Watching The Pennies

George Line is 10 years old and wants to be a racing driver. He’s not aiming for F1 or any other lofty goal. Right now, he’d settle for being able to race the 60cc kart that his parents Robin and Joanne bought him as a Christmas present. The 1998 Wright chassis is almost as old as George himself. Initially, it was powered by a Comer S60 motor, possibly of the same vintage. Robin Langford, George’s stepfather, is no stranger to the world of motor racing having set up his own team in the sixties focusing mainly on Mini Coopers. He considered that WTP offered a cost effective formula in which talent would speak louder than money. Robin was also attracted by the idea of an electric start motor, believing this to be much safer than having young drivers jumping out and attempting to pull start their karts halfway through a race. In February he bought George a brand new B5 engine and, almost immediately, the young pilot completed his ARKS test at Fulbeck. George made his racing debut a week later at P.F. on March 5th. The result was encouraging. In the final he knocked almost 2 seconds off his lap times from previous heats and finished 8th among some very experienced drivers.

Father and son could hardly wait for the next race meeting to come along. Unfortunately, wait is exactly what they must now do as the MSA has stepped in and prevented the B5 motor from being used in all further competition at least until June. Robin felt so strongly about this situation that he contacted the MSA for some clarification. Alas, the conversation left him even more baffled than before. “I was told that the WTP B5 engine couldn’t take part in any further competition as it had been quicker than the Comers at P.F.,” he said. “In actual fact the margin had been just one hundredth of a second in the first race, increasing to less than two tenths throughout the day. I’d call that a pretty even state of affairs but John Symes from the MSA insisted that, even if this margin had been just one thousandth, it wouldn’t be tolerated. This was one circuit on one particular day. Are they really saying that the Comer has to be quicker at all times on every track in the country? I can’t understand why this has become such a big deal, especially as we’re competing for separate awards. George is a very sporty young lad who’s keen on soccer and sailing, but karting really has taken over from all his other activities and he’s bitterly disappointed not to be out there racing.

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George just wants to race

Quite a few of our acquaintances know that George has taken up the sport and they’re asking me how he’s coming along. When I tell them what’s happened, they shake their heads in total disbelief. I don’t think this is doing karting any good at all and I just hope that it gets sorted out quickly.” I think everyone associated with WTP will share Robin’s sentiments. Last month he wrote an excellent letter to Karting magazine that deserved some sort of response. Whether by coincidence or not, it seems the MSA may have softened its stance and some progress is now being made. At this delicate stage, the last thing we need is for someone to stick a size 10 clog in proceedings. For this reason I’ve put on my diplomatic hat that’s hardly ever been worn before. I’m also assisted by the editor’s large censor’s pen that will no doubt have run out of red ink before this article is complete. There’s so much I’d like to write about this current situation but not a lot of it would be very constructive. All I’ll say is that a rather more lenient approach was adopted three years ago when the Comer W60 replaced its S60 forerunner. Apart from being 1cc above the maximum capacity for Cadets, this motor was considerably outside the 0.2s performance differential previously insisted upon and came with a totally different exhaust to the one that had been originally tested. Now our governing body is getting all worked up about mere hundredths of a second.

Finding a happy medium between these two extreme positions would be nice. From my own point of view, I heartily wish that the B5 motor had never been introduced. The B1 provided a wonderful class that offered young drivers a chance to compete on equal terms with relatively low budgets. Unfortunately time moves on and the factory decided many months ago to stop producing this motor. The B5 has now unleashed forces that threaten to wreck WTP racing and I just wish that half as much effort had gone into promoting karting in this our 50th year. I have my own ideas as to where the responsibility lies but allocating blame isn’t what we need right now. The most important thing is to get drivers like George Line back into competitive karting as quickly as possible. They are the innocent parties and so far they’ve been very badly served. On one issue it seems that the opinions of JM Racing have been listened to. When WTP racing was in its infancy, John Mills approached the ABkC with a request to increase Cadet age limits by 12 months so that lighter drivers could remain in the class for another season. He pointed out that, in some cases, drivers were entering Minimax carrying 35kg of lead and this created safety concerns. Initially, this argument was dismissed out of hand. John’s proposal would mean having a five year age gap between drivers at the top and bottom ends of Cadet that would be more dangerous according to our top officials. I never accepted this particular viewpoint, preferring instead the maxim that ‘if you’re small enough, you’re young enough.’ Now, a recommendation has been made to increase Cadet age limits by 12 months, using exactly the same arguments expounded by John four years earlier. I applaud the ABkC on this score at least.