Tell me more about tent programs

The term " tent program" is a term often used in several of these forum posts but what exactly does a tent program involve? Are these programs typically only for larger events or are there tent programs for club-level involvement? What are the costs? How many karts does a typical program have? This one may be a tougher one to answer but could a person make money being a tent program promoter?

I think it’s just a term for teams in general which provide support/sales/service through the race weekend. I consider a tent program as such when you are paying a day rate to tent with a team or guy who takes clients racing.

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Dom summed it up well. To elaborate further, there is usually a range of options out there, just depends on what teams are supporting certain races. In my opinion, the biggest benefit from working with a team is having direct access to data from the other drivers under the tent (in your class), which also folds into driver coaching in a way. Next best feature would be chassis tuning advice.

Prices will vary based on the team and the event being supported. I believe MPG publicly posted their rates for the national events they plan to support. Aside from that, prices are going to depend on what you’re looking for, where you’re looking to race, and with whom.

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When you say paying a day rate are you really just paying for a pit space or does that situation also include a kart and mechanic?

We’re doing $300 round trip transport from Indy and $125/day for CKNA, Stars, and whatever else we do in the region including club stuff. Club transpo would be a little cheaper cause they’re all closer.

Tuning help, coaching, data, etc included. Private or shared mechanic is extra.

I don’t feel like guys who want to branch out need to break the bank to do so with a team environment.

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It really varies depending on what you need help with and what level you’re competing at. Some teams run an all inclusive service, some require you to do the wrenching but offer technical help and pit space, some are club focused and more laid back. You could spend $1k to $15k for a weekend depending on what the “program” offers.

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The day rate is to have their help. Parts will also be purchased as we break stuff, need stuff (sprockets, consumables, bent axles, whatever). Part of the attraction was the Big Truck Jerry had, full of all the bits and bobs needed!

So yeah the rate is to have a spot under the tent but in my case it was a seat while I watched Jerry fix stuff I broke. Some guys tented with Bonanno and did most of their own wrenching but would be able to get John and the mechanic’s help if needed.

To be specific:

I bought karts from Kartworkz.
I tented with kartworkz.
I had kartworkz haul and store our karts, prep for race weekend.

Basically I wanted to show up and race and yell “JERRY!” when I was stuck.

Like TJ said, some tent programs are semi-tent. Depends on the clients needs/wants.

I raced club and I could have done the national/regional with the team had I wanted to, but did just F-Series, no gearup or nats type stuff. (Too pricey).

Usually these items are à la carte.

@mtbikerbob talk more about being a promoter? What did you envision promoting exactly?

As you possibly surmised I had several reasons for asking this question. The first was to understand something that I don’t have much knowledge about and is often a suggestion made to people looking to get into karting, so others would likely have questions too. Second, When James and I were discussing how to promote karting he suggested there needs to be levels of entry since not everyone is going to jump in by buying the kart and equipment. Our local track does a good job of introducing people but really the next step is buying in. So, I’m considering, what if I had an extra kart or two that prospective karters could basically rent for a day of racing for a fee. Which would sort of be like a tent program based on what I am seeing. So is that promoting? I just know I have seen and talked to people at our track that think they want to do this but you discuss costs and seldom do you ever see them again.

I could see this being successful. The next step would be “I want one”.

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This is what we do every week and yes it can be a successful venture in building a club. However an A&D service on its own without offering and charging for the sales/service/support that comes after, is unsustainable as a business. If you aren’t trying to feed a family off of it though it can be a hugely rewarding and fun sideline if you can justify the money, time and space to have the equipment on hand.

Truthfully that was my gateway in to the business. From the very first year we raced as a family, we let other families get their first taste of karting in my kids’ karts. I was clueless as hell and had no business being anyone’s gateway, but I knew how much fun we had as a family doing this and loved sharing that experience with others. Twenty years later and probably 1000 karts sold and 500 new families started, here I am. (And will be until I die because there is no 401K in karting… :rofl:)

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Further…

My experience has been that it’s not all that easy to do these “test” days. Very few facilities offer rental “race” karts.

To do an “off-menu” thing you need to ask by calling up and saying “hi, I’d like to arrange a test day at your track. Can you facilitate that and a mechanic for the day?”. That requires some experience to know to ask that.

When I was getting my stuff it wasn’t like Jerry had spare chassis lying around. We kinda had to just trust him that we’d like the compkart, and if we didn’t, too bad because that’s what Justin drove :sunglasses:. I am guessing that any team could accommodate test day requests but it isn’t like it’s clear to noobs to go ask the tent guys (and even then, it won’t be cheap).

The idea of having a couple ready to roll 4 stroke race karts and taking clients racing seems like it would be successful. I certainly would consider racing that way before committing to owning. At my stage in racing, I would potentially be a client (locally) in that I have interest in doing some races LO but no desire to own at this point.

So you might have 2 clients: the new guy who wants to try out karting and the old guy who doesn’t want to own a kart and prefers arrive and drive.

We could do an enduro for example. I could grab a scum or two and you could race our team as a for example. (Let’s look into this).

