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What will karting look like 5 years from now?

What will karting look like 5 years from now?

This article was first published in Karting magazine. Subscribe to Karting magazine here and get three issues for just £1.
WE ASKED a broad range of people in the karting industry a simple and open-ended question: ‘What will karting look like 5 years from now?’ Here’s what they think things will look like in the future:

Gary Catt
Ex-factory Tony Kart driver and current director of Infinity Sports management
To be honest thinking of where karting will be in 5 years can be quite a scary thought. Karting is very expensive and more drivers are moving into cars early as its not really any more expensive to race cars than it is to do a season of karting. Karting needs to be kept simple and basic so people can still turn up as a family and have fun and be able to compete at the front. I’d like to see a category where a driver can turn up in a private team or even a team just as ‘Dad and Lad’ and be able to compete against the factory drivers…. like it was 10 years ago in Formula A and ICA. In my opinion they need to take off front brakes as they’re just an expense thats not necessary and also get rid of the rev limiters as both of these just make the racing more spread out and not as entertaining to watch. Hopefully with whats happened to Max Verstappen people will realise that its best to stay in karting until you are at a high level and have learnt your trade of being a world class driver capable of winning at any level before entering cars and that way you have more chance to succeed in car racing.

Nigel Edwards
TVKC Chairman and international Race Director
From the MSA stakeholder’s meeting the view from the business part of the sport is don’t mess around too much, things are a little better than they have been so don’t reinvent the wheel. My vision is that we’ve ended up with two groups – professional and clubman. The professionals can pretty much look after themselves but the MSA can’t work from an ivory tower and need to build a rapport. Efforts need to be concentrated on the clubman level, all we want is twice as many people racing as now. Will Rotax still be on top? You’d have to say probably not. It will be interesting to see what they do. I think there are ten year cycles and now we’re on to something else. There will always be evolutions at the top end. I think it’s too late for the new CIK engine, we’ve got what we’ve got now. It’s not the MSA, the ABkC or TVKC who will decide what’s successful, it’s the drivers. Things get mixed up between clubs and circuit owners, and I’m not sure where clubs fit in now. The circuit decides what it wants to run and they want to run as often as possible. It would be nice to think we can get a good entry at the 30 MSA tracks we’ve got. We’ve got to make it attractive to move from non- MSA to MSA racing. We can’t get a day license but we’re working to get a self-certification medical.

We want to have a clubman category where people can use pre-homologated equipment, old air boxes etc. The license thing is the first big hurdle though. There is some recognition from the MSA that they have to change, it has all come to a head and non-MSA racing is a wakeup call. There should be stronger MSA racing but there’ll be other forms like there always has been. Clubs need to get real as well. They can’t just put on a club meeting and expect 100 entries. Rowrah is a good example. They are in the middle of nowhere but they are always improving and running schemes like Let’s Go Karting. But we are terrible for nitpicking and negativity, to even have club racing is like wow! We are the envy of the world for that. With regard to TVKC specifically, we realise it is very daunting to come in and race. We would like to have Team TVKC with an awning and a couple of coaches there to help people. Maybe we should have an A group and a B group and get people in the right category and work towards moving up. It is possible that in five years time if we don’t keep focus we will stagnate.

Bill Sisley
Owner of Buckmore Park
I think that karting is fragmenting and in five years time MSA racing will effectively only be Super One and all other karting will be non-MSA. However, I really would hope we can attract an elite Junior class again. Karting is cyclical. I first sat in a kart in 1959, I’ve done everything and seen it from all angles and it’s always linked to the economy. I’m not sure how the ABkC relationship with the MSA will pan out, it may break away. I am an “MSA person” but it’s painfully slow. The ABkC may end up being the governing body as they understand karting. There are too many classes still and we’re just moving people around and not bringing in new people. We’ve got to bring in more people at the base of the pyramid. We need to make it simpler and cheaper as it just puts people off. Bambino will be much bigger, we put 1000 kids a year through our school. X30 will be huge and will maybe eclipse Rotax and TKM. We have the same amount of members of our hire kart club as there are MSA license holders. Racing is my love and although it costs the company money we’ll always have it here. If the economy improves we will have more karters and we are past the worst.

