The Rotax FR-125 Engine Looks To Fit The Needs Of Many

By Dave Billingsley - Clements Racing


Being a kart shop owner (Clements Racing), it’s important to always look and try to predict which direction karting, as a whole, is heading. In my examination, I’m starting to see a pattern emerging with some kart racers. More racers are migrating towards two things; 1) An affordable race package that doesn’t require massive amounts of maintenance, which most fragile race engines demand (if you want to keep in the front of the pack, that is), 2) A racing package that can grow with the racer as their skill level sharpens, or they become old enough to move up to the next faster class AND remain competitive without buying a new kart and engine year after year.
These racers are moving to the “TaG” (Touch And Go) class. Most TaG classes run 125cc 2 cycle engines with electric starters. Hence the phrase “Touch and Go”. Within this class, several different engines have been approved and are allowed to run in the class. Some of the choices are the Leopard, Sonik, Vortex ROK, Italsistem, & Rotax engines. Depending upon the horsepower output of each one of these motors, in an effort to keep all things equal, additional weight may or may not need to be added to your kart in order to make the kart/driver minimum weight. For instance, if you are running a Leopard or a Rotax, your kart should weigh 360 lbs & 355 lbs, respectively. After reviewing all of them based on cost, performance, maintenance and program support, the engine package that impressed me the most was the FR-125 Rotax. Unlike most TaG engine manufacturers, Rotax (a division of Bombardier, Ltd) are forward thinkers and have geared their program not just towards the adults, but had kids as young as 8 years old, in mind as well. Just like track owners throughout the U.S. that pay close attention to the kids (or at least they should), they put together class structures that keep kids moving up through the ranks, keeping the participant numbers up. Most agree, for karting to continue thriving, keeping the pipeline filled is important. The Rotax program makes it easy.

To keep the engines Rotax manufactured for competition, producing all the same horsepower (keeping things fair and equal), they sealed the engine. A sealed engine is an engine that has been built by a certified dealer or authorized service center to exacting specifications, and then sealed to prevent tampering. No modifications from that point are allowed. Yah, yah, yah…I know, If you’re like me, you think no two engines can be built exactly alike and produce the same HP. Because I often wondered how consistent one sealed motor would be compared to another, I did some digging. Well, “Dyno’s don’t lie.” After dynoing countless sealed Rotax motors, it’s been found they are within tenths of one another, pretty impressive. They are so close, it’s fair to say you can consider them equal. But looking around at you’re local track, you may find some engines in the TaG class are not “sealed”. If you’re racing an engine where anything goes, usually the winner will be the person who throws the most money at it. That’s fine if you have deep pockets, but the majority of kart racers are more conscientious with their entertainment money. This gets back to the reason many racers are looking for a fair, fun, and affordable package. A key factor for the success of the Rotax Max program is strict control over the engine specifications. It appears the nation has found their answers through the Rotax program, not just because of the engine, but just like what impressed me, was the entire racing program, the Rotax Max Challenge with the class structure that Rotax started. In 2000, SSC brought the RMax Challenge to the U.S. Now in its forth year, the R-Max Challenge has become the fastest growing group of motorsports enthusiasts in the country. The R-Max Challenge series is exclusively for Rotax sealed engines. These series are local, regional, and national racing programs with 23 separate individual point series scattered throughout the US, Costa Rica, and Mexico officially called “R-Max Challenge”. Next, there are fiveTeam Cup Challenges, then towards year-end there is the Grand Nationals in Las Vegas. Finally, this



years World Nationals were held in Canary Islands south of Spain. After looking at other programs, the R-Max Challenge stands out from the rest. Plain and simple, it’s a pretty neat program. It’s well thought-out, well supported and has the racers in mind, like I said before from ages 8 to 88+. Young drivers like the FR-125 Rotax engine because of the power it develops, and better yet, it’s appreciated by the parents, knowing this engine package may be the last one they’ll ever need to buy. And it’s easy to step-up to the next class. Derived from massive amounts of development, Rotax created a way to reliably restrict the FR-125 down to 14 hp so that at the age of 8, a racer can put the engine package on a Cadet Kart, and race it in the Mini-Max Class through the age of 12. What’s nice about the Cadet Karts is that the kart fits the kids. I’ve been to too many tracks where they require small kids to pilot full size chassis. Having a 9-year old racer of my own, I never was a fan of that idea. Since with the intake and exhaust restrictors in, the engine makes good power delivery down low and keeps the rev’s around 10,500 rpm’s. The motor requires nearly no maintenance. Keep the battery charged, put gas in and go. It couldn’t be much simpler. (This might leave enough time for dad or even mom to get into seat of a kart and race) Now you say you’re ready to move up to the Jr.-Max class? No problem. Take the restrictors out, the power climbs to 19 hp. Go to a full sized chassis that will better fit these teenagers from 13 + and race in the Jr.-Max through the age of 16, Then, the next step is the Rotax-Max Class. By changing to a power valve Rotax cylinder, now you’re talking power. A reliable and consistent 29 horses. Let’s not forget when you’re older & flabbier, I mean, “rounder” the same

engine is used in the Master-Max class from 35 ‘til you’re 88+ and beyond. Although the Rotax Max Challenge sounds like a serious and professional event, the main group of racers that are attracted to this program are people who like kart racing, without the intention of becoming Formula 1 drivers or spending more time in the pits than on the track, and most of all, are tired of spending bundles of money on unexpected engine repairs. Keep having fun & see you at the track!