I think that misses the point. I don’t think these guys care about scalable solutions or measuring impact via social media reach. It’s more about making sure to instill and pass on the values of working on your own equipment, learning how your kart works, initiating change in your local club scene and just teaching the history of karting and showing the value it has. Heritage is very important and if we don’t know where the sport came from, then the passion and emotional investment isn’t as deeply rooted.
I think Greg and some of you guys have a doom-and-gloom outlook on this, but it’s not entirely warranted. I know plenty of people still pitting out of pick-up trucks, plenty of people still emotionally invested in the sport, who love the heritage and history, and who are willing to pass that on to others. Yes, it has changed in some respects, as more people come into the sport and view it only as a stepping stone to another form of racing. But those people have always existed, it maybe wasn’t so obvious before the advent of social media.
There will always be people who love karting just for what it is, and those people will be the ones who carry the torch forward for the next generation. I don’t think the situation is as bad as some of you are making it out to be. The culture and society as a whole has changed, so maybe you’re not seeing that passion manifest itself in the ways you guys are used to, but I guarantee it’s still there in the majority of karters.
I agree with this, but I don’t see it as being at odds with social (and other) media, for all their faults are still a tool that can be used that we haven’t had in the past.
The irony is that I think the perception of people not wanting to work on their own stuff etc is amplified by social media.
To Davin’s point and I think it’s a good one as well: What do we want to do? So many conversations just stay as conversations, without action being taken to solve the problem being discussed.
I think it’s worth fleshing out for those that are willing.
Here’s some good news… when kartpulse shares something about a cool kart that someone’s engineered to fly around Daytona, or vintage racing… people are really interested in it. I think we had 3000 people check out the Cool Karts from Daytona, so there’s hope for that kind of mindset.
Gee TJ I didn’t feel that I was projecting gloom or doom. Having said that I’m still concerned about the future of the sport. From my viewpoint I’m not seeing very many people that are going to have the passion and drive of the remaining lifers. Without that passion I worry that the sport will tend to meander aimlessly into the future.
My biggest concern is not about the sport surviving, it’s that it will continue down the path of an expensive niche sport which will limit if not stifle growth.
I think it’s more about perception than anything else. Mainly because we don’t have a way to measure “lifers” vs “stoners”. By stoners I mean stepping stoners.
That perception is rooted in our own, personal social karting circles. I feel like there’s a decent amount of lifers in my circle, but we’re in our 20’s, 30’s 40’s. So there’s less of a sense of immediacy there.
So to circle back:
What is the crisis?
What impact do we think it will have?
Then we can talk about what role we can play in managing the change of guard.
I can’t imagine this situation is unique to karting either. Every passion/hobby has been through this, perhaps other forms of racing 50-60 years after they started too.
James caught my point. If the solution that most people come up with is “talk to your friends about karting history and work on your own kart”, then that’s neat, but your success will vary based on your karting social circle.
So (shrugs). I mean that’s fine and all, but if something is a crisis, I’m assuming that we’re looking for a solution that has some more large scale impact.
It’s impossible to measure the impact of said lifers over a long period of time so it’s hard to measure what will happen in the future when they decide to stop. History is littered with doomsayers, and I used to be front and centre of the ‘karting is in crisis’ talk. But like most things it doesn’t manifest. In the UK I am seeing new team owners and new businesses start up with young passionate competitors, so I am not too worried about that.
I know footage or photos of real vintage karting stuff can be hard to find but it would be cool to put together little docu-series short videos or something with stories from the past. I always get chills when I see old F1 footage. Might help stir something up inside the youngsters if they had some context or visual representation to see what it was like back in the day, and give the karts and people of the past some more respect.
Note that in my original post I asked if it will be a crisis not that there necessarily was one.In my opinion for what that’s worth I believe that the aging out of the lifers WILL have an impact and a noticeable one at that.
The bigger question mark on the sport’s future is the steadily dwindling base of kart racers. No matter how good or bad your local scene may be overall the general consensus is that since the early 2000s we have lost over half of the participants that we had at the time and new blood coming in isn’t coming close to keeping up.
There is likely a societal element at work here as well and it may be the bigger issue and nobody knows how to address it. There’s two elements going on, first is the increased cost that has risen at an alarming rate. The success of the LO206 program is an indicator that more affordable racing makes it more attractive. But the LO206 folks can’t and in my mind shouldn’t be the single defining element of the sport.
Secondly the generation coming up that don’t know how to change a spark plug and aren’t interested in learning how is a huge problem. This will result in only the well heeled folks being capable of participating and the focus will more and more on the aforementioned high end clientele. I don’t believe there will be enough participants to sustain an industry that the sport can’t survive without.
Then again I could be full of it but the current spiral can’t be sustained. Without the passion of the lifers I wonder if there is anybody that can forestall the soul of karting that carried it for decades becoming a thing of the past.
No gloom and doom from me, just concern about the future of a sport that I have mysteriously dedicated most of my life to.
I think a part of that is that there are more shops and teams that are willing to provide those services, for those who aren’t interested to learn or don’t want to.
Personally, as long as there is an eco-systems of business that can provide the services I need, I don’t need to learn every single one of them.
I think the hard part is that karting doesn’t do a very good job at promoting itself to other influencers, outside of the sport, so that more people know about it. In my opinion, It’s hard to really grow a sport in modern times, when everyone tries to “keep things old school.”
Better helmets (thanks to Snell and motorcycles)
Plastic bumpers and sidepods added
The fuel tank made of plastic instead of AL
Data collection devices
Maybe I’m missing something having not been in this sport for long, but if anything comparing F1’s evolution to karting’s evolution is apples and pineapples.
