Welcome to kart racing here in Northern Ireland. Hopefully you will find this guide useful as you commence your involvement in the wonder & exhilarating sport of kart racing.
Whether you are 8 or 68 years of age, male or female, looking to become the next Formula 1 champion or just after some fast exciting racing, then karting is the place to be.
If you are looking to get involved then you are in the correct place to get started. Throughout the pages of the website you should find all the information you need to get you started. If you have never seen full-blown racing karts in action then this is the place to start. Come along to a race meeting (calendar of events) & this will give you an idea of kart racing is all about.
With classes to suit all ages & abilities a normal race day is pretty much none stop action for most of the day. The track action on a typical race day starts around 10.00am with a practice session for all competitors, with the first of the races following on afterwards about 11.00am.
The programme at most events consists of either 2 or 3 qualifying heats followed by a final. The programme usually allows for a lunch break, depending on things are running, usually between 1.00 & 1.30pm. This is an ideal opportunity to take a walk around the pits, have a close look at the equipment & even have a chat with the drivers or officials. You will find almost all of the people around the paddock very approachable & they will be glad to answer any of your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
The business end of the day comes mid afternoon, with the all important finals & generally these will start about 3.00 or 3.30pm & all being well the days racing will be finished for about 5.00pm.
Having been to a race & chatted to a few drivers you should be in a position to select the class of racing that best suits you. It is important that you choose a class that suits your personal budget, along with the level you wish to compete at. Currently in Northern Ireland there are 10 different classes available & apart from age there are no restrictions on what class you can enter.
However choosing a class can be confusing for the novice competitor, again if you are unsure don’t be afraid to ask. Very basically there are 3 different categories which the classes are group into, juniors, seniors & gearbox (the classes explained). With this you should be able to find a class to suit your age, size, ability & budget.
Once you have decided on the class in which you wish to compete, the next step & probably the most important one is buying your kart. Here you have two simple choices either buy new from a dealer or go for something second hand.
Buying new, if your budget permits allows you to start knowing exactly what you have, with no nasty surprises waiting to appear & spoil your enjoyment. You will also have the support of the dealer who will gladly keep you the straight & narrow. However you will to allow for extras in your budget, such as wet tyres & wheels, sprocket, chains & generally spares.
Second hand equipment is always a good starting point for novices, (buy & sell) especially if your budget does allow the luxury of new equipment. While knowing exactly how the kart performs, quite often you will find you find the deal includes a selection of spares & accessories.
The owner will also happily pass on loads on helpful information in order to get the best from your purchase. However like most second hand items beware of ‘bargains’ the may not be all that they seem. Often you will find that you need to spend extra money to make the kart race worthy or meet current safety regulations.
This is a particular problem with older equipment. Again don’t be afraid to ask some of the competitors or officials, they will gladly offer some independent advice.
Before you go racing or even testing you will require some important safety equipment, such as a crash helmet, a race suit, gloves & ankle boots. All of which must meet approved MSA standards for kart racing. Beware that many motorcycle helmets are not acceptable & the same applies for helmets imported from outside the UK, check before you buy. There is also specific standards for race suits, with fireproof rally or car racing suits not acceptable, however motorcycle style leathers can by used.
Importantly you will need some form of transport to get your kart to & from events, such as a trailer or a van. A trolley stand is a common & almost essential item for working at you kart, as well as moving it around the pits. A range of basic tools will also be useful, including a tyre gauge & air compressor. You will find that you may need some specialist’s tools but you can pick these up as you go.
You will also need a selection of consumables like, oil, chain spray, cleaning fluids & spark plugs. Don’t forget about wet tyres & a wet suit & you will need a selection of different sprockets for the different circuit. In recent times it has become mandatory to have an electronic timing transponder fitted to your kart. These can be purchased for the club or a dealer.
The last piece of important safety equipment you will need is a fire extinguisher, which must be kept in your van or trailer. This must be to BSEN3 standard & be of the 55B minimum size.
Before you can go racing you will need to obtain a racing licence, which can be purchased from the sports governing body, the Motorsports Association (generally referred to as the MSA). You start off with a started pack (www.msauk.co.uk) which cost £40 & includes your novice licence application, the regulations & a DVD. From here you need to take an ARKS test (Association of Racing Kart Schools), which involves a multiple-choice questionnaire based on the regulations & the DVD. There is then a driving test, which assesses you ability to control the kart & lap at a respectable speed. You must pass both sections to gain your licence. If you are over 18 you will be required to have your doctor complete a medical. You can now complete you application for a full racing licence & when it returns you will be ready to race.
Before you can upgrade your licence you require 6 signatures on your licence. Your ARKS test counts as one & you must complete 5 events to the satisfaction of the MSA steward. During this time you be considered a novice driver & be identified by having black number-plates. You will also start at the rear of the grid for each your heats, however you can take up your rightful place on the grid for the final.
Before you take your test it is advisable to get in some practice & get a feel for the performance of your equipment.
The last thing you need to do before you can go racing is to join a kart club. This is a simple process cost between £10 & £20 & typically you join each of the clubs in order to compete at each venue. In Northern Ireland there are 4 clubs, 500 MRCI (Kirkistown), Bishopscourt KC (Bishopscort), Coleraine & District MC (Aghadowey) & Ulster KC (Nutts Corner). All four clubs are governed by NIKA, who co-ordinate race dates, class regulations & external funding. They also operate the prestigious Northern Ireland Karting Championships, as well as co-ordinating the issuing of race numbers for all classes (apply for a race number).
It is also important that you submit entry forms to the clubs for each of the races that intend to compete at. As well as forming part of your insurance cover for the day, it allows the club to organise the electronic lap scoring system, prepare a race schedule, a spectators programme & the prizes for the event. Depending on the venue & the stature of the event entry fees vary from £50 to £80.
It sounds like a quite drawn out process but within a few weeks of attending you first race a spectator you can be ready for your first race. Before this it is advisable to get in some testing, for practice really does make perfect. On race day arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the official & administration side of things.
It all starts around 8.00am with competitor signing on, followed by scrutineering, which ensures your equipment confirms to the safety & technical regulations. The drivers’ briefing follows this, given by the clerk of course & gives an overview of the day ahead & highlights any important safety issues. Quite often you will find a separate briefing for novice competitors, highlighting the race & circuit procedures.
You are now ready to go racing.