British Touring Car fans believe the best era of the sport was the Super Touring phase of the 1990s. Similarly, there is a group of kart racers and enthusiasts who believe the 1990s was the best era for karting, thanks to the F100 discipline that produced incredible racers such as Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta and many of the stars on the current Formula One grid.
Shortly after the beginning of the 21st century, the sport shifted to incorporate the KF category from CIK into major domestic competitions, then doing so at European and World level transforming the karting world forever. 100cc is now a distant memory for most in the karting world, but thanks to the racers at the country’s most popular historic kart series – Spirit of the 90s – Formula 100 lives on both in “spirit” and in competition. The championship celebrates the Formula A and Intercontinental A classes of karting with pre-2000 karts only permitted to compete using 100cc air cooled, rotary or reed valve or direct drive engines, very much in keeping with the traditions of the “Champions of the Future” races of the 1990s. Series coordinator Oliver Scullion recalls how the F100 revival began. “My reasons behind starting F100 90s were purely selfish”, he explains. “I wanted to race the karts that I drove in the 90s. I got back into karting after 11 years out, and it had all changed.
I entered a few kart classes but nothing gave me the feeling I got from 1999 ICA. So I thought, if it does not exist, invent it. The first event had 8 of us, and I thank those involved from the beginning for having the faith in it (and me). 4 races later, and the ‘O Plate’ arrived, with 18 competing. Our last round at Clay had 26 on the grid, and it will definitely be ‘B’ finals for next year.” The “Champions of the Future” era of karting is of course famous for producing 2008 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, but what really stood out about the era for many was just how open and even the classes were with the likes of Russell Parkes, Mark Fell, James Holman, Fraser Sheader and the very much missed Christian Bakkerud an open playing field to compete with Britain’s youngest ever world champion. So it is fairly easy to understand the popularity of the renaissance of F100.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect quite as much success so quickly, but the formula seems to be a winning one”, says Scullion. “Low startup cost, with reasonable race entry and tyre fees help. But I think the main draw is the karts themselves. There simply is no purer karting experience than driving a Formula A or Formula ICA in my view. I simply combined these 90s classes and F100 was born. I then made a Pre-1995 class that runs within the Pre2000 class. “The karts are light, sound like animals, look sexy and are rapid. Less is definitely more. Batteries, clutches, wiring looms and gears all get in between your right foot and the power itself, and only serve to add weight, complexity and cost.” Many of the good words said about Formula 100 classes relate to the intensity of the competition, with many of the competitors seeing Formula A and Intercontinental A as the peak of competitive karting. Before her switch to the USA, Pippa Mann found racing in the European ICA invaluable to progress her career in karts.
“I went straight from Junior TKM to Europe in ICA because of the difference in age rules from the UK to Europe,” she recalls. “It was a BIG jump, but I loved racing ICA. I then raced Formula A in the Italian, European and World Championships, and it was just incredible. The competition at those events in those classes was simply outstanding.” But now the worlds of Formula A and Intercontinental A are KF1 and KF2 with two stroke 125cc engines, something that the Spirit of the 90s brigade feel very strongly about. Even Oliver Scullion admits that he has no interest in the modern equivalent, and how his recreation of the F100 formula has generated more than just a rekindling of a bygone era, but also a spark of interest from veterans and novices alike. “Another aspect that some people are finding enjoyable is that it is a ‘historic kart race series’”, he says. “The karts, motors, carbs are all 1999 or older.
For anyone that has seen the epic videos on YouTube of 1990’s karting, or was lucky enough to have been there in the first place, they will know what I’m talking about…. It was a special time in karting. We are reliving it all over again. There are a lot of grown men and women with child-like grins in the F100 paddock. 100cc engines tend to do that to people. Yes, they have to be rebuilt more often than their modern cousins (for less money I may add) and yes, you have to understand carburation adjustment, and push them to get them going. But they are proper! “Our grid has varying abilities, from absolute novices to very experienced 90’s champions. Our latest recruit is multiple British Champion Michael Spencer, and our next meeting is at Fulbeck on the 18th October.”
The motto for our current generation in society appears to be “retro is the new cool” in various areas of life including music, film, television and sport. In motorsport it’s the same, with teams such as Lotus and Brabham and manufacturers returning to front-line competition such as Bentley, MG and Chevron reemerging in recent times. In karting too, the F100 category has proven to be one of the fastest growing championships in the UK with the Australians and Americans running a similar format of their own. With ever-increasing costs spiralling out of control in the modern formulae, it is refreshing and pleasing to see how the F100 grid is not only growing in stature and size but also regularly beaming from ear to ear. The racing is as close as it always was, the costs are manageable and the racing is very much on the terms of the individual. Perhaps the national championships should be taking note, as the “good ol’ days” of the sport don’t seem like such a bad idea…