It was just a few years ago I was wrapping up my son's successful kids kart career. I passed along to other dads the nuggets of wisdom I learned in the youngest class. Now we are wrapping up a successful cadet kart career and I am once again interested in encouraging the next generation.
The adage 'you don't know what you don't know' applies very much to cadet karting. We won a lot and I learned a lot about what I didn't know. Maybe you are just starting to kart or maybe you already know some of these ten truths:
1. All engines are not created equal. Some engine manufacturers are better than others, but there is not 100% parity from engine-to-engine. When dads have dynos in their garages, and others spend an entire year's racing budget of some families on one engine, there cannot be parity. A wise friend once told me "the first word in motorsports is motor." Don't ever forget it. It is what it is. Claim a motor if the series allows for it. Think twice about running in a series that doesn't have a claimer rule.
2. Some chassis work better in varying conditions/locations. Some chassis are good all-around chassis that require little work and get the job done in most cases. Some work better in colder conditions. Some work better in big-race rubber. Most kids can drive anything, but not all mechanics can tune any chassis. Your seat and its placement is the most important component on your chassis.
3. Every year there is some new kid you have never heard about who ends up near the front. Everyone thinks they are cheating. In almost all cases, the kid figured it out, and/or those around him figured out some of the other things on this list.
4. Kid kart racing is less predictive of success at the next level than micro cadet racing. Micro cadet racing is less predictive than Mini cadet racing, and so on. Be patient.
5. What I have seen from watching others move up is that junior level racing is where you finally learn if you have a little star on your hands. Up till then, you just don't know, regardless of how good he/she is in the early ranks of racing. Then you move up to senior level racing and see if you were right about what you learned in junior. That is where you know for sure.
6. Team racing is starting to take hold in the states, especially in cadets. This is changing the dynamic of cadet racing. Team orders include helping your teammates and eschewing others, especially in drafting. I am not making a judgement, but making a statement. Those kids have an advantage.
7. These teams test a lot and they race a lot. With shorter practice sessions in all the race series, the teams that test and have many karts to learn from have a real advantage. This doesn't mean they are better than you or your kid, just more knowledgeable more quickly.
8. Racing is about confidence. Confidence comes from racing a lot, and being in a lot of different racing situations. Yet, once you get to a point with high confidence, great muscle memory, and situational expertise, you don't have to race as much.
9. For all racers, learning happens in plateau stages. You might not see progress, or learning "sinking in," but then all of a sudden it does. Then it happens over again in another plateau.
10. Winning is not predictive of success at the next level, for many of the reasons stated above. Keep at it if you like it. No kids are getting signed to pro contracts in cadets. You never see professional automobile racers list cadet karting accomplishments. Enjoy karting. When it is no longer fun, mix it up and find the fun again.
We have spent a lot of time and money learning these lessons. I would hardly change a thing, other than wanting to see this list ahead of time, but I am not sure I would have believed it.
This opinion editorial was submitted by a Kart360 reader who asked to remain anonymous. Because we found the piece to be enlightening and informative, not controversial, we obliged.