Tag Archives: ABKC

Colin Wright – current view of karting in the UK

A year in, what’s changed? So, after accepting the role of Chairman back in December 2013 what is the current view of karting in the UK and what’s changed?

Numbers are up or are they down? It all depends which report you read. MSA participation reports an increase of 3% year on year yet licenses show a decrease against 2013, so it seems that our small pool of hardened racers are perhaps choosing to race more? Start karting packs are down significantly from 852 in 2013 to 463 currently in 2014, that’s a huge drop in apparent interest. Perhaps we will surpass 852 number in the remaining 2 months of 2014! Very positive moves from the MSA in reducing and holding certain fees and ARKS reducing test fees. However it may well be academic if we can’t garner more external interest and this could be reflected in the drop of start karting packs?

We are seeing a big growth in MSA venues now choosing to supplement their events by running IKR. When a club can only get sub 50 people racing in MSA sanctioned events and double that by running IKR, at some stage the stakeholders of that organisation will need to make a choice: profit/survival or continue to lose money! If we continue as we are the landscape is going to look significantly different very quickly, we need to understand that we are in a real battle to continue as we are, so why can’t we fix it when so many people in so many committees are in so much agreement? We are not supporting the smaller clubs enough and these will likely at some stage make a decision as to remain MSA or augment with IKR or move to IKR completely, we have seen many clubs this year ‘dip their toe in the water’ with IKR but I see many clubs watching very closely the growth and profitability. I am not being alarmist or extremist but realistic and unless we can commit to clear and decisive action quickly we may well see regulated karting removed from some fantastic drivers tracks!

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There have been some good positive progressive moves this year but will it encourage a growth in numbers and licenses for 2015, I’ll leave you the reader to consider that? Easykart has moved away from regulated karting for 2015, in comes bambinos and perhaps an upturn in interest from Lewis Hamilton being crowned F1 Champion this year will bring in new blood for 2015, but still we have some barriers to knock down here, where are the Seniors, how easy is it for them to get a license? I was recently quoted £225 for my medical and I only want to race a couple of races in a year, so what will I do, like many other seniors who just want to have some fun I’ll dust down a kart, do a couple of practice days and maybe head off to do a day IKR racing! Does that mean I am anti the very sport and Association I represent? No. Nigel Edwards has worked tirelessly as MSA Kart Committee Chairman and to see regulated karting grow we need to adopt some of those proposals Nigel has championed.

For the past 10 years I have heard that the sport is in crisis with ever lower numbers year after year, the numbers are not low as a whole but license holders are, we need to draw a line in the sand of what number of licenses we set that points to a level we cannot drop below and then work damn hard! But what happens if we drop to that number? We could just end up with a handful of MSA clubs and the others all running IKR, some will see that as scaremongering but let’s see where we go, if we see more and more people on track racing the most exhilarating and exciting form of Motorsport to a safe and controlled manner is that not something to embraced? The face of karting in the UK is poised to change dramatically over the next few years, your input is invaluable to those decisions, make sure your club attends the ABkC AGM on 9th December. As always feel free to contact me at chairman@abkc. org or +44 (0) 7841 034192

ABkC October update

According to the ABkC, numbers seem to be holding up well and indeed the MSA reported an increase in race entries and permits from last year. High points include having an extra 60 NKF competitors at Wombwell boosting their last entry to 110, having 23 KZ UK entries for ABkC Super 4 at Kimbolton and a big entry of Honda Cadets at Bayford forming half the total entry there. Paul Klaassen and his team have received congratulations from the CIK for finding the cheat engine in KF. Rowrah have completed their £60k Lets Go Karting training building, a massive investment for Cumbria Kart Club. There was concern expressed that some circuits are allowing 6 year olds to practice in Cadets when they should only be allowed out in Bambino karts and not mixed. There have been far too many incidents involving abuse this year, either between competitors or their parents, or between competitors and officials. There are on going cases, some awaiting completion of police investigations.

The MSA representatives said that they have zero tolerance, and that they would fully support any official who has received abuse. Anyone has the ability to call the Police if they wish. Landowners have the ability to ban anyone from their circuit. There was some concern that if a PG licence is suspended, another parent can take another out. There is a move afoot to ensure teams have entrants licences and use them. The 2015 seminars will have a section on judicial matters including interpersonal skills. There was also a discussion on IKR, and it was noted that one circuit has moved to having a control tyre to cut down the costs of open formulae. All agreed that we must make MSA racing more attractive and reduce costs and the MSA said they are investigating having stronger links with the National Karting Association.

