November 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm #37020
I know there have been a lot of discussions about the state of our sport in recent years. As a family that entered the sport in 2011, we never got to experience the “good old days” and these days it seems like karting is in a constant state of war with itself.
As the season winds down in the Northeast and I start planning where my son will compete in 2015, I’m faced with the same problems I faced a year ago and still have no clear answer. Like last year, I eagerly await the release of rules packages to see where our set-up will fit.
In 3 1/2 years, we have gone from Yamaha to HPV to PRD to X30. When it came time to get a top-of-the-line TaG package, the research I did pointed to the IAME X30 (the “new” Leopard). My hope was that we would finally stop seeing increasingly diminishing fields.
As 2015 comes into view, Nationally and even Regionally, it seems our choices are: we can run our engine in small fields in series X, add 85lbs. and get permission to run in a “Pro” class in series Y, or buy yet another engine. SKUSA seems to have a few of the problems figured out on the West Coast but on the East Coast, it feels like a mess to me.
My question is this: If human beings can land a rocket on a comet, why can’t we figure out how to run different engines against each other consistently? It’s not the fault of the owner of 2 good Leopards or the owner of 2 good X30s that their paths have led them to that particular engine.
It seems to me that we all yearn for high kart counts, great competition and, most importantly, time with our families and friends at the track. You can’t please everyone but with all of the competing interests beating each other up, it feels like the sport is pleasing fewer and fewer people every day.
I won’t even get started on unnecessary expenses (coughnewtireseverydaycough :)
November 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm #37021
As a long timer in the sport told me not so long ago, “Hey now, stop making sense, remember this is karting!”
November 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm #37022
“Competing Interests”, is a key issue. The lack of a strong governing body, replaced by many entities with their own business or self-interests, often at conflict with each other, and this is what you get.
Not that a strong governing organization would fix everything. Then all of the wrangling, fighting and political maneuvering would happen within that body, like it has in the past.
Anyone who still says “it’s the economy” is looking for excuses. Is it still a factor? Yes. But that is just a cover-up to the fact that the sport in many of its aspects is simply messed up.
November 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm #37027
time with our families and friends at the track
That sir is the most important part about the sport. This is, after all, a hobby. To be in this sport for over 30 years now, that is what you have to fall back on. If it is no longer fun and your family is not pulling on your shirt on Wednesday, asking if they can go to the track now instead of Saturday, then maybe its time to step away.
Unfortunately, that can be the issue for people entering the sport. People are caught up in the results side, and what speeds you reach, and step further away from the real meaning of the sport.
Now, regarding class structure, the industry is moving more and more toward single engine categories. Why, because of the example you stated. It is becoming too costly to have 3 different engines for certain tracks you go to, or to make a certain weight. There is no magic formula to make engines equal, it is the nature of motorsports.
In your area, the Northeast Rotax Max Challenge is very strong, as is the Northeast Shifterkart Series. Depending on the age of your son, I’d look into those regional programs. Otherwise, keep going to the club track and enjoy the weekend with the family, creating your own ‘good ole days’
November 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm #37029
David – I think you misunderstood my point. I’m looking for more places to race, but because of the combination of my son’s age and engine restrictions it is getting more difficult to find decent fields. When you restrict a class to just Leopards it excludes people. Maybe not many, but it excludes people. It seems like you have to go to Vegas to see full fields.
Family time is precisely why I love Karting. I wish we had started when my son was much younger (So does he :)).After a weekend at the track I’m counting the minutes until we get back. The wins and championships are nice but I look forward to the drive to the track more than I do the race itself. That time with my son is something I’ll cherish forever. I know I’m not the only father putting himself in the poorhouse to buy as many of those moments as I can.
I was warned early on (perhaps unjustifiably) that Rotax was a money pit, with too much variance in motor quality, and my son is a few years away from shifters. When I read that IAME wanted to eventually phase out the Leopard in favor of the improved performance of the X30 I figured the choice was obvious.
My point here is to ask if there really is no way to balance the performance of two or three engine types so you don’t need an arsenal of engines for Local, Regional and National racing. If I have to add 15lbs I will, but just let us race.
November 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm #37036
If you want fields of 40, the only events you are going to see that are the SuperNationals and the Rotax Grand Nationals. 30 is a solid number for Rotax Challenge of the Americas, Florida Winter Tour, and the United States Pro Kart Series. Regional level, 20 is a good number for a field. Sometimes, I would prefer a solid group of 10 drivers to race against, if I know I have to be at my best to record a top result.
