Johannesburg - Late in 2015, Wheels24 published the inspiring story of Cape Town go-kart racer Thaqib Meyer - an 11-year-old who dreams of competing in Formula 1. Since then we've received many emails from readers inquiring about go-karting in South Africa and launching their children's career in the sport.
Wheels24 reader Riaan van Wyk says his family loves cars and all things vehicular. His son Christiaan began racing locally in 2015.
He says: "My son Christiaan achieved his highest marks at year-end (2015 - it was his first year of karting)", and boasts many more accolades for both his children in various sports and extra curriculum activities.
After some investigations (and some wrong decisions), our son started racing the beginning of 2015 and here is the information you would need to start karting on a budget (without making wrong decisions).
Van Wyk believes that "racing makes children more focused in various activities, including studies".
Van Wyk shares his advice on launching a career in go-karting in SA:
Two types of kart racing
There are currently two types of circuit kart racing, 2-stroke and 4-stroke.
Two-stroke is really expensive but being a more formal racing formula endorsed by MSA (Motorsport South Africa) it gives you the most competitive racing for kids. Children can race in various classes but I recommend this class if your child shows talent. Otherwise stick to 4-stroke; It is huge fun, safer (it is a bit slower than 2-stroke but not slow!) and really affordable.
Image gallery: Reader's cool SA go-karting pics
Currently there are two proper, well run 4-stroke series in Gauteng that I would recommend - SSS and F400.
For more information on how to get started, contact Riaan Van Wyk here.
F400 is the oldest 4-stroke series with great history, and SSS is a break away series from F400 that has grown to the biggest series in Gauteng (they have more classes). There are some fundamental differences between the two but both offer truly affordable racing for kids and adults and both are run with great enthusiasm.
Is your child involved in motorsport? Email us and we'll publish your story on Wheels24.
What are the costs involved?
For the kids, a good race-ready kart (second-hand) will set you back R15 000 (with a used engine) to R20 000 (with new engine). There are cheaper chassis available but it is not advisable as one component failure can mean "no parts" and a re-purchase to keep racing. It's better to purchase a karts that's three-years or newer.
Most second-hand karts available are in 2-stroke guise and since the power delivery is very different, the latest model chassis is needed to stay competitive in 2-stroke.
WATCH: Cape karting-kid dreams of F1 future
Four–stroke is different, as the torque delivery is more forgiving, the engines rev much lower and chassis is not that important in being fast. My son raced a 1-year-old 2-stroke chassis - I paid R12 000 excluding the engine - and with a new engine fitted, he won his rookie year championship in one series (F200) and was runner-up in the other series (SSS).
For F200 (part of the F400 series) you will need a Hoffmann 212cc 4-stroke engine. Various engine builders may be used which can reduce costs. All engines are dyno'd and sealed by one company, to ensure fairness.
The cost of the bare engine is currently less than R2500 (Yes, new!). De-restriction, dyno tuning and sealing will be around R1500 and a complete exhaust, engine mountings, green performance filter and clutch is another R3500 – Total costs: R7500.
Engines are serviced (oil only) after every race and should run problem free for a complete season. These are considerably faster than the 160cc engines (next section) and can run within 3 seconds a lap of 2-stroke Minirok and Maxterino classes!
The SSS series uses a Honda 160cc 4-stroke engine, and the base engine costs around R4000, with all the other costs mentioned above roughly the same. Only one engine builder allowed here though. Total cost: R9000. It requires the same servicing and durability checks. It's however a bit slower than the Hoffmann engine as mentioned.
Race entry is approximately R500 per race, NO licence is required and any motorcycle helmet (full-face) is accepted. Kids may race in jeans if they want to. This makes it very affordable. Optional is a racing suite (entry level starts at R1400), gloves (from R300), racing shoes (from R1000) and a neck brace (from R250).
Used tyres from the 2-stroke series can be used, and new tyres makes no sense as again with the different way 4-strokes perform, the benefit is not worth spending the additional Rand. Used sets are normally available free or at a nominal fee. For information, a new set of tyres will cost R3000 and is good for up to eight events including practice!
Running a 4-stroke kart is easy and you can manage it yourself (no clever mechanics needed) with a basic toolbox. One jet is allowed in the carburetor and only one gear ratio for all the tracks. So it's basically checking nuts and bolts, oil level and tyre pressures throughout the day - unless you have a little accident or breakage.
Each series has 10 events a year on the calendar, almost all raced at either Vereeniging or Zwartskops raceway both up in Gauteng. Both series speak to each other so there are no clashes on the calendar, so your kid can race in both series (use the same engine mounts, exhaust and clutch) with only a rear sprocket change for the different series.
This effectively means 20 racing events for the year for an initial investment of R25 000 (buying a used rolling chassis with two new engines (one Honda and one Hoffmann), a clutch, an exhaust, a filter and a single exhaust system) as well as R1500 per month (race entries for both series, fuel and admin ect) for 10 months.
At SSS there is also a 270cc class for bigger kids that cannot fit in the smaller chassis. Hoffmann engines are used and you can budget for R10 000 more initially for kart purchase. This class only races in SSS, so only 10 races a year are on the cards locally.
At 14, children may race the 390cc Honda engines with adults. Both SSS and F400 has Sprint events (30 lap races) as well as Endurance events (F400 has 4 races that vary in length and SSS has a single 6-hour race) where you can race on your own (not recommended) or have up to 4 team mates. It makes for very interesting racing!
F400 uses a different approach with a mildly modified engine (slightly faster than the SSS engine), while SSS keep things more standard. Different gearing is used (sprockets), but exhaust, clutch, base engine and mountings are all universal.
Again, here you can race both sides, and since SSS is running the Endurance and Sprint events on different race days, this means effectively 30 race weekends per year if you do all the sprints and endurance events. A good second hand kart and engine will set you back R25 000, while a rolling chassis with a new engine will cost about R32 000.
Code of conduct
Each series has a strict code of conduct (this is not oval racing...), properly formulated rules, good dyno and scrutineering procedures (to combat any form of cheating), strict safety regulations and no dangerous driving is allowed. After all, the idea is to be competitive and have fun at the same time.
Former SA 2-stroke champs race frequently, so your skills will be tested to the limit! Proper medical personal are always on duty at race days. My children have raced over 30 events during the last 18 months and no serious injuries have occurred.
On a final note, our racing started as a father and son activity, and soon my 8-year-old daughter was also in a kart and I race as well. It is an awesome family activity.
If you are interested...
F400/F200 is currently expanding, and I will ensure any interested party will be assisted in the purchase of a kart, setup and race readiness on a 'no labour fee' basis!
For more information on how to get started, contact Riaan Van Wyk here.
Yes, you only pay for the hardware / dyno / etc and we will help you get racing without charging extra (setup/installing engine / etc.)
We also have a camaraderie system where any new team / racer will be pitted next to an experienced team / racer who will offer assistance on race-day to get a new team / racer into the swing of things.
Come and watch our exciting day/night event at Zwartkops Raceway, outside Pretoria, on May 28 from 11am at the kart circuit.
More information will be available at the 'Welcome Centre'. Entrance is free for racers and spectators!