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The Cadet Karting Column: April 2011

Dave argues that we are at risk of fatally overcomplicating Cadets
Dave argues that we are at risk of fatally overcomplicating Cadets

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. 

Good engineers are proficient in the art of grasping a complex problem and making it simple. Somewhere along the line we’ve performed this function in reverse. Something that started out as a very simple form of motor racing has been turned into a terribly complex sport, one which must be difficult for outsiders to fully comprehend. In her well thought out plans for the future structure of karting, Mary-Ann Horley posed a straightforward question for our legislators to ask before making any decision. “Will it bring in new karters or help to retain existing ones?” Had this simple question been asked, I doubt whether the Super Cadet class would have gone ahead in its present guise.

It was surely fundamentally wrong to make Super Cadet an open category rather than a single engine class. Anyone buying karts or motors is taking a double gamble, firstly that the class itself might survive and secondly that their equipment will remain competitive. Even so, sufficient numbers turned out at PF last October to suggest that this class might still flourish. However, four months elapsed before the next outing for this class and interest inevitably waned.To those administrators seeking reasons for this reversal, I offer the words of Conan Doyle’s famous literary creation, “It’s elementary my dear Watson!”.

“I can’t believe that an engine originally designed for chopping down trees will be with us in cadets for another eight years.”


Errors can become useful provided that lessons are learned from them. Next month the tendering process for cadet motors begins in earnest. For 23 years the Comer S60 and its W60 derivative have dominated cadets. During this period the class has produced some fabulous racing, while turning out quite a few memorable champions including Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson and Paul Di Resta.

Nevertheless, I can’t believe that an engine originally designed for chopping down trees will be with us in cadets for another eight years. The time has surely come to take a dispassionate look at other alternatives, of which there are numerous examples. The MSA might be tempted to abdicate responsibility and throw the entire class open. I hope that it will have learned from the Super Cadet experience that this isn’t a sensible way forward.

Where simplicity, long life and low cost maintenance are concerned, the Honda GX160 takes a lot of beating, and that probably explains why this motor is favoured by just about every commercial operator. Fill up with petrol, pull the starter cord and away you go. That’s what makes Honda Cadet an ideal introduction into karting for young children and their parents. As with Comer W60 motors, the Honda GX160 was designed for industrial use and therein lies a significant problem.The fiche is, of necessity, a wide one and there are many ways to make these motors substantially quicker than standard models.


Instead of costing £400 or so, a race prepared Honda capable of competing in Super One is more likely to set you back £2,000. That’s still peanuts compared to the amounts many Comer owners are forking out, but the class hasn’t, as yet, been subjected to the rigours of mass participation. Making Honda the main cadet category would, I suspect, dramatically alter its present characteristics and we could see motors changing hands for ten times today’s figures.

I became a fan of WTP because it was a genuine racing engine manufactured within very fine tolerances. Unfortunately this motor became uncompetitive in Europe and the British market wasn’t large enough to sustain production on an economic scale. A number of Italian manufacturers are now producing 60cc motors in large volumes. I spoke about this to James Mills who is specifically involved with IAME.

“I’m certain that race bred TAG motors are the way forward for cadets,” James insisted. “Initial costs might be a bit higher but you’d eliminate all the nonsense of people paying sky high prices for second-hand motors. A firm like IAME is capable of turning out units to whatever specification the MSA wants, be it quicker or slower than today’s class. Sealing is an option but needn’t be essential. Tell-tale indicators can be incorporated so that scrutineers are able to detect immediately if any modifications have been carried out. Water cooling reduces noise and may well be considered desirable by our governing bodies. This can be incorporated for around £120 so it isn’t an inhibiting factor.”


We needn’t look beyond these shores for a Comer replacement. Alan Turney is confident that Tal-ko has the capacity to manufacture 60cc motors in large quantities. “We’d need a bit of notice to set everything up but there’s no reason why we couldn’t produce an engine with similar characteristics to the BT82 which has been tried and tested over many years,” Alan claims. “The TKM class produced a level playing field and, even when numbers far exceeded today’s cadet figures, we never heard of second-hand motors being sold at exorbitant prices.”

Three years ago in a letter to Karting magazine I suggested that future British Championships for cadets should be decided with motors supplied by the manufacturer and drawn at random. This may have seemed a fanciful notion yet it provided the basis for deciding last year’s U18 world title. It’s certainly a feasible proposition, especially if the championships were held over a single weekend. Instead of being elitist, open only to those with large budgets, the British Championships would suddenly become inclusive once again.

