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Once in a Lifetime | Vettel tests the special Tony Kart “naked” kart

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01 March 2018
A day on the track with Sebastian Vettel. When the German was not yet with Ferrari and OK engines were a far-off reality. An OTK experiment to test an “extreme” vehicle that was as simple as possible, with protection guards, external brake or clutch with electronic starter. Very light with a lot of cc.

Every now and then it’s worth going back in time. Especially if the past... looks to the future. And especially, even more so, if those looking forwards are two protagonists like Sebastian Vettel, a driver that certainly does not need an introduction and the karting company Tony Kart.
It was 2010; Vettel was driving the Red Bull F1 and had not yet won a world championship title. Tony Kart... yes Tony Kart, was in a period of important changes. It was not totally convinced by the ideas of KF engines (introduced about 3 years ago, but destined to be replaced within a year by the changes in OK engines), and brought an unknown kart onto the track. A single prototype built only for the pleasure of understanding how far the word “limit” could be stretched.

Thinking about it now, that experience turned out to be long-sighted, since different solutions were tried that, with differences that were just slight or radical, depending on the case in question, are now in everyday use. At the time (even though we are only talking about a decade ago), they were not. At the time this vehicle was a mix of tacit suggestions for the way forward and the simple wish to try something different: a lighter kart, almost naked and, above all, more powerful.
It was Sebastian Vettel, one of the best drivers in the world, who first tried that retro looking kart with a futuristic soul. He started his career in karting and is still in love with it.
As stated, looking at the kart, the first sensation is a dive into the past, mainly because it had no bumpers.

This would be enough for it not to pass the approvals but, in any case, it was not a kart destined for public use, and tearing up the rule book was exclusively limited to those who were at Lonato at that moment. There were no front brakes either, as was the norm until 2005 and as happened again in 2016 with OK engines. However, in 2007 it was a precise choice, dictated by the fact that front brakes weigh too much and a vehicle needs to be as light as possible. Instead, the Racer EVR KF, with 50 mm axles and radiator, were all “up to date” changes.

However, it was the engine that was the biggest surprise, with completely new aspects (at that time): the 125 cc engine was that of the KF (subsequently re-named the OK) but many solutions were based on the previous ICA engines. Roberto Robazzi, the Tony Kart CEO explained: “The heating unit, which is the upper part of the Vortex engine, is that of the KF, including the discharge valve”, an accessory not seen on kart engines before the arrival of KF engines (and OK engines still have it, although it is now a single type that everyone uses), which had numerous advantages in the adjustment of the exhaust flow so that the kart would respond to the driver’s accelerations, even at low revs. The lower part of the engine was instead based on ICA engines. There was no clutch, and the kart needed to be pushed to start it up, because the wheels acted as the starter motor. Thus, there was no electrical starter or, of course, a battery to power the starter motor. There was no countershaft to prevent vibrations either. “The carburetor was of the butterfly type and it was 30 mm long – continued Robazzi.

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