Random, slightly unconventional thoughts on Growing the Sport of Karting

growth
briggs206
4stroke

(James McMahon) #1

Chatting with @BriggsRacing today in an email and figured I’d share my response. Naturally it’s somewhat geared around the 206. What are your thoughts? Better yet, share it with someone who’s not on the forums and have them chime in too.


I try to challenge my own and our own bullshit assumptions, dig deeper into our cliches. Leave ego out of it. To me, that’s how we move things forward.

In general, I find myself repeating these things to folks.

  1. 206 is clearly working. Don’t ****k it up and try to contort it to something else, just because it doesn’t seem to work for you or two of your buddies. Which brings me to #2

  2. 206 is not meant to be all things for everybody, all the time. There’s the whole other range of classes out there for folks to play with.

  3. We can’t grow the sport by continuing to make it affordable for “everyone”. It’s not sustainable. There are economic factors and costs that our out of our control. We can’t change them, but we CAN change how we respond. You also have to wonder what kind of a budget a racer on a $150 dollar engine can afford. Which brings us to 4.

  4. I’d like to see entry fees go UP. Many (Most?) tracks, series, clubs are under resourced. Their marketing abilities are limited and it comes back to $. This ties up with #3 where we talk about what kind or racers are we looking to attract for “owner driver” racing. We need customers who are OK with those fees. Consequently the expectations of tracks/series/clubs and their facilities will go up too.

I think the 206 is right on the money. It’s not super “cheap” but it’s also incredible VALUE.

To grow the sport we need to present that value to others that identify it, in their language. That’s one of the avenues that I intend to pursue. Either by marketing directly to that demographic, and/or by managing campaigns for the larger bodies in the sport. Doing a campaign like that that right is not really viable for most clubs/tracks/small businesses in Karting. But if a group of us get behind the one campaign or front, one that delivers a great experience for interested parties, we’re on a winner.

I want to see as many people enjoy Karting as possible, by I also want to see the sport grow. To do that we need to help match potential racers with the right “fit” for them. Sometimes rentals are the way to go until they are at a stage in their life that it’s more feasible to go racing with their own kart.


“Growing the sport”
(Daniel Agee) #2

I raced some 206 last year before selling it off, thinking I was done karting for a bit. My problem with the 206 is that because it is such good value, you have talented and better resources drivers, who in my opinion should be in faster classes, come race at the club level. Yes, this helps local clubs and their numbers, but it discourages the club racer like myself and my buddy. When regional KPX (NorCal regional series) drivers, and even national level drivers (former SKUSA race winners) come race at a club race in their brand new equipment, it discourages the budget racer like myself. It also then becomes too seriously competitive when a club race should be about fun. Also, like talked about in one of the podcasts, when you have a “spec” class with a small box, guys are going to spend the money to find the smallest advantage and I think the 206 is slowly becoming something where guys are pushing the envelope too much with what’s legal.

So, that’s my two cents. Karting called me back so I bought an old kart with a KT100. My buddy picked up a motor too so that’s what we’ll be racing now at the club. Get back to friendly competition at the club level. That’s what 206 should be, but that’s not how I see it right now.


(Dom Callan) #3

My newbie view of karting is that it’s just too many different engine packages and too many different organizations involved in racing series.
Why is everything so disjointed? How isn’t there a national organization that has local, regional and national races? It seems like every region is independent of all the rest and cut their own deals with tire and engine manufacturers.
Why isn’t there a clearly defined stepladder skillwise? I.e. Newer racers go lo206, more competitive racers go 100cc 2 stroke and then you step up to Tag or shifters.
If you want to play tennis, you become a member of the USTA, for example. You play tournaments in your region and get ranked. Depending upon how you do you might get invited to qualify for the nationals. Etc.


(Andre Molina) #4

Part of the problem is that there is no overarching organization that sets the pace for everything else, and most other motorsports. There is no FIA equivalent in the USA.


(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #5

That and most karting organizations don’t use modern tools to keep the karting community connected. The fact that I have to mail a paper form to IKF to register says it all.


(TJ Koyen) #6

Many karters (like me) have been begging for a proper ladder system, licensing, and real national organization for years.

Explaining different classes to my non-racer friends is headache-inducing every time.

Fortunately we are seeing better cooperation between major national orgs this year than we have in my entire karting career. Based on the rumors and behind-the-scenes things I’ve heard rumblings of, I think you’ll see a much more cohesive set of rules, class structures, officiating, and scheduling among the main national organizations in the future. I’m cautiously optimistic that actual good work is being done at the moment to try and simply and streamline, hopefully it makes things simpler for the rest of us over the next few years.


