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Editorial | Kees van de Grint: have regulations killed inventiveness in karting?

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Kees van de Grint: Have regulations killed inventiveness in karting?

TKART hosts an interesting reflection by an opinion leader of our sport, who discusses the contrast between absolute freedom and regulations, between the most bizarre chassis and the homologated ones, between the revolutionary spirit of the constructors of the first karting era and the conservative one of today’s constructors. To answer one guiding question: what effect did rules have on karting?


Once upon a time, there was karting. The one of 1956 (birthdate of this sport) and of the years that immediately followed: pioneering, artisanal, experimental, drenched in inventiveness. At a certain point in the history of this sport, however, homologations and regulations come onto the scene. And something changes. Indeed, it changes. The constructors’ desire and possibility of risking and revolutionising - from a technical point of view - are transformed into an extremely difficult challenge, even for the most sparkling of geniuses. The result? We head towards today’s karting, characterised by serial production, in the hands of a few big companies, in a market that has a low risk appetite. How did this skin change occur? What advantages and disadvantages has it brought? Kees van de Grint explains it to us, as he has personally lived this evolution, from a privileged position. “Following the four major revolutions in chassis design, which defined the four technical eras of karting history between the 1960s and the 1970s (read “A journey into the 4 technical eras of karting history”), only evolutions followed. In the early days, with very limited regulations, chassis designers could work out their own ideas and eventually go back to the drawing board and try again. But when chassis homologation was introduced in 1980, it became too big of a financial risk to think outside the traditional box.

Former CIK-FIA vice-president and engineer working for Bridgestone in F1 during the Schumacher era, a life in motorsport and a strong penchant for karting. Kees, a person with a charisma that really stands out, is among the leading experts of karting history, as evidenced by the spectacular collection of historic go-karts he owns.

And hence we started to see only simple developments. For example, in the 1960s, we saw rims with four, five and six-inch diameters, while today rims can only have a five-inch diameter because of regulations, so there is no room for any experiment. With the introduction of homologation, all chassis have to be approved by a governing body (currently the FIA: International Automobile Federation) for sale in a particular market or use in a particular class of motorsports. Therefore, once they have been approved, the chassis can’t be modified (unless the constructors work at a new homologation, which can be registered every three years): they have to respect the measures recorded in the homologation. This obviously increases the time as well as the costs of changing the design of a chassis and of experimenting different technical solutions. Nowadays, regulations are based on the concept of ‘mass production’, whereas in the early days there were hundreds of small, handcrafted producers. Those producers only built chassis for their region, but, whether they managed to create a competitive product or not, the stopwatch was the deciding factor, not administrative paperwork.

Hesta Kart: a chassis produced in Germany in 1969 and made entirely of polyester.

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