Eight years have elapsed since the process of choosing a cadet motor was last embarked upon. This time I hope to see a completely open affair with the selection criteria clearly defined beforehand. If we emerge with a cadet motor that is instantly competitive straight out of the box, then something worthwhile will have been achieved. As the Meerkat himself remarked, “SIMPLES!”

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The Cadet Karting Column: March 2011

Written By: Dave Bewley

Jordan Falding at PFi Chris Walker
Jordan Falding at PFi
Chris Walker

“Never put off until tomorrow that which you can do the day after tomorrow” (Mark Twain)

I’m pleased that Karting magazine’s staff had ignored this little snippet of advice from the distinguished American author, as my latest copy arrived three days earlier than expected.

Elsewhere, the Twain dictum may be more prevalent. Three years ago Gary Walker and I attended a meeting of the MSA, held ostensibly to discuss proposals aimed at getting more young people into karting. During this meeting, we asked about the MSA’s attitude towards Bambinos. The reply we received was that this decision ought not to be rushed. Bambinos wouldn’t be introduced until 2009 at the earliest and so there was plenty of time to make a considered judgement.

As it happened, the Bambino class wasn’t officially introduced until 2010. Having benefited from an extra 12 months thinking time, you might expect that the proposals would, indeed, have been carefully considered. What we got bore all the hallmarks of a hastily cobbled together botch-up, as just about everyone with any experience of Bambinos can confirm. It’s caused much frustration amongst parents and led to quite a few bowing out altogether. Scott Parker, who has dedicated countless unpaid hours towards making Bambinos a success must be feeling particularly aggrieved.

The apparent power differentials between motors have led to many complaints. Sometimes these are exaggerated because, in this age group, there will obviously be considerable differences in driver ability. One kart can appear to be much quicker down the straight simply because its pilot is carrying more speed out of corners.

Nevertheless, the seeds of suspicion have already been sown. To counteract accusations of unfair practices, Scott has drawn up some proposals which include having sealed motors and carburettors. There would be a fixed range of jets from 56 to 58 and no one could use more than two motors throughout the year.

Scott’s rules seem reasonable, although, as you might expect, not everyone is in complete agreement. I think the whole problem has arisen largely because there is no clear guidance as to what Bambinos should be all about. Some regard it as a full blown racing class with its own national championships even. In that case comprehensive regulations and adequate policing arrangements need to be in place. Others see Bambinos as an enjoyable leisure activity that can also provide training. It doesn’t matter if someone is using outrageously fast equipment because, ultimately, they are cheating themselves. I confess to being inclined towards the latter school of thought. Instead of awarding prizes based on lap-times, I’d hand out, in random order, trophies of equal value to all participants.

Quite a few of last year’s Bambinos are moving into Cadets in 2011 and a couple have actually signed up for Super One. Unless you’re exceptionally talented with lots of spare cash, I think this is a step too far. Those who particularly want to compete in a national series might consider the WTP Little Green Man Championships, for which 36 competitors have already signed up.

Jordan Falding entered the 2009 competition as a raw novice but showed almost immediately that he had lots of potential. He is the only child of Peter and Lisette. Peter was the youngest ever driver to become a world champion in F1 Stock Cars and he repeated this success on three further occasions before retiring in 2009 to concentrate on Jordan’s karting interests.

It was during a stock car meeting at Skegness more than 25 years ago that Peter first met Lisette who had come over to Britain with the Dutch team. “We’ve been together ever since and both still follow the stock car scene,” she points out. “Of course, I like watching karting too. I think the last round of the little Green Man Championships was Jordan’s best race. I was disappointed when someone knocked him off the circuit because, otherwise, I think he could have won. He still finished with a smile on his face though, and that’s what I always like to see.”

Jordan’s first kart was a BRM/WTP before switching to the Zip chassis. His Little Green Man campaign got off to a solid start last year when he finished 4th at Fulbeck close behind Cory Stevens, Sam Priest and Alex Stott. Other rounds weren’t quite so promising and he dropped down the points table. Then came that barnstorming performance at PF which gave him his first podium finish in a Little Green Man event. After being knocked out of contention earlier in this race, his determined drive up to 3rd spot showed true championship potential and earned him 6th place in the final standings.

“I’ve really enjoyed taking part in these championships and it’s allowed me to experience racing on lots of circuits that we’d probably never have visited otherwise,” Jordan insists. “I had my first run out in Super Cadet during the Super 1 round at PF. It’s obviously a lot quicker than WTP and I enjoyed the experience. Apart from karting, I enjoy playing rugby and we travel all over Britain following the stock cars. Andrew Smith seems to be winning most of the races but my favourite driver is Dan Johnson. I like watching F1 on television and Lewis Hamilton always impresses me. My favourite team is Virgin Racing, mainly because it’s based in Sheffield not far from my home.”