Colin Wright – A year progress or setbacks?

A year progress or setbacks? Well, with the AGM of the ABkC coming upon us it’s a time to reflect upon 2014 and look into what will happen in 2015.

Colin Wright

Has 2014 been successful? In some ways Yes, in some No. License holders will again show a decline, Easykart has chosen to go away from MSA regulations, we have 2 World Champions, IKR is growing, some clubs are booming some are struggling…I had hoped that more progress would have been achieved, we have made some but frankly not enough and not quickly enough!

So depending upon whether the glass is half full/empty will depend on your interpretation of how well the sport is doing. Personally, and this is not the ABkC speaking I feel we have not done enough to support smaller clubs, they are the bedrock of our sport.

So what can we see in 2015?

We will see Bambinos enter MSA regulations for the first time so an upturn in license holders from that format, we will obviously see the Lewis Hamilton effect with newcomers dreaming of replicating the ex karters global success, we have LGM, Super One and also FKS is back. I’d love a crystal ball to see how all this will play out in 2015 but for now will have to settle to looking closer to home and hope that we present a better “shop window”, a joint effort to get things actioned quickly, to remove some of the unequal factors that dog our discipline and not the remainder of Motorsport. But most of all I’d love to see people relax a little and enjoy the sport for what it is and that is a fantastic discipline in its own right and not always a short term stepping stone to cars, we have every right to be judged shoulder to shoulder with car disciplines and not looked down upon!

The clubman strategy is gathering pace but the sheer inequality of karting regs versus some other disciplines needs to be torn down to see license holders grow, let’s hope 2015 can bring the removal of the medical, I would not need a medical to go Rallying, I don’t need one to drive at 70mph against ongoing traffic yet this archaic rule still exists, I plead with the MSA to finally remove this barrier and lets look to see resurgent senior grids in 2015!

So what of the clubs running IKR and MSA? Let’s support them, lets ensure their success, their survival, their growth, we cannot afford to only see the top six clubs do well, we need every club to succeed, remember that very first time you came off track in a “true” kart, that feeling, the adrenalin, the buzz? Well, go and tell more people, we all have a part to play in the success or failure of this sport.

I speak with many potential newcomers throughout the week from all walks of life and locations, and we need to be cognisant that most really have no idea how to get started, let’s be positive with these potential new customers and show them the positive side of karting and not dwell on what’s wrong, we know what’s wrong but we are still in a much better position than many countries, as a nation we sometimes only consider the negative points.

We all have an interest yet we should all be accountable for the success of our sport and how its presented, our shop window is not appealing besides the phenomenally unique, powerful and creative PR that FKS delivers, I rarely see this level of positive press within my industry let alone our little backwater!

The face of karting in the UK is poised to change dramatically over the next few years, your input is invaluable to those decisions, make sure your club attends the ABkC AGM on 9th December.

As always feel free to contact me at chairman@abkc.org or +44 (0) 7841 034192

 

No competitive running for Evo in ’15

Stock-GridThe newly launched Rotax Evo engine will not competitively race in the UK next season, according to the Association of British kart Clubs. The powerplant, which was unveiled at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Valencia, features
upgrades including a new carburettor, electronic box and exhaust system (see Rotax Max Big Questions, p18). The ABkC has said it would prefer to wait until testing against the present engine has taken place on track before any recommendation to drivers is made, but is aware that enhancements to product lines could benefit racers.

MSA Under Fire

“I’m not prepared to defend what I now consider to be the indefensible.” says Paul Fletcher, owner of PF International

In 1994 he fulfilled a long held ambition to own his own kart track. Since then, the PF International circuit has gained an enviable reputation as one of Europe’s finest karting venues. He is hugely respected both at home and abroad so that his views carry a certain gravitas.

“During my time there have been numerous attempts to launch an alternative controlling body for karting, but I’ve always strongly defended the MSA and its predecessor the RAC from such attacks,” Paul insists. “Sadly, that is no longer the case and I’m not prepared to defend what I now consider to be the indefensible. There needs to be a change of attitude down at Motor Sports House otherwise I’m concerned for the future of a sport I’ve loved for more than half a century. There’s already some talk about setting up a breakaway organisation and I might even consider doing the unthinkable by supporting it.”

