Category Archives: Young’Uns Cadet Karting Column

Features, analysis and comment from Dave Bewley on Cadet Karting in the UK

The Cadet Karting Column: August 2012

Written By: Dave Bewley

Josh Smith

Standfirst: Christmas Day, 1959 was a memorable occasion for me. Seven weeks after Graham Hill won Britain’s first kart race I received my very own speed machine, a second-hand Hercules bicycle with full size wheels.

My dad bought the bike from Eddie Thornborrow’s garage at Lowca, where it had been taken in part exchange for a car. It cost £3 (more than £90 at today’s rates), but was already pretty old. However it polished up well and I thought that the bike was all any nine-year-old lad could possibly want. Eddie’s nephew, Ian, had been my best friend since we started infant school together. Santa had been even more generous in Ian’s case and brought him a brand spanking new Philips bike that boasted at least one unique feature. It had a bicycle speedometer not seen anywhere else in the neighbourhood. Rather optimistically, it could measure speeds of up to 40mph.

Amidst much talk of “going around the clock” we planned a test run. The only stretch where such speeds might conceivably be attained was a very steep downhill section from Moresby to Lowca. It was followed immediately by a tight hairpin bend requiring heavy braking and much squealing of tyres. Despite several hair-raising attempts and one perilously close encounter with a Cumberland Bus, the 40mph mark remained out of reach. Ian claimed that he’d actually got up to 35 mph and, following close behind on my old Hercules, I could boast the same achievement. Boast about it we certainly did, at least amongst school pals, although neither of us ever dared breathe a word to our parents.

I look back at the buzz this gave us and have a smile to myself. It was almost as if we’d broken Donald Campbell’s world records. We certainly never imagined back then that kids several years younger than ourselves would one day be racing quite legally at speeds in excess of 50mph. In this respect it’s easy to understand the MSA’s insistence that Cadet racing should be slowed down next year. Health & Safety experts would no doubt express outrage at the very notion that eight-year-old boys and girls could be placed in control of such high speed motorised vehicles.

Ask any Cadet of whatever age and you’ll no doubt get a different response. They’d prefer to be going quicker rather than slower. Those of us who have observed this class over many years may well agree. I certainly haven’t noticed any signs that current speeds achieved by Comer and Honda motors are too high for eight-year-olds to handle. You could argue that Cadet speeds have changed very little over 25 years and accidents are even less common in this class than elsewhere. Why, then, is there a sudden desire to slow things down?

The reason it’s happening in 2013 is because we’ll have a brand new motor and with it comes an opportunity to introduce change. I can understand perfectly the view that speeds shouldn’t be allowed to increase year upon year. The prevailing theory is that any new engine will, in time, get quicker as engine tuners become more acquainted with its subtle characteristics. If it starts off half a second slower, the argument goes, then speeds will reach the median in two or three years time.

The problem is that, for 2013 at least, many clubs will be running combined grids consisting of Hondas, Comers and IAME engines, so it’s imperative for them to attain similar speeds. The MSA has insisted that measures will be taken to slow Hondas and Comers so that they are certainly no quicker than the new IAME motor. I can see all kinds of complications arising from such a policy and we’ll no doubt hear complaints from aggrieved Comer or Honda owners that their motors have been unfairly restricted.

Rather than introduce restrictions on all three motors, the simplest solution would be for IAME engines to be maintained at the benchmark figure set by a Comer currently competing in top level events. If the MSA fears are confirmed and these engines keep getting quicker then further measures could be taken to slow them down. However, I don’t believe that thoroughbred race engines, built to exacting tolerances, should actually get any quicker with the passage of time. 2007 was the year in which outlet restrictors were imposed upon WTP B5 motors. Records set on many circuits that year have remained unbroken since then. Any significant increase in Comer W60 speeds can be attributed to a relaxation of the rules regarding castor-based oil plus, of course, the larger Tryton carburettor now in use.

There’s an obvious contradiction in MSA philosophy with regard to speeds reached by young kids. Whilst still aged 13, the 2010 WTP champion Sam Priest stepped out of his 50mph Cadet kart straight into a Ginetta sports car capable of speeds well in excess of 100mph. Admittedly he wasn’t allowed to actually race it until his 14th birthday but could still quite legally take part in test sessions. Rather than advising against such a move, the MSA seems to encourage it. To borrow a phrase commonly used by the legal profession, “I rest my case.”

