I had a chance of catching up with David Klaus, Director of Briggs & Stratton Racing to talk about the success and growth of the 206 sealed engine which has become the largest 4-stroke sprint karting class in the US and Canada. Looking at the development of your program; seeing weekly averages at tracks throughout North America reaching upwards of 50 racers in a single class and noting the high level of Briggs 206 participation at such a prestigious event as the long established Rock Island Grand Prix must be exciting for you to see. I believe the number of 206 entries at Rock Island were much higher than those entered in the regular classes at that event. It’s also the reason for Vroom International Karting magazine contacting you to find out about your program. “Alessandro, thanks for the opportunity to talk about our 206 sealed engines. It has been exciting to see the growth. It is a program that reaches a wider audience because of its simplicity, its cost, and one thing we hear all the time is a word that has been missing in US karting for a long time, ‘It’s fun!’“
So how did the program come about? “Briggs & Stratton Racing is a full-time division that caters to racing with a focus on a single engine platform. We have a standalone production facility with its own tooling, and dies. Our engines are custom engineered for racing, our tooling and dies are specific to the racing engine, and our production has been established for a number of years. We saw the need to simplify the process of getting into karting. Imagine a family excited after trying a rental program and walking into a kart shop to check things out. You have your $8,000 plus turnkey 2-stroke solutions which will still need additional expertise to be competitive or you have a 4-stroke answer. If you purchasing the 4 cycle powered kart you will still need to find an engine builder and research which cam, exhaust, and even the spark plug is the best for your engine. Now imagine walking into a kart shop as a beginner and seeing a turn-key used kart with a sealed 206 engine on it for $2,500 – 3,500 or a new setup for under $5,000 that has been COMPETITIVE for eight seasons!”
Sealed engines are not new, so what makes the Briggs 206 different from other past and present offerings? “We have an engine engineered for racing by racers, built by hand by experts from tooling and dies that are only used to produce our racing product. What we aren’t trying to do is ‘remanufacture’ a throwaway Chinese clone engine made on cost not quality or use a volume driven commercial engine that brings with it a lack of power output consistency requiring the need for extensive reworking.”
How do you control the seals and tampering? We have over 16 years of expertise with this engine platform. From virtual to actual to annual we are talking about 10,000 plus hours of testing not to mention that various derivatives have been in used competition for almost that long. The seals are an important tech component. They are a physical verifiable ‘tool’ that helps control the unnecessary costs of blueprinting, coatings, mass reduction,etc. but it’s a complete understanding of the engine dynamics, our production ability to control tolerances that lead to performance variance, and provide a concise set of rules to validate this in the field that makes this program work. Simply put, it is the sum of the whole that makes this work. The range in which this engine operates from clutch engagement to rev limiter is below the divergence in the power curve where frictional loses and mass reductions appear on a dyno. With the standard clutch engagement of 3,500 rpm on our adult classes, a digital rev limiter at 6,100 rpm the other advantage would be in acceleration. Across this 2,600 rpm range using multi-million dollar test equipment this gain measured in milliseconds cannot be measured. Our seals are a tool in the overall engineering design and tech but they are just as critical in saving our racers money from the unnecessary modification costs that won’t change a races outcome. Praying on a racers fear of the unknown, the ‘pixy’ dust and magic some like to rely on after 8 years of proven out of the box podium finishes helps separate the fact from fiction.
So the 206 engine success comes from the stability of having a dedicated, engineered, stable platform? “Stability is the backbone of our program and we have an approach to manufacturing that insures out of the box competitiveness. An average of 30 minutes is spent just measuring components PER engine. A detailed build sheet is included in the box with each engine. We want our racers to know the quality of what they are getting. Every cam is digitized and over 7,000 data points are recorded PER lobe. We have gone as far as retooling our carburetor for long term consistency and wet flow EACH carburetor at 8 different slide set points to insure consistency. Each engine is built by hand, critical fasteners installed using DC drivers, pressure checked, and power tested. This is craftsmanship and each builder signs off on their work.”
What other key points separate this program from others? “When you look at our track record for consistency and stability I think there are several points that resonate in the success of this program:
Rule set – We have ONE universal rule set across North America and Canada that controls the engine from a single exhaust system all the way to the jetting that must remain stock. We are going on our 9th season without a rule change that has impacted our customers. The very first engine was built in 2008 and is as competitive as the one that we will hand build next week.
Simplicity – This is a program that just needs you to add oil, gas, and go. The carburetor is limited to two adjustments and we recommend that the valves be reset after break-in, that’s it on the maintenance side, besides oil changes and common sense. We even have a carburetor guide and support videos online to help.
Resealing/Rebuilding – We all know that resealed programs struggle with cost, integrity, and perception when it comes to some resealing agents. Our program is different in that we do not offer engine resealing. Why? Because a racer can purchase a brand new short block already sealed from a dealer for less than the cost of a rebuild.
Equality – From the air/fuel ratio range, to the valve actuation, to compression ratio, to the exhaust velocity, to even the RPM range of the engine every racer is on the same playing field.
Flexible ladder system – We offer a complete colored slide restriction system that instantly gives tracks a ladder system. The beauty of this program is that a family can uses the same engine and as their son or daughter grows; the next class is a $10 slide. The real beauty is that we are not changing the air/fuel ratio at all in our approach so the carburetor adjustment doesn’t change.”
I am sure you have been asked this but there is ALWAYS a way to get a performance gain, how has your program gone 8 years without the special cylinders and/or tuning becoming a necessity? “If I had a dollar for every time an engine right from the box ended up on the podium over the last 8 years I would be retired by now! (Laughing) Our biggest fight is educating racers away from the voodoo magic and pixy dust some tuners use to try and transfer dollars from your pocket to theirs as they pray on the fear of the unknown. The best way of doing this is by publicizing the fact that racers can win with an engine right out of the box.”
How would you summarize the 206 program? “The 206 racing engine is a ‘reset’ button. At the end of the day we have to make this sport more accessible. While a lot of karting focus is at the top of the pyramid we have to build the base as big as we can because that’s what feeds all levels of karting. That is what leads to healthy clubs, series, dealers, and manufacturers. We have to get more people into the sport as well as keep people racing longer. To do that costs have to be controlled, complexity reduced, and as gatekeepers we have to understand that people leave busy lives and mechanical skillsets are becoming rarer and rarer. And most important people are having fun and that is what it’s all about!”
So do you see an opportunity for the Briggs 206 in Europe? “The 206 engine is a cost-effective opportunity to help clubs and series grow by appealing to a broader reach of potential racers. I had an e-mail from the president of Tri-C Karters in Southern California come in as I was responding to your questions. “We started with 4 – 206 entries in April (Round 1) and had 29 entries on October 1st with our last race coming up on October 29th. Quite frankly it has revitalized the club.” Their last race they ended up with 34 206 pilots. This is what motivates us. To see clubs growing, families coming together, memories made that will last a lifetime and most of all FUN returning!”
ABOUT BRIGGS AND STRATTON
Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the largest manufacturer of small gasoline engines, snow blowers, pressure washers, and generators in the world. With racing roots that date back into the early 1930’s racing is a DNA that can be seen in every engine we produce today. Briggs & Stratton Racing is a full-time division with dedicated manufacturing of engines engineered and tooled specifically for racing.
source: A. Roca / VROOM International N.186 2016-12 | LINK