Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Do Kart Enduros Work?

Kart enduros are team events. Unlike individual races where you are ultimately responsible for all your decisions, everything you do during a kart enduro is designed to help the team. I did a quick write-up and put together a helmet cam video of my first kart enduro here. Today we are covering kart enduros in more depth.

Early battle for position
First, the Rules
In nearly identical karts all weighing the same, driver weight is crucially important. To take out any weight advantage, all teams participating in a typical enduro are weighed before the event. If needed, karts are assigned weights designed to equalize the total weight between teams. After the drivers’ meeting, all teams go out for warm up/qualifying laps over a period of 15-20 minutes and the best qualifying time from any of the team’s drivers decides the team’s grid order. The karts have enough gas for the entire race but there are 7 mandatory pit stops for driver changes over a typical 90-minute race. There is no upper or lower limit on the number of laps that everyone on the team must do.

Game Plan for the Pit Stops
Pit stops can take significant amount of time, which requires driver changes to be synchronized perfectly. For example, our team talked through the game plan and decided the sequence of shifts and how the pit stops would run: as soon as the kart comes to a full stop, the non-driving team member pulls the driver out of the right side of the kart, the team member going in helps push the driver from the other side of the kart, immediately jumps into the kart and hits the throttle before he’s even fully settled in. The other two team members push the kart until they can no longer keep up with it. When executed perfectly, the entire driver swap takes just two seconds. Take that, Formula 1 pit crews!

The view from the One Hot Lap helmet cam

My First Enduro Race
15 teams competed in F1 Outdoors' 90-minute karting enduro in East Bridgewater, MA this October. Our team's drivers were One Hot Lap scribes Larry, autocross driver of the year Mark (also of Little Dating Car fame) and me. Our team qualified fourth on the grid in our first enduro. Since I was the heaviest on our team (I admit it’s not all muscle), I make a pretty good tire warmer. And since I also have a lot of experience with karting and dealing with traffic (meaning I am good at blocking faster drivers), I asked to do the first stint. Our kart was relatively slower in a straight line but handled well, which made diving into turns for a pass very enticing. All 3 of us ran consistently clean laps and our lap times got gradually better as the karts deposited more rubber on the pavement and we managed to find ways to squeeze a tenth of a second out of the kart here and there. We often traded positions with other teams - they would pass us on the straight and we’d get them back in the turn. Over 90 minutes of racing, we were able to pick up one position and moved up from fourth at the start to take a podium finish. Not bad for our team’s historic outing at the enduro!

Our helmet cam was mounted high for better view

Club Events
It’s worth mentioning that the event organizers are much more lenient in club events. Stern warnings and some penalties were given when needed but there were no excessive penalties. Overall, the event ran smoothly and the race flowed very well. You will get the best treatment that promotes good racing from the stewards only in a club event where there is mutual respect between the drivers and the organizers are aware that driver skill is fairly high.

Cost Per Seat Time AND Camaraderie
When I compared autocrossing to track driving and karting here, I went on record to say that “Based on cost per seat time and thrill, karting cannot be beat.” I’d have to revise that statement to read that “Based on cost per seat time, thrill, and camaraderie, karting enduros cannot be beat.” I am adding my club’s kart endurance event to my 2012 driving calendar. You’d be wise to do the same.

Note: Most of the content in this article was originally published in my Boston Bimmer November/December column (p.18).