Why do you not follow/discuss top level karting?

This is a recurring theme of mine, but I thought I’d ask again anyway as I’ve started watching Supercross again this year and it’s mint, and I have the eternal frustration of thinking “ahhh shame we don’t have this in karting”. By that I mean having something worth watching. It’s funny the dirt bike lads still moan about their sport dying, and I have to remind them they don’t know how lucky they are.

but my question is “why don’t you follow top level karting?” or “Why do you follow top level karting?”. By follow I mean in the traditional casual/expert fan sense rather than “oh look a live stream has popped up on Youtube”

I don’t want to pre-empt the answers, but I will anyway, certainly for the first question. Ignore this if you wish to just answer the question free from influence

I have described in the past that I feel the markets trajectory towards single-make helped entrench a certain insularity with competitors so we don’t have the ‘base’ of interested spectators (is this a worthwhile goal to have i.e fans), but beyond that the sport isn’t particularly followable anyway at the top. I do feel however there isn’t a true reverence for top level drivers. Deep down most karters feel they could win if given the chance. I watch Supercross and even there the mid to back of the grid (despite being TOP riders) are seconds off the pace. There’s no denying the top guys truly are the top. In karting I think there’s a thread of “yeah I could do well given the right equipment”.

We also have a multi round European Championship followed by a one-off World Championship race and in addition other one-off competitions (Winter Cup, Margutti) as well as other champions (WSK, CoF) that collude to paint a picture of confusion.

In addition there’s zero investment, unlike with Supercross, to present the drivers (Moto Spy etc…). I can name the top 10 supercross riders and each of their quirks a personalities, yet I can’t name you more than 4 or 5 KZ drivers and to be honest beyond Bas Lammers none of them I really have a idea about. FIA Karting has a dodgy live stream, and maybe a little nicely edited video post event but nothing more really. Obviously with major sponsorship and major manufacturer backing proper content is more worthwhile in the dirt bike sphere. I understand the why

Now one can put forward maybe ‘our’ way is the better way. Relatively speaking the big competitions attract good grids. But coming from the point of view a someone who has tried to push the sport from a kind ‘spectator’ perspective, it’s a shame we don’t really have an avenue for this kind of content. I tried but it was always a waste of time and money. The sport is so fragmented now.

I think F1 absorbs the eyeballs of karters more obviously, and thus if a backmarker F1 driver raced a kart it’d garner more attention than if Iglesias rocked up to your local track. Karting isn’t able to differentiate itself or break the shackles of the ‘ladder’. With supercross the riders are able to garner their own top level respect. No one ignores Eli Tomac because Marquez exists for example.

Now obviously Supercross and the like can attract companies like RedBull, Monster and so on. I think one cursory look at it (as well as MX) and it doesn’t take a genius to see why. I know from personal experience that these companies aren’t interested in the slightest with top level karting from a promotional standpoint. Or have yet to be convinced shall we say. So this will always limit spectator growth (i kinda like this idea of casual fans).

It may well be the case that the days of people watching karting are gone. I am comfortable with this. I’ve tried to get events off the ground, but it will require big investment I don’t have. Alas, it’s still something interesting to explore anyway.

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I think I follow top level karting in the US. That being coverage of SKUSA, USPKS, and Rok series. My path to doing that is via eKarting news and YouTube series like Kart Chaser. The only live viewing there seems to be of US events is for Supernationals. I’m only going to view these events in person if they’re relatively close to me (NCMP) and I’m not racing that weekend.

For UK/world coverage I watch TDi media and try to catch some of the feeds from bigger events like Rotax worlds, but as you noted the live feeds are hit or miss on quality.

What drivers do you follow?

I often ask myself these same questions and I don’t really know why I don’t follow it more closely.

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Hmmm. I can name a bunch of the top guys like Ryan, Jarsockrak, and a few others.

I certainly watch them if I stumble across their videos or my you tube subscriptions alert me.

I think kart racing is kind of hard to follow unless you are involved in it.

