When you hear the words British Grand Prix, you think of Formula One at Silverstone. But there is a second British Grand Prix, about to take place, that Lewis Hamilton has won. The British Kart Grand Prix is part of the Kartmasters event held at PF International on the first weekend of August. This is the biggest event in British karting, over 250 drivers will take part over the 4 day event. Hamilton won in the Cadet class in 1996, other winners include F1 test driver & DTM Driver Garry Paffett, Indycar driver Jack Harvey and GT driver Alexander Sims.
There are several categories, based on a driver’s age and the karts engine, here are those racing at Kartmasters this year.
Cadets is where it all starts. The majority of the current F1 field started in cadet karts. For drivers form 8 years old, there is choice of two engines: a 60cc 2 stroke Iame engine, or a 160cc 4-stroke Honda Engine. Both are air-cooled and producing 7hp. That isn’t a lot, but the karts only way 103kg with the driver and fuel. With a chain drive to the rear axle, these pocket rockets can reach speeds of 50mph. The cadets all run on control Dunlop tyres, with a slick for the dry, and treaded wets for when the heavens open. The racing in cadets is extremely close, it is common to see half the field fighting for first. Just search for any cadet race online, it puts Formula 1 to shame.
When the drivers reach 11, they move up into the Junior categories. The first of which are known as the ‘Mini’ karts, but there is nothing small about them. They feature 125cc 2 stroke engines, with around 15hp. There are two engine options, one from Rotax and one from Iame. The Rotax Mini Max engine has been around for over 10 years and has been a natural progression from cadets. The karts are larger, and the weight rises to 135kg. They use a control tyre from Mojo, designed specifically for the class. The speed takes a jump as well, to around 65mph. Iame have produced their own ‘mini’ engine for 2017, which will be a support category to the Grand Prix races.
When a driver hits 13, they move into the full blooded Junior categories. The most popular is the Iame X30 class. The only difference between the mini and junior X30 packages is a larger exhaust restrictor. The low cost of moving up a class is what has made the class popular. The racing is also incredibly close. The X30’s run on a control Komet tyre, which is the same across all the categories. Rotax also produce a Junior package, which has more power than the Mini variant due to a different carb and restrictor.
Here we also find the OK Class. These are the motors of choice for the European Karting Championships. Again, they use a 125cc, 2 stroke, water-cooled engine. The difference is it has no starter motor, and no clutch. The idea is to take karting back to its roots, and it certainly has done. There are multiple manufactures of OK engines, however the Vortex DDJ unit is the control power plant for the UK Championship. All the karts also run on control Vega tyres. Even though the engine package has been simplified, the karts are more advanced than ever. Even a cadet can collect the same sort of data as an F1 driver. All this helps a young driver’s development, as they learn to understand data. A driver can then use this to improve their performance.
As of their 16th birthday, a driver is officially classed as a senior. These are the fastest karts you can find without a gearbox. Only the senior X30 and OK engines will be at Kartmasters this year. They are unrestricted versions of their junior counterparts. The OK engine also gains a power valve, designed to give more power over a wider rev range. Power is north of 30hp, and with both weighing 166kg and 164kg respectively, they are fast. With a power to weight ratio higher than a Focus ST, and a top speed of around 85 mph, they are serious pieces of kit.
The prize fund helps the prestige of the event. A total of £30,000 of prizes are on offer, including smart TV’s, VR Headsets, laptops, tyres, Formula 1 Merch, BTCC Hospitality and cash prizes on offer. There is also a prize draw where a driver in each class can win a set of tyres. There are also tickets to the Iame International finals on offer for the winners in the X30 classes, and a trip to the Dubai ‘O’ plate for the OK Junior winner.
All the action will be streamed live on Trent Valley Kart Club’s Youtube Channel. L&T will also provide daily round ups and race reports from the 4 days of racing. Keep your eyes peeled for our ones to watch in each class.
Words: Tom Gibson @WA10Tom