TRYING OUT A 4-STROKE KART... WHICH DRIVES LIKE A RACING KART
All motorsport enthusiasts have driven rental karts at least once in their life: heavy vehicles, driven by low-performance 4-stroke engines that, although increasingly embellished and modernised, don’t offer what is known as a true "adrenaline rush". Obviously, they’re still fun, especially when you’re in a group of friends, but in the long run, for enthusiasts, the desire to try a racing kart with a high-performance 2-stroke engine is strong. The problem is that karts like that, which are more appealing, even aesthetically, require a significant budget, both in terms of purchase price and running costs. So, the end result is that lots of potential kart-driving enthusiasts give up, or that others, propelled by their enthusiasm, buy a vehicle, perhaps a used one, then put it in the garage at the first sign of a problem: it’s quite normal when you don’t have much time to invest in maintenance. Because, in truth, what you want is simply to start the kart, go out onto the track and enjoy a day where the only thing on your mind is driving.
Tillotson, a well-known Irish diaphragm carburettor manufacturer, designed the T4-C1 kart starting from this very premise. A vehicle equipped with a racing chassis and a 4-stroke engine which, thanks to Tillotson’s cooperation, TKART was able to try out on the legendary Pista Azzurra in Jesolo, an old-fashioned kart track and, according to all the drivers who have raced there, one of the most technical tracks in Italy.
However, the real feature that makes the T4-C1 kart similar to a traditional 2-stroke vehicle is the chassis, derived directly from a racing frame: a decision made to preserve as many of the same driving characteristics as possible. During the development of the chassis, explains Mark, Tillotson engineers concentrated on increasing its fluidity out on the track, aiming for, even in standard configuration, that which in jargon is called a "freer" set-up, eliminating the problems caused by excessive grip that would have ended up dissipating the power of the 4-stroke engine when exiting bends.
The frame consists of 30 mm diameter tubes, with a reinforcement that increases stress resistance and, therefore, durability. The chassis height is adjustable: at the rear end by using the slots on the flange "cassettes"; at the front end by inserting spacers above or below the stub axle.
At the front end, it is also possible to vary the caster and camber geometries using eccentrics that can be adjusted to 8 different positions. Compared to racing kart eccentrics that have 20 different positions, Tillotson opted to limit the number to help less experienced drivers avoid getting embroiled in the search for the best set-up, so that they might concentrate on driving. Talking of driving, following Mark's rapid illustration of the characteristics of the chassis, the time came to put on a racing suit, shoes, gloves, helmet and rib protection vest and get out onto the track. Please note: rib protection vest, too! Because, unlike a rental kart, the increased performance of the Tillotson kart requires protection to avoid blows to the ribcage resting on the seat when cornering and going over kerbs. The kart has a recoil starter which is simple to use. Once seated, the sensations are the same as those you get in the racing karts used in major international competitions. Out on the track, you immediately note the lightness of the steering, which, unlike a traditional rental, is precise and linear when preparing for a bend. Another positive note is the 225 cc 4-stroke engine that develops 15 hp: it, too, undoubtedly performs better than a rental kart engine. The difference is especially noticeable in the mixed section of the Pista Azzurra, where you have to partialise using the accelerator pedal to join the curves properly and allow the chassis to work more effectively, just like you would in a competition vehicle.
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