Motor Sports Association Kart Committee chairman Nigel Edwards is hopeful that the proposal for the requirement of medicals for short circuit racing to be scrapped will encourage more people to enter the sport.
Edwards and the MSA’s Medical Advisory Panel have been pushing for the removal of the requirement for over a year. Drivers would only need to produce a medical self-declaration instead. Following a recent meeting between Edwards and the Medical Advisory Panel, a proposal has been sent to MSA Council for approval at its June meeting.
“The requirements to gain a short circuit licence are too complicated,” Edwards said. “When racers have to go through an ARKS test as well as applying for the licence, why do they need a medical too? If we can get it scrapped, that’s one of the big hurdles away. People would only then have to pay the £38 for the licence. I didn’t think I’d get this far with this proposal, this quickly.
“We need to get more customers into karting and it’s nice to know that all parties are working together on this one for a common good. Maybe the removal or amendment of the ARKS test is the next thing to look at.”
Last month’s second round of the Trent Valley Kart Club championship was under threat after the Motor Sports Associaton revoked the club’s racing permit.
The club expanded the PF International circuit’s first corner in March in an effort to improve safety, and to prevent drivers from riding kerbs and driving across the grass to skip the corner. But the MSA revoked the permit on the Wednesday before the weekend. The meeting set a new record for entries at the club, with 279 drivers competing.
“We do have to hold some form of responsibility in this,” club chairman Nigel Edwards said. “We modified the corner in good faith, but without the MSA’s consent. We felt that the time had come to do something different in the best interests of both the racing and for safety. We wanted it easier for drivers to get through the first corner from the start. Now drivers can’t take liberties by running on kerbs and the grass. In the end, because it is a circuit used by the CIK-FIA, we received their approval to the amendment on Thursday evening, but it was a stressful 36 hours.”
For many drivers, a trip through the judicial section of the Blue Book is a magical mystery tour, similar only to the workings of the human mind, or how the Birdie Song ever got to number 1. However there will be times when you’ll need a bit of knowledge, either when you’re on the receiving end of a penalty or when you wish to put your view on the driving standards of another. That’s where this rough guide comes in, although it should be said that nothing compensates for your own quick look through the relevant sections. The first time most of us find out something is wrong is during post race compliance checks. That normally kicks off with the scrutineers’ non-compliance form, which the entrant (for the under 18s) and the driver will fill in as well as the scrute and the clerk of the course. The bit the entrant fills in has a section where he or she either agrees or doesn’t that the component or kart does not comply with the regs. In most instances, drivers will fill in the ‘agree’ section, but if you are adamant the kart is OK then fill in the ‘do not agree’ bit if you plan to go to Eligibility Appeal (more on them later). At this stage it won’t make a huge difference as the eligibility scrutineer is a judge of fact who cannot exclude you, they will merely report the facts to the Clerk of the Course whose job it is to get it in the neck from competitors. The next step is for the Clerk to ask why the kart failed the eligibility checks. He or she is looking for your ‘get out of jail free’ card or some mitigation why exclusion is not an appropriate penalty. The regs now state that, upon receiving a certificate of noncompliance, the Clerk must exclude unless there are serious, mitigating circumstances. Take, for instance, a case of a TKM inlet trumpet missing as a result of the sidepod being savaged by another driver, the presence of said driver waiting to see the Clerk should see you away without a penalty being applied. This is a bit clearer than it was some years ago when you’d both have been penalised. At this juncture, it is normal to tell the driver that he or she isn’t considered to be cheating, especially if just half a kilo underweight, but that the kart doesn’t comply. It should also be said that the imposition of an exclusion or any other penalty won’t be recorded on your licence for a technical offence and you won’t get any points either. Championship coordinators have to be very careful when writing technical and sporting regs to ensure that justice can be seen to be done without overly penalising minor errors. A case in point is a well meaning paragraph in one of the ‘05 championship regulations stating any technical infringement would result in a loss of points for the whole meeting and the obligation to count a zero score. With no leeway for the Clerk to exercise judgement on the appropriate penalty, a driver who came in underweight could find himself with no points for the meeting. The full implications have been pointed out to the organisers who have promised something different for 2006.
