A few months ago, I wrote an article for clubman car racers (IE: SCCA and NASA guys) how karting was a great way to get extra seat time. Several older car racers, who just started straight into cars, had no idea that they could even do kart racing, and the values it provided. A few of the local drivers in my areas have gotten LO206s since then, and joined the karting collective to get some more racing in.
However, the whole experience got me thinking about unconventional experiences where we’re introduced new people to the sport of karting.
Do you have any stories about how you’ve introduced a new person into karting? (IE: A co-worker, someone who competes in a different motorsport, anything funny/random where someone new has been introduced into the sport? etc)
That’s my largest struggle. It’s easy to get a car enthusiast and put him/her on the seat of a kart, but it’s hard to make them interested enough to commit.
My friend and team co-owner started in autocrossing just like me, but also saw the overall value of karting. Started in Lo206, now is moving to TAG Leopard. We both love the sport, obviously.
On the flip side, one of my car buddies was really, really, REALLY fast and fairly enthusiastic at our indoor kart league, so I called him up for a couple of test days on a real kart hoping he would join our team and help put us on the map. He did the practice days, drove our Lo206, loved it, but didn’t want to do it after that.
Even after I offer to let folks drive our 206 for FREE at club events as long as they pay the driver fees (only $35/event!) people still don’t want to commit. The story is similar for many friends and acquaintances: It feels like they are so, SO close to jumping in, but it doesn’t matter how easy you make it for people.
The heart of the matter is that Karting might a huge image problem 'round here. You say “kart racing” and people think amusement park rides.
The best thing I think anyone can do is to put a friend, buddy, co-worker, ect. in your kart. At the end of my season at New Castle Motorsports I had a couple of friends come out for a test day. I let one buddy who had helped on race day a few times drive my Yamaha sprint kart and he’s hooked. He is starting his karting career next spring.
The second was the following weekend I let a motorcycling friend drive my new shifter at New Castle. He never went over 30mph, I never told him to go slow, but he had the biggest smile on his face when he pulled in. He’s not racing next season but he’s fired up to come out and help me at the track next year. Who knows where that will lead. Putting someone in your kart is a great way to expose karting as much more than a “$20 for 10 laps of bashing into your friends” sport.
I don’t have any stories, but I’d love to see more try karting days at local tracks. Let people come out and drive karts that aren’t too intimidating like the 206, just letting people run around. Maybe charge a small fee to get out there but keep it low cost just to show people what it’s actually like to race a real kart
I am sad to say that in 18 year I have never convinced anyone to get into karting. Now I think this is partially because I’m so mellow about it that I can’t build the hype.
Anyway West Coast Kart Club out of Greg Moore Raceway in BC runs a initiative called RaceNow. They are basically trader owned LO206 packages, i think 3 or 4 traders have karts available. No weight limit, no spec tires and turn up for $299. Includes racewear, race entry and equipment hire. I’ve jumped in one occasionally and had a good race with the real LO206 class.
They seem to get lots of entries, but how many translate to full time, i don’t know and I’m not sure its tracked.
The Chicago Region SCCA always had a display between the ticket booth and the entrance to the Chicago Auto Show when it was in the old building. My son and I would work at the display, passing out flyers and answering the same old question over and over again. “Yes”, there is air in those tires. But it gave us a chance to people about getting into racing. One of the nicest moments was being flagged down by a guy and his son at a road race. They wanted to know if we remembered them from the meeting at the auto show. They were both racing and having fun.
Oh! and how did I get sucked into karting? Again at the auto show. Had seen the show and was walking around the back end where they were showing off glass cleaners, vegetable choppers and super towels. Found myself at the Skip Barber booth. As I walked away, the guy at the next booth wanted to know if I’d like to be able to race every weekend, no just a couple of times a year. That guy was the owner of John’s Kart. I’ve always blamed him. Thanks John.
Some years they would have one kart, but not very often as I remember. Our prime objective was to get people interested in auto racing and we had all sorts of race cars as eye candy. We’d past out flyers for Road America and signed people up for the regional solo or corner worker schools. But karting had already taken over our lives. So when people wanted to talk about our racing involvement, the door to karting opened up.
Long time Chicago SCCA guy here, started in 2007-2008 then transitioned in 2011 to Windy City Miata Club (cheaper events + self tech created a friendlier environment.) In 2014 I’ve tried to race my very much modified HPV kart with the TSSCC, but got way too frustrated. I was tired of wasting 4 out of my 6 runs tuning the carb.