The Cadet Karting Column: July 2012

Written By: Dave Bewley

0_8012

Standfirst: Anyone who has ever bitten through their tongue will know how painful it can be. You have to feel sorry for James Mills, because he was biting his for five weeks or more.

“Haven’t heard a thing, mate!” was the familiar response from James to enquiries about the MSA’s choice of motor for 2013. Certainly from April onwards, he was being economical with the truth. “It was hurting me not to tell people that the Parilla Gazelle had, in fact, been chosen and we were simply waiting for contracts to be signed,” he confesses.

“Unfortunately, there was a clause stipulating that any attributable leaks could render the agreement null and void. Similarly, if I’d hinted at developments that I wasn’t allowed to discuss, you’d no doubt have put two and two together and come up with an answer. Either way, I’d have been in hot water with the MSA, so I had to keep quiet and fend off enquiries with one or two white lies. At one stage rumours had starting to circulate that I knew were wide of the mark but I could do nothing to dispel them.”

Having worn the gag for so long, he is now more than willing to talk about the new motor and his plans to ensure its future success. “IAME and JM Engineering are creating a very substantial prize fund for the British Championships,” he points out. “I’m not at liberty to divulge the exact amount just yet, but it will cover an all expenses paid trip to IAME’s factory in Italy for the top three finishers. In addition, there’ll be a £500 IAME voucher for 3rd place, with the championship runner up receiving a free Parilla Gazelle motor.

“Depending on age, the winner gets an all expenses paid entry into next year’s World Junior X30 finals. Obviously, this prize can be deferred for 12 months if the recipient isn’t old enough. Alternatively we can provide another award of a broadly similar value. I’m also keen to incorporate an Academy Class open to the top three or four Cadets from each club, although that might depend upon receiving MSA approval.”

James is acutely aware that success depends upon getting the Parilla Gazelle established at Club level. “Our order books so far suggest that there’s plenty of interest out there,” he insists. “We’re also confident of establishing a strong dealer network with people like Nick Jest, John Davies and Adrian Beddall all showing great enthusiasm. They’re joined by Johnny McDonald in Scotland and Tony Rogers from Ireland. We’ll be working hard to encourage clubs to include Parillas in their race programmes right from Day 1 of the new season. We’re offering three substantial prizes to every club that runs a Parilla class in their own championships, or if they want to do it in a single meeting that’s fine by us. We’ll also donate an RK chassis with a Parilla Gazelle motor to all clubs that run the Lets Go Karting scheme.”

I pointed out to James that all the initiatives and prize schemes for club racing would be worthless if it turned out in January that the Gazelle was slower than a Comer or Honda. “You’re absolutely right about that,” he conceded. “A big part of the contract negotiation, for us at least, was getting a clause inserted to prevent such an occurrence. We’ve been assured that both Hondas and Comers will now be slowed to such an extent that they are certainly no quicker than a Gazelle. We have an advantage insofar as the IAME motor has been restricted so that it performs well below its optimum level and therefore can always be made to go quicker if this balance isn’t satisfactorily maintained.”

A key factor in determining the new engine’s success will be build quality and ultimate reliability. “I have absolutely no fears on that score,” says James. “IAME has been turning out racing motors to very exacting standards virtually since karting began. I’m 100% confident that they’ll all be equal. We realised that the carburettors can be very critical in determining performance. After testing and developing a new type of Tillotson, made solely for this engine, I’m delighted to say it has performed well in both quality and user ability. The tendering document contained a clause that we had to be capable of providing pooled engines for major championships if required. I certainly interpreted that as meaning the motors had to be of an equal standard. Having said that, I’m not convinced pooled engines will actually be used in next year’s championships because most competitors don’t seem to want such a system imposed upon them. That will probably change as confidence in the motor increases.”

After nine years of having sealed engines for Cadets, there’s been a move away from this idea and the Gazelle is unsealed allowing competitors to carry out their own maintenance if so desired. “We’ve prepared a DVD to help those carrying out their own maintenance work,” James points out. “I wouldn’t have a clue how many of them will actually want to do so, but at least the option is there. Naturally there’ll now be an onus placed upon scrutineers and so we’re organising seminars and a separate DVD showing them exactly what they should be looking for. I’m very excited about it all and believe that this represents a big step forward for Cadet racing. You’re going to see much greater parity in performance and ultimately, I believe, a reduction in costs.”

