New to Karting: Have Questions & Would Appreciate Input

Where are you located?

Central PA, about an hour west of Philadelphia

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

Senior 16+

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

2, maybe 3? If I had a kart to wrench on for a few months I could probably be okay at it, but knowing how to work on it and knowing what makes it fast are two very different things. I don’t have much time to dedicate to learning the mechanical side of things.

Talk a little about your racing experience so far.

I work in the motorsports realm, but not as a driver, and not within karting. I’ve always wanted to see how competitive I truly am and compete in single seaters.

But… before I invest $80,000 I don’t have into a Formula 1600 ride that doesn’t exist, I wanted to run a season or two of karting this coming year (2021) out of respect for those who’ve already made it into single seaters, to collect real racing experience, and because karting looks and sounds way more fun (And why waste 80K on a season of single seater racing when you can figure out if you suck for far less money and have more fun doing it).

I’ve rented karts a few times (both electric and gas powered) at NJMP and at an indoor circuit in central PA, though I’m well aware these are held back for the masses.

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

A few things: Understanding the structure, and what championship or races make sense for me, as well as whether to buy my own kart or pay to use someone else’s.

Let’s address the structure aspect first -

As mentioned, I do work in the motorsports realm (marketing). However, most series are easy to understand structurally. For example, SRO GT World Challenge America is broken into 4 distinct classes that run on circuits across North America, and act as somewhat of a feeder into WEC/IMSA in some respects. This makes sense to me.

But Karting, after spending a week or so researching, appears to lack this sort of structure I see in other forms of motorsports, and I’m struggling to understand what/if there’s a hierarchy, or how class structure among karts works, and if championships in some regions mean something else compared to other championships. Put it this way, if SRO GT World Challenge is a division 1 college football team, karting as a whole feels about as organized as a bunch of local high school football leagues. Maybe this doesn’t matter at all, but as a highly visual person, I like to picture where a given path might lead me and how it interacts with the whole system. The tough part for me is figuring out which one to participate in and why. I would like to find something around PA or NJ.

Here’s the one thing I do know though (although feel free to correct me here). Having spoken to a kart racer at Summit Point a while back, he mentioned TaG 125cc is the most popular and easiest to find, and is usually a good first step for someone like me who’s in their twenties but looking to start racing competitively.

The last part I’m trying to figure out is whether I should buy my own kart or take part in an “arrive and drive” program, or if there’s a middle ground between the two. As mentioned, I unfortunately don’t have the time to dedicate to learning how to wrench and tune a kart myself (as much as I’d prefer this route). I’m also not connected at all in the karting world. So is it possible to work with a mechanic at the track who maybe services multiple karts? I’d love to work with someone who can both help me but teach me as well.

The other option is a full on arrive and drive program, but I have no idea what these cost. My “budget” for for my first season is about 10K, but I’m not sure what that really gets me (including or not including the cost of the kart itself).

So yeah, very new to this realm of motorsports and would love some input. Thanks for reading through all of that as well.

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Structure is a bit confusing in that there are many many series and they are all independent of each other. There’s different types of series: club, regional, national.

Club is your standard easygoing race series. Serious/not serious. Depends on what you are trying to accomplish. You fight for the glory of bragging rights at the annual banquet. Sat practice, sun races.

Regional: Bigger events usually over a 3-4 days. People travel for these and you’ll see the fastest drivers from a few states typically.

National: I don’t know much about these but every year there’s a few big events that are a big deal. Ie Supernats.

There is not, to the best of my knowledge, a clear progression in karting. There’s no ladder to climb up, exactly. Basically, as you get good, you seek out competition and go to bigger races outside of your club world if so inspired.

Others with deeper knowledge might have other thoughts.

To start with there’s the question of engine package.

4 stroke is inexpensive, slow(ish) and popular. Premium is on rolling momentum and being as perfect as possible.

2 stroke is what you normally think of in race karts. There’s the relatively new and popular 100cc classes. The 100s require much less maintenance than the 125cc class and is therefore quite popular as rebuild costs are much lower. The engine basically will max out around 60-65 versus 70-75 for 125 tag. 2 stroke is growly, high revving and very exciting. In addition to 100 and 125 there’s shifter as well but please don’t start there :joy:. Shifter is expensive and brutal. Not suited to new drivers.

So, what you need to find out is what is raced at the facility you will be racing at. There’s usually multiple classes. Not everywhere offers the same thing. For example, here in the NJ area, we don’t have any 4-stroke. We were mainly 125tag until recently when they introduced the 100s. So, in my case, easy decision to go 125 since that’s all there was.

Point is, find out what the populated classes are and get that engine.

Budget:

4 stroke is cheapest. No rebuilds, harder longer lasting tires. Lo206 or world formula is an ideal starting point. The lower power karts force you to drive well. You can’t cover mistakes with throttle. If you can bring yourself to learn to drive a slow car fast, it’s the best way to learn good habits in karting. Worth doing for a year imho.

2 stroke: faster, high-reviving engines, stickier tires. 100cc and 125tag. Great fun, more expensive to run. The 125 tag is raced nationally and the 100cc is now very popular at all levels. Downside is cost to maintain.

