Debate 2016: 4-Cycle Bodywork – Full Nose vs. CIK

The battle continues to define the best route for 4-Cycle racing in the eastern half of United States

There is no doubt that every other post on social media is related in some way to the Presidential Election coming this November. It has been well over a year’s worth of people either debating, arguing or screaming at each in regards to the merits of their side, or how bad the other side is. In just one month, most of that will be gone and we can carry on with our regular social media lives that consist of looking a friend’s baby pictures or dinner choices, stalking former high school classmates, and keeping tabs on your co-workers’ crazy antics.

In the karting community, one debate that sparked up last week was the discussion regarding the latest decisions made by the World Karting Association Trustees in regards to the Gold Cup program in 2017. The minutes of the September 13 Meeting reflect a change in the class structure, along with a move to adopt the Manufacturers Cup Series chassis rules, including bodywork and seats. Over the last few months, the Gold Cup Competition Committee, working with the Trustees, have been trying to figure out what changes will help to steer the series in the best direction toward the future.

The meeting minutes have been brought to the attention of the many 4-Cycle racers around the country, specifically in the Briggs LO 206 Racers group on Facebook. As we have seen with the Briggs & Stratton Weekly Racing Series, there are well over 1,000 drivers in the Senior/Masters competition at those 40 tracks alone, who are all part of the growing points program. With many more facilities running the Briggs 206 package, the number of racers who are enjoying the simple ‘out of the box’ powerplant that puts the emphasis on the driver and the kart could double, and maybe even triple, in 2017.

Ben Wagenhals was a top runner in WKA Gold Cup LO206 racing all season (Double Vision Photography)

Gold Cup has been the last genre of sprint racing to include full nose bodywork (Double Vision Photography)

One item is similar between all those clubs and tracks – the Briggs 206 engine package. Briggs & Stratton ensures all tracks that sign up for their lucrative prize program are utilizing the Briggs 206 rules package for the engines. Kart tech, body styles and even tire selection is all up to the club or track, as long as they follow one of the major sanctioning body’s rules for the chassis.

Bodywork has been a topic since the introduction of the Briggs 206 category. This engine package has been the catalyst for rejuvenating the grassroots movement, helping to bring new people into the sport and bring back some elder drivers and even older karts. This includes old-style Gold Cup karts that once had the Briggs flathead engines bolted to their frame rails, or ‘used-up’ 2-cycle karts with CIK bodywork that work well with the lower HP 206. Clubs and tracks have been typically open to either type of karts competing, because why would you turn away people from a local race? After all, karting is just about going out and having fun while getting that fix for speed.

This is what the Briggs 206 #OpeartionGrassroots movement has created. The numbers in the Briggs WRS don’t lie. They’ve logged over 2,000 racers at 45 tracks across North America. We know there are at least double, if not triple, that amount running at sprint tracks between the United States and Canada, which only helps to grow the total numbers in the sport.

What we have not seen is a growth in numbers at the WKA Gold Cup program, the organization’s four-cycle national sprint series. Rather, the program has seen a decline in entries over the last year. And thus lies the question, what is wrong with the Gold Cup program or is there even a need for it any longer?

In my first 10 months as a WKA Trustee, I have received less than a handful of comments regarding the Gold Cup series from any members in my district. This could be simply due to the fact that there are just not enough racers in Michigan and Ohio who are racing the Gold Cup, or even care to race Gold Cup. It may be different for other Trustees. The one fact remains; numbers have been struggling and there has been no constructive criticism to help analyze why the numbers have been dropping year after year. Something needed to be done to shake things up and move the meter in the opposite direction.

The move to CIK bodywork is a move toward the future. Today, karts manufactured for sprint track racing are designed to carry the CIK bodywork. This is not about performance. It is not a witch-hunt to make fast drivers slower, or to promote slower drivers into becoming more competitive. It is about making the overall package of the WKA Gold Cup series more presentable. There was a time when 2-cycle karts had zero bodywork, same with 4-cycle. As bodywork was introduced, 2-cycle karts adopted the CIK style while 4-cycle went with something similar to what you see at the oval or road racing events. Eventually, 2-cycle karts were mandated to use CIK bodywork, which quickly became the norm.

Many who have been in the sport for a long time, such as myself, find it hard to understand why people are not hooked on the sport right away. For me, it’s been part of my life since the day I was born, so I find it difficult to understand what someone who has never seen a kart, or someone who has no idea the difference between full bodywork and CIK bodywork, actually thinks. For tracks looking to welcome new people to the sport, when you show them your class roster, for the new person it’s like looking at a menu printed in a different language. Remember, we are already in the sport, so we understand names like 206 Briggs Senior Medium, or Sprint Briggs Over 35.  Newcomers do not.

