Behind the Laptop: Weight a Minute!
Welcome to 2023 everyone! I’m excited to begin covering my 19th season of karting here in the United States and around the world. A lot has changed in the sport since the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 when I began my tenure as Managing Editor of EKN. Thankfully, for the most part, the sport remains the same, the purest form of motorsports and truly the best family sport there is.
My passion for our sport is immeasurable as a life-long karter, having been around karting since the day I was born. This near 44-year journey has provided me with the opportunity to see the sport in many different viewpoints. As a driver’s son, a racer myself, a race promoter/event worker, and of course, as a journalist for nearly two decades. Along the way, I’ve had the pleasure to take in many opinions on a vast list of topics from many involved in the sport. Add to that my mathematics degree and my need to have things in order, I like to view things with simplicity and facts.
And with that, I’d like to dive into the first hot topic of the season – Weight and Age grouping.
Superkarts! USA confirmed the replacement of X30 Master with KA100 Master class for the 2023 season, both at the Winter Series and Pro Tour. Days later, it was announced they would be updating the class structure to allow drivers 21 years of age and older to compete with the exception that they must weigh – with racing gear – at least 200 lbs. These drivers’ competition minimum weight is also 400 lbs. with kart – which is 10 lbs. heavier than the drivers 30 years and older.
This sparked a great deal of discussion on our EKN Facebook post of the announcement. Many of the topics included the definition of Master age, why heavier, younger drivers should or should not race with Master drivers, how the term ‘Senior’ has shifted to just being young kids, etc.
Here are some facts.
- The United States Pro Kart Series has allowed drivers ‘15 and older if driver is 200 lbs.’ in their Masters class since 2018.
- ROK Cup USA allows drivers at 190 lbs. regardless of age to compete in both ROK Master, ROK Master Shifter and ROK Master VLR in 2023.
- Rotax, in the past, allowed drivers to compete in the Masters category regardless of age if at 180lbs. or heavier.
This update is nothing new in the sport of karting. It allows the option for a driver who may be in the higher range of driver weight to compete in a class AND be competitive. There has always been the argument that karting has too many classes and this solves a small problem for a little percentage of the sport. We really have not had issues with this rule across the last two decades that it has been implemented.
My biggest problem is the actual weight at which we have the karting classes set, not only in Master categories, but across the board.
Let’s begin with the Master category. At the 390 lb. minimum that we saw during the SuperNationals for KA100 Master, majority of karts on the grid had weight added to their chassis to make the minimum weight. That’s only five pounds less than X30 Master which utilizes a radiator filled with water. It’s the same for the CKNA Grand Nationals in their Master class that is at 390 lbs. for a Briggs 206 powerplant. A 215 lb. driver must add at least 20 lbs. to make the minimum weight.
The same can be said across the board for weights regarding other categories. For many, they are too high for where they need to be. To help solve that issue, I really feel that organizations need to ‘reset’ the minimum weight either at the beginning of the season or each event. This is a measurement that does not have to be standardized year after year but can be fluid based on the actual drivers who are competing in either that particular event or series in the competition year.
Example: This weekend is the SKUSA Winter Series program opener at the AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex presented by MG Tires. Beginning with either the final session of unofficial practice on Thursday or the official practice on Friday, first round of the day. Weigh each driver based on the current set minimum weight, record the driver’s weight and the amount of ballast added to their kart. Take the data to find a median or average to better adjust the minimum weight.
Numbers don’t lie, and using those who are at the race weekend helps to better gauge where minimum weights should be. Now, I’m not saying pull 20 pounds off the minimum right away, but if 10 pounds can be taken off the majority of the karts on the grid, start there.
Is this a perfect solution? No. However, I feel we need to base the minimum weights on those drivers who are THERE, in the seat of the karts. This procedure could be best at the club level. Those weights utilized at the national or regional level may not fit what is safe or welcomes more drivers at the club level.
Safety should be the #1 factor when looking at the weight and not utilized for a performance factor. Many times we see organizations adding weight to ‘slow’ down the karts. Rather, why not develop or change the tire compound, or adjust the power performance of the engine. On the other side, there needs to be a way to review drivers moving up to the next class based around size and weight, in addition to age. Not all drivers are created the same, be it talent level or built the same in terms of body size and weight.
We as a sport need to move away with having more than 30-40 lbs. on a kart in terms of safety. If that means a driver stays in Cadet, or Junior for another year past their age limit, why not! It’s better than the family calling it quits, going away from the sport because they do not wish to go through seats like toilet paper due to the amount of weight on the kart. Too many of our Cadet and Junior karts are loaded with ballast, be it Swift, ROK, Rotax or Briggs.
Looking to the future, could there be a way to enforce a driver to meet the minimum age AND the minimum driver weight in order to compete? I don’t see why not.