The MSA has taken a bold step in choosing a new engine to spearhead cadet racing, thus ending 26 years of Comer domination. If the Gazelle lives up to James’ high expectations, then their gamble will certainly prove to be justified.

Young’Uns: James Mills’ tongue biting

By Dave Bewley

IAME Gazelle 60cc

Standfirst: Anyone who has ever bitten through their tongue will know how painful it can be. You have to feel sorry for James Mills, because he was biting his for five weeks or more.

“Haven’t heard a thing, mate!” was the familiar response from James to enquiries about the MSA’s choice of motor for 2013. Certainly from April onwards, he was being economical with the truth. “It was hurting me not to tell people that the Parilla Gazelle had, in fact, been chosen and we were simply waiting for contracts to be signed,” he confesses.

“Unfortunately, there was a clause stipulating that any attributable leaks could render the agreement null and void. Similarly, if I’d hinted at developments that I wasn’t allowed to discuss, you’d no doubt have put two and two together and come up with an answer. Either way, I’d have been in hot water with the MSA, so I had to keep quiet and fend off enquiries with one or two white lies. At one stage rumours had starting to circulate that I knew were wide of the mark but I could do nothing to dispel them.”

Having worn the gag for so long, he is now more than willing to talk about the new motor and his plans to ensure its future success. “IAME and JM Engineering are creating a very substantial prize fund for the British Championships,” he points out. “I’m not at liberty to divulge the exact amount just yet, but it will cover an all expenses paid trip to IAME’s factory in Italy for the top three finishers. In addition, there’ll be a £500 IAME voucher for 3rd place, with the championship runner up receiving a free Parilla Gazelle motor.

“Depending on age, the winner gets an all expenses paid entry into next year’s World Junior X30 finals. Obviously, this prize can be deferred for 12 months if the recipient isn’t old enough. Alternatively we can provide another award of a broadly similar value. I’m also keen to incorporate an Academy Class open to the top three or four Cadets from each club, although that might depend upon receiving MSA approval.”

James is acutely aware that success depends upon getting the Parilla Gazelle established at Club level. “Our order books so far suggest that there’s plenty of interest out there,” he insists. “We’re also confident of establishing a strong dealer network with people like Nick Jest, John Davies and Adrian Beddall all showing great enthusiasm. They’re joined by Johnny McDonald in Scotland and Tony Rogers from Ireland. We’ll be working hard to encourage clubs to include Parillas in their race programmes right from Day 1 of the new season. We’re offering three substantial prizes to every club that runs a Parilla class in their own championships, or if they want to do it in a single meeting that’s fine by us. We’ll also donate an RK chassis with a Parilla Gazelle motor to all clubs that run the Lets Go Karting scheme.”

I pointed out to James that all the initiatives and prize schemes for club racing would be worthless if it turned out in January that the Gazelle was slower than a Comer or Honda. “You’re absolutely right about that,” he conceded. “A big part of the contract negotiation, for us at least, was getting a clause inserted to prevent such an occurrence. We’ve been assured that both Hondas and Comers will now be slowed to such an extent that they are certainly no quicker than a Gazelle. We have an advantage insofar as the IAME motor has been restricted so that it performs well below its optimum level and therefore can always be made to go quicker if this balance isn’t satisfactorily maintained.”

A key factor in determining the new engine’s success will be build quality and ultimate reliability. “I have absolutely no fears on that score,” says James. “IAME has been turning out racing motors to very exacting standards virtually since karting began. I’m 100% confident that they’ll all be equal. We realised that the carburettors can be very critical in determining performance. After testing and developing a new type of Tillotson, made solely for this engine, I’m delighted to say it has performed well in both quality and user ability. The tendering document contained a clause that we had to be capable of providing pooled engines for major championships if required. I certainly interpreted that as meaning the motors had to be of an equal standard. Having said that, I’m not convinced pooled engines will actually be used in next year’s championships because most competitors don’t seem to want such a system imposed upon them. That will probably change as confidence in the motor increases.”

