Yamaha FJ1200 Drag Kart

It was quite a few years later before I was reunited with the chassis.

I had been asked to do some part time work, repairing cars for a sprayer on Canvey. I had been there a few weeks before we ended up chatting in the canteen about the racing and I mentioned the karts. He then told me that there was a drag kart sitting in the shed at the top of the yard so we went and took a look.

Well I was gob smacked to find my chassis sitting there with a Yamaha FJ1220 lump in it. Turned out Adrian had built it, run it a once, lost interest, put it there in storage and put it up for sale. I got in touch with him and he said seeing as half was mine, I could have it.

And so the kart & I were reunited.

We took it to Santa Pod and ran an 11.06, and an 11.01 straight off the trailer.

Andy had commented that the rear of his kart kept bouncing from side to side at the top end of the strip on his runs, but he couldn't work out why. It had never done it before. I didn't give it much thought, although on my next run I was about to find out why.

As we came back to the pits after the second run, I got fed up with the nose cone grounding out on the uneven surface and so I bent the front mounting bracket up, so raising the front clear of the ground.

20 minutes later I was back on the track.

With a good hard launch I recorded

0 to 60 ft     ..........    1.244 sec's
0 to 330 ft   ..........    4.230 sec's
1/8 mile       ..........    6 .757 @ 97.27 mph

As with the previous runs, the gearing was too low and I was flat out around 2/3rds track but it felt a good run.

Just as I went through the traps and backed off the throttle, the back suddenly bounced and swung 45 degrees either side of the centre line and I ended up heading for the nearside concrete barrier at over 100 mph. I must admit to having serious doubt about surviving unscathed as Adrian had cut off the hoop so I had no protection if it rolled.

One other modification of his saved me. For some reason he had removed the rear brake and as I jumped on it with my right foot, I also caught the throttle. The front brakes were never much good and without rear one, rear tyres hooked up under power and it straightened up the chassis just before impact and I powered past parallel to it.

To say I sighed with relief would be an understatement. I was shaking like a leaf.

It would appear that the strong wind blowing straight down the track had got under my modified front spoiler, lifting the front as I went over the rise and through the timing lights. As I backed off the throttle, the weight then transferred forward, the back went light and tried to overtake the front. My corrections just caused it to swing violently from side to side. Something similar had been happening to Andy.

Well I got back to the pits to see the lads beaming from ear to ear. They had picked up the timing ticket to discover out I had run a 10 second quarter in a drag kart.

10.979 @ 111.3 mph

Having been in the twelve’s with the old kart it was a great time but I must admit it my pleasure was tempered with the fact that I had been in real ‘scary movie territory’ to get it. Not something I wanted to repeat and if my memory serves me well, I called it a day. Another thing that became apparent was that the seat had been moved well forward t accommodate the larger engine and I was well hunched over the wheel. Had I of hit the wall I doubt I would have been thrown clear.

So it was back in the workshop to stretch the chassis by another 20 inches (now 38" longer) and fabricate another roll cage as Adrian had  binned the original.







kart in Primer


North Weald Drag Racing with 'Dartford Dave' Hersey




I missed the next few meets as the kart was wired with an original bike loom to hook up the electronic ignition and I couldn’t get it to fire up. Bought another igniter box but still nothing. Think it turned out to be as simple as a side stand, safety cut out switch, that needed grounding.

We did a few meets but never broke into the ten’s again. Main problem was with wheel spin off the line. The tyres were really too small. Did have ideas to put another set of wheels on the same axle, but within the chassis rails, or even more radical, to extend the rear by fitting another axle thereby making it a six wheeler. There were for’s & against’s for the latter, as some said the power loss through an extra chain and axle would negate any gains in traction. Would have been good to try both avenues, and would have been novel, but unfortunately money was tight around that time so never found out.

North Weald brings back a few memories. One that always brings a smile to my face was a race with a guy in a little Fiat 500 (I think), powered by a small block Chevy (4.3 to 6.6 Ltrs – depending on spec). Some of you might remember him for the big rotating clockwork key he used to have in the boot lid.

When you race at the Weald, you join one of the two queues and see who you come up against. I faced the Chevy powered Fiat. Well I think he thought it was in the bag, the spectators probably thought so too, although credit to the commentator, he said he thought I might take it. Well the lights went amber and I was gone. I hole shot him big time and was way out ahead. I heard him coming up fast but it wasn’t enough. We both crossed the line with identical times, 13.?? (although he ran the higher speed) but I got there first. I took the win. He was gutted.

What he didn’t know is the kart could not Red Light. When cars move into stage, the front wheel breaks the 1st beam and the pre stage lights illuminate. It then moves forward and breaks the 2nd beam and the stage light illuminates. When both cars are ‘in stage’, the countdown begins with a sequence of amber, amber, amber, green. The cars launch and once the beam reconnects, the clock starts timing the runs. The trick is to just break the stage beam, stop and time it so the car starts to move on an amber, but the wheel is still breaking the beam when the green illuminates. If you go too soon and the beam reconnects, you Red Light and are disqualified. The reason the karts cannot Red light is that they are so low that the complete chassis has to clear the beam before it reconnects. Therefore, we can go on the first amber and never Red Light. Actually the run times are a slightly artificial too as the kart is over the line before the clock starts counting so it has effectively shaved of a karts length of the quarter mile. Probably not a lot but it’s still there.



Well I left it till next season before I fessed up. Thought he would see the funny side but no, total ‘sense of humour failure’. Walked off with ‘the hump’ and never spoke to me again.

Probably never got over being shut down buy a tu’p’ny ha’p’ny kart after spending all that money on his ‘pride n joy’.

On a more serious note, North Weald’s strip presented some serious danger to us karts. Just after the finish line there were two tarmac repairs across the runway, probably about three feet wide and an inch or so high. When we hit them in the 550’s, we were travelling at about 90 mph, and although we went airborne, we had a chance to land in between and straighten up for the next launch skywards.

With the more powerful karts, we were travelling over the ton and flying off the first to land on the second.

Not funny! Sooner or later one of us was going to get hurt so reluctantly we decided not to run there anymore. Shame really as it was on our door step and a great day out.

The last time I took it out was to the 2000 Bulldog Bash and although I had a great weekend, Dave, Andy and I were so into sailing and racing our classic boats that the kart never went out again. 

Upshot was that it sat there in my workshop gathering dust, then in Andy’s garage do the same, until we sold it and it headed down to the West Country. I keep an eye out on You Tube to see if it ever surfaces but so far, have lost touch with it once again.

It gave us pleasure, was fun to drive and I often wonder what times it could have achieved if I only had the time and money to throw at it. Dartford Dave gave us a good idea with his 9.27 @ 133mph but I just didn’t have his resources.

Still it was good fun while it lasted.


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