By: George Robinson
The future of British motorsport lies in the hands, or is delegated to, the Motor Sports Association or the MSA as we all know it.
As a general rule the average competitor only hears from their governing body when it is time to renew a licence or to be called to account following some misdemeanour during some competition or another.
The MSA is much maligned by all and sundry, but these same complainants are usually conspicuous by their absence when some work needs to be done for the good of all. If we seriously want to improve our position in motorsport as the largest single discipline that the MSA represents, then reward can only come from combined effort. We have to make a worthwhile contribution for the betterment of karting across all levels.
Last month I wrote about the introduction of the Micro Max class outside of MSA racing. This was not a side swipe at the governing body but a real attempt to introduce a level of professionalism to those that are at the introductory leisure end of the market.
We hear of provincial kart racing clubs that go out to promote themselves at supermarkets and shopping malls. Great; they may well interest a family or two to visit their circuit and even participate. This is great news as these people are genuinely new to the sport and needed to have their interest awoken. However there is a much easier and softer target out there that is almost totally ignored by the ‘proper racing public’. The leisure market in karting is huge and stuffed full of potential. These people are enthusiasts dammit! It is for this reason that the Micro Max is the perfect product to bring these potential customers out from their indoor Grand Prix events into mainstream racing and eventually MSA racing at club and national level. We desperately need to simplify the route into the most basic levels of motorsport, karting has to be the easiest and least expensive first step.
Karting has changed and I for one have been around long enough to remember the good old days. Yes we had fun, karts were lighter, more manoeuvrable and less expensive. They were also less well made, had no form of manufacturer’s warranty and in real terms were a lot more expensive to run and maintain. Club level racing has always been sporadically supported across the country. National level racing has grown as it has kept pace with demand. Yes the people that race nationally will spend more on their racing. In real terms nothing has changed. In 1966 the top driver that spent a fortune on his engines won the big races. In those days some of these guys arrived at the circuits in Rolls Royce or Bentleys dressed in real fur coats. Today the same level of competitive animal arrives at the circuit in a personal registration Audi, BMW or Mercedes. These people today may have a different agenda, but their ideals are the same. They are successful and they expect to remain so in whatever they do.
It is unfortunate that the world governing body went through a time of mismanagement that impacted upon karting at national level too much. When the industry needed to consolidate and look to a structured future, the CIK decreed that karting would be going to four-stroke power units within a couple of years. The project was not properly considered or managed. The date of introduction was delayed year on year. This created a period of great instability from which the international classes have never recovered.
In this period it gave the Rotax Max series of engines the opportunity to develop and grow without real opposition or competitor. The KF series of engines, which were designed around the Rotax ‘touch and go’ concept, were given too much latitude in design innovation. The result was stratospheric costs and shocking levels of unreliability. The classes are all but lost now and we see a resurgence of the 125 Gearbox classes. Indeed KZ1 has recently been adopted by the MSA as the Short Circuit British Championship category. I for one believe that this will produce a worthy British Champion and that should be from the elite.
Rotax Max was never intended to be that product. Some people have said how Rotax should be the championship class, and it is, within its own kind. Rotax Max is also affordable to more people and will always be well supported. There is a level within Rotax Max to suit everyone. The total novice can jump in a Max and feel his way into the sport with a machine that should last him for a season without significant expense. From the 177 class all the way down to Minimax the engine unit should not need to be serviced more than once a year. Yes there are regular service requirements but no more than checking the oil level in the family car is just good practice to avoid an expensive breakdown.
Recently I have had to look at a Senior Max engine that had been home built and carried no seal. The history of the engine was checked out with JAG in a matter of minutes and we were given the go-ahead to carry out the service including a full fiche check and then seal the engine. On investigation we found an appalling level of build quality. The end result of the service was an engine in good condition, legal, reliable and sealed. Also all the replacement parts are covered by the Rotax manufacturer’s warranty. This ten year-old engine is not under guarantee, just as if it were brand new. I am sure that much of the unreliability experienced by other engine brands is not an inherent design issue, but the inability of the builder to do the overhaul to a good enough standard.