This year, Jordan is competing in Minimax and will doubtless be a driver worth watching out for.

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The Cadet Karting Column: February 2011

Written By: Dave Bewley

Cadet winner on a budget Philip Rawson Graham Smith
Cadet winner on a budget Philip Rawson
Graham Smith

“Money just brings you a lot of unhappiness,” claimed my grandmother, who rarely had two pennies to rub together.”

erhaps she’d been listening to a Lennon/McCartney number at the time, but her words may have
some resonance with many of karting’s new starters. After becoming immersed in the usual rat race, forking out on race prepared motors, new tyres, Alfanos, ARKS tests, entrance fees and everything else considered to be essential requisites for competitive karting, they’ll be shedding quite a lot of unhappiness.

Whilst running the Racing for Buttons scheme at Rowrah I usually cautioned parents against getting their offspring involved in racing too early. It wasn’t what they wanted to hear, of course, and a club official or kart trader would always be on hand to offer an alternative point of view. Theirs wasn’t exactly impartial advice, of course. More competitors racing earlier meant higher profits for the trader whilst clubs were similarly motivated by the prospect of an immediate increase in entries. I’d argue, though, that it’s in the long term interest of all parties to prevent newcomers from attempting to run before they can crawl. That way, people will tend to remain in the sport for longer periods, which is surely a happy outcome for everyone.

The steady rise in Bambino numbers last year must be good news for anyone with an interest in securing karting’s long term future. It’s gratifying to see just about every child emerging from practice sessions sporting huge grins that bear testament to their enjoyment. If you’ve got an angry parent yelling at you for not going quickly enough, then obviously the enjoyment soon dissipates. Even at the tender age of six, children are naturally competitive and there’s not much you can do to prevent them racing against each other. However, I believe it’s wrong to positively encourage competitiveness by offering awards based upon fastest laps. Whilst the kids themselves may not be greatly concerned, this practice undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on parental behaviour.

No dad readily accepts that his seven- year-old reincarnation of Ayrton Senna is actually slower than little Tommy who has just turned six a few weeks beforehand. It must be down to Tommy using dodgy motors or tuned carburettors. Within no time at all, the family piggy bank gets raided and a “selected” motor is imported from America at great expense. The investment seems to be paying off as lap times come down. Unfortunately Tommy’s parents have also done some shopping and he’s just produced a stonking lap which could be attributed to a “doctored” Alfano. Angry words are exchanged but little Tommy has a very big daddy who takes exception to the verbal abuse. It all ends in the proverbial cauliflower ear and a badly bruised ego. For at least one family, karting has ceased to be an enjoyable leisure pursuit.

Whilst money is starting to infiltrate Bambinos, a healthy dose of sanity may be breaking out elsewhere. Cumbria KRC reports a surge of interest in the Honda Clubman category aimed at introducing low cost racing for new starters. When it comes to nerve jangling spectacle, I don’t believe there’s anything in motor racing that can surpass a strong grid of cadets. This is especially true of the Comer class. Even so, I’ve been frustrated by the amount of money required to be truly competitive in this category, with tales of motors changing hands for as much as £20,000 apiece. I discussed this recently with Arthur Rawson, whose grandson Philip has raced for the last five years, first as a WTP competitor then latterly in Comers. He, however, remains very optimistic about the future of cadet racing in Britain.

“When it comes to nerve jangling spectacle, I don’t believe there’s anything in motor racing that can surpass a strong grid of cadets.”

“My wife Janet and I have been actively involved in the Racing for Buttons Scheme at PF,” he states. “We try to encourage young children into the sport and show them that they can become competitive without spending a small fortune. Sometimes though, it’s hard to practice what you preach. When Philip began competing in Formula Kart Stars and Super 1 rounds we were sucked into paying over the odds for Comer engines, although our budget was still well below many others. We’ve always operated independently of the big teams and Philip’s long serving mechanic Steve Lamyman (POD) did a sterling job ensuring that his kart was maintained in tip top condition. Early in the season, it became apparent that our motors weren’t able to compete with those used by the top teams. At this point Steve Ogden stepped in to offer his support.”

