Australia, down under the Rotax banner

Columns: Zoom
Although it’s a big country with only 26 million people, Australia has a racing heart for Motorsport. They’re competitive and play hard, and they travel a long way to go karting. It’s a lifestyle they love. Jen Wade was trackside for Vroom International Magazine and caught up with some of the familiar faces ever-present at the Rotax racing events Down Under, sharing their thoughts about the sport of karting and how it has developed over the past seasons, based on their own position in the industry (by J.Wade/Pictures RaceMax mark Wicks/KartSportNews & Media)

Mark Wicks
Mark Wicks won the RMCGF in Egypt almost two decades ago and has been responsible for telling the news about karting and karters on the long-running web portal -
I started karting myself in 1983, when my local club was formed. I was 15 and one of the founding members. I had a few years away when trying to do the racing car thing, but soon came back and have been licenced with the same club ever since. I had been writing a few PR pieces for my club and contributed to Australian Kart Report and Kart & Formula magazine in the late eighties and early nineties. I joined the editorial team at Ian Salvestrin’s KartOz Magazine in 1999. Unfortunately, the magazine went out of production in 2004, so I taught myself some HTML and started KartSportNews later the same year. On reflection, that’s now a long time ago! When I think about Rotax racing and what people enjoy most, there are a couple of things. The obvious one is racing an international formula that allows drivers to qualify for a high-profile world-level final. The other is the sense of community. Over a period of years, the Australian Rotax Pro Tour has established a real ‘travelling family’ feel to it. While the racing is competitive on track, everyone seems friendly off track.

In summary, I would say there is much polarization in the sport - the Australian Kart Championship (supported by the national federation – Karting Australia) is spectacularly healthy while the club and regional level health of the sport varies widely. Some clubs have been very strong (e.g. Ipswich in Queensland) and some continue to struggle, especially country clubs. Many clubs have tapped into government/sport/Covid funding and grants to upgrade facilities, but this does not always bring in new members. The pandemic, like everywhere, had a degree of impact on karting here in Australia. Everything appears to be back on track now and most of the industry seems busy again, though there have been supply issues for the imported chassis due to transportation and customs delays, and obviously the extra costs now involved for shipping. A political split has seen several clubs shift away from the main governing body. This is very inconvenient for the sport as a whole and very frustrating for competitors and those being introduced to the sport. But having said that, clubs that have broken away seem to be doing just fine, and as a case in point, the Geelong Kart Club is flourishing as an independent organisation outside of the umbrella of the ASN. Beyond sprint racing, Superkarting has been holding its own. It’s very much state based but there is a two-round National series. Dirt and retro karting continue to grow in popularity. In dirt racing, most tracks have their own series of races and the biggest organisation for dirt (AIDKA - Australian Independent Dirt Kart Association) has a one-off Nationals event each year. And as with everything these days, social media is equal parts good and bad for karting. It’s frustrating how negative people can breed problems for the sport so easily.

Lorraine Farley
Troy Farley Race Engines Team

Both Troy and I raced in our younger years, having met through the sport. I was the youngest of three girls who all raced and followed in the footsteps of our father, who also raced cars. The sport became a part of my life from a very young age and no matter what challenges it threw at me over the years, I never lost the passion or competitive spirit. Having been a female competitor in a male dominated sport for so many years, it made me more passionate to want to see more girls compete and fall in love with it as much as I have. When I began running a race team, I used the position to help a number of women. Although I don’t currently have any competing in my team, I am always looking for ways to help our young female competitors to enjoy their racing. Recently, I was also appointed to the Australian Women in Karting Commission. 

For us, running a race team came after a number of our engine customers looked to us for extra support. Our engine development business has always kept us very busy but the race team, although small, is something we are both very passionate about. Our team has a ‘family friendly’ approach with many of our drivers having been with us for a 5+ years. It has always been important that we keep the team small and focused, allowing us the opportunity to spend valuable time with every one of our drivers, identifying areas where we can help them to develop. We have been in business now for over 12 years and our race team has been competing at the top level of Australian karting since 2015. Over the years we have had the privilege to work with some very talented drivers including multiple Australian and European Rotax Champion Pierce Lehane, current V8 supercar driver Jake Kostecki, and Porsche Carrera Cup drivers Jordan and Aaron Love. Karting in Australia has changed dramatically over the last five years. Some things I can understand and see it has been positive for the sport, while other changes have been for no major benefit to the karter. The sport as a whole has seen some great growth and to be honest, two years ago prior to Covid hitting, I was very confident that Rotax and the Rotax Pro Tour were in good hands and looking to be a very positive year. I believe with the right people and some hard work, this could all turn around. Although the weekend’s numbers were down, the level of competition was still at a very high level. For the Troy Farley Race Engines team, we were confident that we would be able to continue our good performances from the first round, but were ecstatic with our four podiums, including a dominating win in Rotax Light with Tyler Howard. Our newest addition to our team is young Micro Max pilot Jay Kostecki, who finished 3rd in his first ever appearance at the Rotax Pro Tour, having never raced in Rotax prior to this weekend. Jay looks set to be a strong competitor in the class and look forward to seeing his talents develop in the category over the rest of the series.

keep reading on Vroom #249

Created by: cggiuliano - 29/06/22

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