Random, slightly unconventional thoughts on Growing the Sport of Karting

growth
briggs206
4stroke

(Aaron Hachmeister) #44

I would argue with 206 especially that the money isn’t the reason why those guys are killing the fields at the club. They could probably hop in any kart and still do well. For them, and any other driver, it really comes down to seat time. I’d almost prefer racing with the big name SKUSA/WKA/USPKS guys as it’d give me a good measurement for where I am relative to them.

In terms of seriousness, racing is only as serious as you make it to be for yourself. It’s more of a mindset thing than anything else. I raced with one kid a couple years ago and it would be us two and one other kid fighting just to come in not last place. The differences between us was that I never got frustrated with it and didn’t think of it as seriously, while he couldn’t stand the thought that he wasn’t top ten or whatever he wanted. By the end of the year, he moved on to road racing karts because it was easier for him to win, and I kept going at sprint racing. There’s nothing wrong with either direction we went, but the reasoning behind doing it was interesting.

I think many people get into this expecting to be really good right off the bat, and then get frustrated with a lack of results. I’ve seen a good few people do it, even at the national level, and it’s part of the issue with growing the sport. It’s a mindset issue and I think retaining people will need us to help get it through that this isn’t always a serious competition.


(Aaron Hachmeister) #45

@Eric_Gunderson and I were talking a little while ago, and we noted that many big level teams don’t show up to the club anymore to help out people. Around my area we have a few teams running top level racing, and some of them don’t always get to the club for trackside support. A couple rarely ever show up, one is there most of the time, and a few are probably 50/50 on being there. It’s means that locally lots of guys don’t have any help except from each other, because the teams are all running national event’s most weekends.

It comes down to the organization issue mentioned earlier, but national drivers are more guaranteed money for a team. There’s also a lot of national races, spreading people very thin. ROK Cup Midwest last month had 8 (EIGHT!) entries total. Obviously teams aren’t at that event specifically but the more we split drivers the less teams can help out the bottom of the pyramid.

It’s not like many teams can afford to have extra people at the club either. Franklin Motorsports is a father and son setup (the son owns the shop so really it’s a son and father operation) so many times Jamie is out with teams nationally while George stays out at the club events, and they can afford to hire a couple good tuners to help out too, but most setups can’t do that and have to pick where to go.


(David Klaus) #46

I like this discussion. I take a slightly different view on what holds karting back and it also ties in to the tremendous growth of the 206 engine over the last 8 years. I touched on a part of this in a blog: http://www.briggsracing.com/blog/what-wrong-karting

While the costs on tires, travel, and the like all impact the growth of our sport the really problem with karting is that it hasn’t changed or adapted to a changing audience.

The sport is too complicated to get started in. You buy a chassis that comes with a box of parts, no instructions, and have to make a mountain of decisions before you even start. What chassis, who makes the best exhaust, clutch, builds the best engine and so forth. Why are there so many classes? Then you add up the cost JUST to get started. It’s overwhelming for most. To think we are blessed with the ‘feeder’ opportunity of indoor karting and yet we can’t convert more to our sport.


(Nik Goodfellow) #47

Totally agree. I come from a controlled version of karting (UK, MSA (or delegate group) deciding classes) and even they have lost the plot.

When I started in the late 90s as jnr there were two choices, a “cheaper, slower” and an “expensive, faster” international class (which only raced at the national series and a couple of clubs). Cadets (8-11) had 1 class. Seniors had “cheaper, slower”, “cheaper, faster”, “expensive, faster” (national series), “most expensive, fastest” (national series) and then the shifter classes.

Most clubs you turned up at there was a good chance there was only 4/5 classes, only 1/2 that applied to your age and as a result a lot of second hand equipment for each class.

Now (even there) there are many classes at each age group, difference classes at different tracks and as a result second hand equipment that isn’t viable anymore.

I would like to say market forces should allow it to sort itself out but they just haven’t. Unfortunately karting is at the whim of the rich guy who wants to import an engine, they blow a bunch of money then disappear leaving the everyday karter with worthless equipment.

My ideal situation is an overiding body running karting, that accepts tenders to be the classes for the next 5 years. You have a slow cheap club class and and a fast cheap club class. The fast cheap club class can be become the fast expensive class with some minor modification for regional or national racing. It could be Briggs and X30 or KA100 and X30. I think the way Australia does it is KA100 restricted, KA100 and a TAG class.