Although Steve had earned an enviable reputation in TKM and Rotax circles, the Comer Cadet class was entirely new territory. “I believe that if you put good work into a motor, then you’ll get first class results,” says Steve. Philip’s own results were certainly impressive,
as he achieved 14 podium finishes last year, set the fastest time on 17 occasions and broke the lap record at Ellough Park during a Formula Kart Stars round. He also collected Bernie Ecclestone’s Driver of the Day Award. Philip has been very impressed with the service provided and will be remaining on Ogden motors throughout this coming year as he moves up into Minimax.

“Our motors from Steve cost £1300 including exhaust, air-box and carburettor,” claims Arthur. “That’s a fraction of the money currently being spent by many cadets today. I think Philip’s results last year prove that you can still compete at the top level without throwing large amounts of cash around and I hope others will take a leaf from our book.” For the sake of karting’s future, I hope so, too.

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The Cadet Karting Column: January 2011

Written By: Dave Bewley

Bambinos at Rowrah Edward Hall
Bambinos at Rowrah
Edward Hall

His son Jenson had been having an uncharacteristic “off day”, but Scott Parker could still afford to smile when I spoke to him at Rowrah recently.

We’ve got 16 Bambinos out on the grid today,” he beamed. “That’s more than any other class and I think people will have to start taking us seriously at long last.”

Over the last 12 months or so, Scott has been on a personal crusade to increase Bambino numbers. It is due in no small part to his tireless efforts that large numbers of these very young drivers regularly turn out at venues which otherwise might have disregarded the class altogether. This has caused a degree of controversy in some circles. Several months ago, complaints were flying around the UK Karting website that running Bambinos at Rowrah deprived “proper karters” of valuable practice time. Scott points out that Bambinos pay the full practice fee and have just as much right to be there as anyone else.

There’s a reason why Bambinos don’t run at Rowrah on race days even though Cumbria KRC would like them to. Rowrah’s “smaller” circuit measures 600 metres which is 100m outside the MSA’s maximum length for Bambinos. A dispensation was granted some months ago but carried a proviso that only four karts could run at any one time. Had the circuit been 100m shorter, then all 16 Bambino karts could have taken part quite legally in an MSA recognised event. Presumably someone down at Motor Sports House can see the logic in this dictat, but I have to admit that it totally escapes me right now.

Rowrah isn’t alone in its predicament. At this moment I believe that only two venues in the whole of Britain are either willing or able to run Bambinos during MSA licenced events. This may be due in part to clubs themselves, but the MSA bears a large degree of responsibility. Indeed, if someone had been tasked with drawing up a set of rules deliberately designed to ensure the Bambino class was destroyed at birth, I doubt that they could have done a better job.

On most circuits Bambinos are capable of reaching speeds of 35mph. There’s an entirely understandable fear that six year-old drivers aren’t capable of handling such high speeds. The theory was that, by keeping these karts on very short circuits, speeds would automatically be reduced. It doesn’t work that way, of course. The difference in top end speeds reached on long or short circuits is quite marginal and certainly doesn’t extend beyond a couple of mph. The plan to insert an intake restrictor on Bambino engines for next year will be much more effective in reducing speeds. Whether or not this is a good thing will be a matter for some heated debate.

He recalls first driving Clive’s 100 International kart at the age of seven. This would have produced
five times the power of today’s Bambino versions”.

It’s nothing new for kids to try their hand at karting even from the tender age of six. What’s a little bit different today is the appearance of karts that have been tailormade for very young drivers. Previously, such kids were sent out on full sized machines padded with foam rubber and whatever else may have been necessary to let them reach the brake pedal.

Dave Evans sent me an email inspired by the photograph of Clive Loynes in last month’s Off Track column. He recalls first driving Clive’s 100 International kart at the age of seven. This would have produced five times the power of today’s Bambino versions.

I’ve watched Bambinos perform on many occasions this year. Never once has therebeen an incident that looked remotely dangerous and I haven’t observed any kids looking out of their depth. I’d prefer it if these motors remained unrestricted but, if they must be slowed down, then at least allow them to run on a normal sized circuit.

I remember Dave Evans winning the Little Green Man Championships as a junior driver 32 years ago. Mickey Allen was the senior class winner that year. Today’s Little Green Man is run exclusively for WTP cadets. I’ve been interested in this class since it was first established nine years earlier. When WTP production ceased 18 months ago, I and many others doubted that the class could survive beyond 2010. How wrong we were! Those who attended the annual Little Green Man awards evening will confirm that WTP is in very rude health just now. Jack Harvey won the 2003 championships, following up with British and European Junior titles before moving into Formula BMW. Currently tipped as a potential F1 star, Jack attended the awards night, along with his family, as guest of honour and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, as did everyone else apparently.

