By: Neelan Nadesan
There are moments in time when I tend to reminisce on past moments in my life – like at midnight before a Numerical Methods midterm here at the University of
Ontario Institute of Technology – and I can’t help but think back to my experiences in kart racing along with what’s going on today.
I started racing karts twelve years ago at Goodwood Kartways and the scene was much different than what it seems today. There were hundreds of families at the track every Saturday morning back then, no matter whether it was a sunny summer day or a cold and wet Fall enduro, and most everyone was out to have a good time. There weren’t any Freightliner Haulers occupying the facility, only trucks, mini-vans and 6×10 trailers. And while the set-ups may not have been the greatest in the world, the racing was stellar. I can still remember the first race I saw in my rookie year. It was the Toronto Kart Club Senior Heavy Final, with three of the club’s top drivers going at it for the win: Kyle Herder, Brad Dehne and Dave Anderson. These three battled all race long in the rain and left the competition far behind. As an eight-year-old kid I was awestruck. There were no hired tuners from parts unknown, just kids and parents working on their karts. And that was all they needed to succeed.
It was the same when I attended a Regional event like the Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship – dads and moms were still working on their child’s karts. The most successful Formula Senior pilots in that time period all had their parents wrenching for them: Matt and Andre Champagne, Mike and Wrex Roth, Daniel and Frank Di Leo, Frankie and Tony Launi or Juliana and Enzo Chiovitti. Family duos dominated back in the day, and few drivers who actually hired a tuner could match their pace.
Today, however, it’s a much different environment. Families aren’t as hands-on when it comes to racing and most prefer to find a hired gun to work with their kids. Whether it’s the Canadian Nationals or a club race, there are tuners all over the paddock. Don’t get me wrong, I have high respect for what these guys do and the knowledge and experience they bring, but I can’t help but think something is missing when karting isn’t a family experience, especially at the club level. The Waterloo Regional Kart Club is a perfect example of one where a family environment permeates and it continues to grow with new families coming into the sport every year. Simply a great way to go racing.
Of course there are still families at the National level doing it all themselves. If I think of the Rotax Senior class Kevin Monteith swept the Mosport Finals at the ECKC opener last season with his mother Wendy tuning. Tyler and Paul Kashak produced a National podium in August and the recent winner of the 2014 CKN Brand Ambassador Search, Alberta’s Coltin McCaughan, won the Western Canadian Championship Rotax Junior title last year with his father Louis turning the wrenches. And there’s the Szigeti family – I have yet to attend a race where David, Beata and Amanda weren’t there to support Steven, who always counts on his dad’s chassis set-up expertise. Steven proved victorious at the ECKC season finale, providing further proof that family operations can still be successful, even on the grandest of stages.
At the end of the day it’s a difficult decision to be sure, I just hope family time together in karting is weighed equally with success on the track. The future certainly looks bright for new families in our sport with simplified Briggs & Stratton racing continuing to grow, and we all know karting families are always supportive when a new driver arrives in their local paddock. We’re simply the best.
See you at the track…and bring the whole family.