Getting Kids Started in Motorsport
As a racer and parent, I wanted to provide my daughter the opportunity to race. But, even with all of the contacts that I had, it was quite difficult to get started.
How do you get kids started in racing?
With as much emphasis as many clubs put on getting new members and getting families involved, it is still surprising difficult to find out what you need to do, when you need to do it, and where you should go when it comes to getting kids involved in motorsport.
As with many sports, motorsports can be a dangerous but there are many things that can be done to mitigate risk. One of the biggest ways to help mitigate the risk is by starting out with a slower kart. This is generally done with restrictor plates or carburetor slides. It can also be done with gearing to some extent. With most clubs, 5 to 8 year olds will be put into "Kid Karts" with top speeds of about 25 MPH. For 8 to 12 year olds, they are generally put into "Cadets" with speeds ranging from about 35 to as high as 50 MPH or so. Once most kids hit their teen years, they are put into adult sized karts with some capable of exceeding 100 MPH.
In addition, with most clubs, kids 12 and under are usually required to wear chest and/or rib protectors, neck braces, helmets, and racing suits at a minimum to help keep them safe.
But keep in mind, YOU ARE DOING THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK and there are still risks.
There are lots of different karts out there and really the only limit is your pocket book and the type of racing you want to be involved with so start with the following questions:
How old is your kid? See above for some of the breakout as to what they are eligible for.
What kind of racing do you or they want to compete in? Circle track? Road course type? Drag? On dirt? Or paved?
Are you any good with working on the kart yourself? If not, you will need to figure this into your budget to have someone else work on it.
Because rentals of true racing karts are rare, you will need to purchase one. Do you have storage for the kart, its equipment, and associated parts? If not, is storage available at your local track?
How much time are you willing to dedicate to it?
Are you OK with dealing with a lot of strict rules? Or do you want things more open and flexible?
How much do you want to travel? How far do you want to travel?
What is your/your kid's desired end goal? To do this as a hobby? Or a pro?
What is your timeline? Do you want something immediate? Or can you ease your way in?
And finally, what is your budget? This includes if someone is sponsoring you
Once you have all of those questions answered, you can then start to think about what class to go for.
Is it safe?
What are your options?
Manage your expectations
We all want our kids to excel, but I have witnessed many situations at the track where a parent (usually the father, sorry guys) will be yelling and screaming at their kid for not taking the correct line around the track or for allowing a competitor by. Mind you, I have seen this in the Kid Kart class level where most clubs don't issue podium trophies but participation trophies.
This is THE fastest way to turn your kid away from karting and for them to not want to do it anymore. Just like with any sport, if they are getting yelled at, they stop having fun and they no longer want to do it. But let them have some fun first, and they will continue to want to do it.
One of the best things you can do with your kid (particularly if they are closer to 5 year old age than teen) is to get them as much seat time as possible. If your local track has a karting school, then great, get them to it so they start learning from experienced drivers for that track. No school available, don't worry, many kids start to pick up on the correct line and techniques simply by watching the other, faster kids. As they get older, then you can start teaching them real race-craft.
Steps 1, 2, and 5 are MANDATORY:
Sit down and figure out what your kid wants to do - circle track, drag, or road course.
Go to your local track events for the kind of racing they want to do. Go early and stay the whole day to see what is involved.
Talk to people. While you are there, if the paddock is open to you, politely ask the karters about how they got started or anything else on your mind. Most folks at the lower echelons of racing are more than happy to tell you all about it.
Find a good used kart. Used karts are usually in the $1500 to $3000 range where a new race kart can set you back over $8000. Ask for help from your folks you met at the track before you buy - many, many karts that are advertised as "racing karts", aren't. There are specific requirements for the kart for the class you want to go into so it is best to ask what is needed. If you can't find anyone local, contact me via the form below.
Start learning. If an instructor is available, then get them to train your kid. If one is not available find one of the friendlier karters that you just met and see if they can give pointers. In many cases, the techniques in karting will transfer to auto racing and vice versa so if nothing else is available, try auto racing online courses to learn the basics.
(Again, if you are unable to find anything local or you want to save yourself some time, reach out to me at the contact form below and I can help)