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Special | FIA approvals: what they are, what they are for, how long they last… The ultimate guide!

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FIA APPROVALS: WHAT THEY ARE, WHAT THEY ARE FOR, HOW LONG THEY LAST … THE ULTIMATE GUIDE!

20 November 2022 • 12 min. read
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If you have come into contact with the karting world, you will certainly have heard of “approval”, “approved chassis”, “expired approval” … What is it about? We will explain it to you. Is it a funny topic? No, but if you do karting, it is better to know certain things…

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THINGS TO KNOW

The concept of technical approval CIK-FIA (International Karting Commission – International Automobile Federation, otherwise known as FIA Karting) concerns Racing karts (to find out which types of karts currently exist, read the “Dossier | The definitive guide: how to start with go-karts”). They are important because without them you cannot take part in races around the world that apply FIA regulations.

Approvals in karting have existed since the 1980s and over time have undergone constant implementations and updates, to make them increasingly useful and closer to the needs of drivers and manufacturers and, above all, to keep up with the contingent needs of their time. The goal of a CIK-FIA technical approval is to check whether a component (a chassis, engine, braking system, etc.) complies with FIA technical regulations and has been made in a minimum number of examples. Only manufacturers recognised by the International Automobile Federation can request technical approval which, to be accredited as such, requires possession of a series of technical and organisational characteristics that are verified by CIK-FIA inspectors. An approval form is drafted at the end of the approval process of each product. This is a document (a sort of passport) which contains the approval number, technical drawings, photos and technical specifications of the component in question, so that its suitability can be subsequently verified by a commissioner during a race or by an inspector, in order to check that the manufacturer is still manufacturing that product according to the specifications declared during the approval phase. The approval number and the serial number must be compulsorily attached to each individual example of an approved product in such a way that it is clearly legible and verifiable both by users and by the scrutineers during inspections.

What they are

CIK-FIA approvals are valid in all those countries (the majority) that adopt, through the local federations and promoters, the race regulations of CIK-FIA competitions which, obviously, require the use of approved vehicles. In some countries there are also local entities that, for their races, have the right of acceptance, rejection, or not specifically requesting CIK-FIA approved products. So it may happen that in Italy, for example, there are competitions that require the use of CIK-FIA approved products (the IAME Series and ROK Cup single-brands, to name two) and others that, instead, do not require this specification (the Briggs & Stratton Championship by CRG). It may then happen that in some countries CIK-FIA approvals are usually accepted, but a further technical verification by the local federations is required before the use of the various products in competitions.

What is certain is that the most prestigious competitions (such as the world championship) are all CIK-FIA regulated and therefore require the use of approved products. In addition, often even countries that do not require the use of CIK-FIA approved material actually impose regulations that are strongly inspired by the technical guidelines of CIK-FIA approved products.

Where, how and who uses it

Approvals were introduced in karting mainly for two reasons. The first is to keep the technical evolution of the sector under control which, without limitations, would otherwise head towards an uncontrolled development that would lead to the incessant creation of new and increasingly performing products, an unsustainable condition for the vast majority of passionate practitioners who would find themselves having to constantly buy the latest generation chassis (but also an engine, tyres, etc.) in order to be competitive. The second reason concerns the need to establish precise technical margins within which the various manufacturers can work to make their products, with certain quality standards, but, above all, safety standards.
The approvals also make the entire karting sector more credible, regulating the market entry of new products and new manufacturers thanks to the definition of minimum standards that must be guaranteed to consumers. On the other hand, as is obvious, at the basis of the approvals there are regulations that, as is known, limit the imagination and inventiveness of the technicians (a topic addressed in the article “Editorial | Kees van de Grint: have regulations killed inventiveness in karting?”). Furthermore, the approvals have a cost, the taxes that the manufacturer must pay each time a new approval is issued for a new product or to extend the validity of an existing product.

What they are used for
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Example of an identification plate attached to a chassis. In addition to the approval number and the name of the manufacturer, the serial code is also indicated, able to univocally identify the chassis.

All the main components of the kart are subject to technical approval and are divided into three main groups:

Chassis, brakes, fairings, bumpers (the tubular metal structure that connects the fairings to the chassis) and rear guards
B. engines, ignition parts, carburetors, intake filters and exhausts
C. tyres.

The three together follow three-year cycles for the approval of new products or for the extension of those already on the market: it means that every three years there is a new approval session or extension of existing ones. The three sets of products alternate cyclically, so, for example, 2022 is the year of new approval for set A (chassis, brakes, etc.), 2023 for set B (engines, ignitions, etc.) and 2024 for the entire set C (tyres). 2025 will restart with set A and so on.

The karts used in competitions are then divided into groups and classes:

Group 1 – KZ1 (or KZ), this is the queen shifter class in FIA karting, in which experimental chassis and braking systems can also be used, therefore not adhering to Group 2 approvals. They can participate, with non-approved chassis and braking systems, in KZ1, only for manufacturers who, however, have products approved in Group 2.

Group 2 – Includes the KZ2 classes (shifter) as well as OK and OKJ (single-speed) in which you can only drive with products strictly adhering to the approval fiche.

Group 3 – This is that of the MINI karts. Experimentation is not allowed in this class and all the products used must correspond to the approval fiche of the various manufacturers.

Group 4 – These are the Superkarts, which we do not cover in this article.

Even clothing (overalls, gloves, shoes, helmets and rib protectors) are subject to CIK-FIA approval, as are lubricants. Each technical approval imposes certain technical parameters to be respected (for example in the case of the chassis, the number and diameter of the tubes) as well as specific verifications by means of tests (for example, the impact tests of fairings and bumpers, the sound level tests of the intake silencers or those of abrasion of overalls).

Products requiring approval
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The table shows the four macro groups into which the various competitive classes recognised by FIA Karting are divided. Group 1 (KZ1, otherwise known as KZ) covers experimental products (chassis and braking systems only), therefore also not corresponding to the approval fiche defined for Group 2 products. This is to allow manufacturers, who have approved Group 2 products to experiment and test any evolution of the same, only in KZ class races, in view of the subsequent approval cycle of Group 2 products.

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