Birel. CrG. Tony KarT. leT The war BeGin.


Birel. CrG. Tony KarT. leT The war BeGin.
Tony Kart.
Let the war begin.
Photos: Mark Weber
et’s cut to the chase: this is
the main event we’ve all been
waiting for since our first chassis
shootout test was held at Iron Rock
Raceway in Austin, TX back in 2006 .
That year, heavyweights Birel and Tony
Kart squared off to decide 125 shifter
supremacy, but alas, CRG chose not
to participate. Last year at Homestead,
both Tony Kart and CRG were on the
docket, but no Birel.
This year, with the tremendous
cooperation of importers MRP
Motorsport, Tony Kart Florida, and
SSC East, we got what you, the
readers, have been screaming for since
Day 1: the big cage mage between the
three most heralded manufacturers in
the sport.
To make the stakes all the more juicy,
it was Birel who claimed the title back
in 2006, and Tony Kart who snatched
it in 2007. Now, with the hungry eyes
of consumers lurking in the shadows,
checkbooks clutched in their grimy little
paws, this trio of giants square off in a
battle to claim the title of finest shifter
kart chassis on the planet.
Just like our TAG chassis test found
elsewhere in this issue, Moroso
Motorsports Park in Jupiter, FL was the
site for our 2008 shootout. Once again,
ace pilot (and now, ace tuner) Wes
Boswell would slip behind the wheel
to wring the necks of our contestants.
Each importer provided tuning support
to get their respective products dialed
in juuuust so; pretty good company
when the guys turning the wrenches
included Tim Lobaugh and Wes Phillips
from MRP Motorsport, David Dodson
and Danilo Dirani from Tony Kart
Florida, and Gary Carlton from SSC
Each chassis received up to three
sessions on used tires to get adjusted
to the satisfaction of driver and importer
rep alike; then, fresh Bridgestone YJBs
were fitted up for a final session of
flying laps. Big props to Kevin Hunley
of Bridgestone USA and Mike Tetreault
of Grand Product for supplying and
shipping the rubber.
To the track we go.
If you’ve been paying attention to shifter
kart racing in the past five years, you’ll
know that Wes Boswell scored some
of his most memorable wins aboard
a Birel chassis, including the 2003
SuperNationals and a slew of Stars of
Karting victories in subsequent years.
To this day, Boswell is still good chums
with the Italian crew at the Birel factory,
where they still consider him as one of
their own.
So it caught us by surprise when Wes
made his initial comments about the
CRX 32-SE.
“In the first session, I felt pretty
uncomfortable in this kart,” commented
Boswell upon climbing out of the Birel.
“ As always, the steering wheel is like a
bus, it’s so flat. They had the optional
Tillet seat which has the flat bottom,
which I’m not a fan of in any kart. But
those ergonomic issues aside, when I
first got into it, it felt unfamiliar, which
is a bit strange given how long I raced
on Birels. Granted, it’s been 20 months
since I last raced one. During my first
session, I went out and it had the new
’08 braking system, and try as I did, I
couldn’t get them dialed in and they
weren’t really to my liking.”
Things would not stay that way for long
though, as Tim Lobaugh, Wes Phillips,
and Mike Speed (whose son Alex was
running a Birel at the time of this test)
got things straightened out in a hurry.
“After that first session, the chassis felt
a bit loose and the gearing was a bit
off, so I came into the pits and talked
to Tim and Mike,” elaborated Wes.
“They got the gear changed and that
helped tremendously, though we were
still fighting to get the brakes adjusted.
We finally settled upon dialing out some
front brake and giving it more rear bias,
as we wanted to desensitize the front.
We got that figured out, Mike and Tim
had the chassis sorted, and things got
better in a hurry.
“So by the third session, the Birel
was extremely fast as the stopwatch
clearly indicated. I give those guys
credit for getting this chassis dialed in
so quickly. This kart went through the
esses at Moroso really well, which is
so important at this track. I continued
to struggle to find a comfort level with
the brakes; you had to be ever so light
with your brake foot, if you got on them
too hard it would lock up immediately.
Going into some corners, I would just
brush the pedal and that was enough to
slow it down.
With the chassis dialed in, the MRP
crew fitted fresh skins to the CRX 32-SE
and Boswell went out to do some flyers.
“Just before we went out on new tires,
Mike Speed made an adjustment to
take a little bit of grip out of the rear,
and while I was questioning that at the
time, it was absolutely the right call to
make. The Birel felt awesome on the
fresh rubber. We got robbed of some
laps on this kart when the motor seized
a ring, and I suspect that there was
some speed to be had if we’d had a
little more time aboard the Birel. In my
opinion, that makes its time compared
to the others all the more impressive.”
CRG Road Rebel 125
In last year’s KartSport chassis
shootout, the CRG finished a close
second to the Tony Kart, so Wes was
eager to find out if the Road Rebel
was an upgrade over the ’07 version.
From the look on his face after the first
session, he seemed to think rather
highly of the CRG.
“This is an significant improvement over
last year,” he began, chatting with Gary
Carlton, who’s become synonymous
with CRG shifter success in the past
24 months. “The seat position, the
steering wheel, both of those felt really
comfortable, the brakes were nice and
even, I didn’t even have to touch the
bias. I also like the beefy shifty lever
and thicker steering wheel because I
have big hands.
“Though, the kart was a little loose in
the back during the first session, so
they went back and changed the axle
to one step softer. Gary came up and
gave me some good direction on how
to change my driving style to adapt
to the different axle, and once I hit the
track, the change was immediately
evident. They made no changes for the
third session, I just got the opportunity
to do some more laps and become
more and more accustomed to the
Carlton and Boswell pronounced
themselves satisfied with the Road
Rebel’s setup, and with that they
mounted up some Bridgestone sticker
tires and sent Wes back onto the track.