(Daniel Agee) #7

Exactly. I could be mistaken but it seems like back east, there is a slightly better ladder. But here in NorCal (used to be IKF Region 11), there’s really no regional program except for KPX which is solely Briggs classes. Technically you could say we have SKUSA California Prokart, but I’d say that’s primarily geared towards SoCal and Silicone Valley racers. Within the greater Sacramento area, you have 4 tracks within an hour, 5 tracks over an hour but less than 2.5 away, and another 4 tracks around 4-5 hours away. Yet other than KPX, there’s is no regional program. So, what do you think everybody races? 206. Which means club races are full of these regional guys running 206. I’ve felt for a couple years now that the ladder was broken.

Back when I started karting in 2005 and IKF was still strong, I remember it being like this: If you’re a club guy, you race your club(s) for a year or so. When IKF comes to your track, you may race that to get your feet wet. Then depending on your progression, you transition to racing just IKF, likely doing the host club’s race before the IKF weekend. Then as you got more experience racing regionally, then you consider either moving up to a faster class (KT100 to TaG, for example) or racing the Nationals. I understand clubs lost money having a separate IKF weekend when entries dropped off in the recession, but I like how it was set up.


(Emmanuel Baako) #11

So is the consensus that we need an overarching body to oversee karting with a ladder system?
Can we elaborate on how to make that feasible?
How many tracks/clubs/existing sanctioning bodies will subscribe to this idea?
Is it possible to even fund an effort like that?

This is an intriguing subject. I have thought of a few ways to ATTEMPT to grow karting in my local area, but it’ll require funding and time that I don’t particularly have.


(James McMahon) #12

We’re a bit off track here, but I’ll roll with it. I’m wondering how many read my OP given I was advocating for higher entry fees :grin:

IMO, because we (Karting) keep repeating our mistakes. Each party involved treats it like a zero sum game. For them to “win”, the others have to “lose”. On the other hand, many of them have a lot of $kin in the game thus that’s how they play it.

Another thing I see is a scarcity mindset, it often gets confused with greed, but really it’s a scarcity thing. Short term decisions and pandering to stay alive for the next day/week/month.The result of this is a list of classes as long as your arm, new racers that get bad advice and a host of other issues.

The ladder thing comes up a lot as well as the disparity of orgs and classes etc etc.

Here’s the thing: These issues are out of our control, as racers and even as clubs we can’t really change it at least not in the near term.
Now I’m not saying we give up, moreso that we change tactics and focus on what we CAN change.

We can build things to help people navigate that disparity, based on that person’s location, budget etc etc.

We can change our approach in how we present the sport and classes. When you’re talking with people about karting, think of less being more. You don’t need to explain all the different classes. Find out what makes them tick and present two classes (or just one) that fits.

I dont think it’s feasible. You’d need a colossal amount of dough to incentivize clubs and track (not to mention drivers) to adopt whatever your proposal might be.

How much? What would you do with the money?


(Dom Callan) #13

I don’t think anyone really got their knickers in a twist about the higher entry fees because I suspect they amount to chump change in the grand scheme of a season of karting. I’ll let you know how I feel about this next season when I start racing locally but so far the fees paid to get on track have been pretty nominal. which did in fact have me wondering why they didn’t charge more and maybe repave the damn track eventually.

Also, don’t the euros and Australians have some sort of national governing body and ladder system?


(James McMahon) #14

Replies like this are what makes me love these forums.

“kinda”.
Europe you have CIK\FIA of course. Really, though more and more tracks\series\clubs are moving away from it because it’s kinda tone deaf and doesn’t offer much to them. Between the CIK\FIA mainly taking the approach to relegate karting to being a stepping stone to feed the their single seater and F1 interests. Along that path, it’s just continued to drive a wedge.

Also, when they scrapped the 100cc engines around 06 and went with KF they lost a lineage of 30years of motors that could be raced even right down to the club level. That went to almost zero overnight. Then they had to backtrack from KF and do OK… You get the picture. In the meantime, national bodies either went rotax or X30 for the most part.

The karts, classes etc etc are generally more consistent across the pond, but there’s still

In Oz it’s similar. There’s an org trying to rule the roost, but and they seem to do good work to advance the sport when I look at it from over here, but they seem to get a lot of flak from racers. Especially for dropping the KT100 over the KA.


(Emmanuel Baako) #15

Here’s a high level bullet points. It’ll take time I can’t spare right now to go into the details for each item.

