Rotax vs Leopard

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    Ok….. let me first say Im not trying to start a war here……….Im trying to make a decision. ….why a leopard over a rotax and vise versa. I dont want snotty, biting, pissy comments…..I just need some facts…..Im a guy that needs some help and looking for legitamate reasons I should buy one over the other. I have not made up my mind yet on either one so heres your chance to convince me and get me into one or the other. Please tell me the good with the bad on both sides…email me if you feel you dont want to write here about them….I need information like the costs to run the motors ( ie rebuilds), what you feel makes one better than the other, how easy are they to run, adjust, the things that frustrate you about the motor….talk to me like you are trying to sell me one !

    To help you with the response……. Im not the guy you are going to see traveling been there done that…..Im not new to racing …..Im a local, stay at home guy that has plenty of other things to do….racing just happens to be one of them.

    Remember Im not wanting to offend anyone…just trying to make a decision !

    [email protected]

    Angel Ramirez

    Easy, with a Rotax you can run 2 series(Tag and Rmax challenge.)

    Doug Haner

    Building on Angel’s comment. If you feel comfortable doing the work yourself Leopard rebuilds will be way cheaper. This is due to the fact that if you want to remain RMax legal your Rotax will need to be rebuilt and sealed by a dealer.

    From what I was hearing early last season Leopards were preffered at TTAC due to their powerband. But on the flipside of that comment I believe it was Doug Welch that stated that Rotaxs had won at all tracks in the CSC last year, including TTAC.

    Angel Ramirez

    Top 5 or 6 Tag masters last year were running Rotax engines, IMI or TTRACK. CSC Champ Rotax, IMI/TTRACK Champ rotax. Rotax engines are very competitive every where, but remember is no only the engine, chassis set up is vital.



    Alot depends on the type of track. The fast tracks (IMI, GJ) rotax runs great, the tight tracks (Track, Bandi, CRE) Leopards run great. Angel is absolutely right when he talks about chassis set up and driver skill.

    I chose a rotax because of the many options I could have in racing venues:
    IMI Club
    IMI Rotax Challenge
    Tag World’s
    CSC Tag
    CRE club
    CRE rotax
    Track Club
    Track Rotax ????

    Also if you maintain it well it will give you little problems. In 8 yrs running it (4 yrs on this engine) 1-major rebuild $800, 1-piston/ring change $125, 2-ring changes $100 ea..

    Terry Von Tilius

    I too am interested in the best choice for me as well. I like the Leopard for the easy carb. adjustments. I like the Rotax for the durability, Angel, you talked to me about the fact that the Rotax last twice as long on a rebuild vs the Leopard. I just worry about learning how to tune the Rotax. Seems pretty complex vs just turning a mixture screw in or out (like on a Leopard). So tell me, how tough is it to set those Rotax up?

    Curt Kistler

    I am not a TAG guy, but my comparison may help your decision factoring. The Rotax vs Leopard is like Stock moto vs ICC. Motor dependability is very high with a Rotax & Stock Moto, and if you keep it tuned properly and run the correct mix through it, they will last several seasons without needing to take it to a dealer. The ICC & Leopard’s seem to have higher RPM’s and compression factors that do not typically last as long between top ends. Having said that, we campaigned an ICC last year at the 24 Hours at TTAC and won the race. We had various drivers doing as many as 40 lap stints at 90% throttle, and the 3 year old motor could have gone another 4-6 hours in the high 50’s that morning. It’s all about how the motor is tuned. You will not need to run rich to win races in CO. If you are club racing, or CSC/MHC racing either motor will be competive. As many folks have stated on this forum many times, it will always come down to seat time, and motor tuning.
    So what the heck did I just say? I personally would lean tword the Rotax for having different series options, dependability, performance and past series winning statistics. There are software jetting programs that will also help you keep it running properly to avoid the lean stick “walk of shame” into one of the many certified dealers we now have along the front range. Turning a carb screw in the heat of the battle can get very expensive in a long season.
    Hope this helps from a coffee jacked up non-bias shifter tuner guy.

    Tom Dennin


    I currently have a couple of Rotax and Leopards. I switch them on and off the karts I have depending on the track and what I feel like racing that weekend. Variety is the spice of life 😀

    The rotax takes a little more work due to the constant change in jetting throughout the day (ie. carb on and off kart and back on again). This is not that difficult but an increased step in the racing day. You will also need equipment for selecting jetting along with the multitude of jets. When the Rotax engine does malfunction, which is inevitable, the parts are more costly.

    The Leopard takes little to no work during a race day other than twisting on the screws. But just like the Rotax, the leopard can break just as easily.

    It use to be that there were only a handful of places that could service the Rotax unlike a Leopard, but that is no longer a factor.

    I wouldn’t be concerned with what wins where. Generally, the best driver(s) are upfront regardless of the motor package. IMI, once expanded/changed, may not be a Rotax dominated track. It just happens to be a track suited for the Rotax currently. At Grand Junction, I can remember watching a Leopard, Rotax, Biland, Sonik with some fantasic drivers fight for the lead. What a great race that was!!

    I can setup my Arrow AX-9 Kart for you with either a Leopard or Rotax. Give me a call.

    Whatever you decide have fun!!!!!


    Garrick Mitchell

    I’m impressed with the rationality of the replies so far… No flame war yet! 8)

    The only kart I’ve ever so much as sat in other than a rental is the one I have now. I bought a 5-year-old Rotax with zero experience wrenching on karts or working with 2-stroke engines (the weedeater doesn’t count), and I still love the engine. Yes, there’s been a learning curve, and I’ve made some dumb mistakes that cost me track time, but that would be the case with a Leopard as well.