Tim Taylor
Owner of Taylor International Motorsport; Sodikart importers and current British Champions with Henry Easthope in KZ1

I would say that until the MSA get behind the karters that already exist, sorting out classes that are affordable and that are here to last then karting will suffer in the next five years. KZ1 has been given the senior British championship, but we’ve already been told it will probably be replaced when the new CIK class to replace KF is bought out. We have spent two years building a class up, and at the last race we had 22 drivers. I’m talking to kids of 16 that have watched KZ this year, they want to join both Super One and Super Four next year, I think the friendly atmosphere and cameraderie of our class has come as a shock to them coming from Cadet and Rotax where there seems to be a bitchy attitude amongst the drivers, this can only destroy the stability of classes not only at British championships but mostly at club level.

There seems to be opening for classes with engines that are fast off the shelf, not having to change internal parts every three months to keep up to speed, and we as a team are looking at X30 now as a growing class and of course KZ, which we started two years ago and have enjoyed immensely. The MSA also need to cap the age at which karters leave to do cars, as maybe 2% of worldwide race drivers will ever make a career in motor racing, and remember karting is for people to have fun, it’s not just for race teams to find the next pay packet, the ones with money will naturally find their way into cars, leave karting alone. When I raced there were still drivers racing because they enjoyed it at 40 yrs old, now we seem to think that at 15 we can drive for Red Bull. Let’s try to protect our future

Oliver Scullion
Founder of the F100 – Spirit of the 90s series
I honestly think karting will never be that good again. It’s too far gone, and the people involved in modern karting now are a different breed than the ones when I first started. I worry about things I can control, and leave the things I can’t to someone else.

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F100 90s is where my heart is and it’s success makes me smile, as I am getting to drive the best karts in the history of karting, with people that have a mindset of old. I hope in five years I am still doing what I love, but with even more like minded people and friends.

George Robinson
Owner, Robinson Sport & Chairman for 3 years of the MSA Karting Technical Committee
I very much hope that the sport will have evolved to recover some of its past glory and excitement within the next 5 years. There is no doubt that the industry needs well-funded drivers at the top of the game, but this must not be at the expense of the whole sport becoming too elitist and unattainable financially for those that just want to enjoy karting at a more basic level. It is important therefore that the elite remains just that, the pinnacle for others to aspire to. The KF classes have been a disaster for the sport, it is essential that a few well-chosen people with the future of the sport at heart take control of the decision making process. Yes the Industry professionals need to be consulted but they should not be the decision makers.

There have been too many industry driven decisions that have badly affected the sport that are still with us today and have done nothing for the future of pure Karting. The engines for the highest level must be fast, quiet but not too quiet, reliable and light. Weight reduction is the key to great Karting. In “direct drive” Karting front brakes must be abolished, they do nothing for the sport, make the racing processional and overtaking significantly more risky if not impossible. Bodywork should have a very low maximum weight, damaged bodywork during a race receives a mechanical flag, thereby dramatically reducing contact driving. The current weight limit should be reduced by 10% as a starting point. There are great engineers in the sport, let them take their time to engineer the Kart of the future to be more nimble and more exciting to drive, the current generation has been too boring for 20 years… 20 years too long.

John Pike
Karting competitively since 2006
7th in British Short Circuit Championship (KZ1) in 2014
It’s difficult to answer the question in one short sentence. Not only is the economy slowly recovering, which should in theory boost karting as a whole, but the minimum age to race a car is dropping next year (it was already too low in my opinion) which will be pulling yet more out of the sport. With the rise of non-MSA racing (IKR,F100 – although it’s technically historic racing) the MSA will have to take a long, hard look at the structure of its racing in the coming year. I can see MSA karting remaining the playground of those who firmly believe that structured, well-established and officially recognised competition is the best way into European karting and onwards to a successful racing career. I can see the format itself remaining largely the same, except with an increased presence of TKM more as a base, equal, cheap-entry two-stroke class. Rotax will continue to grow and we may see a ‘Rotax Challenge GBR’ spring up between now and then, however with the continual stream of improving barrels and parts the engine prices will probably return to those we saw leading up to the 2009 cylinder update. X30 will either be massive or have disappeared completely, my thoughts are with the former, possibly due to a huge marketing push from IAME or other heavy financial incentivising of entry into the class.