We got into karting because my son at 6 was a sports nut and I was an old school IT guy, not a sports guy. My Dad and I had been going to the Road America Historic Races for nearly 20 years when I found out about the Road America Kart Club. Well, figured this would be one way I could hang out with my son while learning and teaching. In 2011, I arranged for a test drive of a kid kart after Saturday race and we have been having adventures ever since.
We do car shows with our kart, I know of at least one guy who got is kid started in racing after seeing our karts.
The SCCA June sprints at Road America weekend has a kart race on Saturday night, we wander the pits all day and talk the race up to the crew and drivers. Many do come out and watch, some get back into karting after seeing and remembering the fun.
One year we were camping at Road America for the June sprints and got to talking to one of our neighbors about karting. They watch us race that night and had a great time. A few years later we ran into them at another track with their own kart.
A least one a year we do a presentation at my Dad’s Rotary club, no hits there yet.
I would like to learn more about the SCCA so that when he is ready he can try out a race car.
My kart club, the Calgary Kart Racing Club has been using a couple ways to attract new racers to karting over the years.
The first was having a presence at local trade shows. We used to do the Motorcycle show, the Outdoorsman show, the Boat show, World of Wheels and the International Auto show in our city. We have since narrowed it down to the World of Wheels and the International Auto Show due to cost and measuring the return on investment of these shows.
The second method was started almost 10 years ago and is what we call Try-A-Kart. We are a club owned facility so we do not have traditional rental karts at our facility. The club has over the the years amassed a fleet of about 20 karts ranging from kid kart to senior 4-cycle karts. Keeping everything 4-cycle has been the easiest for maintenance and expense. These are plenty fast enough for the uninitiated general public. The idea is to give people an opportunity to get a taste of driving a real racing kart. The program includes giving them a short driving school type seminar and 3 progressively faster lead and follow sessions. This program has provided a steady pipeline of newcomers to our club. Of those who decide to pursue karting as a hobby, some become racers and others become Test & Tuners.
This was an initiative brought about by a couple members who started with a few donated karts and a shoestring number of club volunteers running a handful of events during the season. It has now grown into 6 sold out events each year employed with club members working off mandatory volunteer hours for their club. These events generate comparable income to the club races that are held.
We also promote our club events, Try-A-Kart, club meetings and trade shows through our Facebook page.
Each type of trade show has different expenses associated with it. Some are reasonable and others can be pricey for the amount of exposure attained. This is why we settled on the World of Wheels and the International Car and Truck show. These two shows attracted more of the motor heads that we were looking for and by only doing two shows, our expenses were reasonable. World of Wheels was about $750 for 2.5 days and the Auto show was about $2,300 for 5 days. Each new member that joins and races a full season with our club will generate about $1,600 of revenue for the club.
At the trade shows we would also take names, numbers and email addresses for the truly interested lookers and these a lot of times would turn into new karters for our club. Over time we figured that the turnover of an average karter was about 2.5 years so we knew we had to have some sort of way to find new people. Since we built our new track in 2014 and had full race seasons in 2015 and 2016, our membership has grown each year with member numbers of about 145 in 2015 and 170 in 2016.
This might not necessarily work everywhere. But a club in the UK mailed 20,000 households (or somewhere in that realm) and worked out they need one club member to finance that. I believe it worked pretty well.
I imagine most people just don’t know karting exists or at least competitive karting exists, i think if you have a good way in (like Try-A-Kart or RaceNow) then the difficulty becomes getting them to know it exists.
Typically, once they quit karting you don’t see them again so finding out why they left is usually not known and we haven’t put any effort into finding out why or helping to get the equipment back into circulation. There is only so much energy and time any volunteer organization has.
I think it is usually when a new season rolls around that people make that decision to quit because their club fees are due and new season expenses such as tires, new spares or last season repairs come to light. Some people do not find the success they were looking for so they go and do some other activity. We found that the turnover in Rotax Senior was quite high. Looking at the class demographics and the class was almost 70/30 with senior drivers and masters age drivers. We decided to create a Rotax Masters class that ran on their own. The numbers in both classes grew and became equal in size, nearing grids of 20. When the EVO upgrade came out the numbers have decreased since but we are hoping for growing grids again this year with a handful of juniors moving up and a few returning drivers.
We have tried to create a balanced season schedule of a race about every two weeks and a raceday schedule that runs on time and ends at about 4pm so that families and volunteer marshals are not worn out. The long and short of it is that you might not ever know why people quit but you do what you can to keep people interested in staying. It is an expensive and time consuming hobby that people are happy to pay for when it is fun. Once the fun tapers off, the motivation of carrying on funding it becomes less likely.