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Old 17th May 2016, 18:54   #1
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Default Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

Hello! In this post I am going to talk about my journey from being an enthusiastic young motorsport fan to actually fulfilling my dream of racing in a karting series. It will be a fairly long post and I will describe every bit in the best way I can.

Just like all motorsport fans, I have been through the phase where we all
want to become professional or part time race car drivers. Growing up in India, hardly anyone ever understood that motor racing can be a serious profession and not just a form of entertainment. Blinded by cricket, hardly anyone even considers motorsports a sport. The chances are really slim, but it is not entirely impossible. Motorsports was the only career the 12-13 year old me ever wanted to pursue. So I started my research. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth; but apparently you need a spoon made out of diamonds just to start your go kart training. And yeah, you will need 3 of those if you do plan to build a career in motorsports. We lived in Pune and there was no karting track in the city where I could try it out. This made it worse. By the time I turned 15, much to the happiness of my family members, I knew that I could not get into motorsports as a driver. All I wanted at this point was to get involved into some form of racing. I did not mind going for another career choice, but I promised myself I would race side by side.

I decided to do what every other racing fan does - enter the industry from the engineering side. So no matter how much every person I ever met told me not to "try" to get into motorsports as a career, I kind of still did. I cannot stress how frustrating it was when everyone I met seemed disappointed at my choice of career. All I was going to do is chose Aeronautical (Yes, the credit goes to Adrian Newey) or Automobile Engineering and then try to enter motorsports. It was not as if I was choosing Motorsports Engineering, which could really be a gamble due to the unnecessary early specialization.

So a note to all aspiring Motorsport Engineers - Listen to what advice people give you. But do what you feel like. Choose a fairly safe degree like Aeronautical/Mechanical or Automobile Engineering and head on from there. I study at the University of Leeds currently and there are several people from Mech/Auto who have gone for internships with British F1 teams. One has actually managed to get a job at McLaren. The number of applying candidates is high - its all about how much you want it.

Back to my story. So I decided I was going to the UK - somewhere I could nurture my inextinguishable passion for motorsports. Watching F1 over the years had taught me that it is the place I would want to be. My father was not planning to send me abroad for my bachelors degree. He was quite reluctant in the beginning but he graduated from the Cambridge as well and I managed to convince him.
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Old 17th May 2016, 21:16   #2
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I am currently studying Astrophysics at the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire. As I mentioned earlier, I was ready to follow an alternative career path just as long as I could race.

The British Universities Karting Championship (BUKC) is an annual event open to all UK universities. Each university can have several teams of exactly 4 competing in the championship. There are four test days in total before the regional qualifiers. Attending at least one test day is mandatory to take part in the race championship. If one has already raced in the BUKC before, he or she may not attend a test day at all.
Each team gets 2 hours of uninterrupted testing time. Followed by the test sessions are the qualifiers. There are two qualifiers, to ensure that all the teams can take part. A team only needs to attend one round. Before the qualifiers there are 10 minute practice sessions followed by 10 minutes of qualifying for the qualifiers. Eight qualifier races then take place and the position one finishes in determines his or her starting position for the next race. Final days scores are calculated according to the finishing positions. The top 26 teams go on to the National Championship while the teams that did not qualify can race in the Rookie Championship - the championship that I raced in.

The National Championship: The race calendar has 8 rounds over 4 race days. There are two races on each race day. A sprint race and an endurance race. The sprint race lasts 25 minutes non stop - no driver change, no refuelling. The endurance race lasts an hour and one driver change and one fuel stop are compulsory.

The Rookie Championship: 10 minute practice session followed by a 10 minute qualifying. The race lasts 25 minutes. The number of races to take place are selected according to the number of participating teams. A team of four can race in all the races (each with qualifying and practice) or have four different teams from the same university participate in each race.
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Old 18th May 2016, 01:02   #3
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Default re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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The British Universities Karting Championship (BUKC)
Which championship are you participating in, National or Rookie? I heard the competition is quite tough. My karting buddy has entered in the BUKC, he used to finished in the middle bunch. He has also got some experience racing in JK tyre Formula racing here in India also.

Please tell us about the kart as well.

I haven't had any chance racing in karting. Next time when I visit Dubai, I will make sure that I can race there in Dubai Kartdrome. They do conduct races in their rental karts, Sodi RX7, 13bhp four stroke. Not that great, it max out at 80~85 Kmph on the home straight though.

I had a chance to race a session where the Dubai karting team was also practicing, I finished 1~1.25 seconds below them, the best lap, that is. They got less abused karts as well, no, this is not that lame racer excuse.

Any way, they also got Sodi RX250, 28 bhp four stroke fuel injected kart as well. This one got pretty decent speed, max out around 95 ~ 100 kmph on the home straight. My lap time of 1:08:018 stands at 22nd in their all time list, I was quite happy with that session.