After nine years of having sealed engines for Cadets, there’s been a move away from this idea and the Gazelle is unsealed allowing competitors to carry out their own maintenance if so desired. “We’ve prepared a DVD to help those carrying out their own maintenance work,” James points out. “I wouldn’t have a clue how many of them will actually want to do so, but at least the option is there. Naturally there’ll now be an onus placed upon scrutineers and so we’re organising seminars and a separate DVD showing them exactly what they should be looking for. I’m very excited about it all and believe that this represents a big step forward for Cadet racing. You’re going to see much greater parity in performance and ultimately, I believe, a reduction in costs.”

The MSA has taken a bold step in choosing a new engine to spearhead cadet racing, thus ending 26 years of Comer domination. If the Gazelle lives up to James’ high expectations, then their gamble will certainly prove to be justified.

The Cadet Karting Column: June 2012

Written By: Dave Bewley

JM Racing

“I’ve noticed that the people who arrive late are often so much jollier than those who have been kept waiting for them.” (E V Lucas)

For the last few months I’ve been waiting for an announcement from the MSA. I suspect that many others involved with Cadet karting were kept in a state of suspense, also. It’s not clear exactly why we were made to wait so long. A working group was established more than six months ago to recommend which cadet engine should be adopted for 2013 and beyond. After various testing had been carried out, the working group finalised its report and waited for a formal endorsement at executive level. This would definitely happen on March 30th the MSA promised, but that particular date came and went without so much as a whisper. Just like Betty Grable and Julie Andrews who were stood up by Obadiah Binks, we’ve all been kept waiting at the church.

With March 30th in mind I delayed writing last month’s column so that it could include something about the choice of motor. After learning of the delay I was forced into a quick rethink. Similarly, I understand that the front cover of Karting magazine had to be suddenly redesigned. Poor Mary-Ann Horley, meanwhile, has been kept waiting pen in hand to interview the successful applicant. We all believed that there would, at least, be something forthcoming in time for this month’s edition. My editorial deadline expired on Tuesday 24th April without any announcement and I duly sent off this column.

Late on Thursday evening, four weeks later than expected, I received an e-mail informing me that the air cooled IAME Gazelle has been officially endorsed for 2013. As luck would have it Karting magazine had delayed its printing schedule and I’ve been able to amend my piece accordingly. So far as writers like I are concerned, the wait has been merely frustrating. For competitors, their parents and all those involved in the kart trade, however, the unfathomable delay in making this announcement went beyond a minor irritation. Rumours have been running rife, but that’s a natural consequence of such a lengthy delay. Perhaps there is a perfectly good excuse as to why the announcement couldn’t be made on time. Hopefully, we’ll get to know the reasons sooner rather than later.

Whilst on the subject of announcements, Dean MacDonald received a very unwelcome one at PFI in April that effectively destroyed his entire Super One season. Obviously officials must stick to the letter of the law, but Dean paid an exceptionally heavy price for a technical infringement that couldn’t seriously be construed as performance enhancing. He has been in stunning form so far this year and didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. He performed well in dry conditions and was exceptional when the circuit became slippery, winning both finals by convincing margins. Unfortunately, when the scrutineers checked his brake disc they discovered that it was 6mm below the chassis. As a result, Dean was excluded from the meeting and championship rules stipulate that he must now count a double zero score.

It all came about because the ride height had been raised to improve handling in wet conditions. In that sense, the modification was performance enhancing, though certainly not illegal. However, the Zip kart has a particularly large disc brake and, partly for this reason, some teams have switched to other braking systems. Ironically, when Dean was competing in WTP on an RK chassis, he found the braking to be more effective and fully intended to incorporate this system on his Zip kart. Unfortunately for him, that didn’t happen in time for Super One, with devastating consequences.

If someone is running with an illegal motor, modified exhaust or anything else that might produce an unfair advantage then it is certainly right to impose heavy penalties. Where there is clearly no intention to cheat, however, I think officials should be allowed some discretion. As it happens, the Super One Series has now lost an entrant because Dean certainly won’t be attending any further rounds. He was undoubtedly a potential title winner and this makes his absence from the competition even more regrettable. At 11 years of age, he’s certainly young enough to have another attempt next year. Whether or not he’ll have the inclination is another matter.

