Karters forum for informed discussion on all things Karting
The topic of the high price of running a JR has led me to post this – my opinion on how I think Kartsport should look in future years – and some solutions to the problems Kartsport currently faces.
Kartsport classes for the year 2016
Cadet : (6 up and under 11) running Racket 85 (11 year olds racing agaisnt 6 year olds is ridiculous. Could also solve some weight issues)
Junior Restricted (9 up and under 14) running (Engine TBC – maybe micro Max?) with a two year transition period where both engines are run.
Junior (12 and up and under 17) running Rotax Jnr
Senior Light (15 and up) running Rotax Max
Senior Heavy (15 and up) running Rotax Max
Clubman (15 and up, max C rating and club days only) running other “spec” motors i.e. KT100, Racket 120, Vortex Rok, Iame Parilla, other TAG motors etc etc.
KZ2 (15 and up) for a spec gearbox class
Open (15 and up) do whatever
+ CIK classes for Nationals, NI/SI and CIK Trophy
I won’t talk too much about gearbox classes.
Current opinion suggests that Kartsport nowadays is hard for newcomers and spectators to understand, the entry numbers are dwindling away reducing its appeal and it is perceived as too expensive. It will be expensive to change – but a one off cost to some should help kartsport as a whole. The new rules should be added to the rulebook now, to be effective 1 January 2015 for JR and 1 January 2016 for all other classes. Senior Light and Heavy should run the same engine, with a detuned version for Juniors and, ideally, JRs should run an engine based off the same model as the senior motors – perhaps the Rotax Max motor. Clubman class will be created for all the old “obsolete” engines so that people can still participate with them- and people who have invested in them will still get some return. And it needs to be implemented soon to ensure that the state of karting doesn’t deteriorate much further.
Kartsport currently has too many classes. The Junior age group are split between two classes (Yamaha and Formula Junior), and seniors are split into roughly 6 classes (Yamaha Light, Yamaha Heavy, Club class, Rotax Light, Rotax Heavy, Racket 120). The number of classes dilutes field sizes, making karting unattractive to both the prospective karter and the spectator. It also makes it harder for people to enter the sport – “should I buy a kart with Motor A or Motor B? I don’t want to end up in a class with no people – but I want an affordable motor too.” They potentially don’t want to end up with a kart worth nothing that they can sell for nothing (or next to). Some people have suggested that potential karters are going to motocross – if this is true, then the attraction of engine capacity classes must seem appealing. Less classes will also reduce the number of total races needed to be squeezed into a race day – taking stress off of our stewards, race officials and time constraints.
As I see it, here are three categories that all forms of motor racing fit within – supplied spec classes, technical spec classes and open classes. Supplied spec classes have to run identical parts as supplied by a/many supplier(s). Technical spec classes have a list of technical specifications that all competitors have to comply with to ensure parity. Open class is as stated – no or limited rules. Supplied spec classes don’t spend thousands of dollars trying to find that extra tenth; providing the manufacturers tolerances are good a decent level of parity exists. Technical spec classes see exorbitant prices for certain engine or engine components that are seen to have that little bit extra power. Open class racers can gain time from a combination of money well spent and clever engineering.
Karting has been labelled as too expensive, especially given the current economical climate. As seen by the JR cost argument, exact parity between engines is near impossible in a technical specs class, and the need to have “the best” motor drives high prices. In contrast, a supplied spec class with non-modifiable motors (other than replacing parts) can substantially reduce costs. We have a good example handy with the introduction of a supplied spec class V8 Supertourer versus the older style technical spec class NZV8s. NZV8s allow a certain amount of freedom in terms of minor modifications everywhere to make the cars a little bit faster – and expensive. Comparatively, a V8 Supertourer requires a one off investment in the new spec class car – but all of the hardware is non-modifiable from a single supplier. The NZV8 class numbers have slowly dwindled in recent years (even before V8 Supertourers was announced), possibly because of the high running costs associated with technical spec classes. Perhaps this is mirrored, for the same reasons, in KT100 karting in New Zealand.
So, is the answer is to change the class structure of karting in New Zealand to a series of supplied spec classes? The uproar is already overpowering – people who have invested (if that’s what throwing any money at motor racing can be called) thousands of dollars into their KT100/KF3/Racket 120/Iame Parilla/ whatever will resist the change strongly. The sad fact is that, because of the super saturation of the New Zealand Kartsport market with a variety of engines (though it is not yet as bad as Australia), to fix the problem some people will be left out of pocket – regardless of the decision. The solution to this is in two parts. Firstly, give people plenty of warning about the impending change. This is probably more important to the junior catagories, so that those upgrading class have plenty of warning not to invest in soon to be obsolete gear. And secondly, provide an alternative legal use for those motors. Clubman class (as proposed) would accommodate all of the engines made obsolete from these changes i.e. KT100, Racket 120 etc. The current JR motors can be converted back to run in this class, and therefore still retain some value. Same with the various Formula Junior motors. These engines/ karts would lose value overall, not being able to be run at the top level – but providing an entry level class where people can buy a “cheap” kart and go for a social race on the weekend, with a cacophony of similar powered engines, the supply for such karts and engines would increase. Imagine trying to sell a Vortex Rok or Parilla Leopard to the current karting community...Overall, people will still lose out, but given enough lead time of the impending changes, such things can be accounted for – and people will still see some reimbursement (however small) for their current racing gear. This clubman class should, however, be just that – for club days only. It is supposed to be a class to use old gear, for new drivers, but still encourages people to invest in the standard Senior Light and Heavy classes.
