Questions from a Lifer #1 - Marketing and Demographics

Can one subscribe to your design/karting mag?

So here’s the question. Is that a net-gain or a net-loss for karting? One perspective is that they have come to buy a kart from doing rentals, but another is that we’ve lost 2/3s of people interested in karting to the rental scene. Of course one could say it’s a people finding something they enjoy and stay there, but it is interesting to ponder.

The paper mag is UK only at the moment.PM me and I’ll see what I can do.

Well that’s been some interesting comments to question that was asked poorly and maybe impossible to actually answer.
Responses from James and Alan both were accurate and and every single one made me realize how different circumstances are everywhere.
It seems that my circumstances are way different than many. I was raised in Speedway Indiana walking distance from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Every garage had a basketball goal outside and every other garage had a race car of some kind, sprint cars, champ cars, karts, banger stock cars, late model stock cars, dragsters and street rods.
According to the Indiana Business Journal well over 100,000 people work in the racing industry in central Indiana,
Naturally there would be more than a few people wanting to go racing themselves.

That’s funny, my wife is a billboard sales exec and she just contacted K1 speed regarding their soon to open outdoor track here in SoCal:)


pretty much all the guys I pit with got the bug from rentals. as did i. so from my point of view, the existence of a quality rental facility is a plus for the local club scene. the leap from not racing at all, to forking out the cash to start up in karting is one that most folks won’t gamble on. they don’t know if they’re going to suck, be able to handle it, etc.

the rental track is a very low commitment to the sport, for an individual, but you can test the waters. for me, i always thought i could whoop ass driving, but i never knew for sure. i went to the local indoor rental facility, and did whoop ass, which prompted me to look for avenues to actually get out and race karts. without having the opportunity test myself on the rental track, i would have NEVER made the jump to dropping a few grand on my own kart setup.

and that’s how a good chunk of my race buddies got into it. many times, as with Full Throttle Adrenaline Parks, the rental facility is involved in and promotes the club scene.

i’m actually working on getting a few of my other buddies into club racing by hitting the rental kart places with them. i can see it working, i can see the wheels turning, they’re seeing the potential for fun.

as mentioned and explained before, karting definitely appeals to the older dudes. so much so, ncmp added a super masters class which is over 60 in age, and i’m pretty sure they’re pulling in about 15 or so drivers. the masters class is already pretty big. OVKA and MCC ProAm also pull pretty decent numbers with the older crowd.

It’s not being marketed as a whole and probably shouldn’t be marketed that way anyway. There’s no broad, cohesive effort that I’m aware of. Each series/org/track/manufacturer/team etc does their own thing, or in many cases doesn’t do anything.

All that said, marketing\awareness is the easier part. The hard part is getting people to make the leap into owner driver karting. That’s where the process usually falls short, or rather the lack of a process is revealed.

For an effort to be worthwhile it all needs to be tied together from end-to-end, from first contact to the ah-ha moment and all the way through to purchase just like any other marketing funnel. That was part of my frustration with the marketing efforts I worked on, I didn’t have control over the experience when people got to the track and the experience was haphazard at best.

We can market the sport until we’re blue in the face, but unless we have an actual plan\process to move people along the way, any marketing is a waste of time and money. It’s like turning up at a national race and expecting to perform well with shot tires.

Karting Australia seem to have a more methodical approach to things in the form of tenders, industry reports and more. It is very much stepping stone oriented though:

I would guess that in 100cc TaG Masters in SoCal, 20% to 30% were from rentals. LO206 Masters may have slightly higher numbers that came from rentals. I think it’s significant.

Rental probably take away some racers but also produced racers, who stay in the sport longer than average. I would guess maybe a wash in terms of whether rental cannibalize “real” karting (sorry couldn’t think of a better modifier)

Growing up a suburban kid in a northeastern college town, racing was completely alien. I never saw any racing or knew of anyone who did. I can get how irrelevant rental karting is to you since you are from a place where motorsports is a common pastime. If someone’s gonna kart, it’s likely that they will be shown the ropes by an existing racer who brings em out ti the track, I’d imagine. So, they probably will be introduced via owner karts.

