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The British University Karting Championship

 

Usually a large gathering of students would have me running in the opposite direction...fast, but thankfully Round 1 of the BUKC (British University Karting Championship) involved karts and that was enough to get me interested. It also raised a few interesting questions about the state of karting in the UK!

What is the BUKC? The BUKC is a series organised by Will Tew that brings together university teams from all over the country to compete over 5 rounds across the UK . We wanted to get the lowdown on the BUKC, and test drive one of the new fleet of Club100 karts used in the championship. So we got ourselves down to Whilton Mill to have a look.

Driving a Club100 with the BUKC

Club100, the suppliers of the karts for the championship, have just brought a load of Birel chassis to rejuvenate their fleet. Mounted on the chassis are detuned air-cooled TKM BT82 2-stroke engine (as used in Formula TKM). The ultra hard compound Bridgestone YDSs are the choice of tyres.

 

bukc club100 karting

 

Having watched the old fleet of Club100 karts across the country, I have never really been too excited about them as karts, even though I am a fan of the concept. They are a fantastic place to get your toe in the water if you're looking to get into karting however. So when jumping into the new Birel chassis Club100 I wasn't expecting too much, but I was quite excited about the hard compound tyres they were using.

They don't have clutches, or starter motors, it's just bump and go! Considering that this is one of the most popular forms of karting in the country, it is quite bizarre that while the rest of the world thinks TaG is the answer to attracting new people, it appears that for Club100 it isn't a problem at all.

 

bukc club100 karting

 

So what are they like to drive? The chassis are new, and still relatively straight, which means they are all pretty consistent. But shockingly, these karts lean towards the 'great' era of karting. The karts use the central pin on the steering column so the steering geometry isn't like modern karts, and the tyres are rock hard. You actually have to drive them oldskool style. That means making the kart work for you. You have to work the wheel hard to get the thing to turn, and use the brakes hard to slow the kart down.

The tyres are simply fantastic. Who needs grip? The way you as a driver have to maximize the grip available makes for such a satisfying experience.

The engines are vastly underpowered, but of course they have to be. Longevity, and reliability are key for Club100 to turn over a profit. Any more power wouldn't really be suitable for new karters. What concerned me was this - I was driving a suped up hire kart thinking 'this is way better than most of the other karts available to go race proper'. Surely that isn't right? I should be thinking the opposite! For what they are, the karts were just great!

 

bukc club100 karting

 

The BUKC

I was out with the Club100 lads/lasses on the pre-race test day. Of course there were many new people to the sport who took sometime getting used to the karts, but that's understandable, we've all been there. However, on the flip side there were some top quality drivers, many of whom have raced karts and cars at a high level. There were plenty of kart branded suits and flash lids. On the test day before the race there must have been around 200-300+ students who were in attendance. It was phenomenal, and many of these students were totally new to karting. It was very exciting seeing so many drivers out there karting for the first time.

 

bukc club100 karting

 

Race day format is quite simple. There are some individual team sprint races, and then some team endurances. If I were a student, this is the sort of thing I would love to be doing instead of some boring studying! The atmosphere was very hectic, yet exciting.

The races themselves were very clean, and the students certainly got plenty of laps under their belts. Mind you, there were a few anxious moments when the rain clouds opened. Club100 only uses slicks, so when it rains, you're out there on your own, with slicks, on a wet track! Fun....and somewhat slidey stuff!!

The fabulous championship has been going from strength to strength over the last few years, but what is puzzling is the lack of support from major kart manufacturers/dealers. We continually hear moans that people aren't interested in karting anymore, yet there are literally hundreds of people involved in things like the BSKC/BUKC . It appears, on the surface at least, that zero effort is made on the behalf of the karting establishment to get involved and encourage 'proper' karting to these racers. Personally, I would like to see an organisation like Tal-Ko offering special deals, and test days with displays at each round for Formula TKM. Surely 200-300 students with loans to spend irresponsibly is too tempting to miss!

But enough of complaining about the woes of karting! The BUKC looks to go from strength to strength this year. If your at a University that hasn't yet got involved with this awesome championship head over to www.bukc.co.uk for more details.

Alan Dove - 11/02/08