  1. 2-3 min video clip covering the local club and a race day for local news.
  2. Share that clip with as many FB groups in the target area, citydata, trip advisor, etc. (things to do sort of search results)
  3. Make time to engage with people who show interest on whatever landing page from those media avenues.
  4. Have a list of resources that outline all the basics to get started.
  5. Actually have karts available that people can test/try.

Recycling that process every few months should organically grow the audience.
Actual dollar amount can vary wildly, but I’m sure you deduce the general idea. The goal would simply be to grow the audience who come out and try it. Retention, etc, which is partly the focus of your post, is a another aspect.


(Daniel Agee) #16

Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on a 206 tangent. Just where my mind was taking me at the time.

I get where you’re going with the idea of higher entry fees giving clubs more financial resources to market themselves, but I don’t know if higher fees are the answer. In NorCal, I’d figure a guess (because I don’t know exact numbers) that the healthiest club within that hour of Sacramento is the one with the lowest overall fees. One track, which is making a bit of a comeback under new management, charges $180 for a membership, but members still have to pay $25 to practice, as opposed to non-members paying $35. You also get a $10 discount on race entry, so that means in a season, you have to go to the track at least 18 times to break even, and in a 7 race season, that’s 11 test days x $25 = $275 + $180 = $455. And the track isn’t always open. Another club charges $350 for a membership and free practice for members but closes for a few months from late spring to early summer due to bugs. But I’d say the healthiest club (again, my perception) only charges $300 for a club membership and is free to practice for members any time, except Wednesdays. When my buddy was new to karting, he and I were working on the afternoon crew. What would we do? Go practice in the morning every so often before work.

As was mentioned in one of the podcasts, we need to stop preaching to the choir about karting. Get the word out to the public. I think we do that through a couple methods:

  1. Advertise at local indoor tracks. So many people go do laps at indoor places without knowing about real karting. In addition to that 20 year old stock car in the lobby, how about we ask to display a proper racing kart? Maybe even have a league’s race winner get a free race entry and kart rental at the local club. I think the popularity of indoor karting also shows the general public wants availability in their track. Tracks that are closed during the week or on some weekends may be a turnoff.
  2. Get local businesses to sponsor the track. My home track, the one I’d say has the largest turnouts, has sold plastic barriers for advertisement to fund raise. Granted, it’s turned out to be a lot of the club racers buying them up so they can see there name out there, but reach out to local businesses. And then in turn, racers go to those businesses to return the favor. Also, use these local businesses to advertise to their customers. Car dealerships, auto shops, restaurants, etc.
  3. Exhibition races/Demonstration runs - My hometown shuts down some of the streets of downtown every Fourth of July for bicycle criterium races. It’s an L layout, exactly like Rock Island. I’ve dreamed of, and am wanting to figure out how to, running an exhibition race of one class, like 206 (pea pick the first heat, invert for second heat, final) that is spaced in between the bicycle races. Bring the karts to the people. Also, if your town does a parade for a holiday, see if there’s a way to drive a kart in it. Probably could only do this with 4 strokes, but it’s another way of showing up the product to the masses.

(Bill Holt) #17

@KartingIsLife
In Oz it’s similar. There’s an org trying to rule the roost, but and they seem to do good work to advance the sport when I look at it from over here, but they seem to get a lot of flak from racers. Especially for dropping the KT100 over the KA.

The Flak wasn’t from the choice of engine. Every person with half a brain here knew it needed to be done. It was they way it was done that annoyed most punters, the who makes the $, the who that chose the engine,
KA’s biggest problem is there ability to communicate with there members, ie. they don’t. I support most of the KA’s recent decisions but for something that is supposed to be fun, man they can grate on you.


(Bill Holt) #18

I have often wondered how the US system works with licences, here is something for you to consider with the idea of having an overarching National body.

KA charge - $350 per year ish for a senior licence
Club charge - $100 per year membership (at mine, metro clubs charge more) + Optional pit bay charge of $25 p/y
Free practice at mine but I know you have to pay for that in the city
Entry fees - $30 each Club day
- $55 each event State Open/ series
- $200ish One off state title (varies state to state) + tyre pooling fees
- National Series ??? lots.

KA’s fee includes Insurance. Not just medical, should you be injured enough that you need time off work there is a provision for income replacement. Not a lot but better than nothing.
You can’t race at any level with out a KA licence plus club membership.

