After a long break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Britain’s premier karting series – the British Kart Championships finally makes its return to circuits across the country with the championships getting underway with IAME at Rowrah this weekend (14 – 16 August). The new season will see new circuits, new drivers and new innovations as well returning champions, legendary tracks and unmissable action. We sat down with Motorsport UK Karting Manager Dan Parker ahead of the eagerly anticipated series, to get all the answers for the new year.
In 2019, we saw the return of the BKC. How did the season go for Motorsport UK?
Taking on the BKC as the governing body was a massive undertaking. It’s the first time it has ever been done but we can say we succeeded in 2019 – not perfect of course but a good job as a whole, especially working with a brand new team and adapting to new modern technology and the way we worked together at the events. One thing we really wanted to create was a customer focussed championship make competitors feel more like customers than numbers!
At the end of last year, we sent a questionnaire to all the drivers in the various classes and the feedback highlighted that one solution does not fit all. Rules for one championship didn’t work for another and the updated regulations for 2020 reflects this.
We have learnt a lot from our experiences in 2019 and it was great to work with everyone from teams, drivers, circuits, and stakeholders to see where we could improve. 2020 will have its challenges but I am confident that people will have a good season.
What can we look forward to in 2020?
This year we are going to allow competitors to seal tyres that are purchased with the BKC, whether they are new or used so this will have a positive effect of people’s tyre budgets.
In general, the weather is slightly better in Europe so you don’t need to purchase as many wet tyres compared to the UK, and the competitor was forced into buying two sets of tyres at each meeting.
If they have a set that have had a slight bit of use, they can be sealed and carried forward to the next event.
Why have you reverted back to three-day meetings for 2020?
There were several factors that we had to consider when we explored if it would be possible to run a Championship in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally for this year’s championship, we were due to have all practice sessions on Saturday and run two-day events, however the organising team felt that by offering an optional Friday practice at the meetings will allow measures to be put in place both on and off track to ensure everyone’s safety. We realise this will have an effect on young drivers that have already had time away from school due to COVID-19, so we have committed to having a quiet area so drivers can do schoolwork remotely on the Friday afternoon or evening.
With other measures also in place, including digital scrutineering, sign-on and briefings, the three-day event allows us to ensure we have time to adhere to the new processes and ensure we have enough time to run the event successfully.
For 2021, we are intending to return to the two-day weekend format. In the meantime, we very much hope the Friday practice will benefit everyone involved whilst we get used to the new safety measures. As always, the safety of our officials, competitors and teams is paramount and we want to ensure that we do not compromise on this in any way during these unprecedented times.
Format tweaks and a new points structure, how will it benefit me?
Based on our 2019 feedback, where we had a first final and a second final format, some competitors felt that if they had a bad first final it ruined their whole weekend. This year, we have worked with our timing partners and created a new points system that will allow competitors to pick and choose with more ease the scores that they drop, which should result in a really close championship battle. It will keep people engaged throughout the season and also if competitors have a bad final, it doesn’t completely ruin their weekend!
So, it isn’t just the format that keeps the racing intense on track! Motorsport UK want to make it fair for all – what have you introduced to achieve this?
Firstly, we have introduced a new fuel for all competitors. In 2019 we moved to a new controlled fuel that could be tested at the venue. The fuel used last year was a very high-quality grade 98 octane fuel and although modern karts can use it, they do often prefer a lower octane fuel. In 2020 we are having a completely new blend and batch of fuel made for us by Vital Equipment. The new fuel is called MSUK 95 which is a 95 octane – a standard unleaded type of fuel, but with the unique marker for testing. We will also have the fuel chemist from Vital at each round to check the competitors’ fuel. Last year, we carried out about 60 fuel tests a day at each round, which enabled us to maintain a level playing field.
Secondly, the Honda exhaust will change for 2020. We will be supplying each competitor in the Honda Cadet class with a controlled exhaust unit for use at the event and those units will then be returned.
It’s all about trying to make it as fair as possible.
And it’s all going to be streamed live this season?
Yes, we are very excited about this addition. Building on our comprehensive highlights package from last year and based on feedback, introducing live streaming will allow us to elevate the championship and introduce it to new audiences.
We have been monitoring live streamed events closely over the years to see the quality and capability of the technology and for 2020, we are delighted to secure Alpha Live for the season. We look forward to producing a great programme over the weekend, across all of the classes.
During this weekend’s racing at Rowrah, everyone will be able to tune into the action on the British Karting Championship and Motorsport UK Facebook pages!
The BKC is leading the way in motorsport in more ways than one. Mechanic registrations… tell us more!
Karting is made up of more than just drivers. We have team managers, mechanics, engine tuners, just to name a few. Registration allows Motorsport UK to develop a better relationship and the ability to communicate with these groups.
Motorsport UK must ensure that everyone involved is safeguarded. We are also implementing steps to prevent unsuitable people working with children. So, for 2020 we introduced mandatory DBS checks for mechanics working with those competitors under the age of 18.
Motorsport UK are also be providing accredited training workshops through Coaching UK/NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit to help those fulfil their roles and responsibilities when working with children.
These are great incentives showing why the BKC is the premier series in the UK. But it comes with a cost doesn’t it?
Absolutely, the BKC is one of the most competitive national championships in the world with safe, regulated, but competitive racing on a level playing field, and to put that package together there is a natural cost associated with it all. Motorsport UK is a not for profit organisation as is the Championship.
As well as the live streaming, on track CCTV camera upgrades, safeguarding training, increased fuel testing, administration fees, we also have alcohol and drug tests this season at all the events and this has a cost for the organisation.
How is 2020 looking?
We already have over 430 drivers registered for the championships so far, and it is growing day by day.
The revised calendar for 2020 was a real challenge, it was very difficult to fit in championship rounds due to the disruption that COVID-19 has had on the season, but we believe that we have organised the best championship given the circumstances and look forward to watching the close racing!