Episode 9

“Why Don’t I Race Karts?”

(A Look At Club100)

Considering I’ve never competed in a ‘proper’ championship before, why is it so important for me to immediately jump in a car?

If I’ve never competed in a proper, fully licenced championship before, why is it so pivotal for me to start at the deep end in cars? Why don’t I begin my journey at the entry point that all of the world’s best drivers have come from? Why don’t I start in go-karts?

The commencement of the Club100 karting series last weekend reminded me that my #RacingGrind journey can be much more economically viable, whilst still being immensely competitive, by taking an alternative route to full-blown racing cars. In fact, I actually contemplated competing this year before deciding against it in order to keep my options open going into 2021. After all, whilst the comparatively low budget required to compete in the competition is enticing, it is still a sizeable chunk of money from the perspective of a tight-pocketed individual such as myself.

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For those who are less than familiar with the Club100 series, it is the premier hire-kart racing series in the UK. It is sanctioned by Motorsport UK, the national governing body for all motorsports, and there are 11 rounds during the season. These 11 events take place at some of the best karting circuits in the country, including Buckmore Park in Kent, Clay Pigeon Raceway in Dorset, and Glan Y Gors in the north of Wales. Club100 itself actually has many different subsidiary championships, all based on the duration of the races. These start with sprint races, which are around 10-15 minutes in duration, through to “Sprint 60” races (which are confusingly 30 minutes long), and finally the endurance races, which take 2 hours each, and are designed for teams.

So, should I give it a go next year? Let’s weigh up each of the criteria I set out in my “Where Am I Racing?” blog from a few weeks ago:

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Firstly, there is the price. Being a karting championship rather than a car series means that costs are low. An 11 round season is fairly lengthy, and prices for the sprint championship are around £200 per event. Totalling that up and factoring in the ~£50 registration fee, I would be looking at entry fees of £2250 for the season. For some context, a couple of grand wouldn’t even get you a single weekend in some racing series. So far, so good.

Naturally, there would be subsidiary costs on top of these, such as fuel to get me to races and the occasional overnight hotel stay, because I like my sleep and so waking up at silly AM to get to an event doesn’t exactly appeal to me. Therefore, if I factor in a couple of hotel visits for the circuits which are 3-hour-plus journeys away, alongside fuel, I’d say an additional £500 is almost certainly over-budgeting, but I’ll stick with it because it’s a simple number.

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Finally, there’s a couple of test days in order to better understand the machinery. These aren’t compulsory, however, meaning I’ll allocate a rough figure of £250 to cover at least one.

In summary, a full, 11-round season of racing for less than £3000 seems to me like an absolute bargain. Club100 has passed the first criterium, it seems.

The next factor to think about is following. Whilst Club100 itself isn’t hugely well known, boasting a fairly modest 2,200 Instagram followers, a few of the competitors have certainly found their own following. Steve Brown and Jimmy Broadbent may not be household names, yet combined they boast over 100 thousand social media followers, and close to 700 thousand YouTube subscribers. Between the pair of them, Club100 racing reaches 800,000 people. If I was to tap into just a small segment of those 800,000, that would be a huge boost to both my brand and my sponsors’. Another point of note is that some rounds are live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, making it easily accessible to the masses.

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The third main consideration I chose as a method of comparing different race series was based on the competitiveness of the machinery. For a variety of reasons, parity between all the cars is crucial. Luckily, being an arrive-and-drive series, Club100 has that box ticked as well. Due to the nature of the events, drivers are allocated random karts just before each heat, meaning that nobody is guaranteed to have better machinery than the rest of the field. Yes, natural variances in the karts will mean that some drivers are better off in some races than others, but over the course of a season this would almost certainly balance out.

After analysis of three of my main criteria, Club100 looks like it could be the perfect destination for me to race, but it’s not completely faultless. After all, I wouldn’t be racing cars, only go-karts. Whilst it is true that I have never competed in a licenced Motorsport UK karting series before, I have been karting for nearly six years. Last year I competed in a karting series at university, and in less than four events I went from over a second a lap slower than the fastest racers, to posting fastest laps in races and beating some pretty accomplished drivers on merit. All of this on tracks I had never been to before, which compounded the complexity of the challenge.

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That competition reminded me just how challenging it felt when I had to seriously improve in order to get back to the front, yet just how rewarding it felt when I was able to do so in such a short space of time. I feel that, in order to challenge myself to that degree once more, I need to progress into more powerful machinery than just hire-karts, even if they are some of the fastest hire-karts available.

Finally, the drawback of taking part in arrive-and-drive racing: you have nothing to show for your efforts. Whilst not owning your actual racing car(kart) relieves many hassles such as maintenance and transportation, you don’t get the satisfaction of knowing you own a racing car! Granted, this is the least important point on my list of criteria, but it is still something worth bearing in mind. With vehicle ownership comes the comforting idea that I could at least recoup some of the cash I’ve ploughed in to my hobby, after all, every little helps…

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In summary, whilst Club100 certainly appears to be a smart, sensible destination for my racing focus, it just misses the mark on the ambition target. Perhaps, then, Club100 could always act as a fall-back, in case my racing goals for 2021 are not completely attainable.

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