Mr. Formal eloquently explains lack of shifter participation

Lol! This is a pretty awesome rant. One of my new favorite karting personalities!

He doesn’t mention money but that’s not an issue for the pros, I guess, since these guys probably have factory support.



My opinion about the lack of shifter participation is probably not Kart Pulse friendly.


It’s very much along the lines of what Daniel said just more cursing. :joy:

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Couldn’t have said it any better. It’s about time someone put the X30 “Pros” on blast.


Danny does have some point, but I can’t help but point out my local KA class has more karts than the “elite” shifter classes and far better racing.

Entries breed entries. And honestly I tune out of KC broadcasts after the start of the Pro Shifter races. It’s usually a snooze fest after that.

flame suit on
Fight me!

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I don’t think that calling out X30 or an any 125 single speed drivers is actually going to help participation, however much I tend to agree with the sentiment.

I think it’s the sport is presented that mainly stops participation in Shifter classes. Karting is still presented by most major organising bodies as a ladder to something else, which I could go on an expletive laden rant about myself.
Why would a kid whose parents are either paying for or encouraging the progression to F1 or cars in general make the step into shifter?
Ladder driven kids go straight from 125 to cars and skip shifter. I have a hard time with Kids are the future of our sport, they are important BUT we need to retain the Adults (racers and others) who actually pay for the sport and turn up to help out at clubs.

Shifter is the pinnacle of Karts, I love it and it should continue to be hard. Its rough on the body, its technical to drive, it’s hard to tune, and it’s hard to join all of those together, while being the most expensive form of Karting.

To get more people into Shifter we need to
-Solve the participation churn and stop losing families and drivers
-Start promoting Karting as a sport on its own

To give an idea how bad the churn is, I am privy to the licence numbers in my state.
My states total population is 2.6 million
We have roughly 800-900 racing licence holders.
We peaked in the “Glory Days” about 10 years ago at 1500 licence holders
I started racing 7 years ago and my licence number is in the 3000’s, and new licences are now in the 5000’s.
In the time I have been in the sport OVER 2000 new licences issued and have LOST 400 -500 total racing licences.
If we could keep even half of the new racers, and retain half of the current racers we would have 1500 racers and be growing at more than 100 a year AND be running out of space in pdks and on track.
But we aren’t, we are losing numbers hand over fist.

My thoughts on why
Some bad actors absolutely raping new starters on kart and equipment purchases
Inconsistent officiating
Poor facilities (blokes can piss behind trees and not shower for days but women would rather not)
A lack of safe entertainment options for family members not racing at tracks
Level of competition, by that I mean when new people see all the big teams and some of those peoples attitudes, it is a very intimidating environment.
Lack of community around some clubs.


[Cough] Four stroke shifter [/cough]

I haven’t been actively promoting it as I’m still working on ancillary packages and a mount… But if anyone wants to order one to play with…


I didn’t think that he was that eloquent. All I heard was his opinion, blah, blah blah…

I think Dom was using a heavy amount of sarcasm there…


I spend way more on stupid 206 racing than I do racing KZ locally and regionally.


The main problem shifter karting has in terms of participation rates, and Europe really isn’t all that different to America really, is single-make classes have commercial owners, and the multi-make classes do not. All they have is the FIA and various ASNs who fundamentally are not equipped to promote these classes. OK literally survives on the ‘F1 dream’ and that’s it. Shifter, due to the stability of gearbox karting as a concept, doesn’t require that but alas, it’s still very very niché compared to the dominant single make classes. Classes like F1, Dorma and SX are all owned by companies who have a vested interest in their success. Of course they have slightly different models as they are mainly spectator based classes, tho SX and dirt bikes straddles both competitors based and spectator based models.

So when talking about numbers and stuff like that it always needs to be remembered at the heart of it is how money is generated and where does it go. I know we have ROK shifter and that’s single-make, but that seems more of an afterthought. Shifters never tend to do well in single-make environments, and I think that’s partly due tot he fact gearbox karters tend to be more ‘race’ type people and reject the homogeneity of single-make racing, which is very much a good thing in my view. That’s partly why KZ remains the shifter class rather than shifters descending into the pit of single-make fragmentation. Seems to be a bit immune to it by and large.

To Formal’s points. I think the main thing we learn, seeing as this has elicited quite a response on social media, is there’s a thirst in karting for actual ‘real talk’. Karters actually being vocal and having a personality. I think Formal’s idea that shifters is what you should do before cars is incorrect. I think more people like him would be beneficial to shifters, not the 15 year olds, because a lot of people will now want to watch then next shifter race with Formal in. When your market is 15 year olds who want to go cars, you need a massive amount of turnover of drivers every year due to the losses. it’s not stable or conducive to racing people will hang around to watch. 1 driver who races for 10 years is worth 5 who do 2 years each.

