|by Mark Wicks||17 December 2016|
WA Karting identity Kip Foster is making a push for Australian karters to start using the CIK ‘push-back’ bumper system in 2017.
Kip would like to see Karting Australia make the device mandatory for the 2017 Australian Kart Championship with a view to rolling out to all classes by 2018.
Regardless of what KA decide, Foster is proposing the TaG 125 Light and Heavy drivers in the WA Western Cup fit the ‘drop’ bumpers anyway.
“As a premier class, we need to set an example of clean racing to the Cadet and Junior drivers” he wrote on Facebook.
Having actually raced with the system, he’s one of just a few dozen Aussie racers who are qualified to speak with authority on the matter.
“I’ve been racing with it in Singapore this year. I’ve also been using it in Perth, to show what it’s all about and how it works and how it can make the racing safer if implemented across the board” he told KartSportNews.
“Most people, when they’ve seen it and looked at it agree it makes sense.”
The system is already used in Europe (CIK and Rotax) and Singapore. The US Prokart Series will use it next year, as will the MSA in the UK.
The WA KZ series will use the system in 2017. The series entry fee will cover the cost of the kit, and the series’ committee will manage penalties internally, proposing a 5-place penalty for an infringement. This implementation has nothing to do with Karting WA.
The anti-contact system originally started as a ‘drop-down’ bumper several years ago. If there was sufficient force to detach the bumper from its special mount, the nose cone would drop down and virtually scrape on the track. This caused several crashes when the nose went under the front of the kart, lifting the front wheels off the ground.
The system has subsequently been refined with a different bracket. Now, impact will simply dislodge the nosecone by pushing it back in the mount, but in such a way it cannot fall or go under the kart.
Foster said he’s spoken to KA Chairman Mick Doohan about the device. “Mick totally agrees, the device is great. But the authorities are reluctant to introduce it due to cost, and because of all the other changes that have happened recently.”
But Kip doesn’t think cost is a major factor, particularly when the safety and savings in crash damage that could result are factored in.
“People are sick of paying for all this damage – tie rods, stub axles, rims and things.”
So, how Much? “I don’t really know, they’re not sold in Australia. I’m guessing around $40 (Kip bought his at the track in Singapore for 45 Singapore dollars, approx. AUS$32).
Foster explains that most nose cones supplied over the last five years - all the Euro karts and most of the Australian ones - have a detachable fitting on the back. The Push-back system is just a fitting change; unbolt the existing attachment fitting and fix the push-back brackets. As such, it can be retro-fitted to many karts already in the market. Older one-piece nosecones (where the bracket is moulded into the nosecone itself) would need to be replaced.
Above: The 'push-back' brackets (pic - Foster/Facebook)
Drivers have expressed a fear that even minor contact will result in a penalty. Foster disputes this, saying it actually takes a fair force to dislodge.
“I’ve knocked a few people, by accident, and it’s never actually pushed back out of position – I haven’t hit them hard enough. You’d need to give them a reasonable serve; it won’t dislodge with just a bit of a rub.
“As long as it’s not a hard braking zone and you’ve come from a few lengths behind and hit the guy. At LeMans (IAME International Final) I was in second and pushing the leader all the way down the straight and it never moved. It’s fine for a touch in a drafting situation, or even a bump in the middle of a corner. You could potentially still unsettle the kart ahead, but it becomes a risk it will push back. It would be silly to take such a risk, especially at the start of a race.”
Kip concedes that not everyone he’s talked with agrees with the system. This is supported by KartSportNews survey results from earlier in the year (see below).
Other than cost, the against argument seems to be more a philosophical one. Bumpers and sidepods are designed to keep the driver safer when contact is made – this leads to dirty racing.
(The safer you make something, the more risk people will take – you see examples of this littered through modern society… The quickest way to clean up the racing - as opposed to making it safer - is remove all the bodywork. A few broken collar bones and shoulder blades and all of a sudden drivers will be much more respectful with their driving! Of course, that option will never be exercised.)
This device creates a negative consequence for the driver if they make significant contact.
“We’re trying to teach our kids to race cleaner and go through the karting ranks and go open wheeler racing or whatever, and surely they need to be prepared a better way, to not touch the car in front. We need to be proactive with this” Kip adds.
“There is a device available now that will give a kid a penalty if they drive silly. They can grow up knowing they need to give a bit of racing room and not just bang into the other guy.
“The biggest winner for this is the start of the race. People could right off their race in the first few corners. It should reduce the incentive to just keep their foot in it. It will make people take it a bit easier, leave a bit more room. The crashes in Australia happen in the first few turns at the start of the race. This should change that mentality of pushing your luck really hard at the start of the race - it would be silly to take such a risk. Surely just the fact it’s fitted will change the drivers’ mentality.
“My customers in Macau tell me the classes there that didn’t have the device were a bloody crash fest.
What about the work load for officials? In Europe, karts enter the Assembly Area without nose cones and they are fitted just prior to the race. They are then inspected as karts return to the grid area at the conclusion of the race.
If a nosecone is not in the correct position, a penalty is applied. This cannot be appealed.
“I think it would make the stewards job so much easier” Kip said. “If it’s pushed back, the competitor gets a penalty, no questions asked.”
Also, despite affecting just a minor percentage of Australian karters, use of the system locally would help prepare drivers for competition internationally. Ironically, of the five Australian entrants in KZ at the Asia-Pacific Championships (Macau) a week ago, four of them incurred nose-cone penalties in the final…
“I would love to see KA put it on their agenda to make it mandatory for the 2017 National Championships. It will give them an extra tool to clean up the racing.
“If they make that call, then at least they’ll have it on the radar for everyone in 2018. If they don’t do that, it will be 2019 at the earliest.
“It’s inevitable it will happen (here), there is no question. I just think it should happen now to avoid unnecessary damage and potential injuries.
KartSportNews ran a survey on this topic back in June. At the time, most (almost 55% of respondents) said NO to introducing the push-back system and about 39% said YES (broken three ways: Yes - all classes; Yes - AKC only; Possibly Yes - but not yet).
Should KA move to introduce the push-back bumpers for 2017? Feel free to add your own answers/feedback. We're happy to publish constructive comments at a later date.