Britain’s premier karting series – the British Kart Championships will return to circuits across the country with the championships getting underway with the Rotax classes at PF International (21/22 March). 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, the first time it has ever been done and for the first year we can say we did a good job – not perfect of course but a good job as a whole, especially working with a brand new team and all of the new modern technology and adapting the way we worked together at the events. One thing we really wanted to create a customer focussed championship make competitors feel more like customers than numbers!
At the back end of last year, we sent a questionnaire to all of the drivers in the various classes and the one thing that came back straight away was that one solution does not fit all. Rules for one championship didn’t work for another and the regulations for 2020 will reflect the customer feedback.
We have learnt a heck of a lot from the experiences in 2019 and it was great to work with everyone from teams, drivers, circuits and stakeholders, so 2020 will have its challenges I am sure but I am confident that people will have a good season.
What can we look forward to in 2020?
We have quite a lot of new innovations for this season regulatory wise and away from the circuit too. We listened to our competitors as all of the changes are directly reflective of the feedback. One thing that was the same across the board straight away was the tyre regulations and tyre voucher system. 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. In 2020 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. If they have a set that have had a slight bit of use they can be sealed and carried forward to the next event.
Explain the two-day format for the IAME classes in 2020?
This idea came from Motorsport UK to align with other premier series in the country like BTCC, British GT etc that run over two days – a lot of motorsport is cost driven and the extra day adds costs to everyone, extra tyres, extra accommodation, extra fuel, extra time off school and work – so the IAME classes will be two-days for the majority of the season. However, in the summer holidays there will be two, three-day meetings – an easier time of year to adopt the three-day format.
We have set a new format for the IAME guys and girls and that will be practice on Saturday and racing on Sunday. For TKM, Honda, Rotax and KZ2 the format will be the same as 2019, although there will be a bit more space between sessions on the Saturday, as the competitors requested.
Format tweaks and a new points structure, how will it benefit me?
From the feedback in 2019, where we had a final one and final two format, if you had a bad final one that ruined your whole weekend, so we have worked with our timing partners and come-up with a new points system that will allow you to pick and choose with more ease the scores that you drop, and this should make for a really close championship. It will keep people engaged the season and also if you have a bad final, it doesn’t have to completely ruin your weekend!
It isn’t just the format, to keep the racing intense on track we want to make it fair for all and that includes a new fuel?
Yes, that is correct. 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 as the name suggested, 95 octane which is a standard unleaded type of fuel, but with the unique marker for testing. We will also have the fuel chemist from Vital once again to continually check the fuel. Just to give people an idea of the testing at the events we carry out about 60 fuel tests a day last year which enables us to keep a level playing field when it comes to fuel.
To keep the racing on a level playing field, this will apply to the Honda drivers.
The Honda exhaust will change for 2020 to a new type and following on from the success we had in 2019. The championship will be supplying each competitor in the Honda Cadet class 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 and as level a playing field as possible, and the Honda class provides us with some of the most competitive racing.
And it’s all going to be live this season?
Yes, we are really happy with this addition. Last year we had a comprehensive highlights package which our competitors enjoyed but they wanted to see something ‘there and then’ on a weekend and something which was easy to access for partners and sponsors to follow. We have been watching it quite closely over the years to see the quality and capability of it and I think for 2020, live streaming will sit perfectly with what we are trying to achieve with the growth of the series. We are delighted to secure Alpha for the forthcoming season, and we look forward to producing a great programme on a Sunday, across all of classes and more news on this will be announced soon.
The BKC is leading the way in motorsport in more ways than one. Mechanic registration, tell us more?
There is a pool of people who work in the heart of the karting community (team managers, mechanics, engine tuners). Registration allows Motorsport UK to develop a better relationship and ability to communicate with these groups. Motorsport UK must ensure that children are safeguarded and that steps are taken to prevent unsuitable people working with children. So, in 2020 we will be registering and DBS checking mechanics working with those competitors under the age of 18. Motorsport UK will 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, we pride on the fact the BKC is ‘the’ best and most competitive karting championship in the UK 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 will also have alcohol and drug tests this season at all the events this all has a cost for the organisation.
How is 2020 looking?
We already have over 320 drivers registered for the championships so far, and we are pleased with that number and it is growing day by day. The first year always creates a big fanfare, and a huge number of drivers wanted to be a part of the Motorsport UK Championship as it is ‘the’ place for karting in this country. Interestingly many of people who registered last year didn’t take part and that turned quite a few people away as they thought it was full or were put on a reserve list, by this time the season has already started. The calendar for 2020 was a real challenge this year, it was very difficult to fit in all championship rounds. The number of rounds we have are what were requested by the customers.
And finally, a big question when we announced the calendars. Why are we not going to certain circuits?
It is so difficult with the sheer amount of racing that goes on in Europe and in the UK to find dates and venues that are available and don’t clash with other circuits and other series as well as fitting our 18 race weekends in that mix. It is important to keep weekends clear so teams can have time off, move equipment around Europe and allow them time to compete in club racing as well.
There are a lot of circuits we wanted to visit this year but due to changes in the club set-ups, circuit suitability and just because of the packed calendar we couldn’t logistically squeeze them in, and that is a real shame. I am mindful of making changes to the calendar for 2021 already to take further points on board.
We do sympathise with those with geographical challenges with some of the Honda or Rotax rounds in particular and we praise everyone who puts together a campaign and commits to the series. What we can guarantee will be a season producing plenty of regulated and fair, level playing field racing with the prestigious British titles up for grabs once again.