On Tuesday 13th June, George Robinson (pictured above) was voted in as the new Chairman of the Association of British Kart Clubs (ABkC) by the members after receiving more votes than Nigel Edwards, who has stood in as Chairman after Colin Wright resigned. I understand that Nigel & George will work together to further the betterment of the sport both through the ABkC and improved relations with the MSA. Watch this space, we all hope it’s true!
I caught up with George directly after the announcement in a Facebook interview (see below), but for those of you out there not familiar with George, here is everything you need to know.
How George got into Karting
George’s love for karting started all the way back in 1962 when he was just 10 years old.
“A friend of mine’s family farmed the land on the Ex-RAF Base at Tangmere in West Sussex, the perimeter road was still intact & my chum James had a Kart, it was a Prokart with a Clinton E65 engine, the business in those days, I was immediately hooked. I was really lucky as a kid, I drove my Dad’s tractor when I was 8, I remember having to stand up & heave on the steering wheel to apply the Clutch or brakes!”
“Soon after this first taste of Karting I was able to save up to buy a Brise Invicta with a JAP mower engine, not as fast as the Clinton but good enough to scare the crap out of my parents & all their Horses.”
“My first race was as a Junior at Southampton in 1968 and my first trophy at Clay Pigeon in April the same year. I couldn’t afford to race the 100 national class which was big at the time, but I could afford the 100 International class, the engines were cheaper second hand so I raced that instead. It was also around this time where I learnt how to build engines as I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it.”
George continued to race over the next few years and was picked to race for the British team in 1974 which resulted in him running out of racing funds.
“I met the wrong girl & married her, by 1981 marriage was no longer fun, so a divorce was in order & Karting back on the menu. I met up with an old friend who still had some equipment but no longer raced, he was keen to be involved but preferred to mechanic while I raced, perfect!”
“After some fairly low-key racing in the UK, I was invited to sample the busy world of 100cc Endurance Racing in Europe. There was a big following for it in those days & it appealed to my interest in the engineering side of the sport. The engines, chassis, brakes & tyres all had to work very well & reliably for long races. So many people thought that the endurance world was for steady old boys over there for the Beer. I soon discovered that was not the case. In a sprint race, if you are a couple of tenths off the ultimate pace, a good guy can still be competitive. In an endurance race if you are regularly 2 tenths down, you are a lap down after an hour!”
Making TKM and Rotax successful
What was perhaps most interesting in my chat with George Robinson was finding out how he was one of the first people to try both a TKM and Rotax engine.
“In the late 1980’s we were sponsored by TKM, I had known Alan Turney for many years & after a successful period with Zip Kart we moved over to TKM. The Sport was in need of an entry level class & Alan was keen to utilise the BT82 (The engine was named in memory of his Father Bernie Turney who had died in 1982 hence the “BT82”). I took one to Birmingham Wheels & finished 3rd in 100 Britain, as far as I know that was the 1st time the BT82 was used in a race in this country. The engine had previously been very successful in America.”
“Ten years later I was offered a new extraordinary Rotax engine by Andover Norton in Southampton, they imported Rotax bike engines at the time. I was told this one had a self- starter & a clutch & was called Max! I bought the engine, installed it on one of my 100cc Fullerton Karts & drove it round the Indoor track in Fareham, which I owned at the time. I was immediately impressed with Max! little did I know that while I was doing that my old friend from 100cc days, John Gravett was negotiating with the Rotax Factory for the import rights to the Rotax FR125 Max! MAX Had come to stay.”
George then went on to become a consultant for JAG and remains one to this day. He’s done lots of testing with them and still does the odd test every now and then.
Roles within the sport
“I have always had a strong sense of belonging within the Sport of Karting, I have been incredibly lucky to be able to work within the sport that has also been my passion & to have has such a long career driving in some great places with some great people, I could not be more grateful.”
“My first management role was as Secretary to Chichester Kart Club back in about 1971. I those days we raced around the car Park of the famous Chichester Festival Theatre, imagine that today, making all that noise in a City at 8.30 on a Sunday Morning!
I got a job tyre testing for the MSA in the late 1980’s which led to appointment to the Kart Committee & then Chair of the Kart Technical Sub group. More recently the MSA approached me to help them with a strategic review of the sport that was in 2009 with an option to complete the task over 3 years, in fact the job was done in just over 18 months, by this time the MSA were planning an overall strategic review which is still ongoing.
I have been on the Kart Technical group again for the past few years. “
“Motor Sport & Karting is a fast-moving world, I am sometimes frustrated by the speed at which governance moves when the customers want to speed ahead.”
What are his plans for the ABkC?
“The ABkC has to move on and move on quickly to keep moving with the times. It’s a young person’s sport and we need young people in the ABkC.”
“I’d like to modernise the ABkC, improve our relationship with the MSA, vastly improve quality of staff and empower the clubs to have more direct control over the management of their Race meetings. Less reporting to the MSA on relatively trivial infringements which could perfectly well be dealt with efficiently & professionally on the day. The Competitors are our Customers, they need to respect the team managing their Race meeting. First the Club Officials need to earn that respect by best quality performance & decision making process.”
How will he do that?
Speaking to George unfortunately there are some things he has kept from the media for the moment, but once any announcements come in you’ll hear them first on Karting magazine! For now he must build all the relevant bridges he needs and use all of his experience to help things move quickly.
Is he the right man for the job?
I think George is a great person for the job. He’s got a wealth of experience and really does realise the value of change. Getting more young people into the ABkC is a must for me personally and I will be doing my best to bring instant updates on decisions made and anything that could potentially be in the pipeline.
I’m glad he feels strongly on change needing to happen quickly and I’m looking forward to seeing what decisions are made. As many have already said though, I just hope he doesn’t find himself being bogged down by red tape.
Written by Chris McCarthy