I would like to hear some comments about what I see as being a crisis in the future for our sport. It has occurred to me that most of the lifers in the sport, the ones that have always been there, the ones that many rely on for sage advice are going to age out.
These are the people that have ground it out year after year seemingly forever motivated by pure love for the sport. Nearly all of them are now in their 60s and 70s.Along with myself there’s John Copeland (Fox Valley Kart), Jerry Cole (Michigan Kart Supply), Van Gilder (Elite Karting), Don Grenier (LAD Specialties) (Hell Scott is n his 40s), Mike Manning (Mike Manning Karting), Art and Rod (RLV), Jim Perry (CKT Racing Engines), even Mark Dismore is in his 60s.
Are there going to be people to fill their shoes in the future. If not, what then?
I didn’t really see any new faces racing this year (other than me). We had a couple juniors show back up mid season and a couple masters that did one or two races but no new new faces.
It does beg the question who I’ll be racing against in 5 years, should I be so fortunate.
Oh wait we did have one new guy in senior but he’s back after a 5 year hiatus.
Really we need data of drivers coming in and drivers leaving as well as their demographics etc… before we can predict anything. I’ve been a victim of the availability bias many times so I have not been immune to predicting impending doom now and again, rarely does it actually come true.
I think there will be others that will eventually take over as the “old sages” of the sport. However, what segment of the sport these future gurus represent is another question.
Kart racing here has seen a shift in culture from one individual pitting from the back of a pickup truck (or small trailer), to big-tent, tractor-trailer, high-$$$, professional layouts. That may be a broad generalization, but anyone in the sport of karting for a while has seen a change.
One would assume the change in leaders in karting may reflect the shift mentioned above.The question is, will this change be beneficial for us? Maybe for the higher-end clientele that the bigger outfits serve, but for the rest of us, I’m not sure. I’ll admit I have my doubts.
Having said that, I can say from personal experience here, there are still many kart dealers, club/series owners, track operators, etc., that are extremely helpful, and do it because they love karting like you said, and it’s much appreciated.
How about the entire Harper Family? Robby has served this sport for decades! His wife, sister in law and countless friends work tirelessly to make WKA races happen. I am gravely worried about this sports future.
I do know of a Chassis builder looking to come back into the sport as well as a few other old supply mfg. I have ideas, that I will keep to myself at this time and watch how WKA treats this side of karting before proceeding further.
It’s a powerful question and I’ve been mulling over this because I feel like it’s a delicate subject. I guess we need to decide what crisis means too.
I think of “crisis” meaning “can the sport continue”, I’ve little doubt that it will continue for some time as long as it’s value of being a great form of motorsport is preserved.
There are younger folks that are engaged in preserving the integrity of the sport, as well as it’s history. Myself and @Mynameismcgyver come to mind.
By no means am I putting myself in the same group as the names already mentioned here, moreso I’m making the point that there are others ready, willing and able to transition the sport and keep it strong.
So let’s get tactical, what are the primary “gaps” that will be left when these, ladies, gents and families depart.
I think it is a crisis and has been a crisis and will continue to be a crisis. Karting’s history in my opinion is not preserved and is disappearing with the passing of time and the loss of life we are seeing. I participate in the Vintage Karting Association on a regular basis and we are losing some of that battle. I almost feel like a Viking trying to preserve the word of mouth Sagas. It is essentially what is coming to.
I’ve been attending the VKA events, because they really are more than races, for quite some time and see it firsthand and have heard so many of the stories that I have never seen or read anywhere before. I came to the realization as I’m faced with my dad being 72 years old and still kart racing with me that when he is gone, much of that stuff that I have taken for granted will be gone with him. I would have loved for us to have been able to sit down with Gus Traeder and Bernie Cozad who passed away in the last couple of years and just had them tell stories to us on camera for everyone. I wish I would have pushed us to have started doing long ago, but it was something that he and I came to the realization of while traveling to VKA – New Castle. So we tried it out and people liked it. We plan to do even more of it and are looking for people to help us out with it in the future.
And its not just the people that we are losing. As Jim said Scott is doing a good job with articles, we need to do that.
