No right answers, no wrong answers.
I love the concept of trying to get the kids into it, but after almost 30 years around the sport, it doesn’t work, especially these days. As said before, the best kids want to move on to cars, and seem to quit racing altogether if they don’t make it. A lot of the kids racing “like” it, but don’t truly “love” it or “live for” it. When mom and dad stop paying for it, they’re done, and most don’t miss it that much. Even the ones who do love it and live for it, can’t afford it on their own, and have no choice but to get out of it until they can afford it later in life (i.e. I’m describing myself).
As great as it sounds to focus on the kids, very few of them will be racing karts when they’re adults. What I’m saying is don’t ignore the kids, but as a sport we have to be realistic about what history has proven. The best chance to get racers we’ll keep is by focusing on the mid-20’s and older group. These are the guys who decide on their own to do it, meaning they’re doing it because they have a passion for racing, and it’s safe to assume they’ll always have some money to continue to pursue it.
As far as the “top down” or “bottom up” focus, I think it needs to be BOTH working together, not just one of the two.
The good of “bottom up” is that you serve your immediate area’s market in the short term. The bad of the “bottom up” is that each market ends up with a different solution, which creates the fragmentation we have in the sport, that only seems to be getting worse.
The reverse is true for the “top down”. The good of “top down” is you eliminate a lot of the fragmentation, while the bad is you might not understand the uniqueness of each market.
Where I think it needs to come together is that we need the “czar” or strong organization at the top to communicate with the groups below, keep the politics out of it, and set a sensible direction that all the local clubs and tracks can buy into. And yes, licensing can make sense, even at the club level.
Others have said it before, but the models followed in dirt bike racing, and snowmobile racing have ensured minimal fragmentation, where each has a strong governing organization at the top with a relatively simple and sensible formula to allow the local groups to thrive.
Make no mistake, SKUSA is strong because there is a czar controlling things. The only problem is that SKUSA is about the high end customer, and Shifters and TAG aren’t the base of club racing.
In my opinion, the worst thing to ever happen to the sport was Rotax Max, which led to the Leopard, then the ROK, then Easykart, and all this TAG mess throughout North America, and the fragmentation it has created. The CIK then didn’t help by introducing the cluster that was KF, which left no alternative to the TAG mess for anyone who wanted a faster 2-stroke.
The biggest problem with the TAG mess is these engines cost a lot, so it won’t be easy to get people to shelf their $3500-4000 TAG engine(s) for the long-term betterment of the sport as a whole. Until we’re willing to do that, I think we’re screwed.
If I was the czar, I’d have L206 Cadet, Junior, Senior Light, and Senior Heavy. Great, cheap, simple, competitive, and fun engine package. This would be the base, and nobody can dispute it’s value to clubs’ growth. (4 classes)
For the recreational 2-cycle guy, I’d offer a single KT100 class, at a Heavy weight. Where I don’t know what you do, is for the serious 2-cycle guy. KF sucks. What I’d want is a return to ICA/JICA at a light weight. What I’d probably have to settle for until the CIK comes up with something good, is to settle for TAG (which sucks). Give weight breaks to different engine packages, and let guys have 4 different engines if they want them – after all, they’re the serious guys. You don’t like it, run the KT100. (5 classes – 2 at senior level, 2 at junior, KT only for cadet)
Then do 3 shifter classes. 1) Stock Honda Light and Masters/Heavy – like it or not, it has been good. And “open”, which basically means KZ, at a light weight. No junior shifters. There’s just not enough juniors running them, even at the SKUSA level, to make it a “must have.
12 classes total. At the club level, run as:
Group 1 – L206 and KT100 Cadet (combined)
Group 2 – L206 Jr and KT Jr (combined)
Group 3 – L206 Senior Light and Heavy and KT Sr (3 classes combined)
Group 4 – Junior TAG
Group 5 – Senior TAG
Group 6 – Shifters (all 3 combined)