The answer, apparently, is “not very much!” At one time entrants in every recognised class could compete for this honour. Today, apart from 250cc Superkarts run on full size motor racing circuits, only winners of the S1 championships in IAME Cadets or KZ1 can legitimately claim to be MSA British Champions. You might think that such a restriction would make the prize even more valuable. The truth is, however, that interest has been waning for several years and many of our top stars prefer to compete in the German or Italian domestic championships instead.
I’d argue that part of the blame can be laid at the CIK’s doorstep. Six years ago this august body replaced 100cc classes with the disastrous KF versions. Wild predictions were made that these would very quickly replace Rotax categories in terms of popularity. The reality proved to be very different. KF1 was supposed to be karting’s premier class. Just over two years after being introduced, it attracted such a feeble entry at S1 level that the 2010 Championships had to be cut short. Three years later, the same fate befell KF2, but at least we still had a double figure entry in the Junior category. Sadly, even this class has fallen by the wayside in 2014. It means that, for the first time in 48 years, there won’t be a British Junior Champion.
They’ve been flogging horses that, if not actually dead, are well past the stage of active life
If the CIK has to bear some responsibility for this state of affairs then the MSA is also culpable. For understandable reasons, demarcation lines have been drawn between commercial categories such as Rotax,TKM, KGP etc and their own MSA classes. However, with the notable exception of IAME Cadet, our friends at Motor Sports House must surely realise they’ve been flogging horses that, if not actually dead, are well past the stage of active life. It was clear several years ago that British titles should have been awarded to Rotax classes. The fact that they weren’t has stripped them of any meaningful value.
This year’s MSA S1 opener at Shenington attracted just 106 entrants. Half of these were actually racing in commercial categories, leaving just 53 British Championship contenders. It’s more than likely that this number will steadily decrease as the season progresses. Shenington is centrally located and has always proved to be one of the most popular venues. At an ordinary club meeting held there a fortnight earlier, 211 drivers turned out. This could pose quite a dilemma in future. If leading clubs such as Shenington and Trent Valley can make more money staging their own meetings, you could find that John Hoyle has to rely increasingly on less popular venues for the S1 Championships. Thus our cherished British titles will be devalued even further. As it is, the MSA is losing quite a bit of revenue. Currently there’s a £90 surcharge imposed upon every entrant for the British Championships (£15 per round), so you’d think that there would be some incentive to attract more customers.
There is, of course, a valid counter argument. The sudden popularity of IAME cadet can be ascribed, almost entirely, to its recognition as the official British Championship class. Comers, on the other hand, have just about faded into oblivion simply through losing this status. Yet, even here the message is a mixed one. With a British title at stake less than 40 cadets have entered S1. Conversely, the Little Green Man Series doesn’t offer any officially recognised title, not even an ABkC one, yet registrations for this competition are in excess of 90 this year. The reason for its popularity is largely down to cost.
Registering for the Little Green Man and entering all eight rounds will set you back £1245. Add two sets of tyres, which are all that anyone is allowed for the entire Series, and you have a total outlay of £1540. That’s around £1,000 cheaper than S1. The savings don’t just end there, however. Abolishing Friday practice is a big plus point for many parents. It means that they are taking less time off work, to say nothing of their kids’ schooling. Less expenditure on things like tyres, engine wear, accommodation costs and, in many cases, mechanics’ fees is also a powerful factor. In addition, Mike Mills has worked extremely hard over the last 12 years to make these championships customer friendly. With no less than 18 trophies handed out at every round last year you didn’t need a top three finishing place to feel that bit special.
Today the main consideration is money and that’s not good for any sport.
If the MSA is serious about enhancing the value of British titles then it could always draw upon past experience. 50 years ago the idea of an eight round competition was abandoned in favour of deciding everything over a single weekend at Shenington. Six classes were contested, with competitors in the more popular categories qualifying via regional championships. Apart from 1966, when the championships were run over three rounds, this format was successfully adopted for the next thirty years. Back then ability and self confidence were the only factors deterring anyone from taking part. Today, the main consideration is money and that’s not good for any sport. I believe that we should look once more at running the championships over a single weekend, even if it’s only on a trial basis. It wouldn’t mean the end of S1 because there’ll always be a demand for professionally run championships based over multiple rounds.
I’d award British titles to the winners of every class but, for simplicity’s sake, the concept of an outright champion could be revived. This would be decided on total points scored from Heats and Finals. Only eight individuals, Tony Sissons, Bobby Alderdyce, George Bloom, Chris Lambert, Chris Merlin, Mickey Allen, Dave Ferris and Stephen South have ever claimed this accolade. There seems to be no justifiable reason why we can’t bring it back once again.
Do you agree that British kart titles have been devalued?
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