Superkart Speed Records

Victorian Superkarter Rod Prickett ventured to the salt lakes in South Australia last month chasing a land speed record for a 250cc Superkart. Armed with able mechanic and fellow superkart racer Darren Tyler, the duo set off to the salt flats and established a new record. Prickett spoke with KartSportNews about the feat.

rod prickett
Above: Prickett at speed. The salt lake goes for 100 miles and there's not a tree or wall to be hit

KartSportNews: What gave you this idea of setting off for the salt lakes chasing speed records?

Rod Prickett: Hmmm lots of reasons. Firstly, I saw The World's Fastest Indian movie, which rekindled an idea I had years ago when I was chatting to an old friend (Bert Flood) about doing something different and a bit ‘out there’.

Also, recently I was involved with Scott Ellis from Safe Evolutions who was machining his own crankcases for the tandem twin 250cc superkart class. We teamed up with Darren Hossack to win the Australian Championships, 3rd in the NSW champs, 2nd in the Vic champs and a 3rd in SA champs - not bad for our first year with an Australian made engine. Shane Price took the kart to New Zealand earlier this year and made a clean sweep of that, so I thought a world speed record for the engine would cap the list of achievements off nicely.

KSN: What sort of changes did you make to the kart prior to going?
RP: The kart had to remain within our class specifications, but I took the rear wing  off to reduce drag and slightly detuned the engine as I was concerned about having to use full throttle and maximum revs for two miles.

KSN: Did you need to make further changes as you progressed?
RP: Yes, because traction was our biggest problem. We had to refit the rear wing, run wet weather tyres and even borrowed 30kg of lead shot. We filled that into small drink bottles and cable tied them all around the rear of the kart. Most of the cars were running three to four hundred kilos of lead in the boot! The quickest bike there had nearly one hundred kilos of lead over the rear swing arm.

Above: The Little Red Machine in the scrutinering line of an eclectic range of vehicles modified for the job

KSN: What was the surface like compared to asphalt?
RP: That was the biggest problem we had. There is nothing that compares to driving on salt. It feels hard and looks quit smooth, but there is no grip. The cars and bikes would wheel spin for most of the course and the small wheels of the kart would follow in their grooves. The track was around 30 feet wide and I used a good 20 to 25 of them doing a high speed tank slapper for over a mile - and that was only in 5th gear at half throttle. Very frustrating!

KSN: What is the record you set?
RP: 121.395 mph, over an officially measured course. It’s not very fast in the big picture of things as we do close to 140mph at Philip island. I haven't seen any other official speed records for a 250 superkart over a mile.

What is the process of setting a record?
RP: For the FIA and Guinness Book of Records, it's an average of 2 passes, one in each direction. You have to have FIA officials there, etc, etc, and it costs a fortune. At Bonneville and Lake Gairdner, they have their own Salt Lake records

Above: Rod and the Red Rocket

KSN: We hear you managed to upset the officials?
RP: Yeah, on my first pass for the week I managed to spin a complete 360 and keep going through the timed course at 110mph. I didn't think much of it as it happens some times when you race in the wet. The officials weren't too happy though, as you are supposed to suspend your run and report to scrutineering to have your vehicle checked.

KSN: With the dramas you had, it seems obvious there is more speed to be found. Are you going to head back?
RP: Unless I can be sure of dry salt, I won’t be in a hurry to go back. It is a mammoth task just to get there - 160km of dirt road from Iron Knob, no power, no water, no phone service. It’s very isolated. It’s also very hard on the equipment. I still have salt leaching out of every crack and joint on the kart, let alone the corrosion it causes.

KSN: What's the next event for Rod Prickett, Superkart Racer?
RP: Our next race meeting is the Victorian championships at Philip Island, 25/26 April.

Above: Big cleanup task on the return to home. The red cylinder is not a fire extinguisher. It's pressurised gas to activate the pneumatic gear shifter

Above: Eerie isolation on the salt flats as the track disappears from view over the horizon