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TheDoctor

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  1. Introduction Praga Karts come under the IPK banner which also includes the Formula K kart brand and OK karts (not to be confused with the new OK engine class!) The Praga company itself is of Czech origin however the kart operation is run out of Italy. Prior to this season, I have experience of Tony Kart and Birel in KZ and soley Tony Kart in other direct drive classes. I’m not someone who changes kart manufacture every six months, I tend to stick with what I know. KZ is a class which enjoys a diverse grid with no one manufacture dominating. As such, there is a tonne of karts to consider including CRG, Tony Kart, Birel, IPK, Energy and Sodi. After much soul searching, I decided on the Praga. Praga do the normal offering of 30mm or 32mm chassis, I stuck with the obvious choice, the 30mm Dragon Evo. First Impressions When I collected my kart and saw it for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at what was included. Coming from a Tony kart where almost everything required to actually run the kart seemed to be an added extra for a premium price, the Praga was stacked out with goodies, more on that later. I don’t put much emphasis on how a kart looks, generally the frames look the same across most manufacturers. The Praga in the UK uses the FP7 bodywork which in my opinion is great to look at but from a performance perspective I’m not convinced is the best option for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into soon. Praga karts have an attractive sticker pack and livery, although I can understand that this may not be to some peoples tastes, but lets face it who cares so long as its fast! The most important first impression for me was actually watching a Praga on track at Fulbeck circuit in September of 2015. What struck me was how the rear of the kart was so stable through the slow corners. The traction zones which are so often the place where time is lost as drivers fight to lay down the power of the KZ engines seemed to be very comfortable for the driver. He was able to put the kart where he wanted and not be concerned about on power oversteer. What do you get? What don’t you get!? Would be an easier question to answer. Douglas Magnesium rims, IPK seat, KG chain guard, Exhaust mounts and cradles, all the seat stays, Dash mount. There is also a perfect place to mount a KZ airbox which some other manufacturers don’t provide. Praga have thought about these features, they aren’t an afterthought needing a particular bracket or mushroom clamp off eBay! What’s missing? There isn’t really anything missing, an actual air box mounting system would be useful, however I understand that it’s difficult to cater for every different brand. The kart It's going to be easier to talk about what I didn’t like about the kart while completing assembly, so that's where I will start. Firstly, the clutch cable routing is awful. The cable snags on the nassau panel brackets at even a small amount of steering angle. Frankly that isn’t good enough and needs a better system. You will need to drill the holes for the side pod and bumper mounting bars yourself. I appreciate that this isn’t beyond the ability of the normal kart mechanic however it feels like a way of saving money in the factory and it’s a frustrating step which should not be required. The seat post needed bending. I run a slightly larger seat that the standard (size 2) and the seat post needed moving a lot in order to get the seat into place. Again, not the end of the world but it was a job I didn’t enjoy. You also need to drill a hole and fit the fitting for the fuel tank return. Tony Kart don’t require you to do this and it’s another frustrating job. Below are a few points I noted during assembly. The kart features the new IPK camber castor adjustment system, you can make fine adjustments to the camber independent of the castor which is adjustable through different blocks, which of course cost extra. It’s a robust system, I don’t see a particular weakness in it and it didn’t adjust itself during use however its worth checking after every run. The only issue is that its very difficult to change ride height with the eight thousand small shims and washers which the system requires. After you’ve dropped these a few times you are ready to go back to the OTK system. However, once you get used to the system you can see the benefits and you find that with a certain technique its not too difficult to use. We will get some images of the Castor/Camber system soon, they were not fitted when these photos were taken. The gear linkage has numerous adjustment options, with a bracket which attaches to the column mounts. Height and distance from the driver are useful options which will keep even the longest limbed drivers happy. My biggest gripe is that with a TM engine fitted (KZ10C), the gear linkage is far too close to the bottom of the seat post. This means you need to control exactly where the engine sits more closely when changing gear ratios. This results in having to change the chain length often whereas before you would simply move the engine forward or backwards. If you are rushing to change the gearing this can be very frustrating. I’m not sure how this ended up being an issue with the Praga, it seems to be a critical oversight in the design. On track The first time I sat in the kart for