1st Try In A Senior Rotax

On Sunday I had my first practice in a Senior Rotax Kart – roughly 21 years since I last stepped out of a ‘proper’ Kart at Three Sisters. The Kart in question was offered to me by Dan Wyatt, fellow SuperPro and Race Club driver and owned by his brother Chris. Joined by Jason, Rob (his Dad) and Matt we all trooped over to Bayford for an open practice day. Much like my TKM days, the day was split into sessions and we got 10 minutes of track time every 50 minutes with the other unlicensed senior drivers. There were a lot of chumps in our session and some of the driving was a little bit questionable.

Turn 5

I didn’t have a lot of expectations from the day – I’d not driven a real Kart in a long time and it was Dans ‘spare’ with an unsealed engine and old tyres. Preparing 2 Karts proved a bit much for the three of us and unfortunately we missed the entire 1st session, only getting out in the 2nd. Following Dans advice I tried to take it easy in my first session on track and after getting more and more confident I lost control of the back end at Turn 2 and had to wait out the rest of the session, enduing the walk of shame with the Kart on a trolley back to the paddock.

The next session wasn’t much better when it was red flagged half way through after 2 other drivers collided (on the straight too!). In the next couple of sessions I managed to get lapping consistently, getting my times down from high 0:52s to the 0:51.79 which was my best. In the final session I managed to spin the Kart at Turn 2 (again) after a couple of laps – I couldn’t get it restarted and that was the end of my day. Although my best lap was a 0:51.79, the data in Circuit Tools afterwards gave me a theoretical best of 50.79 which compared well to my friends – although still a good 4 seconds off the pace at a race meeting.

How much faster than a SuperPro was it?

Short answer: a lot. Comparing a “good” lap of mine from June 2020 of 0:59.67, my best lap in the Rotax was 0:51.79 – over 7.8s quicker. Looking at the 5 sectors that Circuit Tools defines for the track, that 7.8s in split as follows:

  • 1.71s before breaking for Turn 2
  • 1.86s (3.57s in total) before breaking for Turn 4
  • 1.44s (5.01s in total) before starting to turn in for Turn 6
  • 1.73s (6.74s in total) before breaking for Turn 10
  • 1.14s (7.88s in total) crossing the line

It wasn’t just faster on the straights, as you can see in the image below it was so much faster accelerating out of the corners too – the slow points of the track were pretty much the same speed. The data is taken from Harrys LapTimer app on my phone and the exported to Circuit Tools – the Rotax lap is in green and the SuperPro in red. In both Karts the lines taken were pretty much identical.

Before breaking for Turn 1, I hit a top speed of 91.1kph (I actually went faster on the previous lap, hitting 91.k =kph before breaking) compared to 66.8kph in the SuperPro with a similar difference at Turn 2. The times don’t tell the whole story though. Firstly, the amount of acceleration it had was incredible, even compared to my old TKM. It just kept accelerating and when I felt the power valve kick in on the first couple of laps it really pushed me back into my seat. Absolutely brilliant. It also had a lot more grip than a SuperPro, even on worn tires, but as I found out, it also let go a lot easier. It was a lot bigger and heavier to drive and needed a lot more physical effort – I could drive a hire Kart all day and feel fine but today my thighs and biceps are knackered.

Preparing for the walk of shame at the end of the last session. Lucky for me, the Kart restarted and I could drive back

Would I do it again?

Yes, absolutely. I suffered this time around with an awkward seating position (although the seat itself was excellent with me having to slide in from the top in order to get in), moving it towards the rear to give me more leg and arm room. You can see in the photos how cramped I was. I’d also bring my own fuel next time as we only just had enough for the 2 Karts and also my own tyres as they’re another consumable which aren’t to expensive. Lastly I’d see if we can get a GoPro mount fitted. Unfortunately there wasn’t one and I’m not mad enough to mount one on my helmet so there’s no video of any of my laps sadly. In addition to those things I’d also do some prep next time and research braking and turning in points which are all different between the 2 types of Kart.

Finger crossed I get to do it again in July. I’m pretty sure that with a couple more sessions I could get the times needed to be at the back of the grid at a race meeting. Then I just have to solve the problem or not having a Kart or the money for one.