I agree a lot with what Patrick is saying here, he knows my son, who is 12, and has raced with him in shifters. Typically at our club the Jr, Sen & Master classes are all running together. In a short time he has developed a lot of respect from many of the senior and master drivers.
HOWEVER, Frankly I recognize and I feel most of you would agree that he is still a novice. The ability to wheel a kart and race it are two entirely different things, both are developed through experience. This is true regardless of age.
Developing driving skills, at any age is about seat time and my son certainly gets a pile of it, this weekend alone, he did 267 laps at our track in three different karts, S5, Tag Jr & and LO 206. In 9 months he has probably made more laps than some of our older drivers make in many, many years.
Developing race craft skills however is a lot harder. Frankly the boy is able to qualify the kart way ahead of where he is able to race it and he and I, and I hope our more mature club members, recognize that. Developing race craft comes from racing and it has to be meaningful racing. Again that holds true for the 12 year old novice AND the 30 year old novice!
The problem gets further compounded when running the different classes together, The juniors may be fast in the in-field and the seniors will be able to drive by them down the straight. Yes we have had a few issues with the boy running up the back of a senior mid corner, “Dad he parked the car on the Apex! ” Apologies then ensue. However when he passes the same senior 2 or 3 times on the infield and the senior then drives by him down the straight each lap, he and I both take that as a declaration that that senior is quite happy to go race him, two corners later he will right back on him trying to get past.
Race craft comes from racing, no where else, and my boy will run multiple classes at local events and will also run regional and National events this year to continue developing those skills. I will as I have always done coach him to avoid contact and would certainly never condone deliberate contact. This should be the goal for all classes and all ages. I frankly believe that if you are racing, regardless of how old you are, or how long you have been doing it, your race craft should be continually developing and improving, isn’t that part of the point in doing it?
From the above discussion I feel that what most people are concerned about is that they feel most junior drivers do not have the experience or maturity to have developed good race craft or good judgement and will cause foolish and unnecessary contact. I disagree that this is an age dependent issue, there are many youngsters that have better judgement than some people twice their age!
In my opinion the issue of poor race craft and unnecessary contact is a race experience and race directing, issue that can bee seen across all age groups in our sport. Where I feel we are falling down is we frequently have contact that we do nothing about, where there is no discussion following the incident with the race director and certainly no explanation to the driver of what he did wrong.
Until we start doing this and perhaps assessing a points or position penalty for causing unnecessary contact then we will continue to have this issue!
I know it takes time during the event but frankly I believe every incident should be discussed between the race director and the drivers involved!