The KZ category, which utilizes the 125-shifter engine, is by now considered the highest representation of karting. Perhaps not the most authentic one, considering that karting was born as a direct-drive and quite a few people think that this is its real essence, but surely the very top in terms of performance and comprehensiveness in driving. It is not by chance that professional drivers of the main karting teams’ race in the most important international events with KZ karts, while those who are in a “hurry” to move to the single-seater, often end up neglecting this category which is, in reality, very preparative.
Amongst the amateurs, the shifter kart is not the most widespread engine type, although the trend is growing, thanks to categories like ROK Shifter or the X30 Shifter and Super Shifter which have made this means of racing more accessible to a greater number of karting enthusiasts and racers. Because driving a shifter kart is not the same as driving a non-shifter one: from physical preparation to mechanical experience, from knowing the track layout to budgeting, there are many particular characteristics that are important to know but for most it is to have as much fun as possible.
Shifter and direct drive karts: same fundamentals, but different driving style. On a non-shifter, lines tend to be more round and precise, while with a gearbox kart they get edgier. The OK engines (like the TaG) are less powerful, so maintaining high speed at mid-corner is key to keep engine revs high and set up a good corner exit. On a KZ, instead, gear shifting and a more powerful brake system (with also the front brakes) allow you to delay corner entry and anticipate corner exit, relying on the curbs.
One of the fundamental differences, especially since the international regulation has eliminated the possibility of mounting front brakes in OK karts, derives from the braking system. In non-shifter karts, the braking is left solely to the rear brakes. A powerful system for sure, but not as much as the system mounted on the KZ karts, where the front brakes play a crucial role. Furthermore, shifter karts can also count on the engine braking, which comes into play by downshifting. Additionally, there is also the brakeforce distribution which allows you to vary the braking distribution between the two kart’s axles. Driving a KZ, therefore, means to have available a decisively greater braking power while also learning how to manage it (particularly the brakeforce distribution) and take full advantage of it.
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