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I’ve always been an all-in type when I personally involve myself in something so not only do I follow the coverage medium’s that my brother mentioned above, but I listen to every event via eKartingnews live stream and follow along with timing and scoring at the same time (Race Hero or Race Monitor). The KartChaser videos help bring the personalities and names to light…even if it’s depressing how young and culturally different these kids are from me!

I pay the most attention to KA100 because that’s what I personally race. I think Lemke and Jarsocrak are incredible talents, but also follow guys I’ve raced against in either the midwest or at GoPro (Massimino , Rogero, Hotz, etc). I get a kick out of the old guys like me who could be running masters but like to throw down against the Sr group like Matt Johnson. I also follow all of these individuals on instagram to help keep up with what they are doing.

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Karts don’t generate a comparable spectacle over the tube compared to the big cars or MCs. The higher on-track tempo/rhythm, with the karts appearing to be changing direction relatively quickly, make it difficult to visually “take in” the experience as they could if viewing it live at the track; it’s a visually “busier” viewing experience. The CBS Sports Network broadcast of the SKUSA Winter National races are about the best I’ve seen, mixing onboard, trackside, & aerial view footage. Watch a kart race v. F1 race. Even factoring out production values, the difference isn’t hard to discern:

Kart:

F1:

I don’t believe that it’s isolated to sprint racing. Even kart RR would be challenging to present, even though they aren’t darting from turn to turn as much compared to sprint course karting. My guess is that, to some extent, the relatively smaller size of the vehicles themselves creates issues. Trying to zoom the view to create a similar scale presentation is challenging because, again, relative to their size, karts are just moving so quickly that it makes them difficult to capture & present in a fashion reminiscent of the big vehicle races. Not sure there’s a fix for that.

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We will all look towards F1 as our collective focus as an ‘audience’. number of reasons why.

Zero effort is made into making top level karting engaging from an audience perspective. I don’t think anyone really looks at it in that context. It’s not really worth the investment. I am not deluded with regard to all this. I very much understand the why. it’s expensive and time consuming.

For example sake though let’s look at this from RedBull - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM3-CtQ3sKs&t=5s - I know within 8 seconds there’s a guy who likes tattoos and is a championship contender. Instant hook, I’m in. WIthin 20 seconds I see a rider arguing with his mechanic (Musquin) which is interesting. Within 32 seconds I know of Barcia as a rival to Roczen. 50 seconds I know of Jett Lawrence and then finally Webb. I’m already pumped.

It’s basic story telling. That’s the differentiator. What we do in karting is spend 10 minutes trying to explain the sport and then jump into the races. There;s no effort in telling stories and narrative arcs. The Supernats coverage is nice, but it’s coverage of the race, not OF the drivers. There won’t e follow up or anything like that. Again, I know why.

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With the right karts and filming karting can come across well. Eurosport knew this back in the day. Footage from the mid 90s is fantastic. Let’s not forget Bercy was rock solid and is still shared today by motorsport fans. The KEY factor there though? Senna vs Prost. Modern footage however is often high cameras in locations to get as much of the track in one shot to limit expenditure on cameramen

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It’s rare that I watch or follow any racing in general. I’m more focused on trying to control my ADHD so get my own things done :smiley: . I did enjoy watching the Formula Drift streams last year though, put it on the background.

I guess I don’t watch or follow “top level” karting because to me karting is first an activity, secondly a sport and thirdly a stepping stone. The latter is the emphasis of coverage and it’s very meh to me. It’s the same narrative since the 90’s… “stars of the future” etc etc., it’s just not super interesting to me. I was addicted to FA\FSA world champs when I was 16/17/18 (Thanks to karting magazine), but that was about it.

@XanderClements has been doing a good job of trying to get the stories and personalities of the racers stateside.

Bercy worked because of star power. There were other aspects of course, but without the star power it wouldn’t have transcended the way it did.

Same reason I don’t watch autocross, Spec Miata, or Formula Ford. I think of those as participation sports, not spectator sports. I only do autocross and karts fill the gap that a larger bank account might push me toward SM or FF.

