Praga Karts come under the IPK banner which also includes the Formula K kart brand and OK karts (not to be confused with the new OK engine class!)
The Praga company itself is of Czech origin however the kart operation is run out of Italy.
Prior to this season, I have experience of Tony Kart and Birel in KZ and soley Tony Kart in other direct drive classes.
I’m not someone who changes kart manufacture every six months, I tend to stick with what I know. KZ is a class which enjoys a diverse grid with no one manufacture dominating. As such, there is a tonne of karts to consider including CRG, Tony Kart, Birel, IPK, Energy and Sodi. After much soul searching, I decided on the Praga.
Praga do the normal offering of 30mm or 32mm chassis, I stuck with the obvious choice, the 30mm Dragon Evo.
When I collected my kart and saw it for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at what was included. Coming from a Tony kart where almost everything required to actually run the kart seemed to be an added extra for a premium price, the Praga was stacked out with goodies, more on that later.
I don’t put much emphasis on how a kart looks, generally the frames look the same across most manufacturers. The Praga in the UK uses the FP7 bodywork which in my opinion is great to look at but from a performance perspective I’m not convinced is the best option for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into soon.
Praga karts have an attractive sticker pack and livery, although I can understand that this may not be to some peoples tastes, but lets face it who cares so long as its fast!
The most important first impression for me was actually watching a Praga on track at Fulbeck circuit in September of 2015. What struck me was how the rear of the kart was so stable through the slow corners. The traction zones which are so often the place where time is lost as drivers fight to lay down the power of the KZ engines seemed to be very comfortable for the driver. He was able to put the kart where he wanted and not be concerned about on power oversteer.
What do you get?
What don’t you get!? Would be an easier question to answer. Douglas Magnesium rims, IPK seat, KG chain guard, Exhaust mounts and cradles, all the seat stays, Dash mount. There is also a perfect place to mount a KZ airbox which some other manufacturers don’t provide. Praga have thought about these features, they aren’t an afterthought needing a particular bracket or mushroom clamp off eBay!
There isn’t really anything missing, an actual air box mounting system would be useful, however I understand that it’s difficult to cater for every different brand.
It's going to be easier to talk about what I didn’t like about the kart while completing assembly, so that's where I will start.
Firstly, the clutch cable routing is awful. The cable snags on the nassau panel brackets at even a small amount of steering angle. Frankly that isn’t good enough and needs a better system.
You will need to drill the holes for the side pod and bumper mounting bars yourself. I appreciate that this isn’t beyond the ability of the normal kart mechanic however it feels like a way of saving money in the factory and it’s a frustrating step which should not be required.
The seat post needed bending. I run a slightly larger seat that the standard (size 2) and the seat post needed moving a lot in order to get the seat into place. Again, not the end of the world but it was a job I didn’t enjoy.
You also need to drill a hole and fit the fitting for the fuel tank return. Tony Kart don’t require you to do this and it’s another frustrating job.
Below are a few points I noted during assembly.
The kart features the new IPK camber castor adjustment system, you can make fine adjustments to the camber independent of the castor which is adjustable through different blocks, which of course cost extra.
It’s a robust system, I don’t see a particular weakness in it and it didn’t adjust itself during use however its worth checking after every run. The only issue is that its very difficult to change ride height with the eight thousand small shims and washers which the system requires. After you’ve dropped these a few times you are ready to go back to the OTK system. However, once you get used to the system you can see the benefits and you find that with a certain technique its not too difficult to use.
We will get some images of the Castor/Camber system soon, they were not fitted when these photos were taken.
The gear linkage has numerous adjustment options, with a bracket which attaches to the column mounts. Height and distance from the driver are useful options which will keep even the longest limbed drivers happy.
My biggest gripe is that with a TM engine fitted (KZ10C), the gear linkage is far too close to the bottom of the seat post. This means you need to control exactly where the engine sits more closely when changing gear ratios. This results in having to change the chain length often whereas before you would simply move the engine forward or backwards. If you are rushing to change the gearing this can be very frustrating. I’m not sure how this ended up being an issue with the Praga, it seems to be a critical oversight in the design.
The first time I sat in the kart for a few shakedown laps I knew that overall it was a very driveable. That said, the front end of the kart was instantly responsive. On corner entry this can give the feeling of a pointy machine which may cause drivers to request less front grip. Of course, that statement is down to the individual driver style and preference.
The main issue with this type of set up is that whilst you can put the front of the kart exactly where you want it, it can be too sensitive and this in turn will upset the rear end mid corner.
Whether the overall stiffness of the kart is higher than others on the market is not clear however the feedback the driver gets while driving is higher than in any other kart I’ve driven. You can feel everything which is going on underneath you. This helps a lot when you are adjusting set up as there is always a clear difference felt with each adjustment.
The negative of the above is that I feel the kart is very sensitive to different tracks, surfaces and changes in conditions. At some circuits the kart felt like it became an oversteering monster which destroys lap times, tyres and your own ego if you aren’t careful! This is the main difference from any other kart. If the chassis set up is not exactly where you require it, it seems to be on a knife edge and finding the limit can be very difficult.
In the wet the kart I feel is excellent although again it’s a knife edge set up, if you hit the sweet spot all of a sudden everything becomes far easier. If you are slightly outside the optimal setup, you generally suffer with an initial understeer followed by poor rear traction. You’ve got to work on the chassis set up to get where you need to be.
The brakes are also a cause for concern, in KZ a solid brake pedal is very important. Stopping from 90mph into a 2nd gear hairpin needs to be done with confidence. There seems to be an inherent problem with the brake fluid in these karts, it’s important to change the fluid often and ensure there is no air in the system. Once they are correct, they are as good as anything else on the market.
Bodywork, I was surprised how weak it was compared to Tony Kart, even a small bump could cause the nose cone to deform or be damaged beyond repair. I also don’t like the side pod bars, they seem to be far too tight for the mounting points. Even when they are held on with springs it’s not possible to have the bars set loose enough to not be affecting the chassis stiffness.
Generally the kart is of good quality, it’s not up to the same levels of the Tony or Birel, however those karts are more expensive and while the fit and function of the components on the Praga are not any poorer, cosmetically they aren’t at the same standard.
You don’t get magnesium parts as standard with Praga, perhaps there is something to be gained in this and it’s certainly a way of losing some weight off the kart if required.
I think it’s worth keeping an eye on the front wheel bearings as I needed to change mine after one failed. It’s a cheap enough fix but it’s worth having some in your van as they are not a standard size and you’re unlikely to get any from the trader at the track.
I’ll be sticking with the Praga for another year in 2017, it has excellent potential but you need to put time and effort into learning the chassis in all conditions or speak to someone who knows the kart well. You need to stay fully on top of maintenance and not skimp on items such as brakes to ensure that you are always performing at the maximum. It is good to note that the kart is over £500 cheaper than the equivalent Tony Kart or Birel. For that reason alone you should take a look at a Praga, once you’ve given it a try I think you’ll find there is life outside of the normal brands.