(James McMahon) #48

My thought is that many of these just can’t be tackled directly, because they are out of our control. Or in many cases where they are in control, that control is directed by other interestes

I think we can tackle it in two main ways that really mean that we’re more mindful and organized about how we present and or “pitch” the sport…

  1. This is something we can do right now, today as a community.
    When we talk to people about the sport, spend more time listening and less talking about our own personal “racer” (Or business) opinions. Take the time to understand their unique situation: location, budget, skill, goals etc.
    Then based on their responses, respond with what is likely to work best for THEM.

So many times in facebook groups I see someone ask for help and they get a bunch of comments from dealers saying “buy our chassis, it wins things”. Rarely to they actually help answer the question, or take the time to understand what the customer needs. The businesses that adapt to this approach of actually helping folks upfront, in my opinion will win by building trust.

  1. Ties in with #2 to an extent, but more automated. Build an online tool that guides interested folks through the stages of getting started in the sport, in a way that’s likely to give them the best experience possible without overwhelm.

The frontend\tech part of this is relatively easy, I already have it. The difficult part is gathering all of the underlying data that it needs to pull from and build the data modeling to give good responses.

Think of it as a survey on steroids along the lines of the silly quizes “which racing driver are you” but more complex.

“Anything is possible, just add money”
~Me


Explaining Karting To Your Neighbors
(31colm) #49

First, ONE or at most two Sanctioning bodies, Probably geographically organized.
Second, far LESS class divisions.
Third, become involved with a National Sporting operation (here it is Sport Canada) to gain RECOGNITION.
The future looks kinda bleak for Road Racing given the extreme sport(s) competition is has these days. My suggestion is that Clubs should investigate big track SHARING (with motorcycles or similar groups) 5 > 10 years out.
The battle is Sanctioning POWER used effectively rather than being in competition with each other.
Colm


(Dom Callan) #50

As an employed adult of reasonably decent means, I am utterly baffled about how anyone with a home and children can even begin to participate in karting due to the crazy cost of it. (Relative to other sports).

Basically, it’s about 1000 bucks a race or maybe more like 1250. Per kart per weekend. Correct me if I am wrong but that means that over a ten race season you are minimally spending 10-13k (not including practice sessions).

A lot of this might be due to the relative expense of running high revving two strokes on soft tires.
Your average family simply cannot afford to spend that kind of cheddar on junior’s sport and I haven’t heard of any admissions officers that recruit for the college racing team!

I would imagine that the cost to run an lo206 is much much lower (but no one races these around here). There was literally one guy last weekend at etown. He had to race against the three other folks on kt100s (and was obviously waaaay slower).

So how to you make karting more accessible? Somehow figure out a way to make the most basic of motorsports not financially out of reach for most people. I don’t see how that is possible with 3500 buck engines that require 1000 bucks of rebuilding every six months and 250 worth of tires every weekend.

The other major issue I see is one of “access”. I live in the incredibly populated NY, NJ area and there is bupkis for track access. You have englishtown and NJMP (which is way the hell in the boonies of south jersey). No offense to you south jersey folks but that’s a long way from NYC and Philly. That’s it, basically (haven’t made it to ovrp yet).

So in order for this bridge and tunnel guy to get on track, I need a race weekend so that I can hit up the track in the practice Saturday, which is basically once a month April thru November. As I am not dripping with talent or youth, that’s not enough track time to “git gud”.

I guess land is too valuable, population too dense (noise issues) for there to be any meaningful karting presence. I am somewhat jelly of the Europeans that have many many facilities in their relatively tiny countries because the people and governments there seem to be ok with the idea of accessible athletics.

So money and access.


(Nicholas Bruno) #51

I also live in the NY area and I agree with some of your points. I think a big reason why low cost classes haven’t taken hold around here is because there are many wealthy people in the area who can afford to run at a budget you described. I ran 206 for a few years in the area, and tried to recruit some of the TaG backrunners. Nobody was interested and seemed to view 206 as more of a novelty than anything else. The most we ever got on track was 5 karts while TaG fields had 15+ regularly. Meanwhile, NCMP has 80+ 206 karts and 10 TaGs…

As far as access, I would highly recommend OVRP. It’s pretty close to the city, and the drive is pretty scenic! The track is great to drive after the repave/reconfiguration, and they are attempting to grow their TaG Masters class. It’s 21+ and runs on MG Reds and seems like its been put in place for people who don’t want to attempt to compete with the wallets of the TaG senior kids.