Here in Sweden, I had a chance to drive KZ2 kart, 125cc two stroke, ~40 odd bhp, 6 speed. Damn, that was my scariest drive till now. The speed you can get used to but the brakes, man, they stop on a dime. The kart owner was laughing seeing me struggle to get a grip on the kart, this kart was too much for me, blip the throttle, shift gears, brake, shift gear etc. This one tops around 140~150 kmph, depending on the gearing. I would have definitely crossed 110 Kmph as the regular 4-stroke rental karts used to do ~80 kmph on the straights.






Last edited by ecenandu : 18th May 2016 at 01:12.
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Old 18th May 2016, 01:17   #4
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The Karts: The karts are provided and managed by a company called 'Club 100'. They are quite a big company and also hold several other championships all over Europe. "The BUKC uses the most powerful arrive-and-drive kart fleet in the world." (Source: BUKC Website). They are 115cc, 2-stroke TKM-Extreme Karts. The chassis are built by Birel, the famous Italian kart manufacturer from the 1950's. The karts are capable of 5 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 70 mph. The reason the time is listed as 5 - 60mph and not 0 - 100mph is because the karts are two stroke and need to be push started. The engine stalls if the throttle is closed and hence two people need to push the kart at the start. This is also the reason why all BUKC race starts are rolling starts.

Now I had to get on my university karting team. Before the BUKC, we went to a local indoor track with Sodi GT's powered by the 270cc Honda four strokes several times. I am not sure if I can call this 'practice' but it was surely better than driving a two stroke kart for the first time. This was going to be my first ever time driving a go kart. I had only done trackdays on my Duke 200 before. In theory, I knew things - racing lines, braking points, apexes etc. But I knew theoretical knowledge is hardly any use on the racetrack. Driving a kart would be much different. The smell of rubber and CNG had filled the arena. It reminded me of riding in my school van uncle's CNG Omni ages ago. I was extremely pumped and the adrenaline was rushing through my veins. All these years I wanted to race karts and now I was finally going to do it. Once suited up and in the kart, I did a warm up lap. The agility and maneuverability of the karts was very impressive. I did not spin out easliy and therefore I thought I was doing well. Until I was overtaken left, right and centre by my experienced team mates. Being used to motorcycles, I kept braking too early and not utilizing the full braking power of the karts. These karts are however very easy to drive. Its only about getting those 2 seconds off your time. It was immense fun. As it was an indoor arena, the karts and track were extremely forgiving. The reason why I say this you will find later when I describe my experience with Club 100 karts

The indoor track
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The Sodi 250 Karts
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The Club 100 BUKC Karts
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-20160218_163210.jpg

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Last edited by GTO : 18th May 2016 at 11:36. Reason: Merging :)
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Old 18th May 2016, 02:22   #5
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I took part in two of the four BUKC races. I would have loved to participate in all four, but I had to manage my studies and finances. One thing I have to say. The tracks were absolutely beautiful. UK has some of the best racing circuits in the world and even the smaller (comparatively) karting circuits are a pleasure to drive on. No wonder this country has produced the likes of Jim Clark, James Hunt and Lewis Hamilton. My first race was at the LLandow Circuit in South Wales.

The LLandow Circuit
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-llandow.png

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Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-lol.jpg

We left the Leeds at around 5 p.m. the night before in a team mates car. Accommodation was already booked. After the long drive, we arrived at the hotel and realised we were not the only ones there. Almost all teams were in the same place as we were. The night was spent with a few beers, socialising with the other teams and planning for the race tomorrow. I was already having fun. The reporting time at the track was 7:30 am. In the driver's briefing racers who would lift off the throttle were simply labelled as "wussies" by the race marshall.
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Old 18th May 2016, 05:03   #6
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I was in Race 3 out of the 6 races. Seeing how the first 2 races panned out did make me anxious to be honest. The number of people spinning off the track was too high. It was going to be the fastest machine I have ever driven/ridden. The rookies is a complete mix of talent pool. There are newbies like me who've never driven a two stroke kart before and at the other end of the spectrum are people who race in the British Touring Car Championship. I think you can guess how messy it can get - but that is the fun of BUKC.