I do watch F1, IMSA/WEC, and cycling but generally I’d rather do instead of watch.

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Funny you should put it that way. The stuff I watch tends to be stuff I can’t do like backflips on mountain bikes.

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I think your first mistake is to compare Top Level karting to MX/supercross. What you are able to watch on TV is the top level of the sport. Riders like Tomac on a 450 are the pinnacle. There are no other classes to graduate too. The 250 is the “support class” where you are seeing the next stars for the 450 class. Below that are countless numbers of riders out there, some riding for fun, some looking to get to the big stage. In my eyes that’s as far as karting will ever be. Yes there are “top level” events but karting is just a stepping stone to bigger faster cars OR its fun activity anyone with the gumption can do. Karting is mostly a participation sport and while it might be interesting to spectate, I think you have to be involved for it to be really interesting. Additionally, I think because it is a participation sport it limits the appeal in the eyes of money that is needed to make it a mainstream spectator sport.

MAV TV has been running some kart related programs recently and honestly they are terrible. Most of the time is on the personalities and some is summarizing a 15 lap race in about 2 minutes.

Karting has official FIA World Championship status, multiple professional drivers, manufacturers, and legends of the sport. So it’s is absolutely 100% comparable to SX

The top 3 in KZ have a higher average age than the top 3 in F1 so the ‘stepping stone’ narrative doesn’t quite hold up under inspection. I take the point that the perception is ‘stepping stone’ but that’s not really the reality though we have do leak drivers to cars. this is a problem.

We have 450 in MX/SX and in karting we have KZ1. Iglesias, Kremers, Lammers, Pex etc… In the past we had Rossi, Fore, Ardigo, Kozlinkski, Bengio, Helberg, Wilson, Fullerton etc… (though I am included FA/FSA/FK drivers here) All equally revered as the top SX riders are.

But I will add, what you have said sums up pretty well why people don’t watch :slight_smile: In my view it isn’t an accurate view of top level karting , but one which is reflective of most people’s.

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It’s hard to consider top level karting - in any form - top level. All the events look like club races. Even the big ones. Bunches of classes, all different ages, all kinds of engines, the karts all look pretty much the same except for color. The only thing different is how they sound (four stroke vs. two stroke and maybe shifters). At least that’s how looks to anyone watching an event in person or on video. It all kind of runs together. Even karters that are in the sport know there is little difference between machines. If you are trying to make the drivers the difference it’s no better. The events all reward the same kind of behavior. Qualify up front, get to the lead, stay out of crashes, pull away if you can but at least hold on. The races are short enough that there is no pit stop and any tire strategy is the same for everyone. It ends up being rather predictable. Hard to stand out as a driver if everybody is going to do the same thing. Kind of like Formula 3 a few years ago. Everybody had to get enough money so they could sign with a good team, pick the same car, pick one of a couple engines that are all about the same, and test as much as they can afford. We only notice a top driver(s) there because they might have gotten picked for the next step up, and the events that F3 runs at make that one race, the main focus. Any other cars at that event are not even close to what F3 are.

So, let me put forward a pertinent point. There’s seems to be a thread of thinking here that there is an underlying feeling there’s no ‘elite’ level karting. Yet, we all watch F1 which evidently isn’t a meritocracy of drivers. I watched Schumacher (and especially Beumi and Piquet Jnr) all get spanked in Las Vegas by Lammers and co and I was literally in the middle of the circuit watching very carefully. F1 drivers don’t possess any special cognitive abilities over top karters, even if a lot of them were very good karters. I think only Max now would compete at the front in a high-level kart race, the rest I am not so sure., maybe Lando but he never did KZ, in OK he’d be there.

I think there’s more than one driver in F1 who wouldn’t even top 10 at my local clubby (granted it’s PFi and probably the most competitive club meeting on the planet), but still, the point still remains. In terms of pure driver ability karting is the most competitive form of 4-wheel motorsport. SX talks about stacked fields, and karting is often that.

I would like to re-iterate I am rebutting points for my own mental exercise, the reasons being given perfectly explain why karting is a total failure from an audience engagement perspective.