(Albert McCracken) #52

I’d like to add my feedback after 1 season of karting before I become an old codger like the rest of you. :wink: I’m 30 and had 0 experience with karting besides the odd indoor track prior to 2017. I had no idea it was possible to go kart racing as an adult basically. A friend of mine started road racing his Honda shifter kart in 2016, but even after he started raving about it I still had the typical misconception that you’re somehow missing out if you’re not racing an actual race car. I’m not sure how to get the word out about karting or change that misconception but just wanted to throw it out there as someone who was until recently completely ignorant to the existence of karting (but have been driving cars on tracks since 2010 and drag racing before that since I was 17).

Now that I’ve been around for a season I would like to point out some issues I see:

  • Too many classes! Like holy crap guys. I understand that you’ve all been running X class for a billion years but cmon these things are so cheap and easy to learn (all relative to cars of course) just move on from your old setup. There are more classes than racers in each class at some races I’ve been to!
  • Not much help for newbies: I’m very committed and yet I’ve considered giving up when events are run in a way that only the people that have been around forever understand. Little things like when to weigh in, how qualifying works, when my race is (I’ve actually missed one due to no announcement and they were not following the schedule). It’s all added up to the most frustrating start in a new motorsport that I’ve ever had, and I’ve jumped around a lot!
  • Different karting organizations and engine manufacturers competing AGAINST one another, like really beating the “other guys” down. This is self destructive and I have not seen this in other motorsports I’ve done. Is there something about karts that makes people want to get political? The only consistent message I see from the different regions I’ve raced in is that participation is down, karting is losing popularity, etc. and everyone should be able to agree that’s not a good thing!

Maybe my experience is unusual since I’ve started with road racing but there really needs to be a way to help introduce new people to the sport that didn’t grow up with daddy-tuning-the-kart-for-me, the SCCA for example does this pretty well with novice oriented activities at their events.

Hopefully this doesn’t come off as too edgy, I’m just trying to provide some honest feedback as a (mostly) complete noob.

My events so far to provide some background:
WKC @ Summit Point Shenandoah
MKC @ Michigan International Speedway
DKC @ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
CES @ Grattan Raceway
WKA @ Virginia Internation Raceway
MKC @ Michigan International Speedway (again)
WKC @ Summit Point Shenandoah (again)


(Aaron Hachmeister) #53

$1000 a weekend!? That’s like what I spend on a highly competitive regional event, not a club race. What are your expenses that jump it so high?

I can understand the issue of a lack of tracks, but that’s not easily fixable unfortunately. Tracks are expensive, and a good location is going to be hard to come by. In Wisconsin, there’s 3 well known tracks. One is based out of Road America, one has been around for over 60 years, and the other doesn’t even run kart races anymore (darn drifters taking our racetracks). I think within 2 hours there’s 3 tracks, and within 5 hours there’s only two additional permanent facilities.


(Andre Molina) #54

Never been to Sugar River Raceway (Broadhead)?

@Nevinear, I came from an extensive background of road racing (crewed for an SCCA SM, T3, and T2 team for nearly 5 years, autocrossed for another 5) and what you wrote really resonates.

Sometimes it got so irritating that I just wanted to grab my stuff and give up, it took me a while to find my rhythm and my place in the sport. In modern karting, there is a LOT of politics, and a LOT of money involved in the political level. it really doesn’t make it a pleasant environment especially if you had prior experience with SCCA and NASA road racing.

There is a ton of money getting funneled into series (where the political aspect is) and manufacturers (where people are spending their money), and not a lot of money being fueled to tracks unless they are club owned. And definitely less money then before being funneled into kart shops.

Considering you are doing road racing, yes weekends will be expensive. But it beats the $40k/weekend we used to spend running a BMW M3 for SCCA T2 racing. Karting is not a cheap sport, and will probably never be if we want it to remain healthy and interesting. It is chepER then road racing cars, but that’s about it.

I’ve ended up finding my place with vintage karting, which has the relaxed atmosphere and a lot of the camaraderie of an SCCA weekend. I thought road racing would too, but after your post I am slightly concerned.