My thoughts are that like others have said - they have to be reliable and dead simple to maintain. For sprint karting, the 206 fits that well. For anything more powerful, there just isn’t much out there currently - at least with a reasonable price and parts availability.
However, I think electric will fit the bill very soon for sprint karts (definitely NOT road racing). For the < 20 HP range, that isn’t difficult to do currently, other than the price. For the 30-45 HP target, within ten years time as the cost, weight, and capacity of batteries slowly improve. Electric will be very simple to maintain and run. Just charge and go, probably with 2-3 battery packs used per day. And hey, no problem with pit noise!
As a counter point, I feel that talk of a crisis in karting because the people “ageing out” is a little bit offensive to those of us that are filling the positions that have been made vacant.
Do we have the presence that these people have, No. But then our contribution hasn’t been recognised yet.
If you see a lack of younger people participating in your club, you should fill the gap.
Be part of the solution.
I’m not sure where on when it happened but this thread has veered off track.
In all honesty I regret having started this thread, I was merely bringing up a topic for conversation that interests me and frankly involves me. Obviously I have done a poor job of stating my concerns, judging by some of the comments my questions were misunderstood.
At no point did I mention old school all that might have been implied in a minor way. At no time did I mention Vintage karting although my involvement with that category is well known. Electric karts?? Where the hell did that come from?
Davin, I might point out that one of the more successful racing categories in the US is American style short track open wheel racing (Primarily Sprint cars and midgets). They have made it a mission to keep in touch with where they came from and as a result have a huge number of race tracks, a huge base of dedicated racers and even (gasp) fans. Not to say that they don’t have their problems primarily with runaway engine costs but overall their part of the sport and the connected industry is strong.
I’m out after this post, I started this thread and I will now happily have said my last on the subject.
I guess we don’t really understand what your concern is Greg? That karting is going to lose touch with its roots because the elders of the sport are disappearing?
There are still plenty of guys who have owned kart shops for their whole lives and probably will until they are gone. I’m just not understanding why you think these sages of the sport aren’t being replaced by the next generation. I see tons of guys who have plenty of wisdom to pass down and do so every weekend.
I’m disappointed to hear you say that you regret starting the topic Greg.
I will say this though: We’re a solutions/action oriented community. So when something comes up as a potential crisis, chances are we’ll to try to define the problem and come up with some sort of solution.
Really it comes down to… “What do you want to do Greg?”
There’s a lot of ambiguity and overlap around the topic you brought up for discussion and it’s a bit of a pandora’s box. It really should be separate topics to be honest.
To take just one short statement from it.
There’s a lot here to discuss alone and my basic stance is this…
Accounting for inflation, the cost hasn’t increased much at all. Run prices though this CPI calculator and see for yourself.
When it comes to costs, you need to exclude the outliers. They don’t apply to most people and you can’t stop people spending money anyway. Bringing them up is really only good for drama.
The main spiral I’ve observed is this idea that the sport is “expensive” and that by making it cheaper we can grow it. That’s a very dangerous fallacy to me. Many of the costs are out of our control and/or set by economic factors. Gas prices, rent, insurance, labor etc etc.
We can’t grow the sport by continually undercutting it.
With that in mind, when we talk about karting, I believe it’s important that we emphasize the relative VALUE it offers. People that see the value won’t get too hung on the cost. People that only look at the cost will never see the value of it.
Gus Traeder did some of that with real old footage at his events at Quincy in a highlight package. He would pick out some past champion karter and do just that many a year at his VKA race. He would go out and get thoughts from Scott Pruett and Scott Goodyear and others about that individual that he decided to highlight. It was extremely cool to see.
I entirely realize that many people do not see the need for what my dad and I trying to do. That’s fine, I’m not offended by it. I personally do see it as one crisis in karting and I can’t just sit back and let it happen. I know others disagree. I’ve chosen to do something about it, and people can use that or not. For me its what I will give back to the sport, whether it gets used or not. I’m fine if it doesn’t get used, and I don’t care if people dislike it or dislike me for trying to do something, so be it I tried. If I fail, it happens and we just disagree on the importance of things. That’s alright.
I don’t see a crisis at all. Just in my sons inner circle of people that help there are multiple generations of people like this. Mike Birdsell, Nick Tucker, Gary Lawson, and Ashley Rogero. When I look around the pits I see people all over the place of similar generations and experience. Karting is full of experienced up and comers to replace the old guard.
As a newcomer I’ve been waiting to weigh in on this, but maybe my perspective is valuable here:
I see karting as experiencing a revitalization, in my area anyways. A lot of the guys who ran in autocross and HPDE are becoming more interested in the relatively low cost wheel to wheel experience that is, frankly, unique to karting right now. I think it is grassroots and small club level driven, with more people interested in getting out there and racing other people than perhaps making it to nationals. This needs to be encouraged and supported as much as we cover and support national events and the best known drivers. I came back to karting after 20 years (I’m only 29 and only did 2 seasons as a kid) but what brought me back was: seat time, wheel to wheel, and cost.
Talking with the rep at my local shop, the club has seen something like 15 new members just for this upcoming season; sure most are in the masters class, but I think just having people at the track and having a truly healthy club turnout is fundamental in bringing in the “next generation.” Fun events like I heard Davin mention on some podcast like the Poker Run and Powderpuff races to draw people are great ideas. I work as a school psychologist right now and I’m trying to work with the tech teacher to do an after school kart club since some kids have expressed interest in my kart.
Again, maybe since I’m new and haven’t even had the chance to get my kart on the track (NY weather) that I’m still in a honeymoon outlook, but from my perspective there’s growth occurring, and I’m happy to share the passion with others