a few shakedown laps I knew that overall it was a very driveable. That said, the front end of the kart was instantly responsive. On corner entry this can give the feeling of a pointy machine which may cause drivers to request less front grip. Of course, that statement is down to the individual driver style and preference. The main issue with this type of set up is that whilst you can put the front of the kart exactly where you want it, it can be too sensitive and this in turn will upset the rear end mid corner. Whether the overall stiffness of the kart is higher than others on the market is not clear however the feedback the driver gets while driving is higher than in any other kart I’ve driven. You can feel everything which is going on underneath you. This helps a lot when you are adjusting set up as there is always a clear difference felt with each adjustment. The negative of the above is that I feel the kart is very sensitive to different tracks, surfaces and changes in conditions. At some circuits the kart felt like it became an oversteering monster which destroys lap times, tyres and your own ego if you aren’t careful! This is the main difference from any other kart. If the chassis set up is not exactly where you require it, it seems to be on a knife edge and finding the limit can be very difficult. In the wet the kart I feel is excellent although again it’s a knife edge set up, if you hit the sweet spot all of a sudden everything becomes far easier. If you are slightly outside the optimal setup, you generally suffer with an initial understeer followed by poor rear traction. You’ve got to work on the chassis set up to get where you need to be. The brakes are also a cause for concern, in KZ a solid brake pedal is very important. Stopping from 90mph into a 2nd gear hairpin needs to be done with confidence. There seems to be an inherent problem with the brake fluid in these karts, it’s important to change the fluid often and ensure there is no air in the system. Once they are correct, they are as good as anything else on the market. Build Quality Bodywork, I was surprised how weak it was compared to Tony Kart, even a small bump could cause the nose cone to deform or be damaged beyond repair. I also don’t like the side pod bars, they seem to be far too tight for the mounting points. Even when they are held on with springs it’s not possible to have the bars set loose enough to not be affecting the chassis stiffness. Generally the kart is of good quality, it’s not up to the same levels of the Tony or Birel, however those karts are more expensive and while the fit and function of the components on the Praga are not any poorer, cosmetically they aren’t at the same standard. You don’t get magnesium parts as standard with Praga, perhaps there is something to be gained in this and it’s certainly a way of losing some weight off the kart if required. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on the front wheel bearings as I needed to change mine after one failed. It’s a cheap enough fix but it’s worth having some in your van as they are not a standard size and you’re unlikely to get any from the trader at the track. Summary I’ll be sticking with the Praga for another year in 2017, it has excellent potential but you need to put time and effort into learning the chassis in all conditions or speak to someone who knows the kart well. You need to stay fully on top of maintenance and not skimp on items such as brakes to ensure that you are always performing at the maximum. It is good to note that the kart is over £500 cheaper than the equivalent Tony Kart or Birel. For that reason alone you should take a look at a Praga, once you’ve given it a try I think you’ll find there is life outside of the normal brands.
  2. First Impressions This is a budget tyre pressure gauge, there is little doubt in that. It comes in a simple plastic formed package which I doubt would protect the gauge from any bumps during transit. Upon wrestling with the packaging for several minutes you feel quite happy with yourself once you proudly have the gauge in your hand and free from its vacuum formed prison. It is of a simple construction, a relatively small dial gauge with 1psi increments measuring from 3 to 60psi. There are also the normal 1-4bar measurements for those stuck in the pre-metric dark ages. There is a shock proof rubber outer, surrounding the all important dial which is designed to protect the unit in the eventuality that you have brain fade and drop it. How well this will protect it is yet to be seen as I haven’t had such a moment yet. The hose is around 1 foot long with a push fit air fitting at the end. General Use/Observations So, is this £8.40 gauge a match for the more higher prices options? The first thing any user will notice is the lack of a locking mechanism for the air fitting which may at first cause some disappointment, but if we are all honest, the locking devices very rarely work well and we all end up pushing the fitting hard against the valve in order to avoid leaks whilst measuring. The second missing item is an air bleed button. This is slightly more frustrating, its very difficult to bleed air down to the required pressure without this button. However you can develop a technique whereby you can slightly twist the air fitting away from the valve and thus bleed air very slowly and quite accurately. It is however slightly disappointing that the button is