levels then and start to build connections

Is there money to be made by sponsoring or investing in a karting team? What kind of viewership do top US events get anyway

Good question. The economics of karting are a bit of a black box. To the best of my knowledge, only a handful of pilots are “paid” drivers. Think “factory” drivers for the biggies. But, it’s also my understanding that those folks are more than just pilots at that point, they are brand ambassadors and not only race but do all sorts of other stuff (management,etc).

The biggest teams in the USA have pay drivers of a sort. Pretty sure a guy like Norberg gets paid to race for Rolinson but I might be wrong. But, again, I was speaking with a team owner in Dallas and he was telling me he expects his drivers to work at the track doing stuff like coaching old farts like me. So, pretty sure no one is making 6 figures just driving in karting.

The top drivers I know seem to gravitate towards finding a niche within the industry to make a living, if they choose to remain in karting as opposed to trying to go cars. For example TJ has a team, coaches and has a very successful career as a helmet painter.

Locally, the fella that is the top guy in all classes (master through senior) has been racing since he was a kid. While he holds down a fulltime job in pharma, he ran a team and was a distributor for compkart as well. He ultimately sold the business to focus on his driving.

So, unless you start a business of some sort, karting doesn’t have a future from a earning a living perspective. There are money races, but not that many.

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Oh if you want to get a sense of KZ vs Tag, try KartKraft. It gives a very good sense of the difference the front brakes, horsepower and gears make. It’s effin’ savage.

Depends on your ambitions.

Club racing is dirt cheap. There are folks hauling an lo206 on hard tires in their civic to turn dirt oval. They race in jeans and sneakers. They use the same tires for half the season, etc. These racers have a much lower running cost than the young guy whose parents in Europe are paying a team 8000 euros per race weekend to compete in the big series.

The bigger the series with people traveling from farther, the more expensive the racing. The faster engines also cost more to run as they are essentially self destructing with use and must be rebuilt regularly.

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Well the reason I ask that (and im dreaming here) is if later down the line I got good and graduated club racing, could I get sponsored by a non karting specific brand? For instance my half sisters uncle sponsored Michael McDowell in the Coke Zero 400 last week and the company logo was like half the size of the car. The company is carparts.com and he dosent actually own it hes the CMO. I wonder if that could ever be me and still be profitable for that company

I turned laps until I felt like I was capable of staying on the tarmac. It’s up to you to estimate when you are ready (and the race director). That being said, you can race almost immediately. It is understood that new guys will be new. You’ll find your place in the pack, probably at the back at first. It took me 5 races to start getting comfy with it and start to stretch my legs.

Sigh. Racing is about money or finding it. If you want to be a pro racer there’s a ladder in Europe (you are too old now) that begins in karting, goes to formula 3 then 2 and if you are really great, maybe you get a development seat with a formula 1 team? Maybe?

But this costs about 10 million give or take. Either your money or someone else’s.

Or, just buy an f1 team.

I now have 3 pals that would likely have been alongside Charles, Lando and the gang in f1. Except they ran out of $ and got their hearts broken.

I think you probably should look at racing not as a career but as a life “enhancer”. It’s really easy to get obsessed with racing though!

Typically teams (Which also vary at competition levels) and have various income streams including chassis, spares/service, coaching

In the grand scheme of things of exposure, events see very little. Probably the biggest views are from superkarts USA’s Supernationals event. On FB live concurrent viewers are somewhere around the 700 mark from memory. But that’s an outlier and more-or-less the only live production in the US. Unfortunately, it’s generally only kart racers that watch karting.

KP works with Alpha live for events in the UK, generally concurrent viewers somewhere around 50 mark, but with several events during the year.

You’re probably better off trying to leverage a personal brand with a much interesting content as you can. By interesting, probably less about racing and more about anything that might overlap it.

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Examples of this are Matt aka TrueRacer, Jimmy Brodbent, Super GT. Smaller you tubers that are building their base are the Stahl family, Brent Kadler, Illegal Alien Racing.

All of the successful you tubers tell a story about their racing either ongoing or one off. Their actual race results are not the point, never have been.

I have been told many stories of guys who went broke getting into cars by a lot of older, level headed guys. I wouldn’t to be your pals who went broke chasing a dream. I will probably get a tag kart and have fun with it because ive wanted a racing go kart.