One ruling in particular that has upset Paul is the change in age limits that will allow 15 year old drivers to race Formula 4 cars in 2015. “I know that drivers as young as 14 have been able to race in Ginetta and Formula BMW for a number of years,” Paul acknowledges. “I certainly didn’t agree with that, but it was justified on the grounds that they were junior classes. Formula 4 is a senior category. The MSA has repeatedly refused to drop the age limits for senior kart classes so that they are in line with the rest of Europe. What sort of muddled thinking is it that allows someone to race cars before they are old enough to compete in senior karting events?”

He is also worried about the costs now associated with MSA karting. “Some of them would be hard to control but others are totally unnecessary,” Paul maintained. “A case in point is the requirement for annual medicals that all seniors have to undergo. Along with the cost of your licence it means that you’ve coughed up around £400 before a wheel has even been turned and that certainly needs to be looked at.”

Paul’s views are shared by other senior figures who feel that the MSA no longer represents karting’s best interests. In 2015 Formula Kart Stars is being run as a non- MSA Series and the same applies to Easykart. Even a traditional circuit like Fulbeck has started to run events outside MSA control with favourable results on the Balance Sheet. That could well establish a trend elsewhere in the country. Several years ago the idea of setting up a rival body was, indeed, unthinkable. Today it looks a possibility. Who knows, tomorrow, the idea could become a reality.

IS HISTORY ABOUT TO REPEAT ITSELF?

It was back in November 2003 when the MSA last faced a serious challenge to its authority. At the ABkC Annual General Meeting, Whilton Mill Kart Club put forward a motion of no confidence in the MSA’s ability to conduct affairs on behalf of British karting. The outgoing ABkC chairman Steve Chapman claimed that karting was often overlooked by our governing body. What had particularly annoyed him was a decision to dispense with the Battenberg Flag without any prior consultation. Steve Clayton added that karting was being run by car people rather than karters.

Chapman’s replacement as ABkC chairman, Russell Anderson successfully proposed that a case should be prepared and presented to the MSA Development Director Bruce Goddard. If this failed, then detailed plans for a breakaway body could then be considered. Within a couple of months the MSA had agreed to reinstate the Battenberg Flag. We understand that the ABkC has adopted similar tactics this time around by presenting a lengthy dossier to Motor Sports House. Paul Fletcher’s statement appears to have been made at an opportune moment.

Colin Wright: MSA vs. IKR

The MSA versus IKR debate continues. You’re a valuable part of karting, so what do you suggest we do right now to improve karting for everyone?

Following on from last month’s piece about alignment between Non MSA (IKR) and MSA I was lucky enough to get an hour at Buckmore on track for a company briefing. Great track, well prepared “corporate” karts, first place, rain came after 30 minutes, could it have got any better?

Well yes, facilities such as Buckmore are a great feeder for MSA racing and the “alignment” between the NKA and MSA racing cannot come quick enough to see numbers grow. Besides being a little older than “race prime” the sheer thrill and adrenalin of racing was/ is still there and this started me thinking as to why we keep this sport a secret! After an hour, 21 people were physically drained, excited and the conversations in the bar afterwards centred around “how good it was”, “can we do more”, “are there faster karts”, “how is Colin so quick”! OK maybe not the last one! But for every one of us that gets in a kart for fun to race MSA or non MSA why can we not tell five separate people about the sport, bring them along, let them see that it’s not quite Paultons Park?

We are complacent, we take our sport for granted, if we want more people then we ALL need to tell more, the Governing bodies and Associations can only do so much but if we have 4000 license holders get 20000 along to watch, how many race at IKR, same thing lets tell 5 friends and get them along, then they can decide whether to go MSA or IKR, the pool grows bigger, everyone benefits?

Next year, with Nigel Edwards great efforts within the MSA we could possibly see the barriers to entry dropped massively, align this to more interested parties and we should be able to halt/ stabilise license number decline and then work to increase those license holders over the coming years. Let’s dispel a little of the apathy and get people along, stop the web forum “my class is better than yours” debates. Decide at your local track what you want to do, two choices, regulated MSA or less regulated IKR, that should not be too tough should it?