Amongst those who shared in the £10,000 prize fund were Harry Whittaker, Ben Hamlet, Sam Brough, Sam Palmer, Thomas Turner, Lewis Brown, Alex Sedgwick, Gaby Weyer, Max Stilp, Jordan Falding, Thomas Day, Cory Stevens, Sean Gee. Alex Stott and the 2010 champion himself, Sam Priest. The Little Green Man series is noted for its generous prizes and next year’s competition promises to be even better. Mike Mills has just concluded an agreement with electrical giant Samsung who will be the main sponsor of these championships in 2011. They’ll be adding prestige and, hopefully, a cuddy load of cash to what is already a superb series.

This is fantastic news for current WTP owners and anyone else who fancies competing in a highly rated national championship yet can’t afford Formula Kart Stars or Super One. Already, 26 young hopefuls have signed up and it looks as though we’ll be seeing a return to full grids once more. Personally, I can’t wait for the new season to get under way.

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The Cadet Karting Column: December 2010

Written By: Dave Bewley

LGM champion Sam Priest
Credit: Lewis Gee

Watching The Pennies

“We won’t be taking part in this year’s Little Green Man. I’ve seen how quick the two Mills drivers Stevens and Gee are going. There’s no way that anyone else can live with them and they’ll all be racing for 3rd place.” That was the comment made to me by one disillusioned parent just a few weeks before the championships got underway in April. Fortunately, it wasn’t a view shared by too many others. However the shock announcement in September 2009 that WTP had ceased production undoubtedly created an air of uncertainty. As we moved into March, organiser Mike Mills was confident that sufficient entries would materialise to make the championships viable. His expectations were realised a week or so later when the number of registered drivers reached 25.

If a black cloud had hung over these championships earlier on then at least the opening round at Fulbeck was conducted under clear blue skies. Mike Mills described it as a happy weekend for all concerned and, after enjoying some well contested racing, there was certainly plenty to smile about. Cory Stevens had a huge grin on his face as he celebrated victory in the final, but there were big smiles too from Sam Priest, Alex Stott and Jordan Falding who had all demonstrated that they were quick enough to give Stevens a hard time in future rounds. Rookie driver Lewis Brown surprised everyone with his pace and he was eventually rewarded with 5th spot ahead of Max Stilp The real topic of conversation, though, was Shayne Harrison’s amazing speed with an old B1 engine. More controversy would surround this motor at future rounds.

Kimbolton was the next venue and we were treated to a real cracker. Once again, Harrison’s B1 motor was outrageously quick and only his relative inexperience kept him off the podium. Stevens looked set to expand his championship lead, but a late surge by Priest earned him victory by a coat of paint. Sean Gee took 3rd spot less than a kart’s length behind with Eddie Hack in 4th spot ahead of Max Stilp and Gaby Weyer. If there’d been a prize for the unluckiest driver at Kimbolton, then Alex Stott would certainly have claimed it. After working his way up to 3rd spot, his race was ruined by a loose track rod.

There was plenty of excitement on offer at the Three Sisters circuit as five drivers furiously contested the lead with absolutely nothing to choose between them. Eddie Hack could have been amongst this group had it not been for a bad smash in an earlier Heat that resulted in him being seriously injured. The battle between Stott and Priest was particularly intense with Sam seizing the initiative late on in this race. Half way round the last lap, though, Alex pulled off a daring manoeuvre and Sam almost lost 2nd place to Cory Stevens. Thomas Day squeezed out Sean Gee for 4th spot, with Max Stilp following some distance behind in 6th. By setting fastest lap, Stevens collected two bonus points that kept him sitting on top of the championship table.

Round 4 at Ellough Park produced a defining moment in the championship battle. As ever, Harrison looked extraordinarily quick but a broken rear bumper knocked him out of contention with eight laps of the final still remaining. Coming off pole position, Priest had assumed command and he survived a sustained assault from Stott. As Sean Gee and Alex Sedgwick both began to apply pressure on the 2nd placed man, Priest was able to extend his lead and finished up a comfortable winner. Stevens had looked curiously off the pace all weekend and he came home in 5th place ahead of Gaby Weyer who managed once again to finish amongst the main prize-winners.

The championship pendulum had swung in Priest’s favour as they arrived at Buckmore Park to contest Round 5. Cory Stevens needed a good result here to regain the momentum and he looked pretty quick when Sunday’s racing got underway. Unfortunately for him, half a dozen others were circulating equally rapidly including Sam Priest. At the end of a hard day’s racing, It was Priest who took his place on the winner’s rostrum. Stevens found himself edged into 3rd spot by his team-mate Sean Gee with Stott in 4th position and Day 5th. For the first time in these championships, Harrison managed a top six slot provoking more comment about his engine speed.

