The top 3 in KZ in the world have a higher average age than the top 3 in F1, so don’t despair, Fore is in his mid 40s
But yes I think you’ve observed something that I have noticed anecdotally from a cultural perspective and that is the Juniorfication of Karting.
There are a multitude of factors that kind of feed each other and sorry for what will follow - a mish mash of my thoughts on the subject, anyway here goes. I could write a book on this haha.
In the UK, we bought into the ‘racing ladder’ hype hard as a form of promotion. It was especially noticeable in 1996 when Champions Of The Future was on prime time TV (you’ll know it form all the vids of Lewis Hamilton in Cadets on Youtube).
The fact is it’s the most reliable and easy form of promotion. Everyone can understand the phrase ‘karting is the first step on the ladder’ and that kind of rubbish. We threw aside every aspect to karting that we should bestow as core values of out sport in exchange for this honour of being the place where racers like Hamilton started out.
It makes sense, but comes at a big cost. The cost is any adult will only associate karting with children. What happened with Luca Corberi at the World Champs for KZ highlighted that. Everyone thought Luca and the racer he attacked were children. I even had to correct a BBC reporter on it who said on National TV the incorrect age for Paulo. So this is the psychological mountain we have to climb.
Karting in general, from a cultural perspective, doesn’t celebrate our champions at the highest levels. We lack that kind of cohesiveness and this partly fuels a lack of identity that counters the ‘racing ladder’ narrative. I think this is partly fueled by single-make racing which I believe has disconnected racers from the sport’s very own ladder to the top. Karters are very insular now, maybe they always were. In the UK at least though, on the historic pages especially, there’s talk about Mickey Allen, Terry Fullerton, Mike Wilson, Bobby Game, Pankrucker and then maybe some stuff on Michael Spencer. Then from about 2000… no one really reminisces about the top drivers. It’s as if time stops. I think the market change towards MAX away from 100s ands so on was partly responsible for that. Not saying it’s good or bad, but the psychological change seems quite clear to me. At that time national racing also became more accessible to everyone.
But back to the racing ladder thing. Parents will spend more on their kids than a person in their 20, 30s, 40s etc… on their own racing. In terms of investment trying to get adults karting is a much harder prospect. it costs more to do and gets less return.
In addition karting is a brutal sport. Being 10 seconds off in a car race doesn’t matter, no one cares. You’ve had a nice weekend and got some nice photos. Motocross, well if you’re a few seconds off the top guys, you’re actually still bloody good. The problem with karting is if you’re 1 second off the pace it’s borderline pointless. It’s absolutely brutal competition, especially modern karting.
It’s slightly different in the retro classes, but I think we’re all so culturally connected to the old karts that we do it because we love the actual karts first and foremost. Culturally it’s a more cohesive racing scene. We aren’t just racing for racing’s sake, we are fundamentalists, which borderlines on religious in nature. I think a lot of people who race modern karts, if given the opportunity to race something else, would take that chance. The amount of ex-karters I see racing the most dog slow awful car racing serious is depressingly high.
There’s so many other factors as well. I try my hardest but it’s an uphill battle.