86% of the Cadet entry at PF raced on Zip karts and this figure is broadly representative of the national scene. If you currently own a Zip and intend to alter your chassis height, then it might be worth investing in another braking system. I suspect that’s what Dean MacDonald and his dad have done already.

Young’Uns: Zip kart dominance

By Dave Bewley

The new Cadet engine for 2012 Chris Walker
The new Cadet engine for 2012
Chris Walker

“I’ve noticed that the people who arrive late are often so much jollier than those who have been kept waiting for them.” (E V Lucas)

For the last few months I’ve been waiting for an announcement from the MSA. I suspect that many others involved with Cadet karting were kept in a state of suspense, also. It’s not clear exactly why we were made to wait so long. A working group was established more than six months ago to recommend which cadet engine should be adopted for 2013 and beyond. After various testing had been carried out, the working group finalised its report and waited for a formal endorsement at executive level. This would definitely happen on March 30th the MSA promised, but that particular date came and went without so much as a whisper. Just like Betty Grable and Julie Andrews who were stood up by Obadiah Binks, we’ve all been kept waiting at the church.

With March 30th in mind I delayed writing last month’s column so that it could include something about the choice of motor. After learning of the delay I was forced into a quick rethink. Similarly, I understand that the front cover of Karting magazine had to be suddenly redesigned. Poor Mary-Ann Horley, meanwhile, has been kept waiting pen in hand to interview the successful applicant. We all believed that there would, at least, be something forthcoming in time for this month’s edition. My editorial deadline expired on Tuesday 24th April without any announcement and I duly sent off this column.

Late on Thursday evening, four weeks later than expected, I received an e-mail informing me that the air cooled IAME Gazelle has been officially endorsed for 2013. As luck would have it Karting magazine had delayed its printing schedule and I’ve been able to amend my piece accordingly. So far as writers like I are concerned, the wait has been merely frustrating. For competitors, their parents and all those involved in the kart trade, however, the unfathomable delay in making this announcement went beyond a minor irritation.

Rumours have been running rife, but that’s a natural consequence of such a lengthy delay. Perhaps there is a perfectly good excuse as to why the announcement couldn’t be made on time. Hopefully, we’ll get to know the reasons sooner rather than later.

Whilst on the subject of announcements, Dean MacDonald received a very unwelcome one at PFI in April that effectively destroyed his entire Super One season. Obviously officials must stick to the letter of the law, but Dean paid an exceptionally heavy price for a technical infringement that couldn’t seriously be construed as performance enhancing. He has been in stunning form so far this year and didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. He performed well in dry conditions and was exceptional when the circuit became slippery, winning both finals by convincing margins. Unfortunately, when the scrutineers checked his brake disc they discovered that it was 6mm below the chassis. As a result, Dean was excluded from the meeting and championship rules stipulate that he must now count a double zero score.

It all came about because the ride height had been raised to improve handling in wet conditions. In that sense, the modification was performance enhancing, though certainly not illegal. However, the Zip kart has a particularly large disc brake and, partly for this reason, some teams have switched to other braking systems. Ironically, when Dean was competing in WTP on an RK chassis, he found the braking to be more effective and fully intended to incorporate this system on his Zip kart. Unfortunately for him, that didn’t happen in time for Super One, with devastating consequences.

If someone is running with an illegal motor, modified exhaust or anything else that might produce an unfair advantage then it is certainly right to impose heavy penalties. Where there is clearly no intention to cheat, however, I think officials should be allowed some discretion. As it happens, the Super One Series has now lost an entrant because Dean certainly won’t be attending any further rounds. He was undoubtedly a potential title winner and this makes his absence from the competition even more regrettable. At 11 years of age, he’s certainly young enough to have another attempt next year. Whether or not he’ll have the inclination is another matter.

86% of the Cadet entry at PF raced on Zip karts and this figure is broadly representative of the national scene. If you currently own a Zip and intend to alter your chassis height, then it might be worth investing in another braking system. I suspect that’s what Dean MacDonald and his dad have done already.

