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Karting is a very dynamic sport where products and consumers change rapidly.  There is a 500% opportunity for growth in the sport that's been neglected by the nearsighted marketing ambitions of the industry.

Change Management of this evolution process can successfully guide the sport to achieve that growth.  One of the keys to growing the sport is to manage that change to effectively attract and retain karting customers.  The TAG concept is a successful example of Change Management applied to attracting new customers.  Stock Moto has both attracted and retained customers.  Both of these components targeted the typical "racer" profile where the attraction factor was focused on economics.  Yet something more is needed to perpetuate the sport.

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SuperKart Solo is a not really a new concept to the autocross crowd yet it's almost unheard of at nearly all kart tracks.  At any given club-owned track, typically half the members don't race they fit into a breed of what could be called Hot-Lappers".  Most of them purchased a kart new or used and after a actually driving them don't feel comfortable with racing wheel-to-wheel.  Maybe they don't care to tangle with others, or maybe they didn't realize the actual operating costs at a competitive level.  Both cost and ambition become barriers with the traditional racing programs even at the club level.

Typical Solo racing with an SCCA event offers a partial solution for the Hot Lapper who's wants to compete although the level value is significantly diluted.  Despite only costing maybe $25-$35 for entry, 4-5 40 second laps through the day compounded with working a session to change cones offers very little gratification at the end of the day.  About the only real gratification comes from beating the lap times of some of the $100,000 exotic cars that show up.  While there are often a limited number of kart entries at the typical Solo event, it invites a question; could these customers be better served by a karting organization at the club level?  And if so, would there be an opportunity to attract other Hot Lappers?

Through 2005 we examined the feasibility among the Dallas Ft Worth market.  What we discovered was a there is a major untapped market potential.  Moreover, a Solo Program offers some solutions to some of the issues that most clubs have in dealing with new racers.

We did some experimentation with this program in 2005 as a feasibility study using a little practical application.  The pilot program revealed several very positive things;

  • Driver Skill is a much larger factor then power or chassis setup. 
  • Jetting is the most important tuning factor.
  • New tires don't really offer much of an advantage over slightly used tires.  Well worn hard tires are at a disadvantage but much less then then they are in a typical club race format.  Tires don't get up to optimal operating temperature in a Solo format.
  • Under a Solo Format it's possible to use a different track layout that extends the course.  This depends on the track, but at the 1/2 mile track we tested on we were able to extend the length to over a mile making each turn different.  This resulted in 90+ second lap times.
  • By staging the launch points various classes could be readily combined with very close times.  For example shifters were given a standing start while TAG's were given a rolling start.  The overall fast time was set by a TAG with an .004 second margin.  Each round of runs had a different driver getting Fast Time of the Day (FTD).
  • Some of the drivers were retired karters who wanted to return to some form of competition but didn't want to spend the time or money to run at the level they were previously accustomed to.  Some were casual Club/Regional racers whose budget wouldn't permit a full season of racing.  Some were Hot Lappers who really didn't want to run wheel-to-wheel. 

SuperKart Solo was designed to optimize track time and accommodate the drivers.  As the track was to be run in two directions with some practice time allotted, there were 4 practice sessions set up, two in each direction.  There was an understanding among the drivers that there would be no passing just to assure that no one would be dicing.

The competition format offered a warm-up lap and a timed lap for each round.  The warm up lap enabled the drivers to better memorize the course as on the second lap there was a turn-off they bypassed on the first lap.  It also improved consistency between rounds with only two DNF's do to "missed gates" through the day - remarkable compared to traditional Solo II cone courses after a total of 48 timed runs.

The cycle time was a little over 3 minutes per run with about 18 timed runs per hour.  We would not allow two karts on course at the same time.  We ran 3 timed runs for each of the group of 16 who participated.  Driver skill levels were very evident through the improvements in lap times from the first round to the third.  The more experienced drivers started in the 90 second range with and dropping to 85-87 seconds in the third round.  The lesser experienced drivers started in the 98 second range with most dropping to the 90 second range by the third round.

The rolling start for TAG's vrs the standing start for shifters was a last minute addition and we seemed to hit the balance point of starting position pretty close on the first try.  The balance of mixing classes like shifters and TAG's will depend on the layout, lap time differentials, and where the launch line is located for the shifters.

The entire pilot run took about 4-1/2 hours with about 1/2 an hour of that pretty much brainstorming through a casual drivers meeting.  SuperKart Solos aren't something that would be added to a club racing day due to the extra time it takes.  It probably wouldn't take away from Club Racing since the key appeal is to those who don't have the time, money, or ambition to run a Club Racing Series.

Benefits to a Club are more then a small increase in competition entry revenues.  If this type of event were marketed a bit better it could probably draw about 20-30% the size of a normal sized Club Race with a fraction of the overhead and staff required to operate.  As a pilot program no one paid to enter, but they all felt pretty comfortable with paying $20-$30 range for entry fees to a track sanctioned event. 

Where the SuperKart Solo program really shines is with member retention.  Taking into account that many exit the sport for financial reasons this program offers a way to continue a limited level of competition at a fraction of the cost of wheel-to-wheel racing.  As variations of equipment lose a competitive edge in the traditional racing format, SuperKart Solo program breathes new life into older equipment.  Think about how many perfectly good karts that were once at your track but no longer come racing.  This program could be what it takes to bring them back to the track.

Event operation requires a Timing & Scoring Operator and a Grid Director.  Prior to timed runs the T&S Operator can manage the Registration which closes prior to any timed runs.  It may be helpful to have a Track Steward for as a Starter and observer but we didn't find that necessary with our pilot test.  Lacking wheel-to-wheel competition, a SuperKart Solo offers the same or better level of safety as a normal practice day.

This program could readily be applied to any class even Kid Karts.  In fact it may be an excellent way to introduce a novice training program for karting newbies.

Want to give a SuperKart Solo a test drive at your track? 

First check with the track insurer what the policies are over ambulance attendance requirements.  We don't know of any insurance policies that will require an ambulance but that doesn't mean there aren't any. 

Second, download a copy of the SuperKart Solo Flyer Template and fill in the blanks.  Be sure to inform all your members and then some of the event.  You never know how many former members still have karts in their garages that could use a little track time.

SuperKart Solo Flyer Template


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