As I mentioned earlier, the karts stall if the throttle is shut off and if the speed is insufficient. Therefore, when you go off track you are most likely to stall. The slick tyres have absolutely no grip on the wet/muddy grass. Once you make a small contact with grass, you're off. Thankfully it was a dry race (extremely rare in the UK). As my mates pushed me off the staring grid for the practice session, I realised how hard it was going to be. I took it really slow in this session. So slow that I stalled. You then get out of your kart, pick one end up and pull it on track. Then you wait for a marshal in a pusher kart to give you a push and crank your engine. Going off track is the worst thing you can imagine.
  1. You have to wait ages till the pusher kart arrives - precious race time is lost.
  2. You lose the temperature in your tyres leaving you with no grip
  3. Your tyres get covered in mud - another lap gone
  4. Picking up the kart a few times can be physically taxing

The karts are insanely fast. Its literally driving metal scaffolding with an engine on it. And it goes 0-60mph in <5 seconds. The centre of gravity is so low that you can take the corners at crazy high speeds. (not that I did compared to the pros, but I was pretty decent). I qualified 32nd (second last). I was happy with the result. It was the most fun I ever had on a race track. Each time I braked for a corner I realised that I could brake even later and get onto the throttle earlier as I got into the groove. The secret was to stay on track. Almost everyone spins off so just staying on track can help you tonnes.

All the six qualifying sessions take place first followed by the six races. You do have to wait quite a bit for your race. I understood how bad it can be in the next race when it was soaking wet.

I started 32nd of 33rd for the race, made up a few places at the start and lost them all when I spun off. This was the time I really understood how race drivers feel when they crash. Going over the kerbs hurts your spine like hell. Picking the kart up does actually make you very tired. Mind you the temperature was -2 degrees Celsius as well. But all this does not matter when you have a stroke kart under your bum.

The jet aircraft like acceleration when you hit the throttle, the high flickability into corners and that sweet sweet feeling when you feel the rear sliding a bit. Its an experience every petrolhead needs to have at least once in his life. My words probably wont do justice to my thoughts or the experience.
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Old 18th May 2016, 14:30   #7
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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Originally Posted by Meccanico View Post
I started 32nd of 33rd for the race, made up a few places at the start and lost them all when I spun off.
Buddy, what was your lap time like, how much off from the leaders?
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Old 18th May 2016, 15:12   #8
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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I am currently studying Astrophysics at the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire. As I mentioned earlier, I was ready to follow an alternative career path just as long as I could race.
A perfect way to follow your passion? Agreed!
Thanks for sharing the post, appreciate details on the educational background.
Indian motorsports is kind of a grey area IMO, though many events are being organised to encourage motorsports in the country.

Quote:
My words probably wont do justice to my thoughts or the experience.
It was a pleasure reading the whole post.

The fine bits are quite important! Racing is a competitive sport and there is a lot of physical effort that goes unnoticed. Glad that you mentioned the physical turmoil that drivers go through in professional racing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ecenandu
Here in Sweden, I had a chance to drive KZ2 kart, 125cc two stroke, ~40 odd bhp, 6 speed. Damn, that was my scariest drive till now.
I gotta say, watching the video was also a little scary as well. Great set of skills!

Do keep posting more videos whenever possible, would love to see more of those.
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Old 18th May 2016, 16:12   #9
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

First Race Results:

Qualifying:
Position / Kart No./ Team / Laps / Time / Off Leader's Time / Mph / Best Lap / On Lap
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-laps-race-1.png

Race Result:
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-race-1.png

The second race was at Warden Law, now renamed as Karting North East. This was the best karting track I have visited. Great facilities like food and seating etc. However it was soaking wet. It had been raining all week and the track was nothing less than a river.

The Warden Law Circuit
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The only picture I took, sorry
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Old 18th May 2016, 16:42   #10
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Qualifying Result for Race 2:
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-race2-q3.png

Race 2 Result:
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-r2.png

As you can see, I did much better in Race 1 than Race 2. And it was all about driving in the rain. I had never raced in such wet conditions before. I was told the steering does not work prior to the race. But I still under estimated the words of the wise racers. Here is a note: If you are going to be racing karts in the wet, the steering does not work at all. I realised this as soon as I reached the first corner and went wide. Thankfully the extra run off area saved me. To prepare your kart for a corner, you brake ~5 metres before you would brake in dry conditions (I am an amateur and better drivers will possibly tell you different things. This is my estimate.) Then you steer. The kart absolutely does not turn in and goes straight on for 2-3 metres. Then the tyres suddenly grip and you turn in instantaneously. The trick is to slow down, turn in and give it a burst of throttle to swing your rear end. It obviously took me a while to better this and by that time I had already spun off 5 times. Avoiding the dry line, I was making my way slowly around the track, controlling my leadfoot and hoping my kart grips. I was covered in mud, soaking wet due to the pouring rain and the puddles. The temperature as usual was just 1 or 2 degrees Celsius. I also did not have a wet suit (something I decided to buy the first thing before racing next time). At the end of qualifying I was last.

I mentioned before the waiting time between qualifying and the race. I waited in this condition for two and a half hours hours until it was finally time for my race. Shivering and trying not to spin off. I did not want to spin off just due to the exhaustion of picking the kart up. I really did not care about the race anymore. I just wanted to get it over, be dry and have food.