The Cadet Karting Column: May 2012

Written By: Dave Bewley

Little Green Man Championship

Standfirst: Last month I visited the Three Sisters circuit where an ordinary club meeting was taking place.
This circuit is situated on the site of Crippens Colliery at Ashton in Makerfield near Wigan. It’s part of a large recreational area that was created 35 years ago from three colliery slag banks known locally as the “Three Sisters”. Long paths take you through woodlands and fields down to the Wigan Flashes, a well known nature reserve. Some 200 yards away from the racing circuit there’s a well equipped children’s play area next to an artificial lake where course fishing and canoeing take place.

I noticed a small group sailing radio-controlled model boats on this lake. The youngest of these appeared to be in his late thirties. It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon scene, but you could hear the roar of rather more potent engines as more than 100 or so kart competitors fought for supremacy. Times have certainly changed since I first became involved in karting almost 50 years ago. Back then young lads messed about with model boats while karting was largely the preserve of adults. A few lucky kids got to try out their dads’ karts in junior races designed as programme fillers. At Wigan in March 2012 40% of entrants were cadets with other junior categories accounting for a further 40% of the total.

Cadets have been the mainstay of racing for some years and this dominant position isn’t showing any signs of changing. As you might expect, there was a lot of interest when the MSA opened up its tendering process that would decide the cadet engine of choice from 2013 onwards. Over several feverish months there has been considerable speculation about where the champagne corks might be popping. Would they be celebrating in Brandon (Lincolnshire), Silverstone (Northants) or Dartford (Kent)? The bubbly has been kept on ice for rather longer than expected and, if recent trends are anything to go by, it may already have lost some of its sparkle.
Pullquote: The bubbly has been kept on ice for rather longer than expected and, if recent trends are anything to go by, it may already have lost some of its sparkle.

I suspect that celebrations will have been taking place down in the home of Gerard Cox for some months now. Gerard manufactures the Project One chassis which is overwhelmingly favoured by drivers in Honda Cadet. Along with several others, he has tirelessly promoted this class and is now reaping the rewards. In club racing, at least, there’s no doubt that a sea change has taken place. Comers no longer occupy the dominant position, as we’ve witnessed a massive resurgence of Hondas. Two years ago you never saw a Honda powered kart taking part in MSA racing at PF. Today, the entries in this class are usually on a par with Comers. The same applies at Rowrah, Kimbolton, Blackbushe and Whilton Mill.

Comers continue to occupy top spot at Hooton Park, Glan Y Gors, Shenington and Three Sisters, but elsewhere it’s an entirely different story. Hondas now reign supreme at Forest Edge, Dunkeswell, Rye House, Buckmore, Bayford Meadows, Kimbolton, Llandow, Larkhall, Red Lodge and Nutts Corner. The same characteristics that have attracted commercial operators for so many years are obviously finding favour amongst drivers and their parents, too. These are simplicity, ease of operation, long life and low maintenance. Simply fill up with petrol, pull the starter cord and away you go. It’s what karting should be all about.

At one time WTP threatened to be a major force in cadet racing. Eight years ago, for example, WTP Little Green Man entries exceeded the numbers of Comers for Stars and S1 put together. So popular was this class, in fact, that Mike Mills had to impose a cut off figure of 64. Two years later WTP lost its monopoly in Italy and had to replace the B1 with a much quicker B5 version. Although this motor was heavily detuned for racing in Britain, the MSA insisted upon further speed restrictions, specifying that it must be at least half a second per lap slower than Comers.

A telephone conversion I had with one prominent MSA official still makes me smile even six years afterwards. He indignantly pointed out that a WTP had allegedly lapped Warden Law almost a full second faster than any Comer. This race had taken place during a non-MSA event in damp but rapidly drying conditions. The WTP entrant was racing on slicks whereas his Comer counterparts were all using wets. He didn’t actually win, but obviously began lapping much quicker once the track became dry. On such shaky ground was MSA policy founded, but their attitude towards WTP inevitably took its toll.

Almost three years have elapsed since production of the B5 motor ceased. Even so, the class has refused to die and 25 drivers turned out for the opening Little Green Man round at PF. While this figure was well down on 2004 numbers, it certainly matched entries over the last couple of years. Ever since January 2010 I’ve been predicting that this would be the last year for WTP. It’s not often that I’m right, but hopefully I’ll be wrong again.

