A culture age-out: unfortunate there aren't more 30+ yr old drivers competing in senior classes

Really agree with what you said Davin, but I also noticed that even with teens and young adults, karting is really commonly or widely not seen as a serious thing. Whenever I have mentioned karting to my friends, they always assume I’m talking about the rental ones. Not saying those are bad, in fact they’re really really fun, but what I’m saying is that people just don’t know much about karting at all.

Besides seeing karting as a pathway to F1, people usually see karting just as an activity for fun and not something competitive that you commit to for a season. It’s just not promoted as much as it should, especially in the United States. I remember just last year I never cared for karting and saw it just as a pathway into pro motorsports. Until I started researching about it a few months ago and actually began to really respect it and now I really love it.

Plus as an adult, while juggling with family, work, and daily life, it’s hard to get introduced to karting by yourself if karting isn’t properly promoted. Karting isn’t the most simple sport to get into either, and trying to do it by yourself may seem overwhelming. But it is also great to see more people getting into karting, which can hopefully influence more kids, teens, and adults to get the racing bug.

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Tell you what I find when I talk about karting with my peers. Unless they know, the image conjured up is of a kids go-kart. The number of times I talk to my gym bunny buddies ‘what do you do for exercise?’ ‘Karting’ ‘(sniggers) that’s playing not exercise’

I’ve invited a couple of them to come do some laps then they’re like holy shit balls!!! That’s tough!

Point is as mentioned karting isn’t really promoted to any folks outside of the karting scene already.


The perennial problem world over.

Part of the issue is those who promote the sport rarely are in a position to benefit financially from it. Not that money should be the motivator, but kart promotion, done properly at least, is an expensive business. This website for example isn’t free. It takes time and effort. The videos I wanted to do this year would have costed me several thousand dollars.

it’s why letting this ‘ladder to F1’ thing mutate into the monster it is has become such a factor. It costs karting teams, tracks, and series nothing. All the F1 broadcasters and drivers pump out the message on a weekly basis. we will keep sucking on that till it runs dry. It’s millions of dollars of free advertisement. Well it’s not totally free there is a price to pay. That price being that WE don’t control the narrative being pumped out, which is why now we see multiple news stories bestowing how expensive karting is and so on as if it represents the ‘sport’ and that it’s about children trying to be in F1 i.e not good advertisement if you want to attract adults etc…

Also prior to the ‘racing ladder’ nonsense (though it has always been there to some extent) karting was pretty much the only motorsport people could do if they weren’t very wealthy. So we had a monopoly in that area and again didn’t need to promote ourselves ALL that much (tho in the UK we had more ‘street’ races and a more developed scene back in the day). Nowadays people are ragging around in C1s and sims and so on. Far more options for the potential racer than there used to be.

Karting really has never had to focus on self-promotion in any recognisable fashion as a collective. For better or worse single make racing has torn apart the concept of a collective identity too and that makes karting an incredibly difficult thing to promote because you now have multiple competing interests. Would IAME, Rotax and Vortex ever agree to work together to promote karting? Or are they more interested in nicking drivers from each other?

This I think is the responsibility of a governing body I should add, this is supposed to be the reason why you have one, but it’s clear to me they aren’t interested in doing this (here in the UK at least) and tbh they can’t. The ceded responsibility of promotion to class owners now. They have no classes of their own. So they end up being administrators for race events, and they don’t even do that all that well either. Here in the UK, a country the size of Michigen (in land mass) has so many classes I can’t even cope with the torment of listing them. So to promote ‘karting’ is incredibly difficult at a fundemental level.

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I’m just going to quote myself here. In the nearly 10 years I’ve been having this conversation with folks, the common theme is “Someone else you should it.”, which is one of the chicken/egg conversations about promoting karting in a large scale.

It’s highly unlikely that someone is going to get up one day and go “Karting is awesome!” and just create a large scale media channel for it, so grassroots media is really the only way to get the sport out to folks. (It’s one of the reasons that I stopped making a karting specific podcast, and cross promote on other car enthusiasts channels where I can, instead.)

I think the most active person I’ve seen make consistent media about karting was Matt/True Racer.
I wish that more of his content had been about how to get people into the sport, as much as it was about his races, but he put some effort into his content.

Granted, the ROI of karters making community content would be low right now, because they’re not driving people to race tracks, and it’s not helping to promote their own racing.

However, in an era where everyone has access to a phone, Youtube/TikTok and Instagram, it’s never been easier to create content. Karters won’t do it, unless it promotes their own racing program.

Even then, it’s rare.

I’ll share some of my experiences coming in. Keep in mind, I’d already known about karting, own one and raced for fun against my dad on a track we had.

Information is scarce. What do I need, who do I talk to, how do I get involved??
So I go to the first drivers meeting, in half camo, I’m as redneck as they come. Stuck out like a sore thumb surrounded by kids.

Go to the kart shop at the track I want to race at. $3000 for a rolling chassis no stand. Nothing in stock unless I want a brand new tony kart.

Okay. Well, entry level oval/circle track is about $5000 a year, $8000 to run a midget. I have a budget, otherwise I’m going to oval trackin’
A midget is basically a cross between a go kart and a sprint car. Motorcycle engine powered. They move good.

If I’m going to spend $3000 on a chassis alone, I’m spending $5000 on a midget.

Now, here’s a question, Johnny is 14, Johnny just took me out, who do I talk to? Mommy and daddy didn’t take me out, Johnny did. So am I having a conversation with a parent? Or am I having a conversation with Johnny?