I can see long-circuit racing grow slowly again with the regrowth of short-circuit gearbox. The MSA will have allowed a few new classes into the structure, serving to further dilute the numbers and equipment still present in karts. IKR will continue to grow until it peaks in a few years’ time. With increased interest in the freer racing and looser rules, naturally it will attract commercial interest with the progressive appearance of racing teams at these events. Costs will eventually approach or even surpass those of MSA racing, when the big teams get serious and provide modified equipment at high prices. I can see five years’ time as the turning point where people begin to filter back into MSA racing from having left a few years before, with those who have never experienced MSA racing in close tow. Historic racing is on the up at the moment all over the world in all forms of motorsport.

It’s not hard to see that we’re experiencing a particularly nostalgic period with the boom of F100 and the continuous growth of the CIK Historic events held within the European/World Championship rounds. RetroRacer has been steady for a long time as the true enthusiast’s club, and I would assume this will continue in this way for many years to come. Personally, I’d like to see a restructured class-format, cutting out the unnecessary classes (don’t get mad at me everyone, but I’m on about Formula Blue Junior and Senior, WTP, TKM4 and co) Either make X30 faster, or successfully reintroduce KF, under the ICA name (It sounds cooler…) and then if KGP still exists just take it away. I enjoy KGP but it’s just not got the same support as X30. I’d like to see entry requirements into National Championships through regional karting championships held between two or three neighbouring clubs. The regional karting championships would be held February – April, then the National / British Championships held May – September over a maximum of 5 rounds. GP-0-C-S-E Plates would be held from September to January.

I’d like to see the minimum age for car racing to be increased to 17, in line with a driving license. That way we can boost the senior grid numbers and it won’t drive those looking to compete in MSA to IKR or to just give up. The class structure should be promoted and clarified. The fact that Super One advertises itself as the British Championship is kind of wrong, seeing as they only awarded two British titles this year and not 10 or 11 or however many National titles they award. I’d like to see the MSA promoting karting outside motorsport circles, fixing a spectator entry price to events and restricting when it can be enforced – make it more consistent across the country.

Rob Dodds
Owner of BKC Karting, team boss of BKC Racing and Chairman at Forest Edge Kart Club
In five years time KF will be replaced but will still be expensive as the major players and tuners want the money. Remember KF was supposed to be cheaper. The MSA and ABkC will be working together for our sport, I would like UK karting promoted to show we have the best drivers and championships. Unfortunately money is the problem. Teams get bigger and more professional which stops the normal people competing, it is impossible to get to the pinnacle on just talent now. I would like to see a affordable class where it’s possible to buy back engines. There are too many championships and I would stop Friday testing for kids as it’s not fair that some can and some can’t. I’d like stronger MSA direction and I believe this is happening, better more professional clerking – it’s got to be down to training. Easier ways to get into MSA karting. I also don’t like the nine hour trip to Larkhall, can someone pick me up? I’ll be doing the same thing! Producing tomorrow’s champions today – Stoneman, Moore, Borton, Sedgwick, Norris, Faulkner aren’t bad for starters!

Jack Bartholomew
Senior Rotax and X30 driver, 2nd in Senior Rotax Super One in 2014
I think hopefully there will be a way of keeping the cost down and make the transition to car racing easier, also hopefully as new classes come in the racing will get fairer! I think X30 will become big and take a large chunk of the Rotax market in my opinion because the motors are far more equal! I fear that it could just become more expensive and more team dominated than it already is! I lost Super One this year due to team tactics so I hope to see a grid where you can run as a lad and dad team but still be competitive on a lower budget, however I fear this will never happen again and teams will fully take over. I think X30 will become the next big thing and take over soon in Britain and Europe over the next few years – this should see other kart manufacturers having a chance to be successful again! I hope to always have some involvement in karting as it has been a huge part of my childhood, but hopefully only for fun, I would like to see myself in some form of car racing.

