In the final installment of our series delving into the US karting national series structure, we talk about what organizations should do beyond their own programs to enhance and grow the sport, and why the United States has not adopted a single, national governing body to regulate the sport.
At the international level, karting is governed by the CIK-FIA. Many countries around the world have a national organizations that are directly aligned with CIK-FIA, and adhere to their standards for racing at the national level. So why is it different in the United States? Without going too much into the history of karting the US, let’s look at the two original organizations that were sanctioning bodies, WKA and IKF. IKF was founded in 1957 not long after karting started to grow in the country, running their own annual national events. WKA was founded some years later, in 1971, and is considered the largest sanctioning body in the United States.
While WKA operates several of their own series, and their rulebook and / or regulations are followed in part by some others, they themselves do not have the authority to either affirm or deny a series’ existence, its national status, or its official rulebook. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because WKA never officially affiliated itself with CIK-FIA in a manner that gave them this authority, and this could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they didn’t want to be hindered by the restrictions put forth by European racing regulations, or have to abruptly change class formats and structures to follow suit with European trends. It could also be because history tells us that karting actually began in the US, most notably attributed to a California man named Art Ingels. If the sport originated here, then our own organizations should be able to set the standards of competition for the sport. Or maybe because karting in the US is inherently different than in Europe, from the engine classes we run to the surfaces of our tracks.
Whatever the real reason, it seems to be the status quo that, since the beginning of competitive kart racing in the US, an organization establishes its own set of rules and creates a governing body within itself to operate within its series. IKF did it, so did WKA, so why shouldn’t later series be allowed to the same thing, if there is no higher body to tell them no? And so more series were introduced by different organizations that set their own rules and standards, and the cycle continued. The truth is, there may not be a single, concrete reason or explanation for why US karting system operates the way it does. Realistically, there are probably based on a number of factors over in the past 50 years that brought it to where it is today.
So if the overall system isn’t going to change any time soon, then what should we expect from these self-appointed organizations? Well, firstly, if they are going to deem themselves national in name, title, or status, then they have an obligation to help grow the sport from the local level. This self-titling tactic will only hurt and confuse the ladder system if these series do not create or align themselves with local and regional series. They need to help unify the system and create a true upward funnel of racing talent, and not simply use their title as a promotional tool to grow at a national level. This is not only for the betterment of the sport but also for the safety of competitors. They need to truly be committed to growing the sport at a club level, working with local tracks to establish clear rules and class structures that can allow a driver to easily and affordably move up the ranks to regional and perhaps even national events. More focus needs to be given at these lower levels to help grow the sport and make it more accessible to people who can’t afford the time or money to travel to bigger events.
Lastly, and most importantly, if karting organizations are going to take it upon themselves to self-title as national or professional series, then the karting community as a whole needs to self-police these organizations and hold them accountable for their choices and actions. If a series’ rule book has statutes that seem unfair, and a hindrance to the growth of the sport, speak out against them. If the creation of so many series with conflicting rules and technical regulations make it impossible to compete in all of them, choose the ones that treat their competitors, and the sport, with the most respect. And remember that no matter how popular and promotable a series may be, it could be gone tomorrow, and that is all the more reason to support those series with commitment to longevity in the sport, rather than just making a business transaction.