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The recently revealed decision to have the seals removed from the Honda Cadet class for 2007 has received positive feedback from most folk and quite a stream of favourable comment on the internet.
The Honda Cadet engines have been sealed for some years now and this arrangement between Honda and West Skelston Engineering initially derived many benefits. While the Senior Honda brigade spent ever more time on elaborate processes for scrutineering and measuring the engines in an attempt to equalise the performance while keepings costs reasonable, the simple sealing process bought similar benefits to the Cadet class. It was also seen as a pretty transparent method of operation for “non-mechanical” dads getting into karting for the first time.
Midway through 2003 Honda moved production of the GX160 engine to Thailand and Honda took this opportunity to update the sealing process and introduce a new type of seal for 2004. Perhaps as an oversight, the modified regulations also prohibited scrutineers access to the engines; this caused consternation in some camps, and perhaps rejoicing in others. Meanwhile the Seniors took a slightly different route, introducing this new (“T” spec.) engine but also working toward a simplified set of regulations. Thus it is that, currently, the Cadets are still sealed and supplied by WSE, and the Seniors are working to the new regulations.
These new regulations seem to have worked exceptionally well, as the burgeoning endurance race classes will testify. The UK Endurance Championship, for instance regularly has grids around the 40 mark and it is accepted that around 75% of that field will qualify within a second of each other. A round earlier this year had 43 starters at Buckmore Park and 34 karts qualified within the same second, you don’t have to be that smart to work out that that is going to produce some pretty close racing! It also tends to suggest that either, no one is cheating, or that they all are!
It was with this as a background that Honda decided to drop the sealing regime, with effect from 1st January 2007. They reasoned that if the current scrutineering and regulations are producing this level of equality, why bother with the expense (to the competitor) of sealing? And so it is that, from the 1st January 2007, the Cadet class will be unsealed. You can almost imagine the sound of wire cutters at midnight!
Is this a positive step? Only time will tell. At face value, it will be easier for Cadet dads to source some engine preparation locally, and perhaps that will prove to be more economic than freighting engines to Scotland on a regular basis. Some dads will be able to do routine servicing (fettling of valves, changing valve springs etc) themselves, another saving. Hopefully anything that reduces costs might put some more karts on a grid and that is something that karting desperately needs. Nobody should lose sight of the fact that the Cadet racers of today are the Super One and perhaps even Formula One drivers of tomorrow. It is not too dramatic to say that without Cadets there is no future in karting, so anything that encourages Cadet numbers is to be applauded.
Of course, there could be a down side to this. With Cadet engines open, there is more likelihood of unscrupulous “goings-on” taking place, and so the scrutineers will have to be more diligent and strip and inspect more engines. This in turn will mean more nights spent by dads in garages and workshops up and down the country.
Will this new arrangement benefit Honda Cadet racing and grids then? Too early to tell, but if the reaction of the competitors so far is anything to go by, then the answer is a resounding “yes”.