“The surprise we got dealt was that
the CRG was quite a bit slower on its
new tires, and in hindsight, the kind
of change we made to the Birel to
free it up for the fresh rubber probably
would have served the CRG well,”
commented Boswell during his debrief.
“I think this is especially true given
the Maxter engine, which is renowned
for not having a lot of bottom end. An
overhooked kart mated to a motor with
little bottom end is going to kill the
momentum coming out of the corners.
“I felt that the CRG hadn’t received my
best effort, so I did make one more
session on it to see if there was any
more time to be had. There was: we
picked up a couple of tenths as the
tires began to wear a little bit.
“On the whole, this chassis was a lot
of fun to drive. The steering is very
precise, it requires very little input on
turn-in, and then you just drive with the
gas on the exit. It’s exactly what I teach
to some of the kids; do all your turning
at the beginning of the corner and then
accelerate out of it. That’s the way this
kart begs to be driven. It squares off
the corner and rotates extremely well,
the balance is excellent, though you
do have to be a little patient with the
throttle, you don’t want to get onto it
too early.”
“It’s a cage match between
the three most heralded
manufacturers in the sport.”
THE PLAYERS It takes a heap of people to put together the KartSport Chassis
Shootout. Along with drivers Wes Boswell and Michael Rossi, who logged over 100 laps
each, special thanks go out to all these people who helped make it happen this year: MRP
Motorsport’s Garry Lobaugh, Tim Lobaugh, Wes Phillips; BTK Motorsports and Shayne Shipley
and William Peetz, Rodney Berryhill from Champion Racing, Dave Davies from SSC East,
Gary Carlton, Andre Martins, David Dodson, Danilo Dirani, First Kart USA’s Tony Ventresca,
Terry Ventresca, Mike Maurini, Aaron Weiss from Moroso Motorsports Park, Kevin Hunley
from Bridgestone USA, and Mike Tetreault from Grand Products. A final big shout out to Don
Moormeister and Nichole Wimsett.
It was one year ago that Boswell chose
the Tony Kart as the best shifter kart
in the land, and when the opportunity
arose to race one at three events in
2007, Wes jumped aboard a Racer
EVX and made his only appearances
of the year. His results were a win at
the KartSport Grand Prix, a second
place at the Rock Island Grand Prix,
and a top ten finish at the SKUSA
SuperNationals. And at the hands of
KF1 World Champion Marco Ardigò, the
EVX outright won the SuperNats.
With expectations high, Boswell
climbed aboard the new EVXX and went
out for his first sessions.
“Even though this is a chassis test,
the first thing I noticed was the Vortex
engine. The Maxter and the TM have
a point where they just flatline, but
the Vortex has a nice overrev that’s
real good to have at times. While the
other motors would require you to grab
another shift, the Vortex just keeps on
revving and means you may not need to
shift another gear.
the rear end calmed down. After that,
the chassis rolled through the corners
nicely, and overall the kart was much
better to drive.
“From the outset, the Tony Kart had a
pretty bad hop in the long sweeping
corners. I came in and talked to David
Dodson, so they want back and added
a seat strut to each side to try and
stiffen up the rear to make it hold, and
they also put in a softer front bar. I went
back out and while it was better, the
hop was still there.
“With that, we put the new tires on and
while the Tony was still hopping just a
little bit, I could at least drive around
it now. And as the times indicated,
the Tony Kart was every bit as fast as
the CRG and the Birel. It gave nothing
away on the stopwatch, and I think
there was even a little bit of time left in
this chassis. Ergonomically, this kart
still has the maligned flat seat, but
some padding on the bottom helps
with that. Overall though, it’s a great
product, and I rate highly both the
steering and shifting feel. It’s definitely
been interesting to compare the Tony
and how it felt at Homestead last year,
versus how it feels at Moroso this year.
Both the track layout and track surface
are significantly different between the
two facilities.”
“I came back in and we talked about
it some more, and I mentioned that it
felt like the kart had too much caster,
like the front end was jacking too
much. One of the changes that Tony
Kart made for the EVXX was to add
more caster, so it was a bit odd that
we were now dialing that out. Once
they took half caster out of the front for
the final session, that did the trick and
“By the final sessions, all
three chassis were within
two tenths of each other on a
track that’s 57 seconds long.”
Upon reviewing his notes, the first thing that Boswell
mentioned was how incredibly closely matched the three
chassis were.
“It’s a bit amazing when you think about it. All these chassis
ended up being within two tenths of each other, and that’s
on a track that produces a 57 second lap. That’s really good
in my mind.
“I was very impressed by how far the Birel came considering
how it felt at the start. The Tony, I was a little disappointed
with how it started out, I expected it to be better. It certainly
improved as we dialed it in though. The CRG impressed me
the most with how it was out of the box. And each chassis
had its strong points here at Moroso; the Birel was awesome
through the esses, the CRG was tops through Turns 1 and 2,
and the Tony Kart just ripped through the hairpins. It makes
choosing a winner a pretty difficult decision.
“But in order for a chassis to win this test, it’s got to be on its
game and instill complete confidence. I rate the Birel and the
Tony Kart as equals, but the CRG Road Rebel is just a cut
above them both. Once you figure out what the CRG wants
from you, it’s gonna be fast, and this kart is much more
forgiving than the one I drove a year ago. It still demands
finesse, but in just about every significant category, from
braking to steering to balance, the Road Rebel outperforms
the other two. And it’s my pick as the winner of the 2008
KartSport 125 Chassis Shootout.” KS