Kartloon Discovers Music

Kartloon is known for his Stig-like qualities, not in driving talent I can assure you, but for generally being ignorant to anything that doesn’t involve 4 wheels and a lot of noise.  So as usual, this morning’s commute was filled with the dulcet tones of Nicky Campbell rather than the racket emanating from those stations that play music.  However, I was offered the opportunity to review a new album and ‘sod it’ thought I, it’s better than work.

So, to kick this off we need a link between karting and music.  I’m sure I’ve seen Lewis Hamilton with a pair of Dr. Dre’s ‘Beats’ headphones pressing down that mullet he’s been sporting this year.  Yes, the F1 World Champ used to race karts, didn’t you know?  There, now let’s get down to business.

Jinder Press Pic 2015

Jinder, professional racing driver, enthusiastic musician (that may be back to front).  Clearly I am grossly under-qualified to even critique the ramblings of Wigfield, never mind the artistry of Jinder, but offering to do so meant I got the new album for free and ahead of anyone else.  Since listening to the first single, Boil the World a few weeks ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the album and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  It reminds me of turning up at a private party at a friend’s house. Not that type of party you filthy animals.  No, the kind where you are invited in from the cold and offered a drink and a pleasant chat.  A little while later, slightly inebriated, you find yourself dancing round the room, but not for long as you’re not that drunk and remember you have to get up in the morning (for racing of course, aha, another link!).  So you settle back down, have a coffee and are sent on your way with a warm hug, but no kissing (not that kind of party, remember).

Some people reading this (perhaps all 5 of you) won’t have heard Jinder’s music before so I should probably try to describe it.  Well it’s not happy hardcore, nor is it funky hip-hop.  I guess it’s a guy with a guitar and a super smooth voice and I like it.  Boil the World is a truly great track, but the album is just one gem after another, so I’m off to search out the rest of Jinder’s music.  This Saturday morning I may have to give Danny Baker a miss as I wander down to Clay Pigeon Raceway.

Jinder - Traditional Dark cover art

‘Traditional Dark’ goes on sale on 2/2/15 but paypal me a fiver and you can have it now (just kidding, have you seen the size of this guy?)

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Karting Son – A stroppy teenager enters the world of parents kart racing

This month Kartloon makes way for guest blogger Karting Son.

27/9/14

So today Dad told me he’s entering a kart race at Clay Pigeon IKR. He said he wants to show me once and for all what he means by ‘clip the kerb at billies and finesse the machine to the outside to prepare for an assault on the esses’.  Once again I asked why it’s called the esses when it’s only one ‘S’ but apparently I’m continuing in my ‘failure to focus on extracting the maximum from my potential’.  Whatever.

5/10/14

Dad just said he’s cajoled a few ‘muppets’ into entering the race. Apparently it’s going to be an easy trophy.  To be fair I think he’s probably right as he’s been visualising the perfect lap for the last 2 hours.   I’m not sure the whale song music in the background has any real benefits but he seems to like it.  I dug out his Angry Birds helmet but he said it’s not a real helmet and potentially dangerous.  Like I didn’t know that.

There’s been a fair amount of muttering lately as he’s been on facebook discussing the rules. I asked why they need rules since it was meant of be a bit of fun but I don’t think he heard me. Everyone’s wondering what’s happened to Harry’s dad but it sounds like he’s frightened of getting beat.  Dad’s desperate to show ‘those bloody Millwards that at least one of us can take them’.  I’d be offended by that but I’m a teenager and frankly don’t care.  If he’d stop skimping on tyres I’d have won by now anyway.