To expand on that a little further, while it is a tent service of sorts, I would call it more of an Arrive & Drive service. What you are promoting is the sport itself and the local club or track. Every track and/or club in the country needs this person at the track, particularly if they are not doing it themselves.

How we structure it is pretty clean:

Practice day - one hour of track time (regardless of how many sessions that takes) and includes the kart, kart fitting, instructor and safety gear. Fortunately we are in a situation where we provide the service and the track provides us with their rental kart safety gear to use so we don’t have to have an inventory of helmets/gloves/neck braces/jackets. It’s a great symbiotic relationship as they have no shop/race karts/instructors themselves so what we do benefits their track/series in terms of growth.

Race day - they get a similar package - kart, kart fitting, lead, numbers, fuel, stand, basic support, pit/tent space. We do not push karts to grid nor fetch them at the scales. And we only offer race day A&D if someone has proven to be reasonably competent on a practice day or we know their background.

If you are running some numbers out, here is what works for us:

Practice - $200 for 206, $300 for KA
Race - $300 for 206, $400 for KA

Some quick math tells you that isn’t sustainable for what the equipment costs to own, store and maintain (and transport if you don’t have a trackside garage). However, our conversion rate runs at 25-30% I’d guess in terms of turning those families in to kart owners. That’s where we can justify the reasonable entry point - by creating long term customers.

I would say that conversion rate has increased dramatically with the proliferation of local indoor facilities, one in particular, and the interest generated by Drive to Survive.

I would also add that the conversion rate has increased in direct comparison to the quality of our A&D fleet. We run nothing but fairly current OTK karts, race ready engines, good practice tires, MyChrons, etc. And we have a full range of seats predrilled with spacers so we can fit just about anyone. Give them a proper experience - it pays off.

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Yep, or “I want more of what I did” (renting).

It might already be discussed here, but I would avoid only offering race events. Many people don’t want to race and your rented equipment might be better off. Start with a day where it’s a testing day with coaching… move them along the funnel.

If someone wants to and is capable of going straight to racing, that’s great. I just wouldn’t limit the service (or the offer) to racing only.

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Similar to @KartwerksDan commented, I actually operated a program exactly like this for several years and it was a decent bridge for newcomers exactly as you are surmising.

Feel free to ask me any questions and happy to share what I learned or DM.

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Thank you all for providing some insightful information. If I were to do this it would be small in scale. I would think regardless of size there are a few questions on taking this further.

Do operators of A&D or Tent programs have clients sign a contract?

Aside from the main fee are clients responsible for damaged parts?

Do operators of A&D or Tent programs have insurance?

Do operators of A&D or Tent programs typically form a LLC or have some legal business to protect their personal assets?

Good questions….

Hmm. Contract is a tricky term. Personally I had them sign a liability waiver (2 page doc I had drafted by a lawyer), and of course they were also registered / “contracted” by the track with a wristband under their insurance etc etc. I’ve heard of others approaching it differently. Some A&D teams in Motorsport have forms and claims for a crash deposit or will take money up front for things. To me I thought about doing that but decided against it for this program as I thought it would scare people off. I think tent teams take a wide array of approaches to contracts with clients, there isn’t one uniform way anyone approaches it.

Regarding damaged parts in my case certainly they were, although I would often “look the other way” for certain things. Over time I built some financial padding into my fees to account for parts I deemed likely to be damaged or need replacement, as commonly new drivers will throw chains, bend tie rods, stuff like that.

It is extremely common as I mentioned for teams to have pre paid crash deposits required. Typically for a race or for a race weekend yes, all crash items or damaged parts the customer is responsible for.

A&D teams may or may not have insurance, same with tent teams. The number of karting businesses that don’t operate like an actual business is appalling. Lots of corners are cut for various reasons. There are also parts of that business model that are hard and / or impossible to insure fully. As an example, it’s tricky to really have any performance vehicle “covered” for damage or to feel confident if something were to happen to your equipment at a race track or on the road. There are boutique insurance groups that provide insurance for Motorsport venues and businesses. I was fortunate enough to never have to file a notable claim, it always made me nervous despite my best efforts to do things ‘right’ as best I could.

To your last question, I think most people that do either service either do immediately or eventually do after a customer tells them to. There’s always someone out there kinda doing it in some gray area, but most are an LLC or entity of some form. A decent number of them may also group their karting activities under a larger business, wrongly thinking this simplifies liability and / or taxation headaches for them.

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I guess that depends on the situation but for me, no. (And I bet that’s what makes things tough, ie COVID hits and business is gone)

Actually, I’d get an email from Jerry, Mon or tues listing the breakdown of what I was charged.

He would make notes on the side of a box of LeConts about what his clients broke and bought. :sunglasses:

The parts replacement is the whole point of the tent program methinks. I’m paying for parts and parts accessibility through the program.

Dunno about insurance but I imagine they must.

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I think all of these would be prudent. When I went to get quotes for an ARCA test some time ago, you basically had to put $10,000 down as insurance in case you wadded it up, refundable at the end of the weekend.

Back to karting, your insurance will likely provide a waiver which you’ll want too. For damage, keep CC on file, although I’d probably not charge for minor damage, depends on what you would want to do though.

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