At this point the Eligibility Appeal can come into play. Having ticked the ‘do not agree’ box on the non-compliance form, you may appeal directly to the MSA via the meeting’s Stewards. The fee for this is in Appendix Z of the Blue Book. Once at the MSA, the Eligibility Appeal Panel will consider all aspects and adjudicate accordingly on the evidence presented from both sides. These appeals have operated with varying degrees of success from the drivers’ point of view in recent times, with a recent edition of Motorsports Now! giving two differing decisions on what appear to be identical problems. However, there must have been fundamental differences for the decisions to have been so different. The majority of the cases a Clerk will deal with involve driving incidents and here’s where the fun really starts. Many incidents are merely errors of judgement, ‘racing incidents’, where two drivers aiming for the same square foot of tarmac collide and go out of the race or get delayed. There are very few incidents where one driver takes out another in order to be rid of the menace in front but they do occasionally happen. Normally, there will be a report from an observer or Clerk that can be acted upon with both parties in the office. If the drivers are under 18, a signed-on parent or guardian (don’t forget the letter of authority for the guardian if a parent isn’t present) will be present in the proceedings. This is to protect the young person’s interests but if daddy has a rant, it can have quite the opposite effect. New legislation that effectively placed a contract between the parent and the MSA has stopped some of the parental craziness occurring, but, with the onset of red mist, we are often looking at damage limitation. The Clerk will outline the case from the observer and ask for comments from the drivers. The Clerk will then determine if an offence has been committed and, if so, the appropriate penalty. Some clerks look at the licence before deciding on the penalty, I don’t. I prefer the surprise! From time to time, one hears calls for greater consistency in decision making. All well and good but there are just too many variables involved for that to realistically happen. For instance, Clerks and Stewards work generally from an MSA booklet giving suggested penalties for different offences. There is what is called the datum (or set standard) penalty, followed by a list of suggested alternatives depending on mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Having heard all the evidence, the Clerk or Stewards will set off from the set penalty and determine whether any mitigating circumstances have been heard. This will reduce the penalty and mean less points on the all-important licence. On the flip side, any aggravating circumstances can end up in a fine as well as exclusion from the race or even the meeting. The Clerk’s decision will be communicated in writing and the driver will sign to receive the penalty, countersigned by an adult if the alleged offender is under 18. There will be occasions when, in the midst of a monumental six-way scrap for the lead, observers will miss an incident further back down the field. Aggrieved driver and dad are understandably miffed this has been missed. “After all, what are we paying you for?” is the general comment. Fair enough, but you can only see what you’re looking at and that’s generally the leaders as this is where most of the grief comes from. When Clerks and observers miss something, the onus is on the competitor to protest the other driver. It isn’t difficult to do and most Clerks will point you in the right direction, if you ask nicely. Start getting a bit stroppy and you’re basically on your own. The first thing you’ll need is a protest form. Contrary to popular belief, Clerks do not have a stash of these in their back pockets ready to dish out. The best person to ask will be the Competition Secretary or the MSA Steward, as both will have copies in the paperwork issued from the MSA. The Clerk will not. However, at the major national championships Clerks will probably have a supply somewhere, accrued over time.
This reminds me of a tale of one entrant who would persistently ask for protest forms which always came to nothing. Rumour has it the driver was asked to give some of the protest forms back as the championship had run out! Once you have your form, you’ll need to know the fee as no pay, no play. Again, a schedule of fees can be found in Appendix Z of the Blue Book. With most national championships the meeting has National A status and the fee is clearly marked. For the rest the fee will be that for a meeting below National A but with an MSA Steward. On some very odd occasions, a split permit meeting is run, so it is as well to ask the status of the class you are running in. The wrong fee can see your protest rejected. Once you have your protest filled in, the fee sorted and some witnesses lined up, you can submit your protest. Read this next bit very carefully. You can submit the protest or appeal to the Secretary of the Meeting as well as the Clerk of the Course. You don’t have to disturb the Clerk from his work. Once the Clerk has been informed of the protest, a suitable time and venue for the hearing will be arranged with both parties and they will have the chance to call witnesses. The hearing is a little like an informal magistrates court, but the realisation has to be that getting information out of all the witnesses is vital, sometimes a gentle touch is required for younger competitors. Juniors who have been coached beforehand are instantly recognisable, purely from the language used and the phrasing of their evidence. One parent a couple of years ago rolled his eyes to the heavens when number one sprog recited chapter and verse what daddy had schooled him in but obviously forgot the bit about putting it in his own words. In the end it didn’t matter as more conventional evidence backed up the, “I was proceeding in a westerly direction” spiel and the protest succeeded. The general rule of thumb is that if you win the protest, you get the fee returned, lose and you don’t. If you win the protest but have been stroppy throughout the proceedings, don’t expect to see the money again. Incidentally, don’t put in protests just for the fun of it. I had occasion a few years ago to threaten reporting a parent to the Stewards for putting in protests in bad faith after about the third one against the same driver in the same meeting! Timescales are important and also subtly different. If you want to protest against another driver, you have 30 minutes after the race in question finishes. If you are unsure about the results, you have 30 minutes after the results are posted. The latter timescale also applies to grids. If you wish to protest another kart on technical grounds, make that intention known before the kart leaves parc ferme and the investigation can commence straight away. If you wait until the kart is released, you risk losing on the grounds that the alleged dodgy component may have been changed after scrutineering and the kart may not be ‘as raced’. Video evidence. The Clerk may use it if he sees fit and if the video is under the control of the organising club. If it comes from someone’s handheld video camcorder, the Clerk can opt not to use it. I agreed to view video evidence once, with the protestor convinced it would make their case. It didn’t and upset them mightily when the protest was rejected. Once the Clerk has made his decision, it will be communicated in writing to the protestor. This just means that the penalty has been received, not that the driver accepts that penalty and the time set down for the decision becomes important. The clock starts ticking for any appeal when the decision is set down and any arguing the aggrieved party might do just eats into that time.