A good result at Shenington could earn the title for Sam Priest, although much depended on how his opponents, particularly Cory Stevens, fared. Stott and Harrison both won Heats with Gaby Weyer recording her maiden victory in a Little Green Man event. The stage was set for an action packed final. Weyer led the race briefly before Gee took over. Priest seized control only to be replaced at the front by Stott. Harrison sustained a knock from Stevens which slowed him down slightly but he was lapping more than half a second quicker than anyone else and soon caught up with the leaders. After swapping places with Priest, he rapidly pulled away from the chasing pack. Priest’s 2nd place ahead of Stott, Gee, Stevens and Day was good enough to give him the championship title.

The drama didn’t end there. Since the opening round at Fulbeck there had been a certain amount of disquiet over Shayne Harrison’s obvious speed. This had increased throughout the year and at Shenington Mark Weyer protested Harrison’s motor on behalf of his daughter, Gaby. The engine was sealed and taken away for examination by Paul Klaassen who subsequently found it to be ineligible. Shayne’s win was taken away from him and this left Sam Priest as the winner. The final round at PF is reported elsewhere in this issue. By virtue of a well taken victory in wet conditions Alex Stott claimed 2nd place in the championship table ahead of Sean Gee, Cory Stevens, Thomas Day and Jordan Falding.

Far from going into decline, Mike Mills is predicting that next year’s little Green Man series should be amongst the best ever. Negotiations with a title sponsor have almost reached their conclusion and already there is a strong line up of drivers registered for the WTP class. Super Cadets will be included in the 2011 Series and it looks as though there will be a lot of support for this class. I’m looking forward to finding out who will be the 10th WTP champion.

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The Cadet Karting Column: October 2010

2008 Rotax World Champion and top SKF driver Ben Cooper started off in Honda Cadets
2008 Rotax World Champion and top SKF driver Ben Cooper started off in Honda Cadets


Ask any of today’s top motor racing drivers to recount their first karting experiences and there’s a strong probability that the Honda GX motor will have been involved. Low initial cost, renowned durability and ease of operation make this ubiquitous engine a firm favourite amongst rental kart operators throughout the world. With the MSA’s “Let’s Go Karting” scheme becoming increasingly popular, even more prospective new entrants are learning their skills courtesy of Honda power. The basic simplicity of these motors is a significant bonus, especially for those drivers with no mechanical background or previous knowledge of karting.  You might expect, then, that competitors would be queuing up to race in the Honda Cadet class. Unfortunately in many parts of Britain, the stampede hasn’t quite materialised as yet, although there are signs of increasing interest.

The Scots have always been pretty canny when it comes to obtaining good value for money and Honda Cadets have certainly gained a strong foothold over the Border. The West of Scotland Kart Club chairman Jim McDonald confirms that Honda entries at Larkhall usually vary between 10 and 15 with only a handful of Comers taking part. Over in Ireland and the Isle of Man there’s a similar tale to tell, but throughout Northern England Comer engines remain predominant. Travelling further south, you’re into Honda territory once more with Bayford Meadows, Ellough Park, Llandow, Rye House, Red Lodge, Kimbolton, Clay Pigeon Blackbushe and Buckmore all attracting good grids. At Buckmore, for example more than 50 Honda cadets are contesting this year’s club championships with similar numbers reported at Bayford Meadows.


Notable Honda graduates from previous years include the names of current European KF3 champion Alexander Albon, Ben Cooper, Jordan Chamberlain, James Raven and Harrison Scott. Gerard Cox of Project One produces by far the most popular chassis in this class and he has an extensive knowledge of the sport developed over many years. “I don’t believe Honda is ever going to become Britain’s premier cadet class nor, in fairness, would we want it to be,” he points out. “What we can definitely offer is best value for money you’re ever likely to find in karting at club or national level. A brand new kart and fully prepared motor will cost £2,200 + VAT, with good second-hand versions available at around £1,000. For those who want to compete successfully at Super One level, a sensible budget would be around £10,000 per year, but this figure is still well below the amount required for other classes.”

Proof of Honda Cadet’s growing popularity can be found in Project One’s sales ledger. In the first six months of this year, sales have been particularly buoyant. “We’ll be having a new homologation at the end of this year this year and I thought we might have seen a detrimental effect on our orders but thankfully that certainly hasn’t been the case,”” Gerard points out. “There’ll be no really significant design change and any improvements we do make can be retro fitted, so that older karts don’t become obsolete. We don’t do any engine preparation ourselves, but recommend the services of Pro-kart Engineering or RPM. You’ll always find parents who want to buy success and we’ve had examples of motors being sold for over £3,000. Personally, I wouldn’t advise anyone to pay much more than half of that amount even if they’re racing at the very highest level.”

