Karting really does have classes for almost every age, size and ability from age 6 upwards, but sometimes the sheer number of options can be somewhat confusing. The buttons on the left should help to explain. There are basically five different categories – Bambino, Cadets, Juniors, Seniors and Gearbox for karts with gears. The non-gearbox ‘direct-drive’ karts only need to have a brake on the rear axle (although some top classes have a front brake too) whereas gearbox karts must have brakes operating on all four wheels. Most of the modern direct-drive karts have a centrifugal clutch so the engine can tick-over.
Boys and girls can start driving karts at the age of 6 in the Bambino class and begin to race karts from 8 years of age in one of the Cadet classes. They can continue until the end of the year of their 13th birthday, although they may be getting too heavy by then and so can move into certain Junior classes from the age of 11. The three Cadet classes are described on the left and all are permitted to race together. All have a centrifugal clutch and a recoil starting cord. The special minikarts used are registered with prices controlled to an agreed maximum. Top speed is about 50mph.
Drivers can start racing in Rotax MiniMax or Junior TKM at age 11, then move into the more powerful Junior Max at age 13. Being a TAG (touch and go) class, the Rotax have a press button start whereas the TKM have to be either lifted and pushed, or use an optional plug in portable electric start box. But from 2009, TKM also offer a TAG option. Rotax are more expensive initially but the engine runs longer between rebuilds, so the running costs can be less. The Rotax classes are the most popular at Buckmore and there are usually big grids. The TKM’s are at the economy end for initial purchase with strict price controls but in recent years there have been fewer and fewer entering BPKC events and we may not always have a grid. There are also other classes such as the new 125cc KF3 international class which race at National events and sometimes at club races too. Top speeds in the junior classes vary from 55mph to 75mph. The best advice here, as in all classes, is to visit your local circuit to see what is popular in your area.
The most popular senior class in the country is Rotax Max, but there are other options worth exploring at your local circuit. The once all-conquering TKM Extreme class is now only popular in certain areas, eg in the Midlands, and if you live in such an area it should be investigated. There are other TAG engines as well as Rotax, and TKM has a senior 4-stroke class. Once some experience has been gained there are further options for the premier international classes, raced primarily at the major championships. These KF2 classes use a variety of 125cc TAG engines, similar to Max. KF2 may well be seen at club level. They are restricted in maximum rpm for longer life. Senior classes top out at 85mph.
There are also classes for gearbox karts though, these are not run at Buckmore BPKC race meetings. Gearbox karts offer the highest powers and speeds. They can have either 2 pedals – brake and accelerator – like the direct drive classes, or 3 pedals, one of which is a foot clutch, like a car. Most 125’s use karts very similar to the direct drive karts except for the four wheel brakes. They have a hand clutch mounted next to the steering wheel, which is only used to move off from a standstill. At most circuits a standing start is used, as opposed to the rolling formation start that direct drive karts have.