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A CIK Letter From Graeme Hancock

The Editor,

In your header to the Ian Salvestrin article (KF Engines In The World of Karting - HERE), you ask: “Could the points he makes be an underlying factor in why CIK-style racing is having such a hard time re-launching in Australia at the moment?”

Yes indeed, but before I go there,  Ian also adverts to the plainly ridiculous weights in KF racing. In Australia, the 125 classes have been plagued with the same problem since Rotax 125 was introduced and it just doesn’t make sense. I am 83 kg and I used to put 2 – 4 kg of lead on to make National or Clubman Heavy. But I was only a few kg over the Rotax Light minimum and would need 15kg of ballast to make Rotax Heavy !

Back to the topic.  Ian does give pointers, I believe, as to why CIK wasn’t successfully re-launched in Australia this year.

Firstly, let’s look quickly at Ian Silvestrin’s CIK, who’s pinnacle year was 2000. At that point, he had over 100 competitors in 3 classes, many of whom were paying $60,000+ pa for the privilege.  Why were they?  Many factors, but I suggest the foremost are: prestige, publicity and promotion.  The drivers knew success meant doors were open to them in the European professional and factory teams, and in the US. Locally, Dick Johnson and other V8 teamowners guaranteed test drives, sponsored overseas drives were on the cards. In other words, the professional motorsport career was the dangling carrot and it was Ian and his team and his magazine (KartOz - Ed.) that were providing the publicity and promotional forums for the drivers to get the exposure.

Forgetting the dismal efforts from 2003 – 2005, Australia hasn’t had a proper CIK series since 2002 and even in 2001, the competitor numbers had dropped off.  The reason is not rocket science: from 2001, there was no promoter.  Without Ian and then Sean Henshelwood, the crash was quick.

Ian makes 3 points that I believe answer your question and point to why CIK racing is relevant and which class the re-introduction in Australia needs to begin with.

One: the various 125 categories are quite quick and well supported by their promoters. That will keep 90 odd per cent of racers happy I suspect and so less likely to be attracted to CIK.

Two: the World CIK Championships is still the highest level of competition.  I would suggest by a substantial margin too, as the evidence I have seen says KF2 laptimes are about 10% faster than Rotax 125, you have sticky tyre chassis issues and the limited tyre allocation requires tyre management.

The point is this: if a karter wants a career as a motorsport driver, the evidence, both home and abroad, is that you need a CIK background. Courtney, Briscoe, Winchup, Winterbottom, Clark, Graham, Thompson, Caruso, Walsh.  There is simply, no one who has graduated to professional motorsport from being a clubman or 125 champion.

And three: the Senna’s, Prosts, Trulli’s etc. started karting before they were 10 and raced junior CIK classes.  As did Courtney and Co.  In fact, until about 10 years ago, we still had junior international as a domestic class as well.

The conclusion the IKC reported to the AKA on 16 January 2008 was a KF2 series wasn’t viable and we should look firstly to KF3, the juniors because they are the ones with the professional aspirations.  That may not work either, but if it were offered with the profile Ian points to as surrounds the World events now, or the repackaged version the IKC planned in 2007, you’d be giving it the best possible chance.  Remember too, the 2007 local version was drastically less expensive than the European ‘open’ variety and on a control engine and tyre, designed to find who was the best driver and equipment manager.      

Graeme Hancock


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