Young’Uns – WTP Cadet Class

By Dave Bewley

racing: not dead yet! Chris Walker
racing: not dead yet!
Chris Walker

Last month I visited the Three Sisters circuit where an ordinary club meeting was taking place.
This circuit is situated on the site of Crippens Colliery at Ashton in Makerfield near Wigan. It’s part of a large recreational area that was created 35 years ago from three colliery slag banks known locally as the “Three Sisters”. Long paths take you through woodlands and fields down to the Wigan Flashes, a well known nature reserve. Some 200 yards away from the racing circuit there’s a well equipped children’s play area next to an artificial lake where course fishing and canoeing take place.

I noticed a small group sailing radio-controlled model boats on this lake. The youngest of these appeared to be in his late thirties. It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon scene, but you could hear the roar of rather more potent engines as more than 100 or so kart competitors fought for supremacy. Times have certainly changed since I first became involved in karting almost 50 years ago. Back then young lads messed about with model boats while karting was largely the preserve of adults. A few lucky kids got to try out their dads’ karts in junior races designed as programme fillers. At Wigan in March 2012 40% of entrants were cadets with other junior categories accounting for a further 40% of the total.

Cadets have been the mainstay of racing for some years and this dominant position isn’t showing any signs of changing. As you might expect, there was a lot of interest when the MSA opened up its tendering process that would decide the cadet engine of choice from 2013 onwards. Over several feverish months there has been considerable speculation about where the champagne corks might be popping. Would they be celebrating in Brandon (Lincolnshire), Silverstone (Northants) or Dartford (Kent)? The bubbly has been kept on ice for rather longer than expected and, if recent trends are anything to go by, it may already have lost some of its sparkle.

The bubbly has been kept on ice for rather longer than expected and, if recent trends are anything to go by, it may already have lost some of its sparkle.

I suspect that celebrations will have been taking place down in the home of Gerard Cox for some months now. Gerard manufactures the Project One chassis which is overwhelmingly favoured by drivers in Honda Cadet. Along with several others, he has tirelessly promoted this class and is now reaping the rewards. In club racing, at least, there’s no doubt that a sea change has taken place. Comers no longer occupy the dominant position, as we’ve witnessed a massive resurgence of Hondas. Two years ago you never saw a Honda powered kart taking part in MSA racing at PF. Today, the entries in this class are usually on a par with Comers. The same applies at Rowrah, Kimbolton, Blackbushe and Whilton Mill.

Comers continue to occupy top spot at Hooton Park, Glan Y Gors, Shenington and Three Sisters, but elsewhere it’s an entirely different story. Hondas now reign supreme at Forest Edge, Dunkeswell, Rye House, Buckmore, Bayford Meadows, Kimbolton, Llandow, Larkhall, Red Lodge and Nutts Corner. The same characteristics that have attracted commercial operators for so many years are obviously finding favour amongst drivers and their parents, too. These are simplicity, ease of operation, long life and low maintenance. Simply fill up with petrol, pull the starter cord and away you go. It’s what karting should be all about.

At one time WTP threatened to be a major force in cadet racing. Eight years ago, for example, WTP Little Green Man entries exceeded the numbers of Comers for Stars and S1 put together. So popular was this class, in fact, that Mike Mills had to impose a cut off figure of 64. Two years later WTP lost its monopoly in Italy and had to replace the B1 with a much quicker B5 version. Although this motor was heavily detuned for racing in Britain, the MSA insisted upon further speed restrictions, specifying that it must be at least half a second per lap slower than Comers.

A telephone conversion I had with one prominent MSA official still makes me smile even six years afterwards. He indignantly pointed out that a WTP had allegedly lapped Warden Law almost a full second faster than any Comer. This race had taken place during a non-MSA event in damp but rapidly drying conditions. The WTP entrant was racing on slicks whereas his Comer counterparts were all using wets. He didn’t actually win, but obviously began lapping much quicker once the track became dry. On such shaky ground was MSA policy founded, but their attitude towards WTP inevitably took its toll.

Almost three years have elapsed since production of the B5 motor ceased. Even so, the class has refused to die and 25 drivers turned out for the opening Little Green Man round at PF. While this figure was well down on 2004 numbers, it certainly matched entries over the last couple of years. Ever since January 2010 I’ve been predicting that this would be the last year for WTP. It’s not often that I’m right, but hopefully I’ll be wrong again.