Grahame Butterworth
Owner, Impact Racing and TKM specialist
It’s scary to think I have been involved with karting for the past 25 years – and that’s nearly half of the life of the sport! Has a lot changed? Well yes and no. So if I look five years from now I am not expecting to see huge changes, but I do expect to see changes that might unsettle the establishment. In particular I think the CIK – karting’s ultimate governing body – will be having a re-think on its future. They have made disastrous decisions on engines and seem no better placed for the future leaving world karting in a situation where virtually no country makes any real use of the ‘international’ formula engines. On top of that they keep creating homologation costs and requirements which do little other than line their pockets. They have lost touch with reality and failed to listen to what drivers – their customers – want. So I see top level international racing to be small and elite. In its place the ever growing presence of commercial classes that are customer focused and backed by companies with a simple commercial desire to make them work. TKM was a leader in this and will I am confident still be strong in 2020. I think the MSA has now cottoned on to the demise of the CIK and I sincerely hope it will have kept its focus on UK karting and the interests of British drivers. It needs to streamline its operations and I have seen the first signs of a change for the better which should help us here in the UK in the future. As for the clubs… the ones with the good facilities and bright forward-looking committees will thrive. The ones stuck in the past with grotty circuits and old fashioned thinking will quite rightly have dwindled unless they start to get their act together – now!

Kirsty Young
Twice British Women’s Racing Drivers Club Karting Champion. Studied Motorsport Management at university, 3now working in Motorsport Marketing.
I think karting is the basis of most driver’s motorsport careers and the way drivers learn their craft. I’d like to think that this remains the same for years to come and that the crucial step isn’t missed with people going straight into cars. In order to do this however I think that there should be a step backwards. Karting series should be simpler, less classes (that both Super One drivers can compete competitively and that club drivers can afford) and more people in each class.Thus promoting talent not just big wallets. In terms tech development within karting (going environmentally friendly and all that) I’m not so sure that this will work its way down to competitive karting within five years. However I do think it is inevitable with the way the world is today.

Having just done my dissertation on women in karting, I’d also like to see some more ways of promoting women into the sport. We currently have a number of organisations that are there to support women who already compete in the sport but I’m not personally convinced that enough is being done to actually give women the confidence to start in the first place. I haven’t competed for three years now, and won’t be competing any time soon as I have just graduated and focusing on my new career in Motorsport and High Performance Engineering Marketing. If I was to start competing unfortunately I wouldn’t go back to karting. There are too many racing series around in cars that work out just as cheap (if not cheaper) than karting and therefore wouldn’t be able to justify karting.

Tom Joyner
Professional KF driver and 2013 World Champion
With the recent successes of drivers like Max Verstappen the importance of karting in the media and by motorsport personnel/ teams further up the ladder has really been brought to the forefront. Hopefully this will continue to grow as the whole of motorsport heads in a more professional direction bringing the spotlight more down to grass roots level. As the sport heads in a more professional direction it’s almost certain it will cost more to race at European and World level. We all need to work together with CIK and our national governing body to make sure that we keep the sport viable at national level and provide scholarships/ programmes to pick up genuine underfunded talented drivers and put them on to the world stage.

For sure the direct drive classes will change at CIK European level. It’s too hard to predict anything else. I would like to see a much clearer structure in UK karting. Cadet, Junior, Senior and KZ. There are too many classes in the UK which can be difficult for new people coming into the sport. Also when speaking to many teams in Europe and some car teams they find it difficult to understand where the talent lies. We need to do what the FIA is trying to do with car racing like F4, F3, F2 and F1. It’s already noted that F4 are getting strong national championships due to the simplicity.

Dave Bewley
Karting magazine contributor
How karting might look in 2020 depends upon whether or not the MSA can successfully meet several challenges now arising. If there is little or no sense of urgency at Motor Sports House then I predict that most clubs will have embraced non MSA racing within 5 years. Only an elite group of drivers wanting to race internationally will hold MSA licences. There may be closer co-operation between clubs and indoor karting operators. I can see several regional associations being formed under a new national body with ARKS tests eliminated.

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The proportion of adult competitors will have increased. I don’t believe that the CIK decompression valve motors introduced in 2016 will be well supported domestically. IAME may well have taken over from Rotax as the most popular motor. There could also be an increased demand for classes such as TKM and Honda, offering relatively low cost karting with equipment that is durable and fairly easy to maintain. Clubs will need to be innovative and more customer friendly. New concepts, such as handicaps and team racing may occasionally be introduced to encourage higher entries. Part of me hopes that the MSA will still be in control, but I have my doubts.

