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Cadet Column: April 2014

Dave has been following the karting scene for more than 50 years and first started reporting for Karting magazine in 1966. He’s especially interested in cadet racing and looks forward to an exciting season with particular regard to the IAME class.

It’s still early days, but already there’s a pattern starting to emerge in cadets. Last year 2 stroke competitors could choose between IAME and Comer motors, with the latter still able to command good support at club level. Many drivers switched allegiance by December and evidence suggests Comer grids are now in steep decline. Conversely, entries in the Honda class are holding up, especially South where they outnumber IAMEs at many circuits.

Buckmore Park remains strong for Hondas, with an average entry well above 40. TVKC has good Honda grids with 43 turning out for February’s meeting, similar numbers are reported at Forest Edge. Red Lodge, Bayford Meadows, Rye House and Ellough Park are also strong. Traditionally Scotland has been a Honda stronghold and at Larkhall recently this class attracted 13 drivers compared to only 5 in the IAME category.

I’d recommend Hondas to anyone running as a lad and dad outfit. They’re much simpler to run and you needn’t worry about weather dependent carb settings. That said, engine prices aren’t quite as low as you might expect. I spoke about the prices to Gerard Cox of Project One, who can always be relied upon to give an honest response. “Club level competitors can expect to pay between £800 and £1,000”, claims Gerard. “For S1 the price increases to around £1,200. At Buckmore and Bayford Meadows we run the Clubman Class with RPM motors costing £475 and a compulsory buy price set at £575. Personally, I’d like to see costs controlled even further by excluding all teams from the Clubman class even though we are actually running one driver ourselves”. Gerard says this year’s S1 Championships will be be hotly contested. “Kiern Jewiss may defend his title and obviously he’d be a strong favourite.”

It’s likely that more than 70% of S1 Honda cadet entrants will be using the Project One chassis manufactured by Gerard. BRK will account for much of the remainder with a few Zips also included.

Just a couple of years ago you might have expected the figure for Project Ones to be well above 90%. In IAME cadet, Zip also faces strong competition from Tonykart, Shark, RK and the exciting new Byatt Synergy. It all makes for an interesting year ahead, although the terms “interesting” and “good” aren’t always synonymous.

So far as motors are concerned we have cheerfully accepted one make monopolies in all Rotax, X30 and TKM classes. The same applies to KGP along with IAME, Comer and Honda cadets. Furthermore, every class that runs in Britain today does so with one specified brand of tyre. Free market economics don’t work in motorsport, where performance rather than price is paramount. People don’t clamour for a particular kart or motor because it’s cheaper than any other. It’s only in KFJ and KF2 where free choice of motor is permitted and look what has happened to those particular categories recently. Contrary to Adam Smith’s laissez faire theory, monopolies in karting have actually prevented prices from rising. I was comfortable with the previous situation whereby 95% of IAME and Comer competitors chose Zip karts with similar numbers opting for Project One in Hondas. At least there was some stability and no-one finished up getting their fingers burned. In a rapidly changing market, my fear is that customers could a new kart in January and might possibly discover that it’s been eclipsed by another make by April. I’m also concerned that extra competition between manufacturers could result in higher price metals being used on the karts of selected drivers. Just as worrying, a super competitive chassis could emerge that is only produced in limited numbers and therefore available to just a few lucky individuals..

Anticipation for the season ahead is certainly running high, with lots of questions yet to be answered. I’m certainly looking forward to getting some answers, but