“So is it possible to work with a mechanic at the track who maybe services multiple karts? I’d love to work with someone who can both help me but teach me as well.”

You could be under a tent. This will add a day rate to your budget. In my case, Jerry (Team owner/mechanic) was always happy to explain what he was doing and I absorbed a lot. Being under a tent is a great option if you are new but it’s another layer of cost. Depends on the mechanic, I suppose.

If your budget is 10k a season you could probably swing 100cc (barely) if running under a tent. If you run 4 stroke, your budget is very generous.

Figure 5-6k for a very sorted race ready TAG. Figure half that for a 4-stroke.

Buying a kart is as Davin calls it a “ballache”. You have to haul it, fix it etc. unfortunately there aren’t any widely available ways to economically race fast karts without owning one. If you are lucky, there might be a facility with rental racing on good karts near you.

I guess if it was me, I’d try to race 4-stroke under a tent until I felt comfortable I knew the drill and could go it alone. It’s pretty inexpensive and a lot more approachable. The relative simplicity of 4 stroke also makes it appealing in that there’s probably less wrenching to learn.

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Thank you so much for all the info, Dom! Really insightful, especially as it pertains to classes/engines. I did a little research on 4 stroke vs 100CC and both look like viable options. I think the 4-stroke would be more suitable as you mentioned given its lower cost, easier maintenance, and the fact that it develops good racing habits - I need those.

But I’ll certainly check around to see what tracks run which classes. This I think is the bit that had me the most confused, so correct me if I’m wrong, but in most cases, can a single karting track (or maybe two) host an entire championship? (regional or club).

Also, is there a typical place one purchases a used kart from? Ebay maybe? (unless you recommend buying new).

Sure. Club racing. The f-series club races are at just two tracks, NJMP and ETown.

But, F-Series Gearup (the regional series) mixes in Pitt, Boston and upstate NY, for example.

Used will be better to start with than new, imho. At least chassis wise. A new Briggs engine is around 800 bucks. I don’t know that used makes sense for lo206 Engine as they appear to be pretty disposable. You should talk to the folks at the series and ask them where they suggest you look for used. Usually the teams are dealers of new and used. The big teams will sell chassis and engines they use for one race, basically.

Don’t go the ebay route if you have options locally. Ideally you’d want to be able to get service done too.

Just started this year in LO206 (4 stroke), after 4 races I am switching to World Formula (4 stroke). I am happy I started with LO206 but the WF has more power, not much more cost and similar maintenance + I get to run road race courses. It also has twice the class size here locally. Although I am keeping my LO206 motor as other tracks not too far have huge 206 classes.

Ultimately having the biggest class was most important, yes speed is a rush but competition IMO is a bigger rush. If there is no one to race against its not as fun. So class size is big. There is another recent thread on here with a ton of info debating the classes to start.

I would love to run KA100 but its just not as big locally. Regionally and Nationally its huge.

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Used to be 3 :pensive: RIP X1 Boston

Only my second year karting, but I can give you some insight on costs of a tent program for 4t. You could probably expect around $450 a race weekend including; fuel, tires (occasionally), and race fees. I race world formula, which is decently faster than 206 and same maintenance cost.

World formula is pretty new but it’s very popular in New Hampshire 20 karts a race. 125 tag is also in your budget. I have a mechanic/team who hauls my kart, tunes my kart, and makes any repairs I need. Also get some driving instruction at each race. I try to learn as much as I can about tuning and working on the kart So I can do it by myself in the future. Tent program is really easy and time effective.

Tires last very long on 4t, and are still very sticky (about 1.5 seconds off of stickier Tires) I just had my two best results of my karting “career” on 4 and 5 race old tires. I’m the long run, I’d say do a year or two of 4t than move to 125/100 2t for maximum learning but you could hop into a 125 and have lots of fun. I race with DRT (Dr chassis and US headquarters are in NH) they go to most if not all New England races and most national events in the US. Highly recommend them

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Basically it is a pay to play system. Aside from sponsorship, the driver absorbs the cost to play. At some of the higher levels, a Team may subsidize some or all of that cost in return for helping the Team in other ways (basically an employee). Club level is usually where most people start. Generally a single track, but if you live somewhere there are multiple tracks close by they may spread a series around them. Houston, TX is a good example using two or three tracks over a series. At this level there are fewer Teams participating on a regular basis. At my track, two to four Teams can be there on any given race day.

Next level is Regional, like Dom mentioned. These will require travel and overnight stays which also increases the cost, but the level of competition is higher as well. You can expect a large portion of the field under a Team Tent at these events. There are two in my area that I can think of, Texas ProKart Challenge (TPKC) and Route 66. On the East Coast I think there are WKA (World Karting Association) events as well.

At the National level, I can only think of two major series. SKUSA and RoK Cup. These races are spread over roughly eight rounds of competition (for points) at four tracks spread out over the country. Often they run two rounds per track over the course of 3 or 4 days. They culminate in a finale year end event that often draws in racers from other countries as well. SKUSA Supernats and RoK Cup RoK the Rio with both traditionally being held in Las Vegas in November.