On the subject of engine price, Gerard is very enthusiastic about a scheme first initiated at Buckmore Park and Bayford Meadows. At these circuits, a Honda Clubman category has been introduced with compulsory purchase the main feature. Under this scheme, If any motor looks particularly quick, it can be bought for a fixed price of £500. Around 15 drivers regularly compete in the Clubman’s class at Buckmore, with 20 or so taking part in the “Open” category. At Bayford Meadows, Clubman is usually more popular attracting around 18 entrants compared to a dozen or so in the Open events. It’s an exciting idea that could make the class an extremely attractive proposition if adopted elsewhere in Britain.

In this year’s Super One Series for Honda Cadet, Billy Monger, Jack Evans, Dave Wooder, Robbie Gallier, Luke Knott and Jack McCarthy have all featured prominently. Admittedly it isn’t one of the best supported classes in Super One with around 20 or so competitors regularly turning up at each round. Nevertheless, those drivers who do take part usually maintain high standards. In the Clubmans category, Jarvis Devon, Oscar Thorpe, Luke Wooder and Connor Grady and Thomas Manning have come to the fore. “Whether it’s a Clubman’s event at Bayford Meadows or a Super One round elsewhere in the country, you’ll invariably find that the Honda Cadet class will be won by a young lad run by his dad and I think that’s fairly rare in karting these days” says Gerard. “I believe it’s very important for the future of our sport that such a class is still available.”

Speaking selfishly from a purely spectator’s point of view, I have to admit that four strokes have never excited me in the way that Comer or WTPs can. It’s not a question of actual speed, because lap times show that Hondas are every bit as quick as any other current cadet engine. It’s more to do with noise and, I suppose, a smell of castor oil giving an impression that the two stroke machines are somehow circulating quicker. If I was paying the bill for a season’s racing myself, then Honda Cadet would obviously be my choice every time. Living in the North, there’s the small matter of finding sufficient venues to race at. Hopefully, this problem will be rectified as more parents discover the advantages that the class offers. As the recession begins to bite even harder, it’s worth asking whether clubs can afford to ignore an inexpensive entry level class which Honda obviously offers. 2011 could turn out to be an interesting year.

Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column Young'Uns Cadet Karting Column

The Cadet Karting Column: August 2010

Written By: Dave Bewley

A look at today’s Bambino scene
A look at today’s Bambino scene

A Look At Today’s Bambino Scene
A few years ago, Mini-bikes for kids were all the rage. If my own area is anything to go by, I’d guess that sales throughout Britain must have been well into six figures. It isn’t difficult to see the reason behind their sudden popularity. Most were made in China using cheap labour that allowed them to be retailed over here at around £250 or £300. Also, they were a nice compact size, allowing for easy storage and transport. On just about every housing estate you’d find them tearing along the roads or pavements attracting looks that varied from tolerant amusement to outright hostility in some cases. It couldn’t last, of course, and soon the police began cracking down on what after all were illegal street machines. This caused problems for many owners who suddenly found themselves with practically worthless lumps of metal that couldn’t be used anywhere. Apart from the full blown racing versions taking part in organised events, mini-bikes have now virtually disappeared without trace.

Bambino karting may well face a similar problem. According to Martin Hines, sales of new machines are buoyant right now, suggesting that the class should have a bright future. However, the venues where these karts can actually be used are still quite restricted. Given the choice, most parents would prefer their kids to run at properly organised MSA meetings where safety considerations and medical facilities are obviously superior. They have the added advantage of running to a clear set of rules, or at least that ought to be the case. Unfortunately, the MSA has insisted upon a maximum circuit length of 500 metres for Bambinos which very few venues are actually able to comply with. I understand from Malcolm Fell that Rowrah’s short circuit, measuring 600 metres, has recently received official approval, but it still leaves only two or three venues that are actually running MSA Bambino events.

One thing about vacuums is that they’re usually filled quite easily. The Racing for Buttons scheme run by Gary Walker and his team at PFI run Bambino sessions on Monday evenings and normally attract ten or more owner drivers. Six year old Jenson Parker was one of their first customers and Gary encouraged his dad, Scott, to compile a register of interested people. This register has formed the basis for what is now a thriving group organising Bambino events throughout the Midlands and North of England. Some of these take place on the Saturday preceding an MSA race meeting. Many more, though, are run on private rental circuits and, in one case, even a car park. “We try to put on an event of some description every weekend,” claims Scott, “and it’s very rare for the number of entries not to reach double figures. On some occasions we’ve had more than 30 drivers taking part, which shows that there is plenty of potential.”

