Behind the Laptop: If I Had a Million Dollars…

How would winning the lottery change the sport of karting for you?

First off, welcome to the 2013 season. It’s going to be another exciting year of karting across the continent and all around the globe. We’ve already seen a number of great races take place in the first three months of the year, out West at the Rotax Challenge of the Americas and in the Southeast at the Florida Winter Tour. While the weather up north may not signify the beginning of Spring, it will be warm before we know it and everyone will be taking their new karts, new engines and new safety gear out for their debut at tracks across the country. I know I can’t wait for the snow to melt away and for Spring to be here in Michigan.

During my January trip to the Winter Kart Show in Springfield, Illinois, I had plenty of road time to think to myself (over 10 hours to be exact). Down I-94 and across on I-80 under Chicago, I saw numerous billboards for the Powerball Lottery, which was over $120 million to win and now it’s nearly up to $300 million. So, much like a lot of people in the country, I put in a few bucks for a ticket here and there. But it got me to think, what would I do with that money?

Obviously, I’d take care of my family and friends first – a couple houses, maybe a few cars, money for college for the kids and probably some small investments – nothing too crazy. With that amount of money though, what’s left to spend it on? For me, as long as my wife and family were supported for the rest of their lives, I’d INVEST it in karting.

As many of you know, I just have a passion for the sport. Born into it, I consider myself a karting ‘lifer’ and when given the chance to do something different, I’ve turned it down. The karting industry in the United States is formed off this same passion, as are its organizations.

My first ‘moves’ would be to purchase my home tracks – Grattan Raceway and Ravenna Motor Park – both being located just outside Grand Rapids. I’d keep the RMP facility just like it is, true grassroots karting. Grattan Raceway would be a complete motorsports park, including the unique two-mile road course and motocross track already there, and I’d build a state-of-the-art karting facility that matches the course and amenities that we are seeing now across the country. My goal would to build two strong club levels, to rebuild a solid foundation for the sport of karting in Michigan. Of course, since you can only race about six months out of the year in Michigan, I’d purchase or buy-into a facility somewhere in the south to be able to race 12 months out of the year.

Next, I would step in to support the organizations, and help build the sport toward a legitimate form of motorsports in the eyes of the general public. The sport has deep history in the United States, and I’d like to keep tradition going while moving forward as the sport continues to reinvent itself year after year. There is always talk about creating one national organization for the sport and, with the money, that’s what I would do. I’d merge the International Kart Federation, World Karting Association, and Superkarts! USA under one banner, form a national licensing system and work together with as many karting facilities as possible.

The three major organizations all have their own unique history, and all can work together with a common goal of growing and supporting the sport – in all forms, be it dirt oval, pavement oval, sprint, and road racing. The IKF Duffy and the WKA Eagle are two trophies that would stay within the sport – possible using IKF to manage the oval racing across the country, and WKA to keep with the grassroots of sprint tracks and road racing. SKUSA continues on, supporting the TaG and shifterkart area of the industry.

One major asset to having one unified organization for the sport is a national licensing system. Much like the major motorsports sanctioning bodies, and what we see in CIK-FIA, the entire sport under this new program would monitor each and every driver, at all levels. This would help newcomers enter the sport in the correct path, establishing a solid ladder system within the sport that promotes the drivers who possess the ability to advance up to the faster categories. A licensing system would not only help the different series in the sport understand each and every driver racing in their program, it would help build the club level back up as drivers would be forced to build up a resume before moving on to the regional and national level.

Another perk of forming a national organization would be the ability to put a core class structure in place. The goal of a national class structure would be to ensure racers across the country have the ability to race anywhere at a sanctioned track. My ideal concept would be based around eight categories, with classes within those categories based on age. Each of the three sanctioning bodies (IKF, WKA, and SKUSA) would see rules hand-picked from each to be included in this new endeavor. Below is a map of what I’d like to see implemented in sprint racing:

LO206 4-Cycle Open Yamaha 100cc Open TaG Unlimited Stock Moto Shifter
Kid Kart Senior/Master Rookie Junior Rookie Senior/Master S5 Open
Cadet Cadet Senior/Master Cadet S4
Junior Junior Junior S3
Senior/Master Senior/Master Senior S2
Master S1

The LO206 engine is the perfect entry level engine package for beginners, and is even a great place to race for the experienced karters. Here at EKN, we plan on producing some editorial about the engine package, as it is now the official 4-Cycle engine under ASN Canada rules, and growing around tracks in the United States. All other 4-Cycle engines – such as the full built Animal, World Formula, Honda, and others would fall under the Open category to allow competitors the ability to play with engine modification. For 2-Cycle racing, the Yamaha has been the clear-cut engine of choice for the past three decades. While others have been brought in and manufactured, the numbers always lean toward the Yamaha powerplant. Much like the LO206, it’s simplistic when compared to TaG and Shifterkarts engines, so it’s a great progression up the ladder, both in speed and what it takes to race every weekend. Other 100cc powerplants would be mixed into one Open category, unless a better formula to mix multiple engines can work.

The TaG and Stock Moto lineups would fall under what Superkarts! USA currently provide. The formula for the engines permitted in SKUSA racing seem to be the right combination with the current products available. Having the Unlimited class allows a place for new engines to be tested and measured under race conditions, rather than dyno or other figures. Stock Moto racing continues to grow and is the best thing for six-speed karting. While the KZ and modified moto engines are still relevant and being produced, an Open shifter category can work at the regional and club level.

Looking at national and regional programs, I’d love to see the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour continue as the TaG and shifterkart leader. From there, I think a national series with Yamaha and LO206 would be the next level, something similar to the Rolex Grand-Am and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. While they may not race at the same locations and the same weekends, both programs would serve as the elite series for their categories. What if there was a SuperNationals like event on the east coast for LO206 and Yamaha racers.

These are just some ideas of what I’d like to do, should I land those lucky seven numbers in the lottery one day. I would like to think that many who eat and breath this sport as I do, would do the same and invest back into the sport to take it to the next level. And before you say, “I like it the way it is”, I’m not saying it doesn’t have to change for everybody, but rather unite everyone as I feel we do here at EKN. Be sure to let us know what you think and what your opinions are in the Discussion Thread.

Life is short, have fun!

David Cole Managing Editor

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