Kart Racing – A Potted History

People getting into karting today are faced with a confusing and, on the face of it at least, complex picture. Things are changing rapidly and perhaps the biggest change is the emergence of non-MSA racing, which sounds much better when people call it IKR (Independent Kart Racing). The term was coined by members of the popular Karting1 Forum, where recently forum member and all round good egg ‘Max Racewear’ posted the below ‘potted history’ in order to help newcomers to understand where we’ve been and where we are now. It’s both enjoyable and informative so I thought I would share it here:

“Long, long ago in a country far, far away – well, not that far actually, it’s our country – all motor sport was governed by a body called the RAC Motor Sports Association. They pulled the strings and were the only people able to arrange insurance, etc. to run a safe race meeting. When karting, another four wheeled sport, came along about 50 years ago it fell into the remit of the RACMSA.

Much more recently, about 20 years ago, a couple of guys had the idea of taking four stroke karts and running them round an old bus garage, and the genie was out of the bottle. The RACMSA, by now divorced from the recovery business and just called the MSA, didn’t have the monopoly on insurance, and indoor kart centres sprang up as quickly as MFIs closed down, often in the same buildings.

Now, arrive and drive karting on hire karts – be they 160cc Hondas or 100cc Club 100 2-strokes – are one thing, but gradually outdoor circuits began to realise that if they could get insurance to organise races on hire karts, why couldn’t they do the same thing on owner/driver machines? There was no reason, and non-MSA was born.

And it’s gaining strength. Mainly thanks to this Forum it now has a name, IKR, Independent Kart Racing. IKR covers a multitude of karting genres, independent events at individual circuits often with individual rules to suit the local area. It’s great. The barriers to entry tend to be “Have you got a kart?”

Some of us, round here that’s me in particular, still cling to the old MSA model, where karting is seen as a stepping stone on the way up to car racing as well as a sport in itself. With national rules, a structured training scheme and a complex organisational structure, it can be seen as somewhat old fashioned but it suits reactionaries like me, I like the gravitas and the fact it still keeps me in touch with car racing which is my first love.

Despite what you read on these august pages, neither flavour of kart racing is “wrong”, just “different”. Horses for courses as they say. What appears to be happening is three tiers of karting:

Arrive & drive

IKR

MSA

In some places MSA racers are seen as the “wealthy” end of the sport, despite the fact that it has made me as poor as a church mouse!

I hope this potted history gives you some idea of the struggle taking place in the sport. In some places, particularly the “other” karting forum, the MSA is ranked somewhere below Saddam Hussein in popularity. Karting as a whole is in great health thanks to the A&D centres, I’ve never made more sales to karting than I do now, but it has diluted the owner driver market, both MSA and IKR.

As for other acronyms like F100 90s etc, these are from members of the fraternity longing for the old days of karting. They are what we would term classic karts, run to old rules with old style engines etc and many people here totally love ’em. Some of us like the later style karts with bodywork and more strictly controlled engines.

Like I said, it’s not “wrong” just “different”. There’s room for us all in karting.”

 

The least Max deserves for this excellent piece is a plug for his businesses, www.racewear.co.uk, www.attaq-motorsport.co.uk. So if you need quality racewear or are interested in giving karting a go, get in touch with Max and not only will you get great prices and service, but no doubt he will happily bore you to tears with tales of old.

Karting’s just a kids’ sport

The kart racing community has reacted angrily to news that the MSA are to reduce the minimum age at which children can race cars. Undoubtedly this will damage our sport as young racers who want to move into cars will do so earlier, thus reducing the numbers karting overnight. With numbers of licence holders already falling year on year, this is bad news for already struggling clubs.

However, far be it from me to jump to the defence of the MSA, but surely criticism of them is a bit misplaced on this issue? The MSA look after all motorsport, not just kart racing and what makes us special? If they believe they are acting in the best interests of motorsport generally then that’s their prerogative. The question we should be asking is, are we best served by a governing body that has its focus elsewhere? The MSA see kart racing as a stepping stone to cars and that’s how they treat it. They tell everyone it’s a great place for kids to start before they go on to ‘proper’ racing. It’s this attitude that’s failing us, the enlightened minority who know that kart racing provides double the thrills for half the cost.

