If you want to progress in your racing career, you have to keep taking steps.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- Why fitness is so critical to your racing success (AGAIN!)
- About some new opportunities here in the Northeast for amateur racers
- An introduction to the DR Kart/Briggs 206
- How surprisingly affordable the next step of your racing career will be
- Why the Briggs 206 is the next logical step for your driver development program
Intro: Welcome to the Racer’s HQ Podcast, where it’s not about being a racing driver but learning how to become a racing driver. Here’s your host, Matt Covert.
Matt: Yeah, hey guys, thanks for joining me. Matt Covert here from Racer’s HQ. This is going to be the 10th episode. That’s all very exciting. I feel like the number 10 is definitely a notable number for one reason or another, so that’s pretty cool. And that fits perfectly with what’s about to happening today on this podcast because it was about a week-and-a-half ago, or it will be by the time this episode airs, my total perception of performance driving has been shaken to its core. I’ll tell you what, I have a really crazy story to tell you guys. By the end of this episode, we’ll have talked about the next step for serious auto-crossers. I know I teased that in the last episode and I totally stand by that. There are some big changes coming to the amateur racing scene here in the northeast from the sound of things. I’ve been talking to some pretty big influencers here in the industry, in the northeast. And I hope that you’re around here because there are about to be some really cool things that happen. We’ll come back to that in a minute, but man, do I have a story for you guys.
Let’s consider who I am for a second, okay? I’ve been in high-performance driving for 8 or 9 years now and, of course, everybody probably knows by now, I started in professional stunt driving and I eased my way into racing, and now I’ve got this really cool Racer’s HQ brand thing. I am no stranger to performance driving. I made my living on it for quite a while. I know it was yesterday—I know I said the episode would air later than this—but it was actually yesterday because I’m actually recording a couple of episodes right in a row here. Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day at the F1 outdoors kart track. And we ran the full Daytona circuit. It was really fast, it was really crazy. And I was there with the DRT racing team and I just have to start by giving a huge, huge, monumental “thank you” to Tom Clark who runs the racing program down there. And these guys are a big deal, let me just elaborate on that for a second.
It was funny because they pulled in. And, of course, we met everybody and all this other stuff, we did the paperwork. And I was there because I had worked a deal with Tom Clark to be in one of their shifter cars for the day. And it was just an open practice session, there was no race. But I was really excited about it. It was my first experience in a shifter car. And I was just looking forward to it so much. These guys are a big deal. I didn’t know it at the time but these guys are preparing for a really big race, which is going to be this weekend. And there were a ton of international drivers there. This was a big deal. We were talking shop and Tom, he says to me, “Oh, yeah, we just flew in one of the guys from Jamaica. He’s going to be practicing today for the race on Saturday.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s really cool.” Turns out this was actually Colin Daley, I think that’s how you say it. This guy is sponsored by Red Bull. This guy is a big deal, very cool guy. I know he has aspirations to end up in Formula-1. I know they’re pushing to get him in the Formula-1 feeder program so best of luck to him. I know they’re all going to Vegas soon to race at the Super National whatever it is out there, so best of luck to all you guys. I can’t believe I got to spend the afternoon with this race team. It was amazing. As soon as I realized that my shifter car I was going to be driving for the afternoon was coming out of the same trailer as all these other really crazy guys, I was like, oh my gosh, this is a big deal. And it kind of went from there.
So, you know, I met everybody, I did all the paperwork and everything, and I got my suit on, all that stuff. And I get kind of a lowdown on the car. And I think it was one of the other semi-pros, Tyler—I can’t remember his name, Tyler something or other—he went out and shook the kart down just to make sure everything was working, it was all very cool. So I get the last minute instructions, and all the stuff, the data acquisition that’s on the kart, right. So I hope in and I take off. I’m going out, pull out onto the front straights. It’s just me, there’s no one else out there at the moment, and I go around turn one and then I really start to get on it. And as soon as I start going into the second turn, with a lot more speed, I was like, “Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?” I had absolutely no idea how amazing and impossible and ridiculous and absurd these shifter karts truly are. And we’re going to talk about that a little bit today but I want to make sure that we’re talking about from the standpoint of the next step for you serious auto-crossers. I don’t want to forget to come back to that. So let me just make a side-track into auto-cross for a second. I still wholeheartedly believe, because this is what I did when I was moving into racing, auto-cross is the absolute, number one, best place to start your racing career. Hands down, no question about it. There is no better place to learn vehicle dynamics, high-performance car control, and all the great little things that are littered throughout my website. That’s the place you can go and learn and apply all these things into your racing program. It’s amazing. You need to find the upper limit, no problem. You do it, you push the car too far, you’re in an oversteer, you lose it, you hit a cone, you’re in the middle of a parking lot, and that is not a problem for anyone. It is the best place to learn, I completely maintain that.