What an experience! From not having driven karts, to starting with 4 strokes and then racing in the fastest arrive and drive karts in the world. It has been a tremendous journey and I plan to race in the BUKC next year as well. (This time with a wet suit ). Driving in just two races taught me more about driving than anything ever did before. I got to race on two amazing tracks, in two polar opposite conditions. All I can say is, I am addicted.

Thank You so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed. Any questions/suggestions are highly welcome. Feel free to comment.

Note to mods: I tried my best to remove any errors however some grammatical errors slipped by. Sorry for this. Also sorry for the back to back posts. I will probably create the next post in the Assembly Line.
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Old 18th May 2016, 17:21   #11
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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What an experience! From not having driven karts, to starting with 4 strokes and then racing in the fastest arrive and drive karts in the world.
Hope, you will be better prepared next time. I believe you can race in the same kart off season as well. Do clock in some laps under your belt, preferably with your racing buddies.

Quote:
All I can say is, I am addicted.
I know that feeling .

OT:
Even among Team bhpian's, the number of people interested in motorsport is pretty less. No wonder, we have less media exposure to the Indian motorsports.
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Old 18th May 2016, 17:24   #12
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

ecenandu,
Sorry I did not respond as I was still in the process of writing the post. I raced in the Rookie Championship. I think almost all of your questions will now be answered as the post is complete. The competition is quite tough. Most people in the BUKC have had starting racing karts as early as 4 or 5 years of age.One person on our team is a BTCC driver by profession. Your friend must be really good if he managed to finish in the middle. If you are anywhere in the top 50% you are good.

Yes, the Sodi karts are great for random fun with your friends, even for the ones who have never driven before. You can be much more relaxed while driving the four strokes.

You clearly have more experience with karts than I do. Driving the KZ2 is the closest most people will get to driving a supercar. Shifting gears in a kart must be a hell of a lot of work. Yes, I agree. The speed is easy to manage its stopping that is really difficult The videos are great! Are you the driver in the video? I did have my GoPro but not my helmet with the mount. So could not take an onboard video of myself.


Omkar,
I am very glad you enjoyed reading. I have added more details now and it is now complete. India has developed quite a lot in the motorsports area in the past few years. Lots of engineering students have dreams of working in F1 or MotoGP, which I think is the first step. The Indian GP, Force India, Mahindra in Formula E. Just yesterday TVS signed the first woman rider for the INRC.

Last edited by Meccanico : 18th May 2016 at 17:34. Reason: broken quotes :)
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Old 18th May 2016, 17:56   #13
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Hope, you will be better prepared next time. I believe you can race in the same kart off season as well. Do clock in some laps under your belt, preferably with your racing buddies.

I was told the track would sell wetsuits. But they were all sold out before I could lay my hands on one. So raced without one. I go back to Pune in the summer so it will be hard to race off season. Plus the tracks are far away and expensive for a small group. So I do not think I will be able to practice.


Below are some pictures of me where I actually managed to stay on track. I am kart no. 80 & 114 in the last one.

Short lived glory:
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-12768379_10201405553896916_6908207153474227995_o.jpg
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-12593703_10153627420169864_2397949093130909829_o-1.jpg
Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship-12829492_10153672112804864_3950092003917296609_o.jpg
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Old 18th May 2016, 18:04   #14
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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I gotta say, watching the video was also a little scary as well. Great set of skills!

Do keep posting more videos whenever possible, would love to see more of those.
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Are you the driver in the video? I
No buddy thats my friend Andreas. He race in the European K2Z series.



Here is mine, you can see people laughing at me for the wrong gear shifting in the background .

And this is how it is supposed to be done.


There is a big learning curve from graduating from 4 stroke rental karts to two stroke race karts, its the throttle modulation. In rental karts there is not much throttle modulation required, RX250 does require a bit of modulation though. If you whack and go full throttle, engine tends to get bogged down. Other wise, its like an ON-OFF switch.

Do the same in these two strokes, it bites and spits you out to the grass or the gravel trap. You can do a lot with the throttle and we can see who the real deal, as a driver, in these karts.

Last edited by ecenandu : 18th May 2016 at 18:34.
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Old 18th May 2016, 20:43   #15
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Default Re: Racing in the British Universities Go-Karting Championship

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There is a big learning curve from graduating from 4 stroke rental karts to two stroke race karts, its the throttle modulation.
Agreed mate! Control over the throttle is the most important thing in all forms of racing. Be it on tarmac or rallying. When I was driving the two stroke for the first time I stalled going into a corner due to abrupt throttle release. One has to be very gentle with the pedal. As Jorge Lorenzo says: "Hammer and butter. Hammer is the constant pace, like a hammer, and the butter is smooth, when you have butter on the knife and you put it on the bread, it's smooth."

Man! Those K2Z karts sound amazing! Can you make a post about your karting experiences? Would love to hear. How you got into it, where you started etc.
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