    In a nutshell, I’ve had great luck with the engine itself; the gremlins have been in the bits that bolt to it. I’ve stripped the plastic balance-drive gears, had a bad battery end my day, and may have the record for quickest fouling of a spark plug (I’m still a bit of an idiot when it comes to jetting). However, that’s all outside of the sealed part of the engine, and it’s stuff I can work on. The long rebuild intervals for the core engine are a definite plus for me. I’ve only had it in to Shockwave once in 2 years (got a new cylinder under warranty), and what I saw internal to the engine made me feel really good about its future (knock on wood!).

    I’m a purely recreational driver, but I like to go fast and I feel that I can hold my own at TTAC (I can run in the 57’s with my limited skillz and ancient tires). I’m probably never going to buy a new kart engine, and was lucky to find the used package I did. In the end, maybe I’d be saying the same stuff if I had a Leopard, but with what I know, I’d recommend the Rotax based on its core reliability, availability of service, and widespread use in Colorado.


    First I want to say …………YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME….now thats the information I needed. I like the fact that there are guys like you that will tell me what I need to know.

    Rich thanks for the part about the money spent….thats a key in my racing future.

    Garrick and Tom Dennin can you email your phone numbers I would like to talk to you about the rotax and Tom Im interested in what you have for sale.

    Keep the good posts coming…..I havent heard anything out of the Leopard guys……I really do want both sides.


    [email protected]

    Tom Dennin

    Tim check you PM

    I think Garrick’s Maranello/Rotax was my kart originally, not positive though. Garrick do you know? I must be getting old if I can’t remember 😆

    Jason Benoit

    Hey Tim we ran leopards in the Masters class last year and managed to hold our own. It seemed like we were a little quicker at the track than the rotax guys and a little slower at IMI. I was the only leopard guy in the top five in club points. I believe the rest ran the rotax. We blew 2 motors last year. One had 12 hours on it and the other had 17 hours. We ran them at around 15500 to 16000 max rpm.
    We did manage to win twice in our first year though. We discussed a few times selling one of our leopards and buying a rotax. The upkeep on the leopard is a little expensive compared to the rotax. Also the leopard has issues with the brushes in the starter so we have been replacing the brushes every 2 races whether it needs it or not. It sucks getting to the starting grid and not being able to get the thing started. We also broke two exhaust headers last year.

    Overall I am happy with the performance of the Leopard and they are extremely easy to tune. The only downfall is the upkeep you have to stay on top of it or you can plan on breaking down.

    Garrick Mitchell

    @Jason Benoit wrote:

    …Also the leopard has issues with the brushes in the starter so we have been replacing the brushes every 2 races whether it needs it or not. It sucks getting to the starting grid and not being able to get the thing started. We also broke two exhaust headers last year.

    AFAIK, Rotax uses the same starter, and the brushes are subject to the same failure, although it may not be as frequent b/c the Rotax has a balance shaft to reduce vibration.

    I cracked my exhaust, but had it repaired (welded) at IMI. I believe the spot where I had the crack has since been redesigned.

    Tim, just about everything I know about my engine I learned from Doug & Sons at Shockwave and from talking to other runners at TTAC. My perspective is really pretty limited when it comes to making a choice between packages. It’s a no-brainer to recommend what I know. 8)

    Greg Welch

    Well I’ll hop in here and voice my opinion briefly. We run both Rotaxes and Leopards all around the country, turning both motors as hard as they can go. Anyone who has known me for a long time can tell you I can break anything. I have blown up engines that people don’t even think can break.

    I think my blown up motors list goes something like this

    12665648739 briggs and stratton 5hp (Briggs vs. IMI, IMI won)
    2 60cc shifter
    5 80cc shifter
    8 ICC motors
    1 built moto (I only drove one two or three times)
    2 stock moto (1 freak piston failure, 1 broken cylinder)
    5 leopards
    2 Rotax (1 was from racing in Grange with motor temps around 220, bouncing the rev limiter for half the straight, the other IMI CSC when I lost the rad cap and tried to hold the water in the engine with my hand)

    From my history the stock moto and the Rotax have been the most reliable. The Rotax breaks were always under extreme circumstances as well.

    In the Leopards defense we blew most engines either at Stars of Karting or testing for stars, where the motor revs are 17,000 at most tracks.

    Both carburetors suck in my opinion. The rotax has a whole bunch of jets you can change, especially in TaG, but the leopard carb is near as difficult. There is a very long list of adjustments you can make to the leopard carb outside of just twisting the high and low screws.

    My first Rotax engine that we purchased long before becoming a service center is still with us today, in fact it is the one we ran at the Rotax Grands this year. It is on its second crank, third rod, and probably 5 or 6 pistons. However this engine has in the 300-350 hour range on it. That took me around 5 years to put that much time on it, and that also includes driving close to 100 days per year.

    We chose the Rotax because of the same reasons everyone else here has said. However with the Leopard it is competitive and if de tuned can last a while. Our Leopard maintenance cycle is every 7 to 8 hours, however they will last around 40 if de tuned and just run locally.

    Hope that helps


    I have came up with another question…..If I need some correction here feel free to do so.

    Does anyone that runs either motor have comments about the charging system on either motor….my understanding is leopard recharges the battery and rotax does not? Is there problems and how are they overcome….In the rotax do you have to carry a second battery and does the first battery last the entire race? Is the leopard weak in this area?

    Im trying to figure out which one works within my budget and with the finanical advisor (see wife).

    [email protected]

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