Just recently, @Alan_Dove wrote an interesting piece about how the karting landscape has changed, over the last year.
- Growth of sim racing being an ‘cheaper’ alternative to kart racing
- Issues/changes with licencing programs
- Tracks diversifying their business models to accommodate other motorsport to stay afloat.
Question: I’m actually really curious how people have felt the landscape has evolved in the last year or so. What trends or changes have you noticed? What changes have you seen?
I was also thinking that if we had thoughts we could share, that might also help folks like Alan have more insight for his future articles.
Alan always does a good article.
But I do think the issue of Cumbria kart club cancelling a club race is a bit of a non-issue. They’ve always had problems attracting entries, at least since I raced there for the first time in '98. Its a track in the middle of no where (by the UK’s standards) with no large population centers within a couple of hours drive. Probably a catchment of 750,000 or something. Whereas the track i grew up at has a catchment of 9.5million. For level of karting we do (and this is based on old license numbers in the UK) I would suggest you’ve got a chance of attracting 0.01% of the population. By that the USA should have about 30,000 people doing owner driver karting at least once a year. The Seattle area might have 380. Of them only 25% probably race regularly.
What I’m getting at is you’ve got to set an expectation. If this was a franchise model, you wouldn’t open kart tracks everywhere, you’d open them proportional to the population and their known interests. Some like Los Angeles can support multiple kart tracks, somewhere like Boise, Idaho should expect less entries and struggle to support one.
But I think you’ve got to expect a track to diversify its business model. A track like Pats Acres (south of Portland, Oregon), no way they could survive on club racing. So they diversify and do other events, drift, motorcross, cyclocross (i’d never heard of that one before), a rental kart series and an owner driver kart series as well as corporate events. The track I grew up on had corporate karts, motorcross, mini moto, motorcycles, track day experiences, a flying cycle and rally cross and the club there could barely afford the track rental with 300+ entries.
So i haven’t seen any changes per se, but I think tracks or clubs that own tracks need to think about diversifying. If you have an expensive asset (like a track) you need to maximizing its value by using it as much as possible.
Sweat that asset indeed. I think I address most of your points in the article already and have no objection to diversification but the reason it’s worthy of note is because you only have to look at Buckmore to see what happens when the club no longer becomes viable. It goes fully corporate (unless you are willing to sink £10k a day to hire it and run a meeting yourself). Also it’s worthy of note since Motorsport UK has been making promises to clubs, there’s a disquiet among circuit people now developing. This cancellation is symptomatic of problems to come (for them, not karting in general).
Fortunately we have IKR as a developing accepted culture within karting and that has helped clubs stay afloat rather than going full Buckmore.
For the US though, they don’t really follow the ASN, the clubs are effectively all IKR and maybe affiliated to commercial entities (SKUSA, ROK etc).
Buckmore’s destiny is due to market forces, they have a demand, which sets their prices and kart club racing can mostly not afford that. Three Sisters had a similar problem but the lease mandated that they allow club kart racing a certain number of months a year. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it. I’m assuming Buckmore’s racers didn’t stop, they just went somewhere else (Bayford, Rye, Lydd) which could accommodate them.
There’s two (at least) types of kart circuit, one owned by the club or municipality with a mandate to provide kart racing, and the type owned by a corporation who need to make money. There’s a surprising number of tracks in the UK that are the latter that have never held MSA racing because there’s no money in it for them (Trax Preston, Ancaster Kart Track). In the club owned situation, if they can, operate all week they should run it like a business and generate improvements for their club members, if its corporate, unless you have the interest of the owner, you’ll just have to match entry fees to cost of rental.