In that context, yeah rentals aren’t relevant. Other places, it’s literally all we’ve got. Not exaggerating, my first couple years of karting I flew to California to get owner karting type experience. It just wasn’t accessible to me as an interested clueless person in central Jersey. Eventually I figured it all out, but man, rentals did/do matter in terms of getting me going. I mean, at this point, I’ll race anything so long as im racing.

Racing, however, is what got me to stay. But that’s a whole nother story. That’s the glue and rentals without racing is just pissing in the wind. That’s why places like Supercharged scare me a little. They don’t help build the sport, it just extracts maximum dollars.

Rentals is a doorway for a lot of people these days. I know a lot of people at the track that was introduced via rental karting at Whiteland, New Castle, Fast Times, or SIK.

i have yet to meet a person at the rental track that said, “you know, i was about to drop 6 grand on a race kart, but with this rental track here, i decided against it.”

but myself included, because folks enjoyed karting at a rental facility, they decided to drop the cash to club race. i really don’t think you lose any people that would race club level by having a rental facility nearby, it just helps.

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Rentals are the “gateway drug” to karting.


I am not sure I agree. I bought a Rotax for $750 which is absolutely less than what I know some rental people spend per year. That demonstrates rentals could, in theory, divert someone’s spend away from O/D.

Motocross doesn’t have an equilivent rental scene and is as healthy as karting. The fact someone did rental karting doesn’t mean that it was that that led them to owner driver. That’s just a bias within the surveying of drivers. It just means they did rental karting prior to buying a kart. They may have bought a kart had rentals never existed, as many did in the past. I think nowadays most would have done sim racing before rentals in some form. That doesn’t mean sim racing feeds rental that feeds o/d.

Rental scenes didn’t exist in the 80s to a meaningful degree, yet karting did perfectly fine. In many markets it used to be far larger back then. So we have to be careful in terms of analysing what works and what doesn’t.

All markets are different, so it’s always hard to pin something down but it is just an assumption rentals feeds into o/d. Most rental places have no inclination to lose drivers to owner driver. Also one of the biggest hurdles is introducing an immediate point of friction because you have to go “well the karts I am on about are actually way different”. I have nothing against rentals per se, I am just trying to assess this from an purely marketing O/D pov. Rental karting has added a ‘step’ into the marketing process which requires changing someone’s preconceptions… which is notoriously difficult and not fun.

The UK is absolutely saturated with rental karting, and owner driver karting is far from healthy. It’s perfectly plausible rental kart has skimmed 1000-2000 or so from potential senior market. I am not saying this is a bad thing though. I think a large part of karting’s history is based on being the only option available at the time for relatively low-cost racing rather than some smart marketing of the time. Rentals came in and took that position and now sim racing is doing the same

Demographics are what people or industries talk about when they have marketing plans, budgets, long term goals and most importantly leadership. In the karting world, particularly in the US we have none of these things. Least of all leadership.

As a result your demographic in the karting world is absolutely anyone that shows even a modicum of interest in your product. We have absolutely no say in any sort of demographic because we don’t invest anything in to our own growth as an industry.

Oddly enough the industry is in a growth cycle despite ourselves. What can we thank for that?A strange stew of rental karting, Liberty Media/Drive to Survive and Covid. And rental karting. Did I mention rental karting? Oh yeah and don’t forget rental karting.

In the last 2+ years we’ve probably put 100 new racers or families in the sport and I can say with confidence that we did nothing to generate that intake of new racers outside of doing our jobs well once they were in our orbit.

We are very fortunate to have one indoor facility in particular where the owner is a true racer and loves to see his kids/customers move on and grow in the sport. An absolute gift we can never repay. Between that indoor facility, and the track’s own outdoor rental program, they have delivered 50% of our new customers at the minimum. Another 25% can be attributed to Drive to Survive (crazy I know) and the rest a combination of our kart racers bringing friends and some legacy racing families bringing the next generation in.

As for who those people are that are coming in? They are a combination of the perfect stew for a small local shop - parents of kids (that inexplicably have been bitten by the racing bug) with little to no karting knowledge or background and the funded adults & retirees that have the time and resources for a personal hobby.