In order to make it simple and understandable, having the same style of karts helps to assist in understanding our sport easier. If all the karts look the same, it’s easier to identify the class by the engine type. Take the TaG explosion, for example. At its height, there were probably close to 10 different TaG engines promoted and on the market, competing at the club, regional and national level. It caused a lot of confusion for new racers as to the type of engine they should select, partly because all the engines were so diverse that on any particular day, track or series, one engine would stand out above the others.

Junior 2 Briggs 206 field

Everywhere west of the Mississippi River and north in Canada run strictly CIK bodywork (Photo: KPX Championship Series)

Thanks to the Briggs 206 engine, that part of the equation is simple. It’s the same engine from Kid Kart to Masters – with just a slight carburetion change depending on the age. This is very marketable, as we have seen over the last four years with numbers growing in the 206 categories.  This brings karting in line with stick and ball sports – the equipment is the same, it’s just the age of the participant that matters.

What the WKA is doing is no different than what the western half of the United States and Canada are doing. Out west and up north, the full nosecose is a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. Guys are pulling out old karts with CIK bodywork, and heading out to the racetrack. PGP Motorsports Park just hosted a huge Briggs event in the Pacific Northwest, while the Can-Am Karting Challenge had some of its best racing and drivers in the Briggs 206 classes this year. The KPX Karting Championship in Northern California is finally bringing local and regional racers together under one banner after some dismal years of poor numbers. They are averaging nearly 100 racers for their Briggs-only series. Tracks in Phoenix, Utah, Texas all are seeing growing numbers in their Briggs 206 classes. There is no complaining about rules, as they are all in similar karts, with the same brand of tires. As a result, they can just get in and go have a blast. We are starting to see that with the Margay Ignite program. The new track at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis offers the Ignite package, a spec chassis with the Briggs 206 engine. It’s the next progression from the track’s concession karts. Tracks are jumping on board with the Ignite program, giving them an easy progression into a true karting package at an affordable price.

Those on eastern side of the United States are still hanging onto the full plastic or fiberglass nose. I get it. I’ve road raced for a number of years. I still believe they are cool, however, the new karting consumers are just not digging it. If they did, we would be seeing more new karts with the full nose on the showroom floors. Comet Kart Sales, one of the busiest kart shops locally and online, which supports the largest club turnout for Briggs 206 racers at the New Castle Motorsports Park – does not even sell the full nose any longer.

The other side of the argument that I have heard and read centers on safety. I have yet to see true numbers as to why the full nose is safer than the CIK nose. I have attended over 18 events a year for over a decade, all across the country, and I can say that CIK bodywork has not ‘caused’ injury to a driver. Racing is a dangerous sport. Split-second decisions have to be made, sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don’t. I will say when at temporary circuits, hitting a wall is much easier with a full nose then CIK bodywork – I’ve done it twice and don’t recommend it. On the flip side, I continue to hear racing is rougher with the larger full nose than with a CIK nose. The larger the cushion, the harder the pushin’ is what I’ve been told. Bodywork, in general, allows for contact to happen, unlike the racing we saw before bodywork was put on karts. Those days, as the karting elders will tell anyone who will listen, drivers had to respect one another as the only thing stopping the kart from hitting the tire on the kart in front of you was your feet. CIK is part of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). I believe their testing regarding bodywork and safety for karts is rigorous enough to be trusted.

Margay Ignite K3

Margay is among the first to offer CIK bodywork for their 4-Cycle models, including the growing Ignite package

The negative is this: people will have to go out and buy new bodywork. That’s true, but as we have seen, all the karts manufactured today are designed to carry the CIK bodywork, and that includes the American-made manufacturers. If you look at the WKA Constructors Championship, there are seven karts that have won in the three Gold Cup events in 2016 – Arrow, Coyote, Razor, Ionic Edge, Bandit, Comet Eagle, MGM. ALL seven are available with CIK bodywork. That means the manufacturers have the easy solution for you to convert with little trouble.

Bodywork aside, the deeper issue is why are people just not going to the Gold Cup program. Is there a perception that the series is biased? Why is a program that was so prestigious no longer thought of by the prominent shops in the sport today? Do Briggs 206 racers even want to travel longer distances to four events, or are they just happy to stay at home and race locally?

My opinion on the bodywork is this: let anything go for the Pro Gas categories. Leave those categories alone to open bodywork, as they are somewhat of a ‘builder’ class. Mandate CIK bodywork in the 206 classes. Moving forward, should this have been implemented with a timeline to allow competitors the opportunity to judge, provide feedback and give time to make the change?

Sure.