Motorsports cost money, as i am sure you have seen. Rotax, IAME, Rok, Shifter, Yamaha…it doesn’t matter what you pick, your going to spend money. You can race Rotax at a reasonable budget, you just have to do your homework, just like any other engine.
To please the masses, there really is no way to balance the performance of all these powerplants. It’s been tried for the last 15 years. Early on, it was simple. Now, with the advancement in technology, the tires, the chassis combinations, the consensus is multiple engine format does not work. Even Yamaha and KPV together was an issue, and they are both 100cc. It’s the nature of the beast.
November 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm #37045
I think that a BIG part of the problem is the recent power plants that have been offered to us(mostly by the Euro’s), have not been suitable for the Club racer here in the U.S. I think the folks in Australia have been having the same issue and are now in the process of attempting to get a motor that will suit the needs of the masses. Tags are too costly to maintain and operate, and are too complex for the average weekend warrior. And to some extent, they may be overpowered for many tracks and age groups. Yamaha’s and KPV’s are too unreliable , as they are a pita to start and tune. The 4 cycle’s like the LO206 have gained a lot of traction, but for many of us, there is just nothing like a 2 stroke for racing. Maybe this new Iame KA 100 cc Reed Jet will help the situation.
November 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm #37047
Your title for this post fits very well. altho its not just a new thing happening, the trend has been growing for at least the last decade.
Personally I guess I have reached “old fart” status, but thats not always a bad thing. I’ve always raced, starting with cars in the late 60’s. We started karting, first in ’83 with my wife, followed shortly by 2 kids. Both kids still do it today, mostly Road Racing. Wife and one son also race Snowmobiles in winter and have family business building small 4 stroke engines for the 120 classes. Sorry for the long intro, but theres a point. Karting is the only racing form I know of where the sport is not governed by one strong national org. Think about that, anyone can come in, start their own series, choose or limit the engines they want and run it anyhow they wish. Often of course this is controlled by a certain brand or limited to certain products I think we can all see the business reasons for something like this.
Ok big country, maybe thats not so bad, but heres what I think is missing.
First, In everything else we’ve been involved with, theres a limited set of classes or should I say engines used. There is restricted versions etc for kids but the choices are limited and they are stable. Easy enough to see the cost control of this, but theres a second part, and to me its what keeps karting from ever being a serious form of recognized racing. We have no single National Champions in anything we do. We have hundreds of them, every class, every series,every age group, every engine make, all have their own champions. I seriously doubt most of the best racers never face the rest of the champions.There is no one class where the best race.
Most other things we’ve been through offer a range of engine and class choices. Many racers never choose to go beyond the beginers or mid range level, but every race offers a National level where it has its pro class. Not everyone can simply enter these class, they are not cheap, most everything is modified, which is where the money comes from, and you have to qualify 16 – 20- 30 make the field, the rest come back next race and try to make it.
I know that sounds pretty harsh to many people, but its also why we have no big time sponsors or TV coverage, no money in our sport. Everytime someone is unhappy with something, they start a new series and everyone considers “their” series as the one that really counts, the others aren’t as good, or as tough.
Their is no one, major, Pro series in karting which is what would give us a true karting Champion.
November 14, 2014 at 6:43 am #37071
Kirt, a few years ago this thread would have had 7 pages by now. I do agree. Karting now is a spec one engine sport. Not as much because you can’t get different engines to run together but much more because each club, series or promoter wants you to run the engine that they are importing. Its going to kill the sport. Stock Honda, IAME cup, Rok Cup, Rotax. Even clubs pick the engines they want to sell. Every engine has its little pocket of the USA. Its just ridiculous and there is no fix now. It’s now very hard to take your engine and go run a regional event like it was in the past. I now run roadracing which is become the place were the wide variety of engines end up.
My son is now 8 and really I should have him in Karting. Being a karter myself that would make sense to have him in a kart by now. But Motocross is were he is. I would like to get him karting but the ease of motocross and the family aspect of it has karting beat so badly its hard to imagine. But motocross will get more and more dangerous has he gets into bigger bikes so the switch to karting is in the future. We will see how it goes but having him run the Supernats someday would be a blast.
November 14, 2014 at 10:14 am #37079
I would love to have my son try a SKUSA race but we’re not funded for that big of a trip yet. They seem to have a pretty solid class structure and direction for the future.