And, like I said in the last episode, there are a lot of great hobby drivers who stay in auto-cross for the rest of their lives. And those drivers are amazing. Those are the guys who can go out and win national events and I don’t know why auto-cross isn’t a bigger deal. The national-level driving is off the charts. There was like two more podcast episodes right there in that sentiment, so I’m going to reel myself back in here. But one thing you are not going to get in auto-cross, and this is very important if you have aspirations to move onto something else later on, I don’t care if you want to end up in the Pirelli World Challenge or of you just want to be a club reacher or if you want to the SCCA Major Series. To do any of those things, and I totally believe you can, if that’s what you want to do, you will get there if you do all the right things, but in auto-cross, you will not learn how to play well with others on a racetrack. And I think we can all agree that is something you’re going to have to do if you want to move up to some other kind of series. It’s my firm opinion that the next step is kart racing. And I will tell you right up front, it is not shifter kart racing.
Let’s go back and talk about that for a second. So here I am, going into turn two, I am probably using only 40% of the shifter kart’s ability at this point. And, by the way, I want to make sure that I include that DRT race team uses exclusively the DR Karting brand for their chassis and I can see why. It is an international winning kart chassis. The guy who designed a lot of the CRG karts, worked for CRG for 15 years, he is the one who started DR Karting. And they are winning in Europe and Italy. And they’ve been in the states for quite a while and that is all they do and I can see why because this machine was completely off the chain. So I’m glad I got that in there. Going into turn two, it was ridiculous. I had no idea that race driving could be so physically challenging. Let me just take another sidebar here. If you know anything about my brand, you know that I am very proud of being hyper-fit. I truly am. I love—right now I am doing Shaun-T’s Asylum, which is pretty much the craziest thing you can get over-the-counter as far as fitness goes, and I was very pleased to find out that throughout the afternoon, most of my muscle groups stood up very well to the challenge. We’re talking about two-and-a-half or three G’s of forces. And if you’ve never experienced them, there isn’t really a good way I could explain it to you. There’s one long bowl corner at F1 outdoors and going around the last part of that, when you’re pushing really, really hard, it feels like you’re just shy of passing out. And it was all I could do to lift my head up, and my eyes up, to look ahead into the next corner to see what was coming up. It was that challenging. And, like I said, I’m very pleased that I held up physically as well as I did. My back is fine, my core is fine, my triceps are fine. Man, there is a lot of tricep action in kart racing. My legs are a little sore, which is crazy, because you’re just sitting there but they’re fine too. My shoulders are good. The only things that really were a hindrance to me were the level of fitness in my forearms and my hands, as well as the endurance in my neck. Can you imagine trying to hold your head up all afternoon in a shifter car that does 3 G’s? you probably can’t if you’ve never done it. And I know a lot of people, they talk about, “Oh, I’ve done indoor karting and all that stuff,” next level. It is so next level that your mind would be completely blown if you do it. What an amazing experience. If you ever get a chance to drive a shifter kart, you absolutely have to take it. It is the most chaotic, terrifying, and ridiculous thing I have ever done in my life. It was absolutely incredible. And if you ever hear of anyone saying that racing drivers are not athletes, send them to this episode, which is going to be at racersHQ.com/podcast10 and if they still don’t believe you, send them right to me so I can punch them right in the face because they have no idea what they are talking about. It’s absolutely amazing.
So that was really cool to find out exactly how challenging driving a shifter car can me. And I’m actually really excited to have found those weaknesses in my fitness program because, I think I mentioned before, I am planning on running a full kart season next year along with an auto-cross season. Yes, I am going Mark Donohue style and squeezing in as much racing as humanly possible across the multiple series. Although, I guess if I was Mark Donohue, I would be racing 12 different series and completely burn myself out, and win everything at the same time. But I’m just going to be pulling doubly-duty here with the New England region SCAA, as well as—I’m not going to reveal what racing series I’m hoping to run in the kart. I’m not quite ready for that yet.