The Clerk doesn’t want to start discussing his decision as he may have to justify the thought processes to the Stewards later in an appeal. Appeals can only be made by a person directly affected by the Clerk’s original decision and should be lodged within 30 minutes of that decision, third party protests and appeals are no longer permitted. These can be quite good fun or very frustrating, or sometimes even both depending on the circumstances. Some years ago I had a decision appealed to the Stewards of the Meeting and was allowed to sit in after giving my evidence. What I heard and what the Stewards heard were two completely different things. I was asked by the Stewards if I would have convicted based on the evidence of the appeal and I was bound to say no, so the appeal succeeded. However the original evidence was considerably different to the appeal evidence. A quick word on Stewards’ meetings etiquette. Don’t swear in front of the Stewards. Some of these venerable gentlemen are magistrates and won’t allow it in court, even if they’ve heard it all before, so you won’t get away with it at the track either. They also have the power to remove your licence for up to 30 days there and then and your involvement in the meeting ceases. You can forget about racing under appeal. Your money will be accepted for a shot at a tribunal but you still won’t turn a wheel again for a month. Tribunals are an entirely different animal and generally take place in the boardroom at Colnbrook, home of the MSA. I’ve only been to one tribunal, an appeal against the Stewards of the Meeting upholding my original decision. Opening arguments were heard from both MSA and competitor before I was invited to give my evidence as Clerk. After we’d finished, the deliberations took an age before the verdict was read out from the written statement (obviously where the time had gone). A fairly straightforward case took about three hours. That’s how thorough it is. One final point. The perception is that most Clerks get a kick out of doing paperwork and penalising people. I’ve worked with quite a few up and down the country who don’t have that view at all. In fact, we’d much prefer to stay out of the office and watch some decent racing and people enjoying their competition. However, if those same people step over the line, then we will take action as we see fit. At club level, I see our role as educating as much as legislating but, if the education isn’t working, then other tactics need to be employed. At championship level, a certain level of skill and knowledge from the driver is assumed, so the emphasis will be less on education and more on legislation. There it is, a quick walk through of the judicial system. Please take the time to read Section ‘O’ of the Blue Book, it can be your friend as much as your enemy and it’s always best to know your enemy.
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!
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
Promoters of the newly launched MSA Bambino Kart Championship are keen for the series to be the safest and most reliable form of competition for youngsters ahead of a move up the ladder to MSA Cadet racing. Bambino is open to drivers aged between six and eight years old and will run to a time trial format rather than competitive racing. The championship, which will begin next year, will be promoted by the Zip Kart outfit which was set up in 1964 by karting legend Martin Hines. “Following the launch of the tender process for tyres and engines in 2012, and subsequent signing of them for this year, the Motor Sports Association has been very proactive,” said Zip Kart commercial director Dan Parker. “The class has also become closer and more popular. The aim of this championship is to be the genuine first step on the MSA ladder for drivers who can then move up into MSA Cadets at eight years old. But it has to be a step which is both safe and reliable. “In September, the MSA came round to the fact that many kids can race in Bambino karting but they’re going about it via non-MSA routes. This decision provides safety for Bambino drivers as well as parents and guardians.
It’s also the next level for the MSA.” Parker praised Bambino Kart Club founder Darren Beavers and Garry Walker, who set up the Bambino-focused Racing for Buttons initiative which teached youngsters the basics of karting. “Both have done an awful lot for the history of Bambino racing,” Parker added. “Darren will part of the new championship. Drivers of all ages want to race at circuits around the country and this series will be as much about developing social skills for the kids, as it will be about the competition. We have not entered into negotiations with any circuits, as we must wait for next year’s Super One and Little Green Man dates to be announced first.” Racing on consistently big grids with competitive drivers has been the key to Dean MacDonald’s success over the last few years, according to his dad Jonny.
The 13-year-old, who took the MSA British Cadet title in 2012, claimed the MiniMax title at the final Super One round of the season at PF International ahead of Alex Quinn. MacDonald Sr said the large grids have enabled the new champion to demonstrate his advanced skills. “It’s all about the racecraft,” he said. “Everybody can go fast, even in a bad kart if you slipstream, but racing is a different story. Dean has shown that this year. He’s had a hard upbringing with big grids from a young age. For a kid of only 13, he’s had to work hard but that effort is paying off.” MacDonald Sr said he plans for his son to continue in karting until at least 16 years old: “We’re over the moon but next year Dean will be back to Europe to take the EuroMax title. The plan is for him to go into cars but I believe in drivers serving their apprenticeship. He’ll move when he’s past 16 years old.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 7841 034192
The 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.
“At this late stage of announcement we would not see any Evo options in MSA racing for 2015 that are performance enhancing,” said ABkC secretary Graham Smith, “unless for evaluation purposes, and will work closely with the MSA to determine the best way forward for the competitor. The regulations will remain as per the 2015 Kart Race Yearbook as
published and the homologation fiche. We remain committed to supporting the UK drivers and watch with a keen interest to determine results from track testing.”
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