exempt from the assembly. The dial is large enough and well laid out for easy quick measurements, It's not the clearest gauge out there, but anyone with reasonable vision will manage fine. But how does it perform I hear you cry! Well we back to back tested the device against the most expensive gauge on the market the Rotax Precision Tyre Pressure Gauge. I was fully expecting a minor difference but one which is significant on track. I was pleasantly surprised that at a range of pressure settings up to 20psi down to 7psi the Kart Parts unit performed brilliantly, it was as accurate down to 1psi. The only reason I cannot comment that it is more accurate than this is because its dial does not measure down to decimals. For a unit which costs so little that is a fantastic performance! Summary Overall, this is a great buy for anyone on a budget, its compact, rugged, and accurate. What more do you really require? If you need memory or special features on a unit then you will of course have to spend more money. There isn’t a carry case or a large dial or digital read out. This is a low cost, budget, no nonsense pressure gauge. If you pay more, you may get longevity and some useful extra features but it won’t make you go any faster and wouldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? We will find out when we test other units fully but this gauge is everything you really need, cheap, good quality and accurate. Pros CompactAccurate compared to expensive versionsLess than £10! Cons Only measures in increments of 1psiLack of bleed buttonNo carry case included
  3. Lets do a direct comparison to Rotax from a perspective of a very competitive club racer.   Rotax Max - Tyres Dry £133.44 Tyres Wet £155.68 Engine (short) £1500 Engine Full package £2040.00 Full Rebuild £627.00 Top end only (piston and hone)£246.00   X30 Tyres Dry £130.80 Tyres Wet £142.80 Engine with carb (short) £1438 Engine Full package £2100 Full rebuild £????  Top end only (piston) £100.00 (plus a hone/bore)   (prices taken from Iame Uk and Spellfame.co.uk)   The unknown is what a full rebuild would cost, I will have to contact a engine builder for this cost. Other unknowns are carb kits and reeds which until the class starts running we don't know how often they need replacing.   Its a good direct competition class, will it taken over? maybe not in the short term, but its a very good alternative for people that like to have the chance to rebuild their own engines.
  4. There wont be any magic barrels that's the beauty of it. How I understand it and I could be wrong, you will be able to machine to a fiche so if you have a barrel that isnt as good then you will be able to machine it to the maximum fiche. Whereas Rotax you just have to keep buying parts
  5. It looks a great series with a proven (in europe) engine. Nice to see a proper kart engine again! Looking forward to having a run in one at some point!
  6. First Impressions: The packaging these wrenches come in is really nothing special, you don’t get any kind of protective plastic case that you may get with tools such as Clarke or Halfords. It’s a box, plain and simple. You quickly look past the packaging and toss it aside Beta are well known in motorsport circles and have long since been the tool supplier to none other than Ferrari. So the pedigree is there no doubt. The orange plastic handles are attractive enough and certainly make them easy to find in even the most disorganised toolboxes. But how do they perform? General Use/Observations: Lets start with the handles, whilst they appear to be quite bulky and easy to handle they’re strangely uncomfortable to hold and use. The plastic is hard which of course is bound to help with durability but also over time can cause discomfort whilst in use. The handles are labelled with the size of each wrench, in this particular set they are; 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm. Frustratingly the 7mm wrench which is used for OTK king pin bolts is not included in this set and had to bought separately. The large 8mm wrench used almost solely for the engine clamp bolts is very sturdy, little or no flex can be detected whilst in use and when posed with a overtightened foe the wrench is long enough in order to gain enough torque to tease out bolts tightened to death by the most over-zealous Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonating mechanics. The tips of each wrench are chromium plated to prevent corrosion, this appears hard enough and there are no signs so far of any premature wear. The larger tips seem to fit snugly in the sizes for which they are specified and only a small amount of movement can be detected even in worn bolt heads. There are however some small issues with these wrenches, firstly the handles stain with grime and oil. Whilst its something that over time will happen to any tool, the orange plastic handles seem to almost absorb the grease and oil and are difficult to clean. This for the enthusiastic mechanic who perhaps enjoys naming his spanners will cause irritation, for most normal sane people this won't be an issue. The handles are also an issue compared to a simple T bar when it comes to confined spaces. Take a sprocket carrier bolt for example, whilst the bolt should never be over tightened enough to require the wrench to be used at 90 degrees for more torque it can over time become difficult to remove and the handle in this position will allow very