So I learned all about the fitness aspect, which is completely amazing. By the way, if you want to see some of the—I had a GoPro camera on my helmet and I’m glad I did because the footage is just completely amazing—if you want to see that, you can just go to racersHQ.com/kartfootage. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll call that kartfootage and you can just go there to watch that. It’s really cool.
So I think I said it before and I’m going to say it again, if you don’t have any racing experience—and I’m talking about myself as a pro stunt driver and auto-cross guy who’s in position to win his first auto-cross championship in his first racing season, which is really cool—if you’re not in that position, you do not need to get in a shifter car because it will overwhelm you and you will hate it. I promise you, you won’t like it, there’s too much going on all at once.
This is funny, this is something that Tom and I talked about yesterday, of course he deals with a lot of retail business and people coming in and wanting to get into racing, everyone wants the shifter car because it’s the fastest thing out there. Of course we want that. We want to go fast, that sounds really fun. But I promise you, just from talking to him, and having done it yesterday, and having talked to a bunch of other guys, I know that shifter kart racing sounds really manly but you need some prior experience first. And you need to have an incredible, unmatched fitness level. And I say unmatched, just from the, maybe not at a national level but something that you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, “All right, I have almost zero body fat, I don’t lift heavy weights at the gym because that’s basically useless in racing,” you need endurance muscle, you need to be able to work your muscles for an hour straight. And I was pleased that I was able to do that, except for, like I said, my neck muscles and my hands. My hands were basically exactly the same as John Lennon said at the end of Helter Skelter so leave me a comment if you know what I’m talking about there. We’ll just move on from there I guess.
I know it sounds manly. Don’t buy the shifter kart unless you have experience because, I promise you, the only experience you will have is sheer embarrassment. I am a very talented driver. I am, by no means, the best one in the region yet but I could only come between 4 and 7 seconds of Colin’s best lap. He was absolutely on the next level. I cannot even believe how fast these guys are. And I’m glad he’s got support from Red Bull, and DRT Racing, and all those other things. He is going to have an amazing career and you need to follow him. And I’m kind of hoping—I don’t want to reveal too much but—I’m hoping to either have him on the podcast or in the magazine. We talked about the magazine last week. Yes, there will be a digital magazine that will be released by Racer’s HQ by the end of the year. And we’ll move on from that right now into something else.
Let’s see here. Now that you know that the shifter kart racing is way more insane than you ever thought possible, that’s probably a good segue into something that I am extremely interested in right now, something that Tom Clarke from DRT Racing and I talked about this quite a bit yesterday while we were at the track, and I am very, very excited about it. Let’s talk about a particular type of kart racing called the Briggs 206 chassis. Let’s make a couple quick comparisons here. I was driving a ROK 125 shifter car. The maintenance on these things is out of control. Turn around, it’s a new top end, you’ve got to put the tires on, you’ve got to do this, do that, you’re breaking stuff. You’re driving around ad 3 G’s. You have to have someone, a full-time guy, with you to maintain the kart on these. It’s crazy. While we were there, one of the French guys blew up a motor. And within half an hour they had another motor on the car ready to go again. They had 6 motors for crying out loud. But it’s that kind of commitment that you have to have if you’re going to be competitive in something like that. In addition to that, the cost to acquire a car like this, something that’s competitive, you’re probably talking about 12 to 13-grand. That’s a pretty big investment for amateur racing, let alone all the upkeep of all the things you’re going to break from all the forces.