There are a lot of politics in the sport and I guess that’s inevitable. When I asked why we run new Bridgestone tires each day in the WKA races (and I do understand it’s “optional”), only to be told that Bridgestone pretty much mandates it in return for their sponsorship, I was pretty surprised. An obvious way to cut $220 off of most weekend racing tabs is out of the question because Bridgestone gives a few dollars for each entry. How about instead of selling 18 people two sets of tires you sell 36 people one set?
As for kart counts. Every racer wants competition. The biggest field we’ve ever had at a national race is around 18 karts, regional race-12 and local-10. There is another series that has higher counts, and from everything I hear it’s run very well, but my son isn’t 30 and I’d have to put his sister in the seat with him to make weight at 405.
There are going to be a variety of chassis and different series’ will use different tires but the engine problem seems like it could be fixed with a few drivers, one test weekend and some lead.
It feels like the sport could be a little more user friendly. If it was maybe we could all stop talking about where all of the racers have gone every week.
November 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm #37102
“If human beings can land a rocket on a comet, why can’t we figure out how to run different engines against each other consistently?”
Because we designed the rocket to land on a comet.
The TaG engines were never designed to race against each other. It would be like us trying to land a cement truck on a comet, a job it was never designed for. They’ve been working on achieving parity across the engines for like 15 years as David mentioned. It will never happen. They powerbands are just too different for them to be equal on all tracks. Some tracks suit one engine over the other, and when you go to the next track, it could be the other way around. And it isn’t all about pace, sometimes engine X and engine Y both turn the same lap time but everyone favors engine X because it’s powerband allows it to race better in a pack.
And of course the interests and conflicts with series and tires and engines as well is all valid reason to get fed up with the class as well.
TaG needs to be a single-make class to be successful currently. If you are going to do a multi-engine class, the manufacturers need to all be handed specs and told to build to that spec. The current crop of engines will never compete fairly on every track.
We’ve been running Leopard almost exclusively for the past 7 years in series all over the country and it’s be relatively competitive at most tracks.
I’m not trying to totally pin the blame on you Kirt because I too have been in the TaG game for years and have faced the same frustrations, but I think you just need to put your eggs in one basket and say, this is what we are racing, rather than jumping from engine to engine.
Or you could avoid ALL this and just go back to Yamaha like I am next year.
How old is your kid and how big is he? USPKS has a great program going right now and I’m sure he fits well into their class structure.
November 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm #37105
I agree with TJ here, but I think the reason it doesn’t work in karting is its sold often as a “spec” engine package even tho many people have theirs blueprinted. There was a class in the 4 cy world call F200 5 brands, it stared out as stock engines, and they were not competative at all. They came up with a genaric set of rules all had to meet, CC limit, carb size,Compression,cam lift and duration that you built all engines to. Suddenly, any or all could be players
Snowmobile racing is exactly the same, both kids and adults have their top levels where all 4 brands race together. Rules keep them equal and all 4 manufacturers are players in the same race.
Take Komet and KT100. 100 cc piston port engine. Give them the same carb set port dementions, spec compression and give them a spec or open pipe. Why wouldn’t that work with a 125 engine also? It always did in sleds, MotoX quads and bikes etc, many brands all race together, always did.
Its just so sad to see whats happening to this sport
November 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm #37106
TJ – My son is making the transition to Sr after our last club race this Sunday. He turns 16 in two weeks. We raced WKA this year and fit well into their Jr. program, but the problem is the classes are getting smaller as many people have fled for USPKS. The way I read the USPKS class structure we have to come in at 405 lbs. with the X30. That’s an 85lb add. Either that or I have to force feed my kid like a turkey before Thanksgiving. ;) I might need a team of people to help lift the 270lb kart onto the stand.
I did decide to put all of our eggs in one basket this year (Sold every motor but one club-level yamaha and the 2 X30s) Hopefully we can find some exciting events to race in this year. We’ll start with Kartweek and go from there.
November 15, 2014 at 6:32 am #37127
I hear you, 405 is not safe for his age/size.
I’m not sure on USPKS’s class structure for next year but Challenge (the class you can run X30 in) only had 3 entries most of the year this year so there might be a change on the horizon for that yet.
November 15, 2014 at 7:21 am #37131
Mark Dismore Jr.Participant
You should be able to buy a kart and an engine and race it at any sprint track in the USA with dozens of competitors in the class. Until the rules are standardized and organizations can get along this won’t happen and karting will be in the funk we currently see it in. Too many egos and politics. It’s currently a race to the bottom from what I can tell.
November 15, 2014 at 8:26 am #37133
patrick j slatteryParticipant
Karting needs a benevolent Dictator to run karting
November 15, 2014 at 10:15 am #37137
Bob Old friend, you wrote;
Karting is the only racing form I know of where the sport is not governed by one strong national org.