Driving standards. I have watched with interest into what we can do to enhance better driving standards, remove “loading” or more rightly termed shoving, pushing, cheating? “It’s the officials fault, they do not punish the guilty” I hear that often. Well having been an observer and a Clerk it’s a damn hard job trying to identify exactly who is pushing in a grid full of adrenalin, I’d love to see EVERY driver and PG holder have to stand with a marshal on post and try to identify the culprit, it’s much harder just watching your own driver.

Are standing starts the answer? Possibly, but the side effects such as clutch failure and second corner incidents perhaps suggest otherwise?

CIK droppable nosecones, perhaps? This one has split the opinion 50/50, but we as a sport are sometimes way too pessimistic, “that will never work, its rubbish” How about we change tact, let’s welcome new ideas, let’s look at trials and see the results instead of knee jerk uninformed reactions, I for one welcome anything that is self-policing, one that perhaps allows Officials to deal with key issues instead of a queue of loading incidents making their way to the office.

Clubs struggle to get officials and I’m not seeing many new Clerks coming through. If we had a self-policing solution allowing Clerks and Observers to focus elsewhere we may have a solution? I’m prepared to see it in action before I condemn it out of hand. Just imagine that it works, that it changes driving mentality, that overtakes are clean and without contact, that nosecones last a year. Now is that not something we should at least consider rather than dismiss it out of hand? Work with us, suggest ideas, contact us, give ideas a chance…

Colin Wright: First-corner kartnage

Standing starts in S1 are a bold move says ABkC Chairman, Colin Wright but although this may help reduce first-corner carnage, is it enough?

So most clubs have started their 2014 season now and early indications seem to be positive in terms of numbers? On the face of it that looks great but we really need to analyse figures and data more succinctly to garner a better overall picture, for instance are the same drivers doing more than one track, are drivers sticking to one, are license numbers up….?

The hot topic already in 2014 seems to be driving standards, the same perennial problem that has plagued us for years at club and national level. What’s to be done, the sustained damaged can only drive more people from the sport, the MSA introduced the mandated penalties to standardise across clubs but when 20 plus karts head into the first corner it is nigh on impossible to identify who is the instigator? Load or be loaded seems to be the common theme?

Super One, following on from multiple damage at the O Plate the week before at Rowrah, together with the club took one of the boldest steps in many a year and introduced standing stands for Rotax and Hondas. The purists were sceptical, dismissive and vocal as to how this was the wrong choice, now stepping back we need to consider trying a different approach as following the same format as we currently tread is failing.

What was learned from Super One? Could it be implemented at club level? We saw very few first corner incidents, less damage and unlike previous meetings where 20, maybe 30% grid were unable to navigate Turn One, it could be that the full grid is free to race for the whole of the race?

One event should not instantly dictate that every club should change to a standing start, however we need to take on board lessons learnt and empower clubs to make the right choice to keep members and drivers returning, first corner damage is one of the most common reasons we all hear for disillusionment of our discipline.

Rowrah and S1 took a bold step to introduce a strategy that was pilloried by most, the results seem to be welcomed by most, so perhaps what we have learnt is to try and welcome new ideas, not to dismiss them out of hand without at least trying?

Over the past 6 weeks through the “day job” I have spent most of my time outside of the UK and caught up with karting enthusiasts in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Germany. There is much we can learn from these countries but also there is much they can learn from the UK, if we were to gather everyone into one room at one time we could really come out with a great solution.

Time is not on our side, “one swallow does not a summer make” but if we can really address driving standards and remove first corner incidents then we are surely closer to fixing our discipline.

We have a fantastic sport, yes there are things that need addressing and fixing to bring and keep people into the discipline but if we can keep progressing, if we can listen to our customers to make the changes required in a timely manner we have to look on the positives and see our sport grow.

Non-MSA/IKR racing seems to be growing, is that a bad thing? No, it can’t be, anything that gets bums in seats and into a kart needs to be welcomed, drivers are customers, they will ultimately choose how and where they wish to spend their hard earned money. Our shop window needs to be better, brighter and shout about the positive aspects of screaming along with our backsides 10mm off the ground. We need to support our clubs, we need to continue to feedback ideas, we need to communicate good and bad points, learn from what does not work and put action plans in place to ensure the sport grows!

Any feedback, comments, or calls please contact me on chairman@abkc.org or 07841 034192