So let’s talk about the Briggs 206 chassis for a second. I’m sorry, it’s not a chassis. The Briggs 206 is an engine transmission combination. So, of course the ROK is a shifter, it’s a two-stroke. The Briggs is a really interesting thing, it is actually a four-stroke engine, which I think is really cool. It doesn’t have any gears so it’s like a centrifugal type of transmission, kind of like a snow mobile would be. And you hop on it, you wail on it, and it just goes faster and faster because the bands and all those complicated things inside the transmission are just changing ratios for you so you can basically focus on doing whatever else you want. No shifting required, very cool. The neat thing about four-stroke engines is that the maintenance required on them is almost non-existent. Two-strokes need a lot of attention, especially in the top end. You’re always putting things into a two-stroke motor. A four-stroke motor can last for a very, very long time with the same parts involved. Tom and I talked about it for quite a while and he’s adamant that you can get two full racing seasons out of a sealed engine transmission combination from Briggs. That is out absolutely incredible. The maintenance on a 206, apparently, is almost nothing. So that’s going to keep your cost way, way down, which I love. And I’m very adamant at this point, having worked with DRT Racing and having been on a DR chassis, and I’ve read up all about these DR karts, that is the place I’m going. I am adamant about having a DR kart for the next racing season. It is the best thing that is around here in the region, hands down. Along with that—they have the best chassis—but they have the race team that goes up to the national level. They’re bringing the guys in like Colin and Tyler. They’re doing the semi-pro racing thing. They are sitting on a goldmine of incredible business model that no one else is doing around here and I’m sure that it is going to explode.
So let me just give you a couple quick more points about the 206 before we move on because there is something that, there is a culmination of this, I do have a large point at the end about the direction of amateur racing here in the northeast. But let me just continue for a second. If you know anything about me or my website—and I say that all the time, I say it’s this one thing, well I’ve said it like a dozen times now so apparently there are a lot of things to know about me and my website—but one of them is that I love the idea of increasing driver skill over throwing money at stuff. Money is an easy way to fix a problem until everyone catches up. The best driver is going to win so you want to focus on driver skill over the amount of equipment you have, or the type of equipment, or however many backups, or whatever it is you have. This is something I love about street class auto-cross, which is where I race with the BRZ, because it allows people to focus on driving instead of throwing parts in the car. It’s sort of like spec racing but even in street class, you’re allowed to make several modifications. The Briggs 206 is becoming a pretty popular replacement for the world formula kart, which is a little bit more expensive to run. It’s so much cheaper to get a Briggs. And we’ll come back to that too in a second but the Briggs 206 is a spec kart. There is no question about it. You have to run a certain set of tires, there’s probably only a small handful of jets if you’re allowed to change them at all, the engine transmission are sealed, you cannot go inside them or you’ll be disqualified. It’s extremely simple. All you have to do, and there are some minor adjustments you can make to the suspension or whatever like that, minimal tuning required. You hop on and you go and you focus on driver skill. It’s not quite as intense as a shifter because it is a centrifugal type clutch and transmission, like we talked about earlier, and I am fine with that. I could not believe how far I had to think ahead to get all of my shifts in the right place, and all my braking points, and put everything together. And even after an afternoon of racing, I was probably only using 80% of the kart’s ability. That is blowing my mind right now. Such a neat machine, I could talk about it all day. But I promise I won’t do that here. In comparison, the Briggs is a bit more manageable. There’s less going on, there’s no shifting, it only has rear brakes because it doesn’t reach the breakneck speeds that the shifter car does, but I promise you it’s still very, very fast.
So this spec kart, and again it’s the Briggs 206 class, and I am adamant about having a DR chassis under it—that’s kind of what I’m hoping to do next year—it’s so much lower than you are thinking about right now. I know I said 12, 13K, we’re talking 12, 13K for the shifter, we’re talking about maybe a third of that. And I’m not going to say any more than that because, like I said, I don’t have the actual facts in front of me and I don’t want to misquote something.
I am really excited about this kart because it is all about improving driver skill and that’s the way it is with a centrifugal-type transmission. If you lose your momentum, lose your speed, you’re done. It takes forever to get it back because there’s no gear to drop down to. You have to wait for the speed to come back. It’s all about thinking ahead and being perfect and I love that. It puts all the drivers on exactly the same playing field because you can’t go out and buy a $15,000 motor to crush everyone on the straightaways. It evens the playing field and it’s a lot like the IROQ series from the 90’s, where they had all these equal cars and the world’s best drivers at Daytona, seeing who would win. It was a very cool series so I always liked that.
