Written By: Dave Bewley
“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.