EnduroKa and the 12 Hours du Norfolk

Published: 10 July 2020

Round one of EnduroKa 2020
Ben Barry grabs a seat for CAR
Cheap motorsport at its best

This summer might have been robbed of Le Mans, but the 12 Heures du Norfolk proved a fine substitute – it was part of the UK’s first post-lockdown race weekend and the first race in the rescheduled MSVR EnduroKa championship. I had a bash on behalf of CAR.

Relatively low-cost motorsport is thriving at the minute, and EnduroKa has big grids as it moves into its second season – around 40 Mk1 Kas lined up at Snetterton to race on the shorter 200 layout.

What exactly is EnduroKa?

All the cars/Kas are equal and run a control tyre, suspension, brake pads and roll-cage, and all the kit is sold by the same supplier. Races stretch from five hours to 12 hours, so there’s plenty of bang for your buck.

Some top-drawer drivers have done EnduroKa, including Le Mans winner Nick Tandy, and when I arrived at my garage I discovered my team LDR Performance Tuning were also running former BTCC and Carrera Cup ace Tim Harvey and his son.

Enduroka start grid

I’d be doing stints with three other drivers, each driver disinfecting the car afterwards, and we’d all get about ten minutes in qualifying – not ideal as it was the first time I’d drive the Ka, but no bother.

But driving a Ka is easy…

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – a Ka will be easy to drive because it’s so slow. And it is slow with its tiny little 1.3-litre engine, but it’s also quite loose on the rear and locks its front tyres very easily under braking (and often rears), partly because it moves around and lifts wheels up. So, when you thrash the life out of it down Snetterton’s start-finish straight and arrive at the fast first corner after a good run in fourth gear, it feels like a massive leap of faith to pitch this tiny little car in.

Loads of other cars certainly seemed to be going faster than me, but I started to build up to it over the few laps I had, finally reducing the lift to almost nothing on my final attempt. More than anything though, it’s keeping up smooth momentum in this low-grip, low-power car that’s key to a fast lap and it’s so easy to be scrappy and overdrive. I certainly didn’t feel like I’d cracked it in a handful of laps.

Enduroka side pan

We ended up mid-grid thanks to the effort of my teammate Ben Hancy who’s previously raced MX-5s.

Race day!

I arrived back at the circuit the next morning ready for him to take the start at 9.10am. It was a rolling start and absolutely hilarious to watch a massive pack of Kas going past the pits at a very modest lick making almost no noise, almost like watching cars drive down the motorway.

I’d be going in last of the four drivers, so I sat and watched at the side of the track – and quickly realised that if these things look slow on a straight, they’re mad in the corners, all screeches of rubber, wisps of locked tyres and lift-off oversteer as the drivers chuck them about. I watched a car roll on its roof bouncing over a sausage kerb, heard the screech and silence of cars tangling at the end of the pit straight and watched one car spin off over the grass and the other drivers skilfully avoid him when he re-joined backwards. The standard of driving seemed generally very high from what I could see and had briefly experienced in quali and even the slower drivers didn’t seem like liabilities.

Enduroka cornering

A few people told me the first corner was flat but I had my doubts; I liked the little throttle-lift that got it turned in, and then Tim Harvey gave me a bit of a pep talk. ‘Don’t take it flat,’ he said, ‘give it a quick lift, it’ll get the car rotated, won’t cost you any time and when you see the onboards of them taking it flat the tyres are screeching dreadfully. You need to settle yourself into a rhythm on an endurance race, don’t go pushing everywhere or you’ll just end up frazzled. It’s a long old stint.’ Properly calmed my nerves that did.

Sadly my opportunity never arrived because the Ka overheated just after its first stint (it was turned off incorrectly for the pitstop, cutting off the fan, cooking the engine). LDR and my fantastic pit crew boss Erin did a great job swapping in a new engine, but that had its own issues and so the car was retired after just a couple more laps.

I wish I’d been able to get a bit more settled in the Ka, but that’s how endurance racing goes sometimes, and the plan is to get back out with LDR at Oulton Park.

Ka-n’t wait. Sorry.

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By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator