What good are spec classes?

2010

… an opinion

When I started karting, I looked at it as a fun, supposedly, inexpensive way to race, and I thought, and still think, that karts are a blast. But, after racing a few different classes, I’ve had some further thoughts on the low cost addage, and especially the promotion of spec classes. Also, I lament the apparent death of the open classes, as this is where you should see the radical dual engine fire breathing, axle twisting, insane race karts.

There is the misconception that spec classes save money. There’s as much truth to that as anything that comes out of a politician’s mouth. What spec classes do provide are close competition (hopefully). The Yamaha class is perhaps the prime example. The rules don’t allow any grinding of the ports, and Yamahas don’t all have identical ports as cast. What this means is that there are “fast” motors, and there are slow motors, and you aren’t allowed to make mods to make equal motors. There is the other problem of Yamaha making changes in the production lines, which means that the “old” motors may have an advantage over the “new” motors. To allow equality, the rules should allow the ports to be ground to even the playing field. Sure this adds $150 to the cost of the motor, but you don’t have to buy 5 $600 motors to find 1 good one. The 100cc controlled class does allow this, but the new motors come out every 6 years, but $1000 for a new motor every six years isn’t too bad.

The spec class makes the competitors spend more $ trying to get the extra edge. There are people running new sets of tires every race, whether this is an advantage or not is debatable, but it becomes real expensive, but if you want to run up front, you’ll plan on spending the $. There are spec tire rules that are supposed to save $, because the hard tires are supposed to last longer. In our region we run YBN’s, the last a long time, but are competitive for about 3 races, the same as for the medium sticky tires. The only thing the YBN rule has done, has made a market for the local chassis builders who build special YBN chassis.

And how much does this affordable racing cost? Lets look at a Yamaha kart, and plan a 6 race series, and we want to be competive.

New chassis $2000
Blue printed motor $1000
Engine gauge $300
Gears chains $200
Clutch and engine mount $500
Pipes, headers, flex $500

..say $4500, but what are the costs of the six races? 3 sets of tires, $500, engine freshen up after 3 races, $100, engine rebuild after six races $300, so on top of entry fees, travel expenses, etc, you’re looking at $150 a race, say your expenses are $100 a race, thats $250 a race.

What I’ve realised is that if I want to be competitive, I can’t think about the $, if I care about the $, but just want to have fun, I can pick up a used kart and engine for $2000, and figure $250 for 2 sets of tires, and a new piston and ring for the tired old motor. I won’t win, but I’ll have fun. And if the class is big enough, I’ll have some people to race against, this is the fun part.

The open 100cc sprint classes are dead, the only classes where one can be creative is with the shifters. And the shifters on a short track limit what can be done with the motor as far as driveability goes. But no one seems to mind having stock appearing motors with the shifters. I think if the 100cc classes are to survive, they need to consolidate, and allow some creativitiy.

If the desire is to keep speeds down, then run smaller engines, not restricted engines. How about an 80cc class, or even a 60cc. If someone made crank cases, you could use Motocross cylinders, heads, cranks, and pistons and build some relatively inexpensive, water cooled motors.

But nobody wants or knows how to be creative anymore. We want, or allow (speaking for society, not me) our politicians to pass laws to protect us from ourselves, and thus give up our freedoms. I’ll stop before I go into uncontrollable rant and rave mode, but you get the point.

I gotta go to lunch, but I’ll send some more additions time permitting.

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