I don’t know if this ride slows down anytime soon, but for now there is no time to worry about why, just how we engage with these potential customers and what we do to convert them in to our best sales force.


That’s the part that gets missed very often. Would you mind talking about that in more detail? Worthy of its own topic honestly.

If it does slow down, at least you have the hard part done.

It does offer a vehicles that are relatable, from brands that people know/like/trust and has utility outside of racing. Karts can’t offer that. (OK aside from Rotax)

Rental is a big part of the picture for sure. It’s not just bias, it’s one of the few things we have (or at least can have) metrics for.

The other thing about rentals is that is makes it feasible to operate tracks for “owner driver” racing at all. They are a huge part of the ecosystem, even if the conversion rate of rental customers to “owner driver” is relatively small, each those beings revenue into the ecosystem.

/edit thinking back to when I operated rental indoor tracks in the late 90’s/early 00’s. The biggest risk was staff switching to owner driver because they would no longer be available at peak times :laughing:

While it’s true MX is more relatable, I think it’s worth noting considering they require dedicated venues, and the ownership model is very similar to karts. They largely rely upon the same, almost invisible, factors as we do except the interest is in two wheels not four.

In terms of reliance upon rental infrastructure. That’s true, but it’s worth investigating how much of that is ‘our’ fault for allowing such a dependency to occur. I guess allow is the wrong term because rental karting is an inevitable development, as it goes as far back as the original inception of the sport. But I think it’s worth noting that a lot of rental venues started as dedicated venues. I understand this might be region/country dependent.

But in terms of the ‘feeder’ to karting I think it’s a selection bias of sorts. Just because people do rental karting first doesn’t mean it has fed owner driving. Had that step not been in place those same individuals may have come straight to o/d karting. The expansion of rental karting has not led to an equivalent expansion in o/d karting, not in the UK at least. The inverse happened.

it’s sounding like the difference we’re discussing with rentals may be that the US isn’t saturated with rental facilities. and having watched super gt’s channel in the past, we don’t really have that 2 stroke rental league action here in the US, either. i used to travel extensively for work, and while out, i specifically sought out rental facilities in every town i traveled to. pretty much, the most competitive rental racing you’re going to find is dudes dukin’ it out in some sodi’s, like you’d see on illegal alien’s channel. most rental facilities just focus on the walk in day to day customer.

if there were an abundance of rental facilities in the US like what I’ve seen w/Super GT, I do think that could cut in on the club racing. but right now, we’re no where close to that here.

I didn’t mean to derail your thread, sorry.

I get the impression you guys have an embarassement of racing rental opportunities. And, as James pointed out with his old Irish kart hauling, smaller homes. It could be that rentals really do eat away at owner karts in UK. Why deal with the ball ache of owning a kart when I can go do a race at facility a in the am and go do the super 100 that evening?

I also think that sim is indeed a much much bigger infouence. Dan didn’t mention it explicitly but I imagine a huge percentage comes from the pandemic sim boom.

I think it’s more like this: gets into sim, then says hey let’s do this irl, then goes to a karting facility… whee I’m pretty good at this… what next? League races? cool! Oh wait, there are faster karts? Tell me more… what’s a tater?

Here’s interesting information from a Go Karting Market Survey consisting of rental and racing, estimates that Go Karting will grow at an average annual rate of 3.9% to 2030

“U.S. has the maximum number of race courses, which count around 15,332, followed by other countries such as Canada with 2,363 racing courses, Mexico with around 200, Brazil with 75, and Argentina with 319. The racing industry across the U.S. includes nearly 2 million jobs and racing game, thus contributing more to charity than any other major sports industry. According to iplayAmerica, more than 35 million U.S. individuals have participated in go karting in 2020, which is expected to foster the growth of the market. Thus, increase in number of racing courses is supported by rise in number of people who have inclined interest toward Go kart racing.”

15,000 kart tracks in the US??? That just can’t be right.

Most marketing survey are not that accurate and almost always project a positive rate of growth.

I’d be hard pressed to identify 10 in NJ.

Jersey city rpm
Edison supercharged
… and 3 other very small amusement facilities. Including Wall which is a car oval.

Granted PA, NY, DEL are next door

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