Oli Oakes

In 2005 Oliver Oakes completed a careers long ambition and became the 2005 FIA Formula A World Karting Champion in Braga, Portugal. Although moving from the Italian Manufacturing Giant, 'Tony Kart' in the 2003 season, Oliver and his Gillard PGB machinery managed to beat his long standing friend and teacher Davide Fore also Davide was a former team mate. With Oliver now competing at the highest levels of the single seater motorsport catagories, he still sees the Karting days as the way to giving him a head start in the motorsport world.

Getting into Karting

Like virtually every other young, aspiring racing driver, Oliver started his competitive racing career in the ranks of karting. With a myriad of different classes in the UK alone, let alone throughout Europe and the rest of the world, choosing where to compete can be a very difficult decision.

Do not go rushing off to buy the first Kart you see! Go to your nearest kart circuits and take a look at the classes that are racing. If you are big (greater than 6ft) and heavy (more than 13 stone) consider gearbox karts or one of the 'heavy' classes which some clubs offer, e.g. in Rotax Max.

Having viewed the options, and talked to drivers in the pits, decide upon which class is right for you. It is best to consider a well supported class so that no matter how fast or slow you may be there will always be someone to race with. Racing is all about mixing it with others. Small grids rarely give entertaining racing. Look in the magazines for local kart traders addresses, or in the small ads for used equipment.

Consider a kart racing course with a school which is approved as part of the ARKS system. A course will teach you more about the sport and the cost of racing in each class. You will also learn about driving technique and how to set up and maintain a kart and engine. It is ideal to attend a course before you make your final decision on which class to enter, and before making a purchase. The information that you will pick up in these areas will be invaluable.

Once you have decided to purchase or hire your kart some tools will be needed in order to maintain your kart correctly. Go practising several times before racing, particularly at the circuit you have chosen for your first race meeting. Then, unless you fall into one of the exemptions, you need to buy a 'Starting Karting' pack (£40 incl postage) from an ARKS school or from the MSA, Motor Sports House, Riverside Park, Colnbrook, Slough SL3 0HG (Tel:01753 765000). A licence application form is enclosed in the pack. If you are over 18 years old, you need to have the medical certificate on the licence form completed by your doctor. Then once you feel you have had enough practice, you need to book an ARKS driving test with one of the approved ARKS schools or a participating club. This costs £77 (incl VAT) plus the hire of any equipment. You must join a Kart Club. There are many clubs in the country. By joining an ABkC affiliated club you are then allowed to race at any ABkC club circuit, and participate in the ABkC national championships. If you are good enough to finish in the top fifteen (top nine in gearbox) you can use that seeded number for the next year. Some clubs have test days and offer special rates to members for these and race days. Apart from your kart you must have protective clothing which includes a crash helmet approved for racing, an approved racing suit (CIK homologated with embroidered number and year code found under the back of the collar), gloves and boots giving ankle protection.

Approved helmets include the BS6658 Type A (Blue Label) or Type A/FR (Red Label). (The Type B is not acceptable and neither are the EC22-05 standards often found in motor-cycle shops.) The Snell SA2000 and SA2005 are the current US standards and are acceptable. (The SA95 standard being over 10 years old is no longer allowed.) Snell K98 and K2005 are karting only standards, and are also acceptable.

Before racing an MSA sticker costing £1.20 from a MSA Scrutineer must be affixed to the right hand side. It is blue except for the karting only standards when it is a green sticker.

From 2007 the MSA also offers a Kart Clubman Competition licence. This costs the same £27 as the Kart National B, but can be applied for on the day of a race with no need for a medical or ARKS test. The club will carry out competency tests before you are allowed to race. A new Kart Tyro sprint race system has been introduced or alternatively Endurance Races must be a minimum of 60 minutes duration, with at least one driver change or re-fuelling stop. Engine power must not exceed 15bhp.

After you have your National B novice competition licence you will need to compete satisfactorily in five races and gain upgrade signatures from the MSA Steward. During this time your kart will have to use black number plates, and start from the back of the heats unless there is timed practice. After that you may keep your National B licence or apply for a National A licence. If you keep your National B, you must bring the licence or licences that have your five signatures to prove you are no longer a novice.

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