At the Club and Regional levels, you will likely have to buy your Kart, but a Team can act as your Crew, transporting, wrenching and coaching for a fee. As these teams are often Dealers of a Chassis and Engine brand. I would advise buying from them new or second hand. If you must buy from a private seller, try to get a brand supported by the Team you plan on running with as they will stock parts supplies specific to your chassis and will have more insight in to how best to set up your chassis. Buyer beware when purchasing second hand from a private seller unless you personally know the history of the chassis or the person selling it to you. What I thought was a Good Deal, turned out to be a well worn chassis and was only 3 years old. I did not have a way of checking whether the frame was straight and did not know what signs to look for to tell me how hard a life it had. Typically when you buy used from a Team/Dealer the chassis’ have only seen a few races or they can tell you the history of its use.

Welcome Sam. (What’s your role in motorsport marketing by the way?)

Structure is definitely an issue for karting from a marketing and simply a “where do I start and then where do I go from there” POV. There’s no cohesive, universal model to follow.

So that’s (one reason) why these forums exist, to help guide people through what’s going to work best for them based on their unique situation… location, budget, interests, ambitions etc.

We’re a karting concierge I guess :smiley:

On to your questions…

The closest thing US karting has in terms of a ubiquitous presence is the Briggs 206 engine.

The Briggs 206 is a sealed spec\crate engine with a uniform ruleset, low cost and low maintenance. You can take that engine almost anywhere in the country from local level, regional and right up to nationals. That said, the east coast is literally the only place in the US that has not seen much adoption of the 206 until this season.

Reading your post, it sounds like:

  • It’s worth exploring the four stroke classes on the east coast. Briggs World Formula and Briggs 206. @E13 can maybe guide you on that. World Formula has been around for a long time and has been very solid in that area… Hence slower adoption for 206.

  • Hiring a mechanic to help you is a good way to go, vs going full-on joining a “team”

  • Since you’re not mechanically inclined and short on time, four stroke classes are a solid start for you.

  • Budget wise you can nab an older 206 powered kart for as low as $1800. But I think you’re better off budgeting at least $2500 for your kart. Brand new starts around $4300 for a complete ready to run kart with a 206 engine.

Anyone in Philly area can give me a breakdown of where they go for karting action? Any series as well? A+D?

Some areas are a dead zone, for example Long Island. I tented with a Dad who drove to NJ because they had zero opportunities in LI.

F-series club would be doable but I’d hope for something in PA proper.

I just can’t ignore this statement. This couldn’t be further from the truth of the matter. Without the knowledge of how the kart is put together and what to do to adjust and tune for the best performance you will never be able to give good feedback to whoever is turning the wrenches.
Call me old school but I’m correct.

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I’d agree with Greg, 100%, and I’m not that old school.
If you don’t know how it works, then you don’t know how to get the most performance out of it.

I kinda wish I had taken a more proactive approach to kart maintenance etc. Would be nice to be able to hammer on kart and mess with setup etc:

I agree and disagree. Knowing how the Kart is put together and how it responds to inputs are not the same thing. The point of having a good “Tuner/Mechanic” at your disposal is to best set the Kart up for the conditions, while the point of having a good Coach is to how to make the most out of what you have. I think what is more important is learning the terminology to accurately describe what the Kart is doing or not doing than how it all fits together. That part comes with time and experience. Although Coaching and Tuning are two very different roles, they can come from the same individual. I have read several posts on this forum echoing the same. As your knowledge increases, so will your feedback to both your Tuner and your Coach. Like getting in a pool for the first time of the day, its best just to jump in and begin to acclimate yourself to the environment. Then you can make adjustments as needed to suit your situation. You have a budget, likely better than most Noobs, so do not be afraid to take the plunge. Just do your homework as to what class is going to give you the best bang for the buck and who can provide you with the best support your budget will allow.

In my opinion, a tuner helps to setup the machinery.

A coach helps to setup the mind.

They do different things.

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I don’t remember saying anything about a coach in my post. I’ll still stand by my statements.
IMO looking to do nothing more than drive is leaving out much of the experience. Surely I’m not the only one on this board that has spent countless hours staring at a kart scheming how to somehow make it better.
Leaving things like that out reminds me of a line in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. If you don’t eat your meat how can you have any pudding.

I think if you look around the sport, there’s an abundance of evidence to the contrary. I’d go so far to say it’s a universal truth that you can know what needs to be done, without knowing how to do it… That’s what other people’s skills are for.

Lots of drivers communicate what they need but have no clue how to make it happen on the kart.

You don’t need to know how to use a pressure gauge to know you need a pressure adjustment. You don’t need to know how to change a gear to know that you need more punch out of the turns.

A driver can have great connection/observation/communication skills without being adept about the how.

Well James, my outlook might be skewed a bit. I grew up in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (actually) and was influenced by many people who could and would build the chassis, build the engine, drive the car, tune the car, race the car, wreck the car, fix the car and race it again.
A very interesting and informative childhood it was. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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There’s definitely something about building and fabricating things, I’m with you on that.

On the flip side, there are still some people out there who want to wrench (or value those skills for their kids) and I think karting is a great place for them to do that.