Anxieties and worries that are causing many sleepless nights to the international karting community invade the country.
FROM THE EDITOR (Vroom UK July 2015)
During the 2nd round of the CIK-FIA European KF-KFJ Championship held at PFI, everyone – MSA delegation included – could grasp the mighty task ahead and how it will affect British karting. What remains to be seen is how the motorsport regulating body will deal with it.
The fact is that the British Karting scene is already well structured, with X30 coming to a new life in the last couple of years, Rotax and TKM holding on to its core base, and non-MSA racing (for exactly the same categories, but with fewer pretences, regulations and minimal costs) picking up momentum. Next, the very strong presence of arrive-and-drive programs such as Club100 and DMax Championship, as well as the vast offering of Indoor racing, seems quite a concrete obstacle to the future of the new CIK engine in the UK.
So the question really boils down to this: are OK engines going to find fertile ground in the UK?
Though it’s too early to tell, one figure can really give the measure of the problem facing the MSA in the next few months. Despite the national economy not doing too bad, stagnant - if not declining – licence numbers do not bode well.
Also, the CIK has certainly not made a good name for itself in the past few years with the introduction of the KF project, tainting its reputation and that of its top direct-drive categories, particularly in the UK. To the point that the MSA had to cancel (quite reluctantly) already last year the KFJ British Junior Championship…
But the introduction of the new OK engine might not only suffer for its predecessor’s poor reputation. Interestingly enough, Paul Fletcher launched some sort of survey during the CIK-FIA European KF-KFJ Championship round at PFI, proposing an engine with no power valve as alternative. Quite astonishingly, over 60 people (among them some high-profile team managers, mechanics, drivers, and parents) signed up to the motion.
What’s going to be of it we do not know, but its value is unquestionable.
Widespread uncertainty was not only expressed by most of the Brits present at PFi. The atmosphere was somewhat surreal, as most of the international operators were openly criticizing the new born OK engine while the on-track demonstration of the OK powered karts was taking place right before their eyes.
One wonders how this project came about if 90% of the paddock (conservatively speaking) is blatantly against it.
At this very delicate moment, when the new OK engine is on the launch pad and needs the support of all involved if it is to have the slightest chance of success, the palpable feeling is of dissatisfaction, at best.
The feeling (or fear) many share is that the sport will be plunged yet again into the unknown, and by the time the new engine checks all the boxes (reliability, performance, affordability) its reputation will be compromised, further alienating the very base that it’s supposed to attract.
And the base seems indeed alienated! If since its return on the international calendar we have been used to see good crowds of locals at PFI (quite uncommon these days on any other circuit) well, not this time... and the club race next door at Fulbeck - with over 100 drivers on track - certainly didn’t help!
Why is it then? Why do people not care? After all, we are talking about the fastest, most competitive Junior and Senior (KF) kart drivers in the world, some of which will certainly make it to the highest echelons of motorsport. Is a European Championship not appealing enough to draw the attention of the many (yes, still many) fans that follow this sport?
In light of this, the task of the MSA seems particularly daunting. Even if it’s not supposed to find remedy to the anxieties expressed by international operators, some of those fears and reluctance are felt also in the UK. And as the CIK have called to all national ASNs to support the new course with the OK engines, the MSA will be expected to be at the forefront.
Getting the base back and inverting the trend of declining numbers in MSA racing has been on the agenda for quite some time, but having to do this promoting a piece of equipment that carries a hefty legacy (that of CIK troubled KF) seems quite a task.
The MSA must know it will need to put extra effort and gather as much support as it can if it is to succeed.