Team Spotlight - The K Team
The term MONEYBALL was first used to describe an enormously disadvantaged Oakland A’s professional baseball team’s struggle, and unique solution, to fielding a competitive team against elite organizations like the New York Yankees. What originated off the diamond in the depths of the Oakland Coliseum quickly entered the lexicon of all sports, and today the term MONEYBALL has come to represent far more than purely statistical data of slugging percentage, defensive capability, and on-base percentage. It’s now expanded to mean how any smaller, presumably weaker team can take on the big guys, compete, and even win. It’s playing where your strengths are; not where the other guys want you to.
The racing world is like most other sports where there are teams which are the haves and those which are the have-nots. Those with the big bucks and bigger budgets undoubtedly have a head start, but it doesn’t guarantee success. One team that lives on a modest budget and has been playing moneyball for years is KYMCO. Both on the racetrack and in the showroom, they’ve shown they have the talent to compete and win.
KYMCO has managed to claw their way to the top of ATV manufacturing and today they have competitive models in most categories. Behind the scenes, a dedicated crew takes on many duties making sure they have their bases covered. They also value the input and results of their racing efforts, and each year they field a team of racers flying the KYMCO flag.
Al Golding is the man in charge of running the KYMCO race team. Think of him as the team manager, leaning on one knee at the edge of the dugout, all the while carefully watching as the game unfolds in front of him and you’ll get the idea. You can bet what he learns from the team on the field – or in this case on the track - definitely assists him in his other role as Product Development/Technical Services Manager. We’re always looking for tips and unique setups racers use that we can use on our own machine, and we knew Al would have the answers on what’s been working for the KYMCO team. Luckily, he was more than happy to talk about what they’ve learned.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Al. What we’re interested in are simple modifications the average rider can make to their KYMCO that really make a difference.
A.G. “You are welcome! The number one improvement we’ve made to any of our machines was to change the clutching. It’s easy to do and it makes a huge difference.”
A.G. “We made changes to the team riders ATV’s in three stages. The first thing we did was change the shocks. After some development riding, the factory engineering crew called for a much more aggressive shock package which really works quite well. After a couple hours of racing and getting pounded around a track though, they begin to fade, but thankfully OHLINS has come on board to supply the team bikes with their shocks. It’s made a huge difference and it really allows us to dial the shocks in for each rider.”
That sounds easy enough. What’s the second stage?
A.G. “The second stage was a more aggressive torque curve program for the EFI. That requires a programming change to the ECU.”
That’s probably not for everybody. What is the third stage?
A.G. “The third stage was the easiest, the cheapest, and by far the most effective. We made a change to the clutching. A lighter weight lets it rev out faster giving it much faster acceleration. We developed this with EPI, and we went from the 15 gram stock weight to a 13 gram weight. We also left the springs alone, but one trick we did use was to re-machine the main driver sheaves for more RPMs. Now they rev out to 4000 to 6000 rpms and stay there. You can just change the weights, however, and it takes about a half hour and you’re back riding. By the way, we left the springs alone.”
What about the belt?
A.G. “Stock. They’re plenty durable enough. Just keep it clean and look for wear.”
Have you made any changes to the engines?
A.G. “Some, but the average guy can do the same thing. Our motors are basically stock, but we did just develop a new piston with WISECO. The new piston is an 11.5:1 compression while the stock piston is 9.2:1. The new piston is also 30 grams lighter than stock, again to rev quicker, and it helps the bike come off the line and out of the corners quicker. WEB CAMS also made us a mid-range cam designed to run in the 3000 to 7000 rpm range.”
Is there anything else?
A.G. “SpeedWerx did make us a slip on exhaust. We just use the stock head pipe though that flows enough for the limited motor work we’ve done. A different head pipe didn’t make a difference.”
What about noise?
A.G. “The SpeedWerx exhaust is not too loud and should meet the noise restrictions anywhere. It makes a deep, throaty sound though, and it does have a U.S. Forest Service approved spark arrester.”
A.G. “Pin the throttle now and they’ll hover the front wheels down the track. Actually the 450 is much easier to race through the woods than the bigger 800’s. They’re much more nimble and will turn and dart through the trees where an 800 can’t. In the 4x4 Lites, we’re 2nd behind the CAN-AM rider, and 1st in the 4x4 Novice Class.”
Is there a lot of aftermarket support for the KYMCO machines?
A.G. “We’re not a big-budget team like the other guys. We’ve had to develop what worked with aftermarket companies, but they’re happy to work with us to develop products both for racers and weekend riders. That being the case, we want to develop parts the average rider can use, and that will get them the best results. Within a few hours, you can make the changes we did and you’ll immediately feel it in the seat of your pants. The No.1 improvement is still clutching though.”
And what about the other riders?
A.G. “They’ve really been great to race with, and to just hang out with in the pits. Zach Stanley – the Polaris Rider – is always super helpful, and so is Kevin Trantham from CAN-AM. Even though we race against them, they’re still very nice guys and very helpful. Most GNCC riders are.”
Thanks for all the help, Al. You’re a class-act too and KYMCO riders will appreciate your tips and tricks for getting the most from their ATV’s.”
A.G. “You’re welcome! Anytime we can help, just let me know!”
One model at a time, and one race at a time, KYMCO has found a way to compete with even the biggest companies in the ATV business. Never underestimate the K-Team. They’re sticking to their game plan, playing to their strengths, and they’re playing to win!