A National body is a great structural thing for Karting in my opinion. It does also focus all the negative attention in one place, which they have to weather.
It can’t be a dictatorial thing though, members need to feel like they have some control. I cant imagine someone like Tom Kutcher taking all the crap that has been flung in Australia in the last three years with out telling people to F off. Although he has a better way of communicating than KA does. Maybe we can hire him during your winter…


(Roger Ruthhart) #19

I’ve been involved in karting for 25 years… some observations:

  • This is America. If you had an overarching organization someone would think they could create a better one. That’s how we got where we are today.
  • CIK – be careful what you wish for. They have as many issues or more as we do.
  • Racing against better drivers: Set your own expectations. If there are 3 guys who will always be better than you due to experience, money etc., your goal should be to finish higher than fourth. Or recording lap times better than the week before… or finishing a race without crashing out. In motorsports only one person wins… if that bothers you, maybe racing isn’t your thing.
  • I have advocated that the various sanctioning bodies at least adopt a standard for licensing. It is really dangerous, for example, when I hear someone showed up at my race and it was their first season or first race in a kart. Promoters (and racers) have no way of knowing the experience level of competitors. So far no one is listening.
  • Entry fees don’t mean a lot in the overall scheme of what it costs to race.
  • A ladder system is only for those who have the talent and money to climb it. Let’s be happy with karting as a sport unto itself and work to improve that. Those who can will find their way to Mazda Road to Indy or NASCAR.

Good discussions tho.


(James McMahon) #20

All good points. Congrats on the return to form for the RIGP by the way :slight_smile:

I agree on this point, but I think we’re talking about a “karting” ladder for folks to progress through different classes, if they wish. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Executing on it though is hard because driving abilites and skill aren’t always in line with the speed or complexity of a kart.

On licencing, I guess one of the biggest problems is that each of the orgs barely have a system to track their own racers. That would need to be addressed by each of them. But that requires a willingness to do so… and resources.


(Ismael Delgado) #21

Good afternoon to all. I am new to this forum, just joining a week or so ago. I must say that in a week of many hours of researching “Kart Racing” as I’ve been couped up in a shuttered house as hurricane Irma roared through, I have found this forum to be the most informative well put together resource I have found. Kudos to the members and founders for your time and advice.

I am 53 y/o and a recent empty nester. I have been looking at all of the options available to get into some type of racing. As for my racing history…not much! My dad built my first go kart back when I was 9 years old, raced a bit at Mitchell’s Kart Track in the 70’s got into MX in the 80’s YZ125 and then YZ250.

I can share that trying to get into Karting seems to be quite a challenge. The amount of resources providing advice in so many directions. Mostly when informing one of the options (classes, karts - engines and chassis.) I’ve narrowed my choices down to SPEC racing as I believe in what many of you have said…focus on learning the basics (racing lines, kart setups, karting in general) and developing skill for greater speeds in due time.

As for my thoughts on Growing the Sport, the reality of pleasing everyone is impossible. But, building through sharing the passion seems to be an effective method. I was looking into the SCCA more specifically their Spec Racer Fords. The governing body SCCA provides prospective members with a lot of information and explanations as to the options available that anyone interested in the sport can understand and decide what they want to do. Very much in contrast to what I have found at the WKA website.

While karting is a passion one cannot forget that it is a business. The tracks, suppliers, manufacturers are all promoting to sell products. While I believe that the result of growing the sport would automatically result in higher revenues and sales to all involved…that belief is not very readily accepted in the business world.

Again, thank you! As I mentioned I am looking to get in to a SPEC class of some sort. I will be visiting my local tracks (GP Raceway, Homestead Karting, and Ocala Gran Prix) talking with as many folks as I can in hopes of assisting me in my decisions to jump in to the sport.

Apologies for such a long post.


(31colm) #22

Much input, plus James’ thoughts too. Here in Canada we have the ASN, a National Sanctioning body. There used to be (10 years+ ago) around 5. UNTIL the same happens in the USA NO PROGRESS will be made in my opinion. One example is consistent Licencing / History across the land. Any ‘ladder’ upwards is blocked. Entry fees…I’d say double them to start. Clubs can then go about promoting their own extreme sport, in competition these days with many others, with added dollars. CIK is not the optimum, nothing is, and they make errors. E.g. ugly rear bumpers. Vintage equipment should not be allowed to become obsolete. Have a Class for older stuff and older drivers. Thanks for listening. Colm


(Scott Sawyer) #23

Curious, what does everyone pay for entry fees? My son and I race the monthly series at GoPro Motorplex, we’re paying $75 apiece for entry fees with the early bird discount. Are you guys talking about doubling that? At $300/weekend I’m not sure how long we would be in the sport.