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Average entries at August National and Club meetings over the last five years

With the near-collapse in national KF racing (and we certainly haven’t had a KF or 100cc club scene for many years) I thought it would be useful to take a look at the trends in the Max classes and to see if they are in danger of going the same way.

Using the results system on karting. co.uk, I looked at the entries in both club and national meetings for the last five years going back to 2006. I counted up the entries in Mini, Junior, Senior, 177, DD2 and any further variants at each meeting in August and then because there weren’t always the same number of meetings I calculated an average so the figures could be compared.
I also plotted the figures against the British per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the same years. It’s by no means an accurate representation of what Max owners earn but I thought it was interesting.

I found that club entries went up until 2008 then started to drop, but not at all dramatically and still to a higher level than the first year I looked at in 2006.

National meetings, which included Super One, Stars, O Plates and Kartmasters depending on when they were held, have dropped sharply though. From a high in 2006 the numbers dropped then rose to another peak in 2008 then have dropped for the last two years.

The GDP has remained fairly static although it was highest in 2007 and has dropped since then.

I think it’s interesting that it is the national meetings that have seen a drop in participation, as conventional wisdom is that this level of racing takes entries off the clubs. Maybe in some cases it does, but I got figures from clubs ranging in size from Shenington to Guernsey and everything in between. If I had more time, I would like to see how much Stars and Super One entries drop off between March and the end of the season and whether that has changed as the economic conditions have. I think it might well have done so I would be interested to see if there are year on year decreases there. Anecdotally, I see a lot of drivers expressing surprise when a top driver continues to race in a series when they have no chance of winning it anymore. It’s totally logical to pack it in when you’re behind and you have to prioritise where your money goes but it’s not great for the sport.

Another improvement to my stats would be to look at the proportions of entries
on one particular day, which I did start doing, but it got too complicated with
clubs changing dates and deciding which S1 meeting was equivalent to the previous years. I may also look at “churn rate” – the amount of racers who enter and leave Rotax Max over a period.

I have a feeling that there is a tipping point for a class of about 15 entries, although it might be a few more or less and might change at different tracks. Over this amount of entries and people start thinking it’s a great class and they should have a go. Much less and people start thinking it is rubbish and avoid it. It’s called a “network effect” and it’s the principle that Facebook or YouTube work on. A network effect is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases as more people use it.

In the September magazine Dave Bewley said that karting formulae find it very hard to succeed if they don’t have a strong backing at club level. I think this is a huge point in the favour of Rotax Max being here to stay. People who have been around for a while will remember there wasn’t a Super One until people were really clamouring for it. J.A.G. and NJR (who were co-promotors back in 1998-1999) started selling the FR125MAX engine with remarkably little fanfare and
it was what is known as a “disruptive innovation” – something that totally changes the market.

Suddenly people were raving to anyone who would listen about this engine that was as fast as the 100 Nationals that were around at the time but lasted for up to 50 hours between rebuilds. We would get three out
of a 100 National! So for established low- budget racers it was a welcome relief from manic piston changes between heats after you seized. More and more clubs started running the class and then the Juniors and Minimaxes came along and Rotax was soon on it’s way to taking over British karting. There were other, similar engines even back then, as the CIK had flirted with the KF concept long ago and the Italian factories had designed TaG engines. But Rotax had the might of the Canadian industrial giant Bombardier behind them and with help from initiatives like the Rotax Max Grand Finals the rest is history.

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