I think of you asked those 3 KZ drivers if they would like to trade spots with the F1 drivers they all 3 would. Hence why karting is a stepping stone. Not top level.

I kinda follow the Aust. Kart championship, but really only watch the KZ races. and would probably echo @beherr3 's comments about looking like a big club event. It’s hard to be invested if the personalities of the drivers aren’t really covered, which KA have been trying to do lately with a few segments of who’s who for drivers done by Larane? Farley.
The real problem for the AKC is that it really isn’t an “Australian Championship” it takes place solely in the Eastern states and there are very few that can afford either the cost of competition or the time off to race in it from Western Australia. So if no one I know of is competing, and I definitely can’t, what’s the point.

State champs though, another story. That event rocks, but then I know most of the personalities and rivalries. There have been some great stories and epic racing through the last few years which have made it a go too destination for me and a few others in my club.

Simply Streaming/Televising the event isn’t the answer, or all of the answer anyway. It costs between $5000 and $10,000 per event to do this.
I’ve looked at the numbers of views and they don’t stack up dollars per eyeball. Maybe hyping the racing up would do something, get the commentators into the pits to interview drivers etc. but everyone is too scared to talk shit in case it offends anyone.
Everyone knows there’s shit being said, but we can’t tarnish the image of the sport OR damage shop sales because of the rivalry between them.
I feel like we need a printed journal or newsletter that reports on all the shenanigans behind the scenes, because that is where a lot of the interest starts. EKN in the US is ok, but they don’t seem to cover any of the interesting controversial type stuff either.
But it all costs money. Do we need a dedicated Karting media? I think we do. But who is going to pay for it?
My club can’t afford to do anything beyond facebook on a local level, the state may be able to afford it, and the National body should be able to, but they just do puff pieces and don’t really cover any of the interesting stuff that happens, as they have a narrative they want to push too.

Bring Back the Biff!

I think the thing that hurts karting viewership is just the perspective of karting as a whole. A big majority of people think of karting as a stepping stone to F1 and other motorsports, even some other karters. Also, karting isn’t advertised, so only people who compete in karting really know when the events are. I myself do enjoy watching karting on live streams, but many people look at F1, IndyCar, NASCAR.

Here’s my guess, many people don’t really take karting and don’t see it as a top-tier level of racing. Are there karters that drive better than F1 drivers in a kart? I have no doubt about it. Karting and car racing are not the same, so when people say you have to start karting to reach F1, you really don’t, but it helps as an introduction to racing. The assumption that karting is only a stepping stone is completely false.

Trying to figure out how to increase viewers for kart racing takes us back to the old question of how to properly advertise karting. And I feel like the best way I’ve seen people advertise it was seeing videos from people like Ryan Norberg and the Stahls

If you asked all the Le Man, Formula E, IndyCar, WRC, Nascar, BTCC etc… winners from last year whether they’d take a drive at Mercedes F1 you’d get the same response. Only exception I can think of is Lotterer when he turned down Caterham coz he didn’t want o be batting round at the back.

So that’s voids that argument because no one says they aren’t top level and they have decent fan bases. Value is placed on F1 because of technical regulations that allow it to be the fastest race series, as well as historical heritage that is exploited maximally by the commercial owners. This is where its value is, but lets not pretend that it has a monopoly on the ‘best most elite drivers’ because that’s impossible. That’s not how the system is set up. We have kart drivers paid for the services as drivers, and F1 drivers where their dad’s own the team for example.

From a cognitive perspective, actual driving, karting is higher on average than F1 in my view and pretty much every other real life 4-wheel motorsport. Maybe Max Verstappen bumps up F1’s average a tad unfairly ha This is mainly just a consequence of high participation rates and accessibility of karting.

The problem is no one with credibility is able to say this (other than maybe Ayrton Senna, who did in his own roundabout way with Fullerton, and then subsequently Wilson when he made the sure Mike got a decent feature in some Italian papers ). Anthony Davidson hinted it when he told me FSA was as close to F1 as he ever raced.