I think the calling out of other racers is a good thing. I like it. :slight_smile: He’s the only karter in the world right now saying “if you think you’re good, come race me”. It makes the X30 drivers look wimpish in one sweep.

*one extra thing. Shifters is only the elite class because of the destruction of the CIK direct drive classes. It has inherited that status, which has always made it difficult to be presented as such in the eyes of the traditional market.

*Another extra thing - stock Honda, in terms of an argument against single-make immunity from shifters, is worth noting. However, to some degree, that was never a ‘real’ class. It’s survival was due to a different market - road/dirt bikes. Once Honda stopped building 2-strokes (and the inherently lower costs associated with mass-produced engines), then it wasn’t really sustainable. It’s not a stable platform. If you have road/dirtbike derived engines, you need to have allowances for more manufacturers (kinda like 250 Nat in the UK)

*third extra thing - unless some charismatic person front KZ and takes responsibility for it solely, nothing will change much. And I mean more than offering it as a class. I mean KZ being the sole focus.

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Stock Honda shifter class was immensely popular in the US. I would say that it’s demise is the primary reason why shifters have fallen on hard times.


It was never real though, well sustainable. it was entirely dependent on a separate market suppressing prices and providing a stock of spare parts etc… Once Honda pulled the plug on 2-strokes it became a historic racing class effectively. And that’s a different proposition for the prospective competitor.

Sourcing CR250s in the UK for 250 National is an immensely complex problem (especially now retro 2-strokes are now a big market pushing prices higher, it’ll be same with CR125s no doubt). I tried it myself. It faces a similar problem stock honda did, albeit 250 National in the UK is open to other engines (some road based, some homologated). Stock Honda would need a clone engine to be made and sold, and that brings inflationary pressure on the class.

Road derived engines are the historic roots of gearbox karting, especially long circuit, but unless your class moves with the times (yuck) and follows road trends (i.e Honda 250F… again yuck) it will be vulnerable.

And you’d still get the ‘Formal Problem’. Stock Honda would remain popular, but at the expense of KZ? The question would still be - why won’t stock honda drivers actually get “cahones” and race the real pinnacle shifter class

*many moons ago I looked at whether Stock Honda could be tried in the UK as a concept, and to be honest it was a pain to get my head around the modifications required. Engine and availability was a big problem too. Without Honda behind CR125s, it’s decline was set.

I will take that challenge.

What constitutes better racing is subjective. Personally I like knowing that driver A on a tuned TM by a friend of mine is up against a a guy with a tuned IAME from not a friend of mine. It makes the racing more intense and ‘layerful’, more meaningful. It’s why we watch F1 and post endlessly about F1 sidepod designs etc… and not discuss F2. It’s why I personally like to catch what’s happening in Div 1 in the UK coz Jade run twin KZs vs the traditional 250 twins. Watching X30 or Rotax, it’s just a conveyor belt of names I know probably won’t be there in 2 years. I’d prefer we went back to FSA to be honest, but that’s another story for another day.

Karting media is dead by and large because of this, and most of the reason is single-make racing is without culture and story for the most part (one can make it novel in particular ways that elevate it). It’s the NPC meme in racing form :wink: Though, I will admit this homogeneity has infected the multi make racing classes too. Gillard was the last big win at the World Championships that had some kind of interesting story behind it.

What I am saying is when you have that type of racing each overtake has more investment by individuals involved in the overall performance of the vehicle. The OTK dealer doesn’t really care who wins because they have 90% of the grid anyway, the KA dealer don’t care coz they have 100% of the grid. Your engine builder might set the engine up, but they haven’t spent hours tuning it. I know some engine tuners who get furious at drivers who sell engines they’ve tuned (even if the driver OWNS it). The secrecy and intensity is just higher.

That’s to say one overtake in KZ has more value. 10 karts in a train all running the same gear and passing and repassing is fun, but it doesn’t carry the same weight… in my opinion

I should add, KZ and shifter racing isn’t really ‘my’ thing (i dislike the F1 training tool tag it’s got in recent years). I won’t bring back Karting1 website because of KZ. But if elite direct racing was popular (and not child based as it is now) and filtered into national level racing… I might get the enthusiasm back. But modern karting and the ‘modern’ racing format is not conducive to something worth writing about… by and large… because the racing isn’t good enough, and not meaningful enough.