(Andre Molina) #55

Also @Nevinear, from your track list you might be pretty local to me. Where are you located?


(Nicholas Bruno) #56

One thing I want to point out. Karting (and racing, and I guess, life in general) is only as expensive as you want it to be. Can you spend 1000$ a weekend and race every weekend from April until November? Yes. Can you also buy a used kart, tow it to the track on an open trailer, run 6-8 club races and go through two sets of tires the whole year? Yes! Sure, there is a cost of entry but it doesn’t HAVE to break the bank. I think so many people would like to go karting but are scared when they hear the stores of guys going through 10k in a weekend to be competitive. Yes, being competitive is great, but to me, just being at the track and driving is the important part.


(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #57

There is a truth to be said to that. (I think on the other side though, people have to be aware about how to raise the funds needed to go racing, rather than just calling out for the sport to always been cheaper. Like @KartingIsLife said in a thread a while back, if we just focus on a race to the bottom ($) everyone loses, because things are just cheap and low-quality)

I think the other thing that karting is missing a good amount of value added digital content, so that it’s easier for people to learn about the sport. The trouble with it is that most of it doesn’t generate any revenue for the content creators, so with the costs involved creating good material, it takes passionate people who don’t mind throwing the money in to get something done.


(James McMahon) #58

Welcome! I think you’re basically on point and being pretty objective about.

@Aaron_Hachmeister_13, there’s 10 (might be 9 actually) sprint tracks within 200 miles of Dousman. That’s not terrible, here’s a link to the list in the directory: https://goo.gl/WLHcM8


(Davin Roberts Sturdivant) #59

First of all @Nevinear, welcome to the forums! I’m glad that you’re sticking with it.

Your experience is actually all too common when it comes to new people getting into the sport. It’s one of the reasons that James and I started Kartpulse, so that we create more content for new racers so they could understanding more what’s going on and what they could do to get started.

I think the biggest challenge with what I quoted above is that there is a low barrier to entry with karting, but that also many that there are 1000 people who feel like they know the “right way” to do it. So it can lead to confusion, because there aren’t many coordinated clubs and groups and everyone want to be the top dog.

That’s one of the reasons that in the Kartpulse community, we try to encourage people to reach out and let us know what your experience in the sport is, so that the group can provide help and guidance on what might be a successful next step.

But I totally feel you. It can be a frustrating experience sometimes. Stick with it, and glad to see you around. :slight_smile:


(Dom Callan) #60

TThe point I was trying to make is that two stroke is an expensive way to kart relative to other options and that it creates a barrier to entry that is largely economic.
I am quite sure that it is highly possible to run x30 for less than 1k a race weekend.
That being said 250 for tires, amortize rebuilds, fuel, parts, purchase cost of kart, non-noms, hotel etc… you can easily hit 1k.
All i was saying is that in ny area, no one runs the classes that have much lower initial and ongoing costs.


(Nicholas Bruno) #61

You are correct Dom, and it’s unfortunate. We are literally surrounded by regions where Briggs is huge but we’re stuck in a TaG bubble. my recommendation would be to run TaG masters at OVRP. Hard tire, no need to stay at a hotel, and there are plenty of cheap, used, durable Rotax’s out there for sale.


(Dom Callan) #62

Sadly I am addicted to the rpms. I am a total hypocrite in that I’d probably still run x30 if there was a viable lo206 series. :joy:


(Albert McCracken) #63

@The_Karting_Channel I’m in the Detroit area, Royal Oak specifically :slight_smile:

Interesting to hear about the money flow, it all make sense now :laughing:

Don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere in road racing is fantastic. I think the main reason it’s less newbie friendly is that the normal path is to start in sprint karting and move to road racing later. My case might be a bit unusual as someone who was on a path to NASA TT racing or Spec Miata racing, but then realized I can get the same satisfaction (or more) in a kart that’s faster on the same track anyway! I’m definitely biased towards wanting to run on the same tracks that “real” races are held on like racing at VIR and then watching the IMSA race there afterward was great!

@DavinRS thanks for the welcome and I really appreciate what you guys are doing here I agree it’s definitely filling a gap! Been enjoying your podcasts as well, keep up the good work!

I think this picture sums up how cool it was to race at VIR, which do you think was moving faster coming down the roller coaster!?