A club nearby has a big problem, the oval track I’m speaking of, is part of the kart track, think Daytona or Charlotte roval. So what is a 30 something going to do? Race fast cars? Or race with kids? I’m choosing karts. I’m choosing karts because I don’t need a 5 man crew to help maintain my car. Self promotion needs to be a thing that is focused on. Don’t tell someone you can’t help them if they don’t want a $5000 brand new kart.

Imagine this scenario.
No internet.
1 magazine with no technical content, not available from any retail outlet.
No racing for under 12 year olds.
All karts air cooled rotary valve 2 strokes.
No clutches , no electric start, all direct drive push start.
No 4 strokes, no indoor karting, no rental karts, no sim racing.
No dirt oval karting.
No ’ Path to F1’ No Hamilton factor . No Ginettas.
That was the UK karting scene mid 1980s
And yet there were way more people racing their own karts then than there are now…

I do believe that older karts were more accessible. Just from a visual standpoint they look far less ‘car’ than they do nowadays, even if the only difference essentially is pods. I recall a neighbour of mine racing a podless 100 National back in the day and he took it to the track on top of a 205 if memory serves me right. It was very “I could give that a go” back then.

having said that, I think karting also benefitted from a number of other factors like being the only player in that market place at the time.

All of that just tells me that there are more modern tools that people aren’t taking advantage of as much now, while other sports and mediums are.

Here’s a thought. Thinking of karting’s greater good, do we even want it to be promoted?

I know the promotion we have received is “wrong” and as Alan said “free” but I can’t with hand on heart say karting has got better or increased in numbers since that started happening. Its been on continuous downward trend if anything. The essentials of racing karts haven’t changed, we’ve got pods, water-cooling and TAG, that’s all that’s really changed.

When I started in the late 90s you had to seek it out, and I’m pretty sure we only knew about it because of “step to F1” marketing. We had no idea how much it cost until we got there and then the local kart shop had used karts, or more importantly, knew someone with a used kart (and in some minor cases a newsagent would have Karting Magazine on the shelf). Nowadays, someone googles it and gets put off before they even get there which misses the key draw, which is seeing, hearing, smelling and, if your lucky, driving one.

So in past, karting got adults who had a little spare change, a car and heard or saw the kart track while they were driving around (or knew someone). Now we mostly get parents who want their kid to be F1 driver or see the value in the community, kids doing something at the weekend, etc. Occasionally we get adults through word of mouth, raced as a kid, or want to race something but can’t afford cars (see the value).

I’d almost prefer karting went dark except through specialist outlets.

Does anyone do this with their spouses here? I see precious few adult women on track.

My wife would like to, but she’s afraid she’d just fire people off (she’s a little violent in a rental kart and sims) and quite frankly, she needs practice and we can’t afford to practice. I just turn up on borrowed equipment :slight_smile:

There’s a couple of cool couples where one is the mechanic/tuner for the other. My missus slots into this role very nicely, she’s surprisingly excellent and watching and analysing driving techniques.

I would have been happy if my wife just came with me to a single race. No luck, I did everything solo instead which is a lot of work and not much fun.

Though not an absolute measurement Motorsport UK licenses were over 6000 in 1996. Now they are 3200ish. I believe Bambino licenses which didn’t exist in 1996 (the year CHampions of the Future first aired on ITV. Also the furthest back my memory goes on licenses figures) so that hides a further decline as Motorsport UK opened up to more drivers (6-7 year olds). I believe the real loss has been seniors (cadets and juniors have held up OK. I think modern drivers race more on average tho iirc). So overall maybe a 40-50% drop since 1996 and that’s with an extra 7 or so million added to the population. In the early noughties licensees hovered around 5500ish then the economic crisis hit and that’s when it accelerated south (it was still on a slow downward trend as only one or maybe two years saw growth in 2000-2010 iirc). This is all from memory of research I did ages ago so may be wrong here and there

How many people raced IKR exclusively (I suspect a fair few IKR driver have licenses too) back in 1996 compared to now I don’t know so it’ll be hard to measure whether there’s been a big change there.

I think racing is so alien to mine that she’s probably somewhat intimidated. I think she thinks it’s super redneck NASCAR type stuff. In any case, my folks used to play tennis together, was wondering if there were those who found marital bliss sharing the blend line.

My wife has her own kart with a yamaha on it that she brings out on practice days and she’s actually pretty quick but she has zero desire to “race”, she just wants to go out and drive. She’s also pretty small and runs a cadet kart and would have to use pedal relocation kits to run a full size kart along with approx 80-90 lbs of lead to make weight for say KA100 sr.

She’s done one drivers education event per year with me since we pretty much met 20 years ago and is really entertained by driving but doesn’t want the added risk that comes along with competition.

The sweatshirt is a big hit with my spouse, surprisingly! Also, got some positive comments on it at work. Everyone needs a UK karting sweatshirt.

Good to hear mate! Thanks for the purchase!

It definitely turned from a dad and lad (not meaning to be sexist but that’s just where it was at) sport to the perception that you need a big truck. Then commercial classes changed it from you can tinker with your own engine if you want, to you need to spend thousands on the correct parts and only certain people are allowed to rebuild them.

But the dad and lad bit is mostly perception. You can be competitive without the big truck but when its all you see if you visit a track for the first time its definitely going to put you off.

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Crucial point. The added veil of secrecy may have accelerated this move towards what is effectively arrive-and-drive in all but name that we kinda have now. The secondary effect is magazines and so on have considerably less to write and talk about. I’ve been watching some dirt bike stuff recently and the depth of information that is discussed is astonishing. Though they are suffering just as much as karting. The shift to 4-stroke probably didn’t help, but that’s not the whole picture.

Do you have 4-stroke in UK? It seems to be primarily a USA thing. Most visible is club 100. Yes, there’s plenty of hire kart races similar to the rentals I am in as well. But, is there high performance 4-stroke?