And not just those publications either, we are losing the equipment, the motors, the karts. Time has not been nice to much of that equipment. We came to this conclusion, quite a while ago, when people started arguing about whether or not reproduction karts should be allowed in Vintage Karting. We often say “Preserve the Historic Kart and Race the Repop Kart”. The historic karts primarily rear engine karts are out there, but many are in bad shape typically if you are restorer. The other real problem is finding engines, clutches, and parts. McCullochs were so popular back in the day, but now pistons are limited, there are essentially no rod bolts to be found anywhere, no one has made crankshafts for multiple decades, rod bearings are not out there. Much of the other stuff is in the same boat. And for those of us that do race the rear karts, tires are becoming an issue as there really is only a couple places making an old historic hard rubber compound styled tire suitable for rear engine karts.
I do see it as a Crisis, and we’re trying to preserve as much as I can. Some of those old guys too, don’t like to sit down and discuss things. And we’re just amateur hacks for the most part….
If you want to see what we are doing, please view my Youtube Channel called “Racing Psychosis” and/or our Facebook Page “Welte Racing”.
Having started racing much more recently than most, I don’t think this is as prevalent of an issue as some think. I, personally, have only heard of the Greniers, as Scottie was tuning for us this past year, Mike Manning who I’ve heard the name of but don’t know anything about, and Mark Dismore because of NCMP.
However, I’ve recieved a lot of help from many people. Local to my area alone there is a lot of knowledge shared between people including TJ, Jamie Sieracki, Jason Birdsell, Scott Kopp, and plenty of local individuals who know plenty of information about the clubs and classes run there. There will always be people with plenty of information to share, you just have to go out and find them.
That is part of the problem. You get help from say Jason Birdsell, but do you know who his father is? His father is one of the all time greats in the sport. We have all not done a good enough job of preserving those great kart racers of the past. I’m guilty of it as well. If I say Lake Speed, Pearl Gamble, Lynn Haddock, etc how many people truly know who they are?
I know who Mike Birdsell is as well, but I was referring to Jason because he works around where I’m from and provides us the information that was given to him from his father. The concern here was that the “lifers” knowledge won’t be passed on when they are gone.
My point was that there will always be information coming in. Sons of karting greats, new individuals that become engrossed in the sport, there will always be people full of knowledge to supply to newcomers and other experienced drivers.
You’re getting on to an entirely different topic of remembering the great drivers of kartings past.
…if Hajak wandered into any paddock in the world I’d be shocked if anyone recognised him. Karting isn’t a particularly ‘spectator’ based sport any more and generally competitors are more motivated by self-interest. With the advent of “karting for all” that rotax brought in (well, I think they were the first to truly erode the concept of ‘elite karting’) some of the mystique of ‘top drivers’ started to fade. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s more an observation.
Again, is there a crisis? I’m not really sure. The internet has changed the nature of interaction between competitors and traders irreparably. We didn’t have these kind of discussion boards 30 years ago. It’s just going to be different in the future.
So far I have to think that Charles Skowron’s reply is mirroring my observations. I have thought for years that the concentration on “higher end clientele” is a great example of the sport only looking at short term gains and losing focus on the big picture.
Here, let me throw a little more fuel on the fire. We have been talking about the aging of the lifers and stalwarts of the sport and what the long term effect will be. All of the names I mentioned earlier are shop owners, engine builders, tuners etc.
What is going to happen when the promoters and race directors that also happen to fall into the same age demographic begin to retire. I’m talking about the Dave Larsons, Terry Riggins, Robby Harpers, Roger Ruttharts and others.
These are the people that are putting on many of the races that racers count on often with little in the way of thanks and minimal to negative financial gain. When these guys age out it could well be a rough time for the sport.
All of this is very good info. But I think one thing that effects the sport for the future of younger karts is not only us older people leaving is that when I was a kid in the 60s I would work on stuff take it apart figure how it worked an put it back together there where few tuners at the track. Everyone unloaded there station wagon an had fun. Kids talked about there cars an the cam or carbs they where going to run an did it themselves. Today to me there seems to be a loss of this gearhead mentality. So people who start out may have a person they pay to figure things out. Same as driving school never heard of that in the 60s. Power output is down from then but the handling is better so that makes a different learning curve. About this time when the foreign engines came out was the start of people needing to take engines for service. I has mac`s an had to go to komet to compete in juniors that was the start people couldnt press the cranks themselves for the average guy. I think it is funny how we have detuned younger racers rides for safety which is a good idea, here we where running a 100cc rotory valve engine with no restrictions in juniors at 265. People learned an I believe we all will continue to learn from people who have dunn it before. It is a shame that we lose us older folks with all they have learned so much. I wish the sport a great success in the future but we have to keep it simple an cost effective.