Young’Uns – A look at the Honda Cadet class

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2008 Rotax Grand Finals 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.