Round The Bend – Cocker and bull

The green lobby’s arguments should be treated with caution, says Adam

Karting ignores the green lobby at its peril but if we listen too closely, it’ll go to the dogs

I am looking for a dog. Not just any old mutt mind, but a gundog. Since taking up shooting, Mrs. Jones has very kindly allowed me to acquire the accoutrements of the country gent, right down to the corduroys, claret gut and Land Rover. All I need now is the dog.

Word of this rather upsets people in sandals, who claim that individuals like me are responsible for the entire world’s wrongs and of late, I’ve begun to think the hippies might have a point.

It is true that our pursuit of oil, for example, has had some catastrophic effects on the environment and images of sticky pelicans are, of course, genuinely awful. However, the true scale of BP’s disaster in America will probably not be put into a genuine context. For example, when the Exxon Valdez tanker crashed we were solemnly told that quarter of a million seabirds perished, but not that an equal number of birds in America dies everyday, simply by flying into windows.

And whatever happened to ‘global warming’? It became ‘climate change’, which was occurring long before the industrial revolution.

But whatever you may think contrary to what the Friends of the Earth espouse, the environmentals do deserve recognition for being prepared to shout longer and louder. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been so successful in driving their agenda forward – normal people can’t bear their self-righteous whining.

Some years back, I enquired on behalf of a talented and highly successful karter about funding from the local authority. All was going swimmingly well and the lady from the council was positively purring with excitement about his level of achievement until she needed reminding what sport he was clearly so good at. The conversation ended abruptly when ‘karting’ was said.

We have to face up to the fact that fossil fuel burning-based activities are an increasingly sensitive subject for the wider public. The oil companies and car manufacturers know this; hence why they’ve rushed to sponsor art exhibitions and yachting events, to green-up their images. If you want somebody else’s cash with which to go racing, be careful that you don’t ask someone highly sensitive to green issues.

That said, Lord Drayson neatly side-stepped the contentious issue his favourite hobby created, by campaigning a bio-fuelled Aston Martin. This year’s Le Mans-conquering Audi squad used Shell V Power diesel to sweep to victory – which I’m told by a man in the know, is a second-generation biomass fuel – and ethanol is of course, already in widespread use in America but has yet to catch on here.

Unfortunately, karting appears to have been somewhat backward in addressing a greener future for all. In the mid Noughties, the then CIK boss Yvon Leon proclaimed that the future was four-stroke, provoking the Italian 2-stroke manufacturers. His subsequent resignation shortly afterwards saw development quickly stagnate.

The MSA’s John Ryan maintains that emissions from karts are “negligible” but even if the total amount of CO2 created by kart engines would barely make a sparrow cough, the PR and positive marketing to state this has been non-existent. Try explaining to an angry ecoist that the amount of fuel used by a kart engine is insignificant, that your Rotax is enormously efficient in terms of MPG and that the synthetic oil you use is further indication of karting’s limited impact on the environment. They still won’t believe you.

Jeremy Clarkson has long maintained that the car industry’s future lies in water. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are still very much in their infancy but a racing engineer of my acquaintance insists that a 2-stroke version is possible. In fact, he says that karting is the ideal form of racing for hydrogen because H2O offers very little in terms of mileage range and kart races and circuits are by their nature, quite short. Moreover, my pal says we could switch to ethanol-powered karts almost immediately and without junking existing kit. The great sage George Robinson avers. He says that ethanol has a habit of blowing already highly-stressed engines to bits but that a new oil is being developed to prevent the explosive end of the rev range being reached.

When pressed, he refused to be drawn on whether Rotax are developing alternative motors, such as electric units but added rather playfully, “never say never.”

I struggle with the concept of trying to explain the fun of competing in a silent kart. You’d be flailing your arms around describing the action at the wheel but unable to make a sound. People would think you’d had some sort of ‘episode’ although it would be a great day for the environmentalist killjoys, having reduced the sport to a noiseless, zero emission shadow of its former self.

Whilst the boffins work it all out, carry on having fun and don’t let the weird beards get you down. Wish me luck in my search for a dog that retrieves pheasant like a dream and bites anyone who wishes Britain today was like Russia in the Fifties, right in the Ed Balls.