How about sprint cars, USAC, WOO, ASCS, CRA, ALL STARS etc. Yet they still draw strong fields and tough competition.
How about drag racing, NHRA, AHRA, NDRL etc. Same thing goes there, strong fields and competition.
You also wrote;
We have no single National Champions in anything we do.
So what, the same goes for the racing organizations above and there doesn’t seem to be a huge outcry of “We don’t have a true national champion.”
The same thing goes for stock cars, NASCAR, ARCA etc.
Why should kart racing be any different?
November 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm #37150
Greg, karting isn’t big enough to support so many interests. Are you arguing that karting is heading in the right direction?
November 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm #37152
“Greg, karting isn’t big enough to support so many interests. Are you arguing that karting is heading in the right direction?”
I’m not Greg, but I think that is the problem. I got to know Greg a decade or more ago when we all Did WKA NRRS Yes there were other series for Road Race most regional, but when you won a class in NRRS, you were the champion, period.
Today I don’t think that exists anymore. Just picking a class and series, you may have won TaG in Man Cup, but you didn’t win in Rt66, or USPKS, or MASS, or Rotax, or Fl.Winter tour or how many more are there because I don’t know.
My question is, what series do all the very best race in so you can all race against each other?
November 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm #37151
Greg, First let me say, Mark said in one paragraph, what I have been trying to say in many posts.
Now to try an clear up my ramblings. I was trying to reference things our family is involved with but lets look at drag racing since you brought it up, and I have done quite a bit of it.
Drag Racing was at least in the 70-80’s promoting itself as the the largest base of grassroots racers then any other form of motorsports. My guess is thats still true today. Drag racing exists and is supported by 4 Pro Classes, P/S bike, P/S car, Funny Car, and Top Fuel. Those 4 classes do fill the stands, and they do bring in the NASCAR sized sponsors.That funds the entire sport. That drives the sportsman class and series that thousands of drag racers race at.
Most of us will never be John Force but because of thos Pros, we have those races to race at.
Snowmobiles are the same thing 30,K plus spectators show up, CBS sports broadcast every race.. Pros all have NASCAR trailers, Merch trailers and groupies. Those fans come to see those stars, but all the rest of us race at the same facility right next to them. Our 8-12 Year old 120 customers race their Champ class at night under the lights as part of the Pro Program. Without the Pro show, the rest of us could never get those types of facilities to race at.
Look at Daytona, not quite what it used to be, but can’t think of anything else in our sport as big as it. WKA is the only thing on this side of the river that covers all types of karting, could any other series out there pull off a race at Daytona, I doubt it. I believe its the BIG spectacles in any sport that bring attention to it, feed it, and make it grow. We have lost Charlotte and Road America. My kids came out of the days were Daytona had 2300 entries in Dirt alone, another 1000 in Road Race, and Sprint was held up the road at 103rd st. We raced Charolette in Road Racing during the day and the Briggs and Stratton 300 at night. I can’t remember the number of racers that we brought from the local tracks here like Badger for Sprint, afew of the oval tracks and they went to Daytona. That led many down the Road Racing path because they got to try it while racing their sprint or oval karts.
We just don’t have the big EVENTS anymore, even things like Kartfest and KMI are long gone
November 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm #37162
I keep hearing about “money” and “sponsors” like Bridgestone making us use new tires. Is there really any money in this sport? Do events need outside sponsorship? For what we pay at National events vs what we get, do they really need more money to rent a track for the event?
I don’t see any engine builders really profiting. Most seem to be a guy that does it part time, or very small mom and pop operations. The small numbers of participants and engines that need working on don’t allow for it to be a big profitable venture.
There is so much unnecessary fat that could be trimmed off a race weekend and ultimately make it more competitive, more profitable, and have much bigger classes.
Bridgestone is a good example. Why do we need them to be a sponsor? They are going to make tires regardless. If they won’t somebody else will. So tires will be avail. If they are not required then many classes can save $200 a weekend right off the bat. A sponsor should be injecting money into an event in exchange for displaying their banners and being part of the promotional package. Not giving a kickback on tires that comes as a major expense to the participants. I would much rather pay the $20 kickback right to the promoter in higher fees than have to buy tires I don’t need. So what does a company like Bridgestone really bring to the table? How are they making an event less expensive for us by being a sponsor? Nothing against Bridgestone, just using them as an obvious example.