The main classes in the new structure (Juniors, Senior Lights, Senior Heavies and if possible JR) should have, if possible, the same base motor. This would mean less investment to move up a class (like from Juniors to Seniors). This is one of the ideas that made karting 15-20 years ago more appealing. The Yamaha KT100S formed (aside from cadets and open/shifter karts) the entire bases of our sport. For a person in JR on a tight budget, the move to Juniors might mean $500 in changing the exhaust and the cylinder height. Having a different spec motor means selling all of the old gear (at a loss) and buying 2nd hand gear with unfamiliar service histories – it also means that knowledge about the engine gained in JR or juniors was just as applicable to seniors. Having different engine bases for different classes kills this continuity, making the jump between classes harder. It seems a jump to motocross/ motor racing is probably just as easy.
The timeframe over which such rules are implemented are ciritcial. If, assuming the Rotax Max engine is to be chosen as a base for all classes, then the transition for Seniors and Juniors, which have some investment in these engines for these classes already, can happen overnight at some date in the distance – perhaps four years.However, if the engine base for JRs is to change, then it needs to be approached carefully. The cadets about to move up to the class, those currently in
JR and those about to move to Juniors all need to be considered. A transition period would, perhaps, be best, where for some time period both the new engine AND the old engine are both valid. This will lead to some disparity for a short period, where the racing is not very good – but it is for the greater good of Kartsport. Under the proposed class structure, there is a minimum of 2 years in JR (after moving up from cadets) and a maximum of 5 years. By introducing a new engine via a transition period of 2 years, people can plan to upgrade to a new motor immediately and have a small upgrade later to move up to juniors (if the same base motor is used), or keep with the status quo until the time comes to move up to Juniors and upgrade then. Either way, those that cannot afford to upgrade immediately will probably be a bit off the pace of the new engine (assuming the new engine is faster than the restricted KT), which is no different to the current scenario anyway. Managing this transition period is the most important aspect of introducing the new class structure. And delaying the process of these rules by 2 years (i.e. 2 years until JR transition period starts, 3 years until introduction of senior structure) gives everyone time to make plans to upgrade.
If this class structure is to be introduced, the engine most in line to fulfil the duty is the Rotax Max. There are now larger numbers of these karts at club meeting than KTs, so some initial investment has already occurred- and there is already some knowledge about the engine. It has also proved to have a good level of parity between engines. The regulations for the Rotax Max from the start have meant the class has remained, as proposed, a supplied spec class. It uses the same base engine for the Junior and Senior engine – though whether a JR equivalent exist I don’t know. I heard about hte Micro Max being suggested. Compared to other, similar engines, it is quiet and uses little oil (as advertised heavily by Bombardier). It seems that, from the start when Jon Wright first started importing these engines, these engines have been a major threat to the long term use of KT100 motors in New Zealand. The Rotax is far from an ideal engine – any engine which runs a total loss electrical system, which it depends upon to run, is an abhorrent design not in line with “easy, low maintenance racing”. I also strongly disagree with the idea of using a single fixing to mount the radiator (I don’t know if this has changed on the new generation engines – someone clarify?). If it is decided that the best engine to fulfil the needs of Kartsport is something completely different –like a Racket 120 or a Briggs and Stratton- then so be it. But based on current evidence, the Rotax motor seems best suited.
By reducing the number of classes offered then the class numbers *should* increase. By running supplied spec engines the overall costs to be competitive should go down and ensure parity. Both of these together should drive Kartsport to attract more newcomers to the sport and keep current members. What engine it is based around probable doesn't really matter - as long as it is one base engine for all classes.
I think it would be better having too few classes than too many - I would rather see oversubscribed fields (do people even remember what those are?) then the current 3 karts per class dissapointment.
I'm interested to see what other people's thoughts are on this one...
Woodsey some of your points are good like decent lead in time for change and similar base motor for transition up thru grades. Wouldn't say we have to many classes, back in the seventies there was 17 classes and nothing below junior. There has always been two junior classes, a base one and one for the Elite so no reason why KF3 couldn't co exsist beside Junior Max. Clubman being 'C' rated was how it started out and agree it should return to that so as a basic entry level class. Open should return to what it means run what you brung on open tyres and fuel and let the inavator take on the money bags.