Is it therefore time for karting to step out from under the MSA’s shadow and make sure we are looking after our own interests? Kart racing absolutely deserves a national governing body and this would be a daunting task for anyone to take on, but without it we will always be controlled by an organisation that uses us to serve its own agenda. This latest move is proof that the MSA are focused on developing car racing and they’re not particularly bothered what that does to karts. We need a governing body that is focused on promoting kart racing and nothing else. When was the last time you saw any real promotion of karting in the UK? Promotion that’s targeted at the general public, not just those of us already racing. Kart racing is a great spectator sport and yet where have all the people gone? The truth is that most people don’t know we exist. Is all that money you pay to the MSA being put back into karting or is it going elsewhere? Who knows?

So tell your club what you think and make sure the ABkC hears what you have to say. A transition of power from the MSA to the ABkC seems to be the best solution for our sport.

Time to sink the ARKS?

Friends of Kartloon are aware of my enthusiasm for Independent Kart Racing, or IKR. However, I am a firm believer that mainstream karting deserves a national governing body, it’s just a shame the MSA appears to be struggling in that role. IKR and MSA racing each have their pro’s and con’s, but the biggest advantage that IKR has right now is that you don’t need a licence to race.

Is the ARKS a good thing?

The late Paul Smith, author of the excellent safespeed website, made a compelling argument about speed limits on UK roads. Actually he made several but the one that sticks in my mind is about giving responsibility to drivers to behave in an appropriate manner. You see, when you tell people that, say 40 mph is safe, they tend to believe that unquestioningly and drive accordingly. However, whilst the limit on the dark, muddy B-road that you are driving down in the pouring rain may well be 40 mph, one would hope that you would use your noggin and drive according to the conditions. Unfortunately, all too often people don’t. The responsibility was taken from them and given to a number in a circle.

So what does this have to do with the ARKS? Well, when an experienced examiner tells you that you are a competent racer, you believe them, perhaps ignoring your own instincts, which may be telling you otherwise. Also, you can take the ARKS in a kart of your choosing, sometimes in a low powered hire kart and yet once you have passed you can race pretty much anything. And you will, because you’re now a racing driver. The approach that IKR often takes is different. You can expect to be told that you should only race if you are competent and if it turns out you are not then you will be taken off the circuit. The responsibility is now yours and this can be powerful.

However

I’m on the fence on this one. A nationally consistent test and licence have their merits and I’m not convinced either way yet. It doesn’t matter though as there is a simple and easy compromise. Make the test free of charge! Or at least allow the clubs freedom to charge what they choose, rather than imposing an artificial and fixed fee. It’s in the clubs’ interest to get new drivers into the sport and I imagine many would be happy to provide the test very cheaply in order to facilitate this. I fully understand that a governing body needs to raise revenue but please MSA, find it elsewhere and stop taxing the newcomers. We need them now more than ever.

Is the British Standard better than the US?

Kartloon read with interest the below article on driving standards from across the pond and noted how familiar the message is.

http://ekartingnews.com/2014/08/01/morning-coffee-friday-august-1/#comment-688

If all the US references were replaced with British ones you wouldn’t bat an eyelid as it’s a story we read here time and again. Driving standards are poor and getting worse, with contact becoming an accepted and perhaps necessary part of kart racing.

Now a common response that apparently is also heard across the Atlantic is that it’s the drivers who are at fault and the officials need to clamp down on it. Undoubtedly there is some truth to that but what can’t be ignored is that here we have 2 different cultures, separated by a vast ocean, different drivers, different officials. What do we have in common? The karts we drive of course. Same chassis, same engines, same bodywork. It’s not just the UK and US either, we also know the problem is just as bad in Europe, prompting the CIK to introduce collapsible (floppy) front bumpers.