When I look around the sport, I see a lot of people spending money, but nobody really making money. I think the focus needs to be on reducing the spending to get more people in it. Standardize a few engines, and then there will be an environment where people can once again really start making money.
I am also a relative newcomer that doesn’t know a damn thing, other than it is crystal clear that this sport needs some serious organization.
November 16, 2014 at 7:31 am #37184
November 16, 2014 at 7:39 am #37187
Rod Hawkins wrote;
Greg, karting isn’t big enough to support so many interests. Are you arguing that karting is heading in the right direction?</span>
Absolutely not, in fact if things don’t change I could make a decent argument that karting is in a death spiral.
The manufacturers are running and ruining the sport, that’s where the divisiveness seems to come from. Too many choices of series with manufacturer induced rules and/or equipment. The sport has become too expensive and too technical for many veterans so where does that leave the newbies?
Mark Jr, is correct and I agree with him totally but who is going to round up the herd if we ever get the gate to the barnyard closed again.
None of this however is because “We don’t have a true National Champion,”
November 16, 2014 at 10:48 am #37195
For the better part of 30 years, I was a Board dir for one of the larger sprint tracks in the upper midwest, my kids have also spent some time in dirt ovals. Alot can, and should be learned from the past and what has changed.
The problem with the Rotax / Briggs LO type of thinking is that is what has eliminated most of the aftermarket that has supported this sport
Pick up a WKA manual from the prime years of Daytona, Dirt, it had 75 major sponsors for that series alone. at that time it was roughly $1500. to be a sponsor. With the entry numbers and the sponsors, at that time all of karting was subsadised to some degree by dirt.
The sponsor thing goes far beyond the big races, every engine builder I have met, parts suppliers all over all work with their local track.
Badger is well known for all the show and promotion we do, still out largest source of new racers come from the shops that bring in their new customers to our track. The shops are the foot soldiers that keep us going.
The problem with the all spec world is, you only have what they offer you, the rest of the world is froze out, you never see their help, or their money.
If you limit the 125 Liquid engine world to one brand, do you think all other brands are just going to give up and go away? OR. are they each going after another series, or create one of their own. Thats why we have what we have now.
Learn from the dirt oval world. At one time it was the largest form of karting,and it made out very well. then it went the spec route, cloans, different forms of cloans everywhere you went. LO206, Hondas, WKA even offered a Suburu class Their all spec, no support for any of them and theres so many none are really strong.
November 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm #37197
It’s all been said… Over and over….
November 16, 2014 at 9:45 pm #37234
At the end of the day its as simple as:
Yamaha Junior Can
Yamaha Senior Pipe
That should be the basis for every track, every club, every regional series and every national series (that isn’t manufacturer based/funded). There are 30K engines out there and they fit on any kart. They are cheap and plentiful and with the right rule structure can be very even. They are supported by nearly every engine builder and the parts are not brand specific thus leaving the door open to participation from vendors, parts manufacturers and engine builder.
We just took TJ’s lead and bought our old Yamaha back and plan to play with that next year. That engine is 15 years old and probably has 100 wins on it in Junior and Senior racing with 5 different families over that time. You just can’t beat that kind of value.
Sure we may do a few races in other classes if the spirit moves us but at the end of the day we want to have some fun and we want to try to be a good example to our customers and families that are looking for some direction in what to run. And to us that can be accomplished with our old Yamaha.
November 17, 2014 at 6:43 am #37245
I’ve always been somewhat insulted that Yamaha has no problem spending big money on bikes and sleds, including at times factory race teams, yet since my start in 1983 I could never see one place where they spent a dime trying to help the sport of karting survive.
I would tend to think that had a lot to do with other engines coming into our sport.
November 17, 2014 at 7:09 am #37246
Mark Dismore Jr.Participant
I think the LO206 is a step in the right direction for karting, especially for the club level. I think Briggs finally has a package to replace the Flathead. I think a lot of people underestimate how much losing the Flathead hurt karting. It was inexpensive, they were everywhere, you could race them at almost every sprint track and it was a very easy way to get into karting and to stay in karting. I hope it doesn’t get screwed up by “updates”, rules creep and tech shenanigans.
November 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm #37259
Since IAME is switching from leopard to x30, and this will take years to do.With so many leopard parts and motors out there.Unless IAME steps up to the plate and buys backs all the inventory from the dealers[which I don’t see happening]Tag will be going thru this for along time and it is only going to hurt karting more.
November 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm #37277
November 21, 2014 at 10:59 am #37483
And now SKUSA is heading East to New Castle for Summernats. This could get interesting.
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