The CIK-FIA Vice President Kees Van De Grint, who is a huge karting fan with an in-depth knowledge, both technical and human, of this sport and of its history, has taken up a tough challenge by accepting this key post. For him, karting is not just a springboard for a career in car racing, but a fully-fledged sport that needs to regain the popularity it enjoyed in its early days, in the 1980s-90s, among the public and most of all among the participants. During the 2012 World Cup for KZ held at Sarno, Kartcom had the opportunity to speak with him at length, to better understand his vision of the future of karting.
"We need to do everything we can to make karting accessible again to the greatest number of people" Mr Van De Grint explained calmly. "During the first steps into this sport, there is just a father that needs to be able to come alone with his son or daughter, on a track, to see them compete without spending big money. Karting has now become too complex, too demanding and too expensive. We need to get back to its original simplicity, which attracted so many passionate fans. In the past few years, it has all been about the top level and the foundations have been completely forgotten. Of course, international competitions are still important for the image and technical evolution of karting, but they are meaningless if the passion they unleash is not shared by a high number of kart drivers. This is the key problem today.
We need to move towards simpler and less expensive equipment, this is a key point for the survival of karting. Electric starters, clutches, embedded electronics... they cause a series of problems: excessive weight, high costs, additional failures, controls so complex that they cannot be used outside major competitions. I do not think we can get back to push starting by pulling the kart upwards, but there are alternatives. We can imagine a simplified manual clutch, which could be used just to start, as in KZ.
There is no shortage of good ideas to relaunch karting. But convincing all the stakeholders that this is the right approach - and by the way, it is also in everybody's interest - is not an easy task. A long term vision is the key. Some people will have to change their habits, but in the end it will be a win-win situation. I have some good interactions and exchanges with constructors. Although they are aware that the current situation cannot last, sometimes they privilege short-term solutions. On the other hand, the CIK-FIA gives ASNs (National Sport Authorities) the final word through their vote. It is necessary to inform and convince countries because they are not always aware that they share the same interests and they might be tempted by deceptive proposals. I am a Vice President, I do not have super powers! A lot of work is necessary and I need to be supported to achieve these results.
We have already defined concrete priorities for the coming year. We cannot change everything at the same time. I think that the U18 World Championship and Academy Trophy formula is heading in the right direction. The name of the former needs to evolve and its focus needs to be retargeted onto drivers who are not simultaneously involved in international races, in order to leave the door open to drivers who do not have the means or the experience to compete in major races. The U18 as well as the Academy need to reassume the role of talent finders, in particular by finding their place in each nation, and also by offering the best drivers the opportunity to attend top level events thanks to a pyramidal organisation.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the sad episode of noise control at Sarno. Limiting noise levels is a fundamental issue, especially in KZ. I am sorry that things went like that. Many teams and drivers have played their part by developing effective systems but they have not been rewarded for their efforts. The CIK chose the wrong way to control excessive noise, the procedure applied was not fair for all the competitors and it made the right decision when it decided to suspend it to prevent injustices. It must be a lesson to us. Simple and easy-to-implement solutions should be found to be used at all levels, on all the tracks where the fight against decibels is still highly topical. KF3 regulations are a success in this field".
In the months to come we will know more about CIK future orientations, but what is already evident is its Vice President's willingness to get things moving to build the karting of the future.
Info Kartcom / © Photo KSP