|16 December 2016|
Here are the end-of-year summaries from the CIK-FIA President, Vice President and head of WSK Promotion, as published on the CIK-FIA website.
The excellent sporting record is not the only highlight of the 2016 season that has just ended. Important innovations are indeed in force successfully while others have been announced for the near future. Karting is currently engaged in a major transition to enable it to meet the challenges of changing times.
The CIK-FIA, through the CIK Commission and the various working groups, several years ago began a necessary renewal of its strategic directions, with the effects appearing gradually.
The most important innovation of the year was of course the introduction of new OK and OK-Junior categories to replace the older KF generation. With solid technical arguments such as performance, simplicity and reliability, but also based on financial cost of acquisition and more affordable maintenance, OK and OK-Junior made a good debut and should continue to gain acceptance at all levels in the coming years.
In parallel with the accession of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Karting to the status of the CIK-FIA Endurance Championship, responding to a request after substantive work on the part of the ACO, the 31st edition of the French classic also enhanced the reputation of the OK engines which emerged from their first year at the 24 hour race.
With the arrival of OTK Kart Group as a technical partner, the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy experienced a particularly attractive 7th season which allowed it to fulfil the task of the detection and training of young talent more than ever.
The three World Championships, now run over one Competition each, create growing interest and generate excellent media coverage. Sweden rose to a great challenge, succeeding in perfectly organising the CIK-FIA World Championship for KZ. The holding of the CIK-FIA World Championship for the OK and OK-Junior categories in Bahrain is close to my heart and I thank the sporting authorities of that country for their efforts to facilitate the arrival of a large number of participants at its widely appreciated circuit. I warmly congratulate the three new World Champions honoured this year in the top-level competitions.
2017 will open with a major change concerning the lowering of the age that Drivers can take part in competitions by one year in the categories of direct-drive karts like OK-Junior and OK. This is to adapt to the overall development of motorsport in which access to cars has been significantly increased. In addition to strengthening the entries in international karting Competitions, this measure is also intended to allow young drivers to enjoy another year of learning in this very formative discipline before the leap into cars. In terms of quality, and also safety, Formula 4 races should emerge stronger.
I conclude by thanking all those who have invested dynamically in the development of Karting worldwide. The CIK-FIA will continue with its efforts to give our sport back a prime place in the great family of Motorsport.
The balance of 2016 leaves me with a mixed impression. Not because the CIK-FIA competitions were unsatisfactory, on the contrary. The debut of the new OK and OK-Junior engines has exceeded our expectations, both nationally and internationally. The Academy is again full and the partnership with OTK has set new standards. Why the mixed emotions?
Two problems have preoccupied me throughout the year. In January, my friend Randolph Bath, the CIK-FIA coordinator and the president of the sporting working group, was paralysed after a stroke. We are greatly lacking and the paddock has not been the same without him.
My second concern relates to the attitude of some competitors and manufacturers towards the front fairings.
There is no doubt that the system is not perfect, but it is the best way to fight against reckless driving. Some try to bend the rules to defend their own interests which is beyond me, and we were forced to take measures against this.
But what a racing season we had, with the return of the best of Original Karting. Young hopefuls have overtaken the stars during fierce confrontations and the best have found their place in tomorrow's motor sport. It is the vocation of Karting in general and the CIK-FIA Championships in particular.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans Karting inaugurated the status of CIK-FIA Endurance Championship this year in a very successful way. The ACO has invested in this project with great efficiency and I was very satisfied with the organisation of this great classic. I extend my congratulations to the winner, the team Sarthe RTKF, who has mastered this specific area perfectly. I also want to thank CRG, who had had the courage to meet the challenge. I hope that the Italian brand will be back next year and that other factories will dare to join them. For me the greatest victory was that of the OK concept, which has proved that this new generation of high-performance, reliable and affordable engines can win not only in sprint, but after a double turn of the clock.
After an absence of nearly four decades, next year the CIK-FIA World Championship will return to England (OK and OK-Junior) and Germany (KZ). It is best to book a place in advance, as there were 4,000 spectators this year at the Åsum Ring (SWE).
My expectations were very high for the 2016 World Championship at Kristianstad, but the organisation surpassed my wildest dreams. The promotion of the event, the effectiveness and friendly atmosphere were comparable only with the enthusiasm of the early days of the sport. The choice was therefore not difficult for the best event of the year. Congratulations to Jesper, Tobias, Jörgen and all the members of Kristianstad Kart Klubb. In fairness the Bahrain event was a serious rival, especially thanks to the generous financial offer from the organiser to the competitors.
It was harder to decide on the honour for an extraordinary contribution to karting until I spoke to a longtime member of the CIK Commission and the working group, and Superkart commissioner and representative. Now in his eighties, Thom Meylink can enjoy a well deserved rest after working for Karting since the pioneer days.
This year the 5th Coppa dei Campioni and the CIK-FIA Historic Super Cup, two traditional events that I'm a big fan of, have uncovered extraordinary machines.
Finally, turning to the future this time, the proposed changes for 2017 allow drivers to enter international competitions a year earlier in the direct drive categories and adding a points system to count for the FIA super license, promising a bright future for Karting.
What conclusions can we draw from the introduction of the new categories in 2016?
Technically, it has been a success. OK-Junior has been proven without any problems and the number of entries has proved quite satisfactory. For the OK category, it's more complicated and it will take two seasons to form an opinion. The equipment itself is not in question. We needed an elite class with thrilling performance for drivers and spectators. It has been successful on that count. Two difficulties arise, however, with the lack of national championships for OK in many countries and the temptation to move to cars quickly for top drivers.
More generally, what is the situation for karting now?
When one carefully analyses the situation, one can only note that Karting is doing quite well. This is a time where the who of motor sport encounters difficulties. The entries are down everywhere, but Karting is more resistant than other disciplines. Just look at the numbers to be convinced. We also saw good performance in the CIK-FIA categories this season compared with the different brand cups and it is a very encouraging sign. One can reasonably hope that this trend will continue in the coming years. Over the last two years, many things have changed. The CIK-FIA is working in the right direction and this is only the beginning. Karting will improve at international and national levels and I am convinced that it is fundamental to rebuild basic attractive competitions for international categories in each country. This requires a real commitment from the ASNs.
What do you expect for next season?
Major decisions have been taken. The most important relates to lowering the age for each category. OK-Junior is already in very good health, and the young Drivers starting should confirm that momentum. Regarding the OK, we should see a strengthening of the entries. If we can reach 30 to 40 Drivers per race in 2017, everyone will be happy. This is a good measure for Karting but also for Cars. Indeed, they will start in cars, such as Formula 4, as better trained and more experienced drivers. The layout of the race format adopted this year was positive to reduce the preparatory testing. Maybe we could go further by extending the freedom to use tyres from the official free practice on Friday morning and will start limiting the sets of tyres until Qualifying. We now have the ability to group several categories to offer attractive meetings as we have seen especially at Genk with four categories in contention and nearly 200 drivers. The CIK-FIA is determined to continue in this direction. All this makes the 2017 season look very good!