Andy Unsworth and his six year old son Spencer are keen members of Scott’s group. Andy was employed by the Benetton (latterly Renault) Formula One team over a period of 16 years, working with such renowned stars as Schumacher, Button and Alonso. He recently returned from Oxfordshire back to Lytham. Andy is himself a former karter, just like his dad Terry who had been involved in the Ribble Kart Club when it occupied Flookburgh more than 40 years ago. Apart from racing on his home circuit, Terry could be seen competing regularly at Rowrah, Burtonwood, Tern Hill and Morecambe. Andy and Spencer recently took a look at what ACR is offering under the Easykart formula. They clearly liked what they’d seen and promptly bought a complete outfit.

For those who are prepared to travel and like the idea of participating in a well organised series then Easykart seems like a good option. It’s also one of the cheapest currently available at just under £1169 (£999+VAT). There’s a slight snag insofar as the kart isn’t as yet registered with the MSA, but Andy Cox intends to apply for recognition in October. ““Delivery of the kart was very prompt and we’ve received a very friendly service so far” says Andy Unsworth “We certainly intend to participate in Easykart rounds next year. The exact format hasn’t been finalised as yet but it will follow MSA guidelines as a time trial event. It’s been suggested that participants will be allocated two hours practice on Saturday with Sunday’s time trials lasting a further hour. There’ll be awards for all participants with a special one allocated to driver of the day. One driver will be selected to attend the World Finals in Italy with kart and flight costs paid for. Also there’s a chance to win an Easykart Cadet outfit at the year end.”

Elsewhere, Bambino costs are generally considerably higher unfortunately. Many brand new outfits can set you back as much as £1700 so, by the time a helmet and racing suit has been included you’re talking about an outlay of £2,300 or more. For those who don’t want to pay quite so much, second hand machines are now becoming readily available at various prices. A four stroke option did exist at one time and this offered greater reliability for less expense. However, parents who went down this particular route soon began to complain that their kids weren’t competitive against other drivers using two stroke Comer powered karts. Some traders have deliberately shied away from supplying Bambino karts. “I can do without the hassle,” one of them explained to me. “You’ve got kids too young to write their own names with parents who are expecting them to become the next Michael Schumacher. When they discover other kids are going quicker, it’s the equipment supplier who gets the blame.”

I do have some sympathy with this point of view. Children tend to be very competitive by nature and their parents are usually even more so. You’ll never eliminate this entirely but the present emphasis on time trials with gold, silver and bronze awards actively encourages it. There’s a valid argument for doing so, of course. If the Bambino class is intended as a training ground for cadet and older categories then, it’s argued, you may as well introduce participants to serious competition at the earliest possible age. This contention begs a rather obvious question. Why concentrate on lap times when you might as well go the whole hog and stage actual races? That way racing techniques could be properly honed at an early age. Teaching a driver of whatever age how to go fast is relatively easy. Learning to overtake cleanly and safely is rather more difficult.

Having said that, I’m not an advocate of formal races for Bambinos because, at such young ages the emphasis ought to be on having fun rather than indulging in serious competition. I’m influenced in this view by the teachings of New Zealander Arthur Lydiard, an athletics coach who could count Olympic champions Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Lasse Viren amongst his numerous successes. Lydiard always argued that young kids were capable of running long distances. The secret, he claimed, was to put away the stop-watch and let them run naturally without any stress. That way you produce potential champions rather than burned out competitors. I’d much prefer it if the Bambino class had been organised along similar lines with identical awards for everyone, presented in alphabetical order.

Alfanos and transponders should become non essential items, although I’m sure the vast majority of parents would want to time their own drivers, whether by stop-watch or other means. It’s also true that, however informal the sessions may be, kids will know precisely who is going quickest or slowest without it being rammed down their throats. Such a system wouldn’t prevent the overbearing father with loads of money from trying to buy a super quick motor, but it might help to place such individuals in a tiny minority. More importantly, young drivers might be allowed to develop at their own pace free from intervention by parents who believe they are raising a Schumacher, Hamilton and Button all rolled into one. It took many years, lots of world records and multiple gold medals before athletic bodies began to heed the views of Arthur Lydiard. I hope that the MSA won’t be quite so dilatory.