Marco Ardigò, the three-time world champion and works Tony Kart Racing Team driver, reveals the tricks to managing a kart during a race: sighting lap, carburetion, start and tyre use
Race management begins before even going out on the track. For example, warming-up the kart engine on the trolley is crucial, especially in winter. It should be done gradually, up to about 40 degrees of water temperate; the brake can also be used to create more resistance and speed up proceedings.
During this phase, on KZ karts, the more experienced engineers also adjust carburetion simply by listening to the engine and dosing the accelerator to assess the transition from low to high revs. When the engine’s temperature has exceeded 40 degrees, we can increase the RPM, which will allow us to appreciate the carburation at higher speeds.
The sighting lap before the actual start of the race is also crucial, especially to warm-up the tyres. During the lap, I make the kart zigzag in order to stress the tyres and get their temperature up so that I’m ready for the first laps, on which having good grip from the off is an important factor.
However, the tyres are not enough and the brake system also needs to be stressed to get maximum performance right from the first time you brake.
Clutch management depends a lot on the driver. I try not to heat it up too much before the start: when I get on the grid, at the end of the sighting lap, I stop a dozen places before my starting position and simulate a start.
KZ’s have a dry clutch and it heats up quickly: my recommendation is to try just the one start, two at most, but don’t overdo it, otherwise you will only end up making the situation worse.
A good start doesn’t only depend on the skill of the driver, but also on the carburetion: if the engine runs too “rich” or too “lean”, its response to clutch release changes and this can result in a poor start, especially for less experienced drivers.
A slightly rich engine can be “cleaned” while on the starting grid. Of course, you also to understand where it is “rich”, because a float carburetor has a number of adjustments (sprayer pin, minimum and maximum float, etc.) that vary carburetion in the different ranges of engine speed. However, you can adjust it using short, sharp stabs on the accelerator pedal. I do so by dividing the accelerator stroke into three parts: 0-50-100. If the engine is running rich, I mustn’t accelerate 100%, otherwise I risk not having the right response when I need a burst of speed. I recommend accelerating to 50%: the carburetion of the engine will be “cleaner” and the burst of speed will be better.
After “cleaning” the engine and warming up the clutch, I stop on my starting position and check the radiator curtain. I usually shut it completely during the sighting lap in order to raise the water temperature quickly.
However, before the start I adjust the opening so that I don’t have to touch it for the first three or four laps, when I have to concentrate on overtaking or defending my position. The optimal position is in the middle. However, if in doubt, it’s better to have it slightly lower, so as not to raise the engine temperature too much.
Several aspects are involved in getting off to a good start. When the procedure starts, I try to focus on the engine. When the second red light comes on, I begin to accelerate: you have to keep the engine revved up, around 12,000 rpm is fine.
When the fourth red light comes on, you have to be ready to go, so you have to be in first gear: then is the time to release the clutch. It should be released gently, but as fast as possible, certainly without letting it go all of a sudden. If the tyres are properly warmed up, the rear wheels shouldn’t spin.
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