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Karting, as opposed to go-karting which is undertaken at fairgrounds, on the end of seaside piers etc, is an exciting and rewarding form of motor sport. Compared with other disciplines within the motor sport fraternity it is a relatively cheap way to motor race, at least to begin with. At the outset most people looking to start buy second-hand equipment to get a foothold in the sport and upgrade their outfit in stage, as they become more ambitious and competitive.

 

In order to race karts in the UK it is necessary to belong to a kart club that stages events, and as a serving member of the forces joining the Royal Air Force Motor Sports Association (RAFMSA) fulfils that requirement. It is also a requirement to hold a competition licence issued by the national controlling body. The RAFMSA provides a common and structured organisation in which members and the RAF mutually benefit. From the constitution the primary object is " to promote the efficiency of the RAF by providing an opportunity for members to participate in motor sports, thereby encouraging mechanical proficiency and physical endurance." The RAFMSA is affiliated to the sports national governing body, the controlling authority for the majority of motor sports activity in the UK.

 
   

From the 1960s karting has been a well supported sport in the RAF, its attraction amongst the mechanically skilled fitters, in times when ingenuity and self-help were important attributes, was high. On the overseas stations in Germany and Cyprus the clubs provided recreational and social centres in the remote service communities, and interest kindled there was often continued on return to the UK. Today karting has become more sophisticated, and although the early skills are still important; the class rules have changed to ensure that less mechanically able drivers are not disadvantaged.

Karting has evolved from the early days of lawnmower engines on home made chassis to the present day where engines are either motorcycle units adapted for karts or purpose built racing engines specifically for karts. Chassis are not allowed any form of suspension and so are designed and constructed from high quality steel alloy normally with some spring characteristics. There are many different classes of karting but they all fall into one of two general groups:

   
   

Class one karts are single cylinder with no gears. These range from the 60 cc air-cooled engine cadet class for racers as young as 8 yrs old, to 125 cc water-cooled senior classes. Class one karting takes place on purpose built "short circuits" all over the country, and the RAFMSA has a very long and close association with Rissington Kart Club; a civilian club that maintains a fantastic short circuit on the airfield at RAF Little Rissington.

   

Class four karts are generally powered by adapted motorcycle engines and have gearboxes. These race on both "long and short circuits", long circuits being the tradition motor racing venues used by cars eg: Brands Hatch, Silverstone etc.

Currently the competitors within the RAFMSA are predominately in class one.

   

Each year a representative team is selected from the members to compete in events at home and abroad. This year for example the team has raced on the Isle Of Man in the Manx Grand Prix, in September they will take on the challenge of the Guernsey Hill Climb and track meeting and visit Cyprus in October to race against teams from the Forces stationed there and local drivers. At home the RAF individual championships at Little Rissington were contested at the beginning of July and to wind up the season an endurance event is planned at Llandow in South Wales mid December.

   

Another form of karting is gaining popularity around the country in the form of "Fun Karts". These are lower powered machines that are often run on indoor circuits run by leisure businesses on a turn-up-and-drive basis. Not having to buy and maintain your own equipment makes this form of karting available and attractive to many people. It also stimulates interest in the sport and serves as a stepping-stone to the more serious and competitive side later on.

Several Stations in the RAF have fun kart facilities operating.


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