When the floppy front bumpers were first introduced, Kartloon was not impressed. Thoughts of sledgehammers cracking nuts came to the fore, with concerns over unintended consequences, such as brake testing and the death of close racing. However, the more I think about this, the better the idea seems and this follows from an acceptance of the following:

  • Drivers will always gain an advantage in any way they can
  • The officials can’t cope and it’s unreasonable to expect them to see everything

Once you accept those 2 points, you realise that the best solution is an automatic one. Something that gives the drivers no choice but to change the way they drive. The simplest solution is to remove the plastics altogether but this will never happen, so the floppy front bumper is the next best thing. In fact, I now question whether it goes far enough! How about a floppy rear bumper too? Then you would have the karting equivalent of the front and rear wings on single seater cars. Contact is the last thing anyone wants in single seaters.

If you accept those 2 points and feel you have a better solution then let’s hear it, though I’ve read some pretty whacky ideas over the last few months! The beauty of the floppy bumper is its simplicity. If the mechanics of it work consistently then if you hit someone you will suffer, no arguments, no badgering the Clerk, no reviewing of footage, no appeals to courts. Get on and race and keep your nose clean next time.

Getting a grip on tyre costs

At all levels of kart racing there is an advantage to running on new tyres. If you want to win races then you have little option but to purchase a new set for each meeting. This isn’t so much of an issue if you are racing at the top levels and are used to big spending, but at club level this cost can represent 50% of your budget, or more. It’s no surprise that many people simply cannot stomach this expense and choose to race on well used rubber, accepting that they will always be at a disadvantage.

One of the oft repeated criticisms of MSA karting is that it has become too ‘professional’ at all levels. There is no true entry level, you either mix it with the big spenders or stay at home. It is unfortunate that lots of people are choosing the latter. Tyre expenditure is possibly one of the easiest ways to address this, increasing parity by reducing costs.

Compounding the Issue

Tyres used in 2 stroke racing in the UK are relatively soft. Some people like the performance this gives, others prefer the handling characteristics of harder tyres. There is no doubt though that hard tyres last longer and there is a strong case for more durable tyres at club level. Some will argue this wouldn’t be fair on Super 1 drivers who race at club meetings for practice. Why though, should the many suffer in favour of the few? If Super 1 drivers really must be on the same tyres as club racers then let them use harder tyres too.

Tyre compound isn’t the biggest issue though. Even the soft tyres only get used for a small proportion of their useful life, before being sold on to the have-nots, or disposed of. If you mandate that each set is used for at least 2 meetings then you halve the cost overnight. At the other extreme it is possible to specify a compound that would last a whole season. There is a happy medium there somewhere but right now we are some way away from it.

tyre1

Environment

Environmental issues have been high on everyone’s agenda for a long time now and motorsport is often criticised for the damage it causes. It’s difficult to argue against this when the reality is that we burn fossil fuels and make noise purely for the fun of it. So it’s imperative that we limit the impact of what we do as far as possible and consuming tyres in the way we do doesn’t look good. If we want to increase our environmental credibility then this is an easy win.

Monopolies

If you race in an MSA kart class then you probably use a tyre that is subject to a long term supply contract. It is unclear how these contracts are awarded but there appears to be little competition, if any. Competition is what keeps prices in check in any market and the current system doesn’t seem to be working for the customer. It is quite possible to have stability in tyre specification whilst ensuring the best possible deal for the competitors, through a competitive tendering process with medium-term contracts. Would anyone really complain if there was a risk that the tyre spec would change every 5 years or so? Also, did you know that the current tyre suppliers pay money to the ABkC, which is then passed to Super 1 to be distributed as prize money? Is it fair that club drivers effectively subsidise Super 1?

It’s time for the UK karting community to have a re-think on the way we use tyres. If we use them more effectively we make it easier for people to enjoy our sport and everyone benefits. Even the tyre suppliers, who you may assume would resist such a change, will reap the rewards of greater participation and a growing market to sell to.  Ask yourself who benefits from the current system?