Ricky Flynn
Team Owner, Ricky Flynn Motorsport
That’s a very difficult question.If you strip a Kart back to a bare chassis it has not changed a hugh amount in the last 40 years. We now have body work which is the biggest visual difference we have seen in Karting which came in at the end of the 80’s early 90’s.While the regulations restrict the use of exotic materials(carbon fibre)and such like,I think its very difficult to change a kart too much. We need to address a big problem very soon before we destroy Karting further.This problem is the number of classes we now have.It seems to me that a new class is starting up all most on a monthly basis.This is not healthy for the future of karting.If you look now there are still many competitors at a club or championship race but they are only racing against 10 to 15 other drivers in there class.We need to trim the classes down very quickly.Going back to my 1st British Champs I took part in at Fulbeck in 1988 there was a A.B.C.D.E.F final as there was so many competitors in 100 National.In them days you only had 3 classes Junior Britain, Senior Britain, and 100 National.So if nothing is done then I can see numbers dropping.If we sort this soon then like we have seen for many years karting will flourish and the next F1 world champions will be learning their craft in Uk karting paddocks.

Fraser James Sheader
Director at ADD Motorsport Ltd (Driver management and development)
Where will karting be in 5 years from now?’ I don’t know… but hopefully in a far better state than it is currently! Karting sits very close to my heart on both a personal and professional level, and I’ve always got plenty to say on the matter. As an ex-driver it’s always easy to look back and say “it was so much better when I was racing…” blah blah blah… The reality is though it was! I don’t mean as far as driving levels or the teams involved, I can confidently say that both of those areas have developed significantly and continue to do so, the level of professionalism and commitment we expect from our karters (Lando for example) is FAR higher than what is was in the past. The bar has truly risen as far as drivers and teams are concerned. Not so many years ago a driver would leave karting at 17-18 and take his first step into Formula Ford, Renault etc etc.. and think ‘Wow, this is so professional and slick’, now if anything it’s a step down from top level international karting.

Karting teams are running race operations comparable with F3-GP3 WSR3.5 and even GP2, kart drivers certainly don’t get all gooey eyed anymore when they arrive in a Formula Paddock – its normal! So on some levels I truly believe karting has moved forward dramatically. On the other hand, its failing. The day dad and lad can’t turn up and compete internationally (and by compete I mean have a chance of making the final, and who knows a bit of rain on the grid and dad makes the right call on tyres… You can make the podium) karting is screwed. Karting’s raw costs of competition needs to come down. 10-12k EU per weekend to race top level international KF karting is crazy, so few families globally can afford to race at this level, making it very much a battle of the richest. Now some might say “that’s just motorsport, and its always been like that” that may be true but it doesn’t make it right at the karting end of the ladder. Whilst equipment costs are so high and no kind of limits are set on testing, costs will continue to rise. Teams need to make money, and so they should. They on the whole do fantastic jobs and have a HUGE commitment to what they do, time away from home in itself is not far off F1 level.

The cost of equipment needs to come down, and the limit of equipment any driver can have needs to come down too. The equipment you buy off the shelf needs be close enough that dad and lad can have a crack with the big boys! There will always be a divide in the paddock between wealth, and that’s not a bad thing, but the raw talent and potential needs to be able to show. Rental karting numbers are UP significantly and we’re not converting them into regular racers! That’s the problem. If we can convert the rental market drivers, numbers will rise in club level. If the club level fancy a crack at national level they should be able to have a crack, and so on all the way up to International level. This takes me on to my final and very important point. For a company like us, finding true talent and a combination that could make it to the top is almost impossible, and if it’s hard for us with then what’s it like for other investors looking at karting talent? The F1 teams alone I know would love to snap up young talented karters, but where do they look? How do they recognise true talent and potential? They can’t, and vary rarely do now because it’s so hard and confusing. We at ADD are bringing investors into karting, as we believe (much like the Racing Steps Foundation) that if we can spot drivers early enough in there development we can coach, mentor and nurture potential. It needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.

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