little movement and can often get stuck. You can quickly feel frustrated if this happens. The smaller wrenches do lack a robust feeling that is prevalent with the larger wrenches, there is a feeling that if you pull too hard it will snap in half. However once again if a bolt with a 2.5mm head is tight enough that you need to crank on the handle then its most likely been abused at some point. However the lack of confidence in the stiffness is a worry. Fitments of the smaller wrenches in the bolt heads is also slightly worse than the larger versions which leads to you closing your eyes in worry every time you attempt to loosen anything. Summary So are these tools up to scratch? Well they aren't as cheap as your Halfords or Machine Mart versions, but for the very small price difference they are a great mid range tool. If you don’t want to re-mortgage your house for a set of wrenches then these will tick the box. The lack of strength to the smaller wrenches is slightly disappointing and I do worry slightly that the fitments for the smaller sizes appears to be slightly poor also and may over time damage the bolt head or the wrench itself. A carry case would also have been a nice addition although I guess that's what toolboxes are for! Pros Overall QualitySolid tipsCorrosion Protection Cons Handle size can mean limitations in confined spacesAbsorb oil and greaseFlexibility and fitments of smaller wrenches
  7. First Impressions We’ve all been there, you’re just out on the rolling lap for the first heat of the day. Practice has gone well; you’re looking good for a win. Just need a nice clean day and you are in with a good chance. Down into turn one there is some pushing and shoving. Before you know it…BANG! Some clown launches you into the grass. The rear bumper takes receipt of almost all of the contact in karting, and so one of the most common jobs you will ever perform on your kart is to remove the rear bumper, and the bumper bolts. Alto gave in to popular demand and brought out a tool that answers all of our prayers. General Use/Observations The Alto tool features an ergonomic aluminium body, which fits neatly into your hand, and 'Alto' laser etched onto the surface. Two prongs are fitted on each end, one of which is for rotating the OTK camber/caster adjusters. Whilst this isn’t the most difficult job in the world, it’s useful that this in essence two tools in one. The opposite end of course fits into the collars which make up the bumper bolt assembly. Most people who don’t already have this tool will use a pair of vice grips or perhaps circlip pliers in order to rotate the collars. This operation works quite well, however it can result in either damage to the collar or to the tool you are using. The prongs fit quite solidly into the two holes on the collars however there is a tendency for them to slip out as it gets more difficult to rotate as the assembly tightens. Therein lies the most obvious problem with this tool, it doesn’t take away the requirement to fully rotate during the tighten/loosening process. A ratchet would have been a nice addition in this sense. It’s difficult to keep pressure on the tool whilst rotating 360 degrees; this could over time cause wear of the prongs. It also causes pain when you smash your knuckles against the nearest solid component. Having said all of the above, this tool makes installation so much easier and halves the time required to fit the bumper bolts over any other method. It’s also important to make sure the collars are tight to keep the bolts securely in the chassis, I have over the years seen bumpers come adrift with no evidence of impact. The castor/camber adjustment aspect of the tool, at first glance seems barely worth the £25, until you decide to rotate them whilst watching the adjustment on a set of alignment lasers. The tool allows you to spin the adjuster without having to move a hole at a time to measure the effects. It’s a useful addition. Summary The tool serves its purpose; there is no argument about that. What the customer needs to ask themselves is whether they really need it? Anything that makes a mechanic or long suffering skint father’s life easier has got to be a positive, especially when time is short and your vice grips have already worn away the finest Italian cheese of which the bumper collar is made. It also doubles up to help out when you need a fast camber adjustment! So where is the down side? The answer is: there isn't one. However it is a piece of aluminium with four prongs fitted. Manufacture of the item isn’t rocket science, someone with half a clue and a machine shop could produce a similar product. It would have been nice to see the implementation of a ratchet; I feel that would have made customers far more likely to stump up £25 for this item. That aside, most people don’t have a machine shop so cannot produce their own. For those people this tool is a solid addition to any tool box. Will it gain you the magic 0.2 seconds on track? No of course not, but it will aid what can be an annoying job if the bolts are bent or need to be replaced in a hurry. The price is fair; I feel there are far more expensive tools that are less useful on the market. Pros Quality pieceSimpleTwo tools in one Cons Lack of ratchet, device needs to be rotated 360 like a standard spannerCould be cheaply produced by the home engineer
  8. Sore, or paralysed 
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