Kip Foster - The Vegas Interview

Kip Foster raced the SKUSA Supernationals in Las Vegas last month. After a shakey start to the meeting, he put in a fantastic charge in the final to claw through the pack and win TaG Masters. But, for the second year in a row, he was removed from victory post-race (ironically, allowing the same guy to win again). Many consider the punishment does not fit the crime - by a long margin. Foster states his case in this supplied interview by Peter Hall.

interview by Peter Hall (edited by Simon Furzer)

Q: Firstly well done for 'winning' again in TAG MASTER for the second year in a row and a 2nd place in 2009.  What happened this year and why were you disqualified?

KF:  Well, last year I lost the race because the Vortex engine I hired from J3 Competition failed tech with the ignition timing advanced by 3 or 4 thou. This year, in a rush to get to Qualifying grid, my sponsor, who filled out the yellow scrutineering form, accidently wrote the wrong number from the starter motor and not from the base of the engine.

Q:  But surely your engine was measured by the technical staff after the final race.

KF: Yes completely. Tech didn’t just measure everything, like CC’s carby, timing, ports etc. They weighed almost every part including the clutch and crank on digital scales.

The engine passed tech inspection and John Motley, the tech advisor, said they had satisfied themselves that I had not changed engine at any stage during the event.

After qualifying and each race the engine was checked for correct carby, reeds etc, and  it had accumulated additional paint markings on the engine. This is what John Motley called their “paint code”. John Motley still has the starter motor, with the correct number, in the SKUSA trailer to this day.

Above: Foster on track during practice in Vegas

Q: That must mean a competitor complained.

KF: This is correct. They were, Robby Mott, Randy Froom and Leonardo Nienkotter.

Q: This must have been devastating news, it seems like a very unsporstman like thing to do.  Did you know these drivers intended to protest?

KF: Not at all.  When I first heard that Leonardo had protested, I thought someone is taking the mickey out of me.  So I went up to Leonardo, who races with the same team as me, and asked him.  He said “No I have not protested".  Then to find out later on he had protested, I think makes him a bit of a coward.

Q: What about Robby Mott and Randy Froom? Did you talk to them?

KF: No. Apart from the obvious positions to gain, Robby Motts protest shocked me as he qualified fastest and then got slower with each race. In the final I was 1 second off Joel Millars fastest time in TAG Senior which is about right for the 30 pounds difference in weight.  Robby Mott was 1.5-1.6 seconds off Millar. That means to me that I wasn’t going that fast. Mott and Froom were going really slow. So to call me a cheat seems a bit shallow.

Q: And qualifying, its unusual to see you back so far in the field?

KF: Friday was a shocker. Prior to qualifying J3 Competition informed me the carby on my kart didn’t conform to SKUSA rules and provided me with another carby. Unfortunately, while trying to sort out the tuning together with a slipping clutch, I ended up qualifying 20th. Then to top off a bad day the starter motor failed and we had to use an external starter for heat 1. I ended up crashing resulting in a DNF. After that we worked hard and chipped away to get the great result in the final.

Q: After being so competitive each year in Vegas, are you keen to go back?

KF: I am not sure to be honest.  I have really enjoyed the event each year and I love the concept of a temporary track.  But I think I am a bit over the Las Vegas deal. Since 2009, when Michael Schumacher raced, I have seen the event become a bit run of the mill, and it has definitely lost a bit of prestige I feel.

The other reason is that the SKUSA officials wrote me a letter, sent by the race director, saying they were glad they managed to disqualify me on a technicality.

After seeing David Sera robbed of victory in 2010 by a take-out manoeuvre, all caught on camera, and they did nothing about it, then this letter. No wonder I’m becoming reluctant to compete there again.

Q: Geez Kip, that’s a pretty wild claim.  Are you prepared to show that letter to the karting public?

KF: Yes Peter. I’ll upload the letter onto my Kartforce Facebook page (the page is now viewable HERE - MW).

Q: You are well known for being a tough competitor on the track but generally you are fairly quiet in the paddock, did you have any run-ins with the SKUSA officials over the weekend - apart from when the disqualification was handed down?

KF: Not at all.

Q: OK, How did you get over the highs and lows of the SuperNats this year?

KF: It was great to catch up with some good friends at the Voodoo lounge afterwards and spend time with Craig Willis, my sponsor (pictured, far right, with Foster in vegas), who has stood by me and without him, racing at this level would not have been possible. But definitely snow skiing at Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe did the trick.

Q: So, where to from here?  If you’re not going to run the SuperNats in 2012, then what are your plans?

KF:  Well I’ll try to defend my Australian Championship in Darwin.  I definitely rate winning an Australian Championship in Clubman a far higher achievement.  Then I would like to consider the IAME X30 Championship in Europe.

Q: So we'll see you racing IAME X30 and Clubman in Australia in 2012?

KF: I love the X30 engine and with the Kosmic Kart they make a great combination so yes, I’ll race both classes at different times during the year.

Thanks very much for your time Kip, and Merry Christmas to you and your family.