Where is British karting going?
Guest author Laury Curran wrote this in response to a post on KartReview and we thought it was too good to miss.
I find it very difficult to see much change in the future of karting, not just in the UK but in Europe also. For positive change to happen I think it would take a sizeable investment by an individual or entity with the financial clout of Paul Fletcher or the Mills family for example.
They would have to form a stand alone owner driver kart racing enterprise with it’s own set of rules and regulations and especially procedures for dealing with valuable customers like, say, Club 100, Easykart and the now defunct Stars of Tomorrow have made big efforts to. This enterprise would stand on it’s own two feet as two of my examples did or be a financial failure for reasons outside of the scope of this post. The model I’m taking inspiration from for this enterprise is NASCAR.
There are no other examples that I can draw on for a more successful motor racing series than that. I’m talking specifically about the organisation of the championship and the promotion of it. There is much that can be learned from how the France family made it what it is. I’m not even a big fan of the racing in NASCAR but studying the history of it is worthwhile for anybody interested. Basically the buck stopped with the top man, what he said went and if the competitor wasn’t happy then they would be invited to leave. No transgressors remained unless they completely reformed themselves into getting with the programme, so to speak. A bit like how John Vigor runs Club 100 and I have never heard a bad thing said about how he runs his championships by his best customers!
I’ll speculate that it may well be possible that in the near future, the most common reason that anybody will do MSA sanctioned kart racing will be to get their license upgrade early enough to do F4 at 14 years old, especially if LGM/X30 tour goes IKR! With the ridiculous maximum weights in the OK classes it is not a stretch of the imagination that the CIK fully intend on their karting classes to be a training ground for junior car drivers…
What I’m about to say may be controversial. I feel that the current way the kart clubs are structured is a major part of the problem. Until this structure is reformed, reduced or recycled into something else, there will be no change for the better.
There is considerable fossilisation and rot in the current ABkC structure, despite their best intentions. However what has happened is that they have succeeded in preserving the status quo in a promotional sense circa 1987 and allowed the sport to have a rough tick over without adding any real value for the competitor/customer.
The sport is full of rent seekers. There is little appetite for change beyond more regulations that at best annoy the existing customer and, as I’ve seen many times, drive away those senior drivers who enter the sport with their eyes wide open only for them to chose a suitable level of car racing, budget-wise, than endure the very steep learning curve, intimidating elitism and lacklustre enforcement of driving standards in karting.
There is still I believe untapped potential in karting, particularly the gearbox karting in the UK, however as many have pointed out and I have to agree with them, the simulators/games some people play are making a serious dent in not just our sport but on all motor racing on 2 and 4 wheels. I can see why. It’s highly social, very competitive and you can compete on cheap and even used hardware that doesn’t have any need for you to get your hands dirty or pay someone a small fortune to do that for you. Also the risks, financially and personally are nothing. I like a physical challenge so doing it for real will always be my first choice, however the enjoyment to spending ratio is stacked firmly against real racing for the majority of the population.
Karting, like all forms of motor racing, will always be enjoyed by those who can afford to do it so it will always be somewhat elitist. As long as there is a market willing to spend money on it, we should be doing our best to provide them with better enjoyment, fairer racing and a consistently positive experience from an organisational perspective. Currently there’s not many happy faces in kart paddocks.