And at the heart of the story is whether something at the ‘elite level’ is meaningful to do. That’s really Formal’s point. He is saying KZ is meaningful and X30 isn’t (hence the hobby class comment)


The biggest class in my series is a KA class.
But KZ is still king in my opinion.
I am happy for lower tiers of karting to be Spec classes, I hear what Alan is saying, but my belief is that at lower levels of racing Spec racing is cheaper, and better racing, FOR that level.
The upper levels of the sport- regional and above- it is hard for me to say, but I agree that Spec racing shouldn’t be the major focus, that’s definitely the realm of multi make KZ and multi make 125.
The reason in my view that spec racing at that level exists is- participation numbers, Sporting Organisations need those classes to pay bills.

And it comes back around to the churn, if we could keep new karters in the sport, retain current karters, all the other classes would eventually fill up also as karters find their level of competition and financial balance.

I am not so sure spec racing is cheaper. At my local club I can’t say that I see people spending less money racing TKM and Rotax/X30 than they were spending on 100 Britain in 1986. Spending levels are a consequence of a myriad of variables beyond the actual formula (depreciation, expectations, competition etc…). As there is no spending cap, then people will spend whatever they can afford. Expectations play an important part.

I think single-make racing has a market advantage because of the perceived ‘fairness’ which holds a tight grip on the psychology of the market place. I think it’s a misplaced aspiration, but single-make racing’s advantage is not in cost, but in perceived fairness.. People are spending a LOT of money racing single-make classes. I don’t think the racing is better at all to be honest either. I watch historic series with plenty of budget racers and it’s brilliant. The variation just adds to much. It’s a hard sell, and clearly mass-market appeal isn’t there, but I think I’ve done pretty well promoting historic classes in my time :slight_smile:

I actually think the persevered market expectation of fairness warps expectations that leads people to spend more money hunting ‘fairness’. I do recall that back in the day because the formulas weren’t inherently fair, the whole goal was to get a kart and race. Anything beyond that was a bonus. Modern racing the market expects their engine to be as good as the others and to get results faster. I don’t ever recall seeing people throw tyres at club races back in the early 90s. That’s partly due to expectations and partly due to compounds.

I don’t think you can have spec-racing dominate club level and have an appreciated elite level of the sport. Supercross/Motocross run the same classes at club level as race at elite level. So the fanbase, which consists largely of dirtbike owners/riders, has a clear lineage. If your sport is spectator based fully, then this isn’t important. There isn’t nationally level F1 (any more). But a sport like karting if you want an elite level that people aspire to, then if you don’t have some lineage throughout the sport it’ll never capture the consciousness of the everyday competitor. Single-make racing inherently breaks that and actually removes the very nature of ‘elite’ racing. Formal is right that these are hobby classes and that culture is ingrained within them somewhat. Club Rotax drivers barely give a toss about the Grand Finals, so making people care about KZ is really difficult in this environment.

I think America as a country is a little better than most are creating notoriety for drivers. Norberg et al are benefiting from that of course despite being in X30, so it’s not black and white.

I was searching how to word it. It was a passionate rant.


This gives me the mental image of frustrated racers using their spent tires as projectiles with which to vent their anger. Seems more economical than using nosecones.

would count as upcycling I should think :slight_smile:

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As a club level 4 cycle karter, I have no dog in this fight. However, as a fan of karting and a fan of racing, I can agree with a lot of what others said above.

More karts in the class gives the appearance of the “best class”. Because of that, the appearance of KA and X30 being “Pro” classes exists. Also, this only furthers the entries breed entries philosophy. Even if I had a million dollars, I would not be trying to race shifter and finishing 9th of 9. I would want to race in one of the other classes where I had some folks to race against.

When watching KC, I do the same as TJ and watch the big classes and then turn off the snooze fest that is the shifter classes. Now, do I watch it at Super Nats? Of course. But do I want to see 9 guys spread out over a 1 mile track at the other “national races”? Not really…

Lastly, and this one may just be my opinion, but why does something being “more physical” or being “harder to drive” make it the best? If that was the case, lets put rock hard tires on everything and let everyone slide around everywhere. When things are “easier to drive”, you get more people interested (hobbyists as well as returning professionals). You often also get better (read as more exciting) racing because the pack is closer together.


I think shifter racing is the physical embodiment of why so many of us do this: the exhilaration of driving. The experience is more visceral, and the challenge exceeds that of the other classes both physically and mentally. If we weren’t seeking the thrill and instead just wanted a wheel-to-wheel strategy game then why not everyone just go to the park and have a round robin chess tournament?

That said, shifter racing doesn’t make sense for every track/club. I would argue they have little to no place at a track like Whiteland, yet are a perfect fit for NCMP, for instance.