Although the British Kart Industry Association (http://www.bkia.co.uk) is often seen as a trade bloc for the UK’s karting-related companies, as the “Industry” association the organisation is there to benefit everyone in karting. As their website says “the BKIA is a non-regulatory, not for profit, trade association representing the views and interests of its members – the British kart trade. It also aims to help and protect karters and newcomers to the sport”.
Martin Collard, owner of Dartford Karting, has been chairman for the last year, and Paul Gladstone is the administrator.
A new business doesn’t automatically get to join, and will be given a list of requirements, and engine builders will be inspected. Once approved, they must adhere to the BKIA’s comprehensive Code of Conduct which includes selling safe and legal products and supporting chassis and engines for at least the period the product was homologated for plus another three years. The definitive list of members is on the website at http://bit.ly/dxxWMl and includes manufacturers, retailers and associated businesses.
In a sport where many people go into business as the next step after they stop racing, there can be potential for problems when they don’t attend to the boring minutiae that is essential for running a business in a risky sport. For example, to be a member of the BKIA a company must have adequate insurance. It could be needed if a driver is injured on the track due to negligence, or if a team looks after equipment for a customer and it gets stolen, which is unfortunately getting more common. On a similar note, a trader who imports a less common product whose stock is stolen could go out of business if it isn’t covered and leave racers with no source of parts.
The BKIA also works with the MSA Kart Regional Committee to make sure any regulation changes are as cheap and convenient as possible for competitors. For example, the introduction of the new CMR childrens’ helmets was delayed after the BKIA put forward their opinion. The same thing happened when the Blue Book mandated the CIK08 bodywork, which the MSA hadn’t realised was the previous version and was now not available, and discussions are in progress about the ban on chassis protectors (see Noteworthy, p16) without which some chassis won’t last.
Complaints that pricing isn’t consistent, for example between a shop and their trackside outlet, are also investigated, but fortunately no one has had to be expelled due to unfair trading.
Areas that the BKIA is moving into now are group discounts and training sessions. The Association is in the process of negotiating a discount with Premier Inns for kart racers at hotels near circuits on race weekends, and if that is successful look out for more deals. Dannie Pennell of Dadson Motorsport is planning to introduce training to help beginners get started, which will be under the BKIA banner.
The BKIA will also arbitrate in disputes between consumers and traders to find a solution that is fair to both sides. A racer bought a chassis from a well-known British company and it broke, and a replacement was supplied which broke again and the matter went to the BKIA. After some investigation, it was found that the kart had been crashed and it wasn’t as clear a case of a faulty product as it first seemed. After mediation the company offered a discount on a kart and both parties interests were protected. Anyone with a problem with a BKIA member company should call the administrator Paul Gladstone on 01903 241921 or email email@example.com.
Helping out racers as outlined above also helps the traders, as they can have confidence that if a commercial relationship breaks down then they won’t get ripped off by someone trying their luck. Lobbying the MSA is a positive too, as although it could be seen as ideal to the industry if everyone is forced to buy an upgraded widget, in reality it is contrary to the long-term health of the sport as many people will lose patience and spend their hard-earned cash elsewhere.
Setting up insurance is less painful too, as the BKIA has affiliated brokers with schemes for the kart trade.
JAG and Zip have agreed to require prospective Rotax and Comer sealing agents respectively to be members of the BKIA as any problems with companies they have endorsed can reflect badly on them, so the safeguards are very welcome. Anyone homologating a Cadet chassis with the MSA needs to be a member as well, and major traders like Dartford Karting only give trade prices to members.
If your dealer is a BKIA member, it demonstrates their commitment to the sport, and in fact most members have been in karting for a long time. However, newer companies are very welcome and there are concrete advantages as well as increasing consumer confidence.