So Tom and I talked about the direction of DRT racing, and the company, and my company, and all kinds of neat things. And one of the things we talked about was his hope to expand the 206 program in the coming years. And I completely understand why because, like I said, it’s the best way to enter, I think, kart racing. And like I said earlier, kart racing seems to be, in my opinion, the next step up for the auto-crosser. You need to learn how to be able to play nice with people. And the investment is extremely small. And I know people are saying, “I don’t have $4,000,” but what are you auto-crossing right now? Is it a 2008 Mazda Miata, okay, well you could have paid 12K for that. Oh you got that Z06? Yeah, we’re not even going to talk. I have a BRZ, we’re talking 17, 18K. That is so much more than your investment required to get into a 206. To get into something that is going to teach you the next level of racing. And the 206 goes all the way up to the national level. You could stay there for the rest of forever if you wanted to. You can also use it in multiple series. You can just change the—it’s some type of governor or restrictor, depending on what class you’re in—you can just swap those out, boom, you’re in a new racing class. Boom, you want to move up, all right, the smaller restrictor. You can move up to the national level in a 206. This is something I’m really excited about. And I think Tom is right to hope for the expansion of that. I know that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Cayman Raceway in New Hampshire were tossed around, just in casual conversation. I don’t know what direction that is going, I am going to push for it really hard, and I can’t reveal too much about what’s going on, but there’s a very healthy relationship happening between me and DRT Racing right now, so I am hoping to play some role, with my brand, in the expansion of the 206 package in the upcoming season. I can’t get into it more than that, we will come back to it at some point.
So if you are that serious auto-crosser and you’re looking to take the next step to get to the next level, I don’t want you to leave auto-cross behind. I love how grassroots the sport of auto-cross is. But there’s so many things you need to learn if you want to progress, and move out, and go into club racing, and hit the SCAA majors, and maybe make the runoffs, and from there it’s really not big a jump to the Pirelli World Challenge. I’m just saying you can do it but there are things you need to learn and that’s why the 206 is where you’re going to want to be. And I hope, like I said, I hope you’re here in the northeast because I think there is something that is going to be really amazing that happens here in the next couple years. That’s what I’m going for.
Again, if you want to watch the shifter car footage, it’s really fun. You can check that out, it’s in the show notes at racersHQ.com/podcast10. And I think that’s pretty much all I wanted to say about that. I cannot believe how amazing my experience was at F1 Boston with Tom Clark. Again, thank you so much to Tom Clark for arranging this really awesome thing to happen to me, and for meeting Colin and Tyler, and just getting some amazing advice from all these guys. These guys are so far out of my league I didn’t even know where to start. It’s very rare for me to show up somewhere automotive related or racing related and have absolutely no idea what anyone is talking about. What a cool feeling. And it’s actually really valuable to me to be knocked down a peg like that because if you’re in a place where you can learn something—I’m saying this all the time—amazing from someone who’s already gone the long way around, boom, you’ve got to take advantage of that. Soak it all in, take what you can get. You won’t have to go the long way around like they did. That’s extremely valuable to me. By the way, my Instagram is @CatchMattCovert and there’s a lot of cool stuff on there. But I think you should follow the DRT guys, you can find them on Instagram @DRT_KartRacing. So thank you again for them, I really appreciate it. They spent a lot of their free time just talking to me, and coaching me, and guiding me, and talking about different ways to get into this thing. So I’m glad I did it, it was amazing. If you ever have a chance to go and get into a DR kart, you need to, because it is a life-altering experience. It changed my entire perception of performance driving and what is required to be a national-level competitor. It is off the charts. And I think I’m going to wrap it up there, that’s going to do it for this episode. I am so thankful for all of you who are just listening to this podcast. This podcast is growing exponentially, it is absolutely mind-blowing. Every time I go in and check my stats, there’s more and more people listening. I’m so thankful to all of you for playing a small role in the Racer’s HQ brand. I cannot wait. The magazine is coming out. There’s a lot more about that in the previous episode, which is episode 9. I really want people’s feedback about that and maybe what they’d like to see so that’s going to do it for me. I am racing this weekend, it’s going to be amazing, I’m leading the points in New Hampshire still, so this time, why don’t you guys wish me luck and I’ll let you know how it went on the next episode. I’ll talk to you guys soon.
Outro: Thank you for listening to The Racer’s HQ Podcast. For more free information about improving driver technique, understanding vehicle dynamics, and the winning motorsport lifestyle, visit racersHQ.com