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Karters’ Noses Out of Joint with New CIK-FIA Bump and Grind Mount

Published By Keith Buffo     July 14, 2014    


CIK-FIA has announced approval of a new front fairing mounting kit (Note: For those who speak American, that’s the front bumper not the driver’s panel that we call the fairing, which is also called the nassau panel but apparently only in the Bahamas.) The sanctioning body’s goal is to stem what many say is an epidemic of front to rear contact, or at least to stop people from saying that it is. With the new kit, bumps of 5 km/hr or more will cause a kart’s nose to partially dismount and grind on the track. This will force the driver onto pit lane to remount the nose while reciting every obscenity they know.


Thoroughishly Tested to Prove it Works Without Proving it Doesn’t


The CIK press release highlights the new mounting kit’s consistent performance in extensive on-track bumping and grinding by top drivers. Off the record the test drivers are imagined to say, “it takes all the fun out of wrecking people.” Probably a step in the right direction.


However, aside from confirming the mechanical function of the kit, the initial CIK press release offers no mention of any real-world testing of its effectiveness as a contact deterrent. It was tested at the Wackersdorf round of the CIK FIA European Championship this past weekend, though it's too early for official results. Let’s hope next season serves as a full beta test for the kit. Hopefully that will reveal answers to the many questions that karters are asking: “Will it actually stop people from wrecking me?” “Can it be disabled so it doesn’t stop me from wrecking them?” Questions that should be answered before every karter on the planet is forced to buy the new kit.


"He Kept Beating on My Front Bumper with His Rear Bumper"

My favorite racing punch line might not be so funny if this kit is adopted. Let’s say you’re starting right behind your biggest rival, who is a jerk (because anyone who wins besides you is a jerk.) As you speed into turn 1, and you’re about to eat is lunch, he sticks you with the check, the brake check that is. Off you grind to pit lane to reattach your nose and recite obscenities. Besides getting a nose job from the jerk in front of you, you’ll also be vulnerable to getting pushed by the kart behind you into the one in front of you. Either way an innocent driver gets punished. Worst of all, that innocent driver is you.


Grannies Only?

What if you nick a tall curb, cone or barrier at speed because you’re driving on the edge? (Often reffered to as "racing".) What if your nose hits the edge of the asphalt because you dropped a couple of wheels by accident or were avoiding an accident? What if you race at older facilities, temp tracks and street courses where big bumps are part of the game? What about hitting standing water? If any of these create an impact over 3mph they might as well be black flag offences. So I guess the real question is, how much of an old lady will you have to be just to make it to the checkers?


Such an Effective Deterrent People Might Just Stay Home

Nobody would be happy if race directors waved the black flag for every single incident of front to rear contact over 3mph regardless of obvious mitigating circumstances or a driver’s history of clean racing. But that's exactly what this kit does, it punishes every time no matter what. You bump – you grind. So you have to ask yourself: How many races would you need to lose because of the kit before you just stopped coming to the track?


While you’re asking yourself questions, try this one: Do we really want to rob race directors of the ability to exercise discretion? Drivers who race at the highest levels have invested a lot of time and money into the opportunity to race against the best karters at the best tracks in the best events. Shouldn’t they rightly expect the best officiating? Honestly, shouldn’t racers at every level rightly expect strong consistent officiating? When the officials' ability to correct a situation is weakened by rules, things fall apart. Thankfully most officials work hard and do a great job. But if we take away their discretion and judgment, we take away the glue that binds the sport at every level.


Better Drivers or Bigger Woosies?

Some say, “the tighter the competition, the bigger the fields and the higher the stakes, the more contact is going to happen.” This isn’t even half of the truth. That’s because most kart races are club events. The club level is a vital ecosystem of veteran drivers pitting and racing side by side with rookies. This mixing of fast and slow, mentors and learners, is critical to the health of our sport, but in its own way leads to unintentional 3mph contact. So why escalate accidental contact and minor wobbles into lost races and lost championships? This will only lead to hard feelings between racers, lost motivation to club race for veterans, and a reluctance to make hugely educational mistakes for rookies.


Punish the innocent, create a new way to cheat, remove judgment from officiating, and make the sport more expensive while discouraging participation and learning. What’s not to love about this propposed rule? I’m worried that this new bumper kit won’t just take all the fun out of wrecking people, it’ll take a big chunk of the fun out of karting. I'm also worried about what it's going to cost, and I don't mean the money.



Keith Buffo is a seasoned road racer with a couple national and several regional championships. He is also an active participant and promoter of karting at the club level. The opinions he expresses here are his alone and don’t necessarily reflect those of any organization he is affiliated with.

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