This is a move toward the future, and this change can help to get everyone racing on a Briggs 206 on the same page across the country and throughout North America. Since I’ve been in the sport, that was one of the biggest complaints I heard with the rules between WKA, IKF, SKUSA, etc. With WKA moving to CIK bodywork mandate, it makes engine and kart rules all the same across the board.

Can you imagine having a North American Karting Championships event each year, bouncing back and forth between the United States and Canada. Maybe have it like an open championship providing all the age groups, racing to be the champion of North America. Something we have not seen since WKA hosted a similar event with the CIK in Charlotte back in the 1990s and 2000s.

However, the Gold Cup series is in need of a change, and this is part of it. More is in the works in regards to how to make it more prestigious and to help benefit the local and regional racers in 4-cycle racing. It will just take a matter of time to see if this new era is a positive move, or if it will be the final nail in the coffin for national 4-cycle racing in WKA.

In part two of my Debate 2016 series, I will look at the laydown seat versus the CIK seat.


Life is short, have fun!

David Cole
eKartingNews.com Managing Editor
@DavidColeEKN

5 thoughts on “Debate 2016: 4-Cycle Bodywork – Full Nose vs. CIK

  1. Nice article Dave. First let me say we started karting in the 4 cycle classes and won several Gold Cup championships. We have since raced both the WKA Man Cup, and USPKS series, and still race an occasional 4 cycle race locally. We’ve raced the full bodies, and we’ve race the CIK body, and we’ve raced both on 4 cycle karts. I think you touched on two key points of why it’s best for all of sprint karting to move to the CIK bodywork. In a word, perception.
    1. Perception for those new to karting – The fewer choices that need to be made and the removal of the fear that they might buy the wrong thing is more likely to make a new person jump in with both feet. And I would bet that 8 out of 10 people who never looked at a kart would say a well done CIK kart looked better to them than a well done full body.
    2. Perception for those already in karting – Let’s face it, as racers we look for excuses as to why we can’t be competitive. Usually we resort to those excuses before resorting to trying to make our kart work better. A prime example of this ocurred at our local (.26 mile) track this past weekend at an endurance event. We had one team (who’s 3 members have been racing at our track for 50+ years combined) who were on a full body kart. The rest of the field were on european karts with CIK bodywork, and all of them were racing at the track for the first time. As one would expect the experienced team won the race by several laps. After the race all the CIK drivers complained that they were at a disadvantage because of the bodywork. Nevermind that just 2 weeks before my son won a race on his CIK shod FA, against an entire field full-bodied karts on the same track in the same class. IMHO, if you want the big fields that everyone cites as their #1 wish, removing the “body excuse” is the first place to start. I do want to add, that at big tracks (ie. Jacksonville, Newcastle, etc) that we tested CIK and full coverage back to back, and there is an advantage with the big nose. Mostly we found that we could “draft up” to the karts in front of us with ease with the big nose. Many times with the CIK we’d start a run up to the bumper and then stall out. So at big tracks I think perception may, in fact, be reality.

    As for the entire Gold Cup question. It’s my feeling that WKA should do away with Gold Cup, and add the 206 classes to the Man Cup line up much like they did with the Winter Cup series. If we get everyone on the same bodywork and seats I think we could see those huge fields again, and a true national 4 cycle series that would actually mean something.

  2. Great article David. I agree with everything but the part about safety. I personally don’t need data to understand that open wheel (cik) leads to more people landing on their expensive “lids” than a full body. Imagine if Indy cars raced each other on short tracks like NASCAR. The argument is always that people ram each other more with the full body. The same argument has been hashed out repeatedly regarding the full width cik bumper.

    I’m for cik bodywork and getting everyone unified. Let’s just drop the safety talk because common sense should be all the data we need. I don’t think karting is unsafe in general so it’s not a concern for me. I’ve been injured far worse playing football and basketball growing up than 24 years of karting.

    Look forward to the next article!

  3. After a hiatus of 18 years, I decided to get back into karting this past Spring. My time in racing began on dirt ovals in the late 80’s before spending the next 10 years street racing in the Midwest ending my career by opening a dirt oval in the late 90’s. I have always raced 4 cycles and so I read David’s comment on CIK vs. full bodywork with great interest. One of the biggest differences I see in todays 4 cycle racing versus the 1990’s and earlier, is the absence of many older drivers (40 plus). I used to race against several guys that were in their 40’s and 50’s and remember two fine racers who were in their 70’s. From my own perspective, as a 52 year old that decided to give it a go once again, I believe the full body work & laydown seat (David has future article planned on this topic) are two developments in modern 4 cycle racing which I don’t care for and I suspect others my age may consider them deterrents also. From a practical standpoint, they make it harder to get in and out of the kart and the full body work seems to promote more aggressive driving when compared to a number panel and a small CIK-like front nose piece.

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