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May 07, 2012 News
From The Editor's Desk: Back in the Seat
 

EKN Canada Editor-in-Chief Rob Howden (right) made his return to the track last week as the newest member of the Waterloo Regional Kart Club (Photo: Debbie-Jo Zardo)
EKN Canada Editor-in-Chief Rob Howden (right) made his return to the track last week as the newest member of the Waterloo Regional Kart Club
(Photo: Debbie-Jo Zardo)

I donít think that I could have had a better Ďwelcome backí to Canadian karting than with what I experienced this past Saturday. Since re-assuming management control of eKartingNews.ca at the start of April, Iíve been enjoying regular phone conversations with many members of the industry, as well as club leaders and racers, but I knew that sooner or later, the time would finally come for me to strap on the helmet and get back out on the track. Thatís why we do this, right? We love to race. I know thatís why I got into it in the first placeÖit provided me with the chance to race with the miniscule budget that I had at the time.

Well, the Waterloo Regional Kart Club is my home track, as itís located less than a half hour from my home on Cambridge, Ontario. I started with this club back in 1995 and it feels right to be back with them in 2012, as I begin my 20th year as a motorsports journalist. The WRKC officially kicked off its season on Saturday, running on the karting road course that has been built within the banked 1/3 mile oval at Flamboro Speedway near Hamilton. So there I was, making my return to action after 16 months away from the seat, and it was just a great day all around. I was able to borrow a race-ready kart from a friend and fellow WRKC member, so I jumped in with the guys in the Masters Honda class and enjoyed a day of hardcore racing. Really, this is what karting is all about, at least, itís what it SHOULD be about. Itís sad to say there are people in the sport who have lost that understanding.

I have a new kart on the way, one that Iíll use as the platform for some upcoming engine program articles, technical segments and product testing, but seeing as it hasnít arrived yet, Iím thankful that Scott Simmons agreed to let me drive his Dayglo Racing Honda GX200-powered Hurricane. Scott had driven the kart last fall at Waterlooís annual Oktoberfest Grand Prix race, so the motor was still fresh. My good friend Gary Colling helped me get the kart into race-shape after a winter in storage, installing my seat and dialing things in. I wouldnít have made it to the track without his assistance, another great display of karting friendships.

It was fun hitting the asphalt for the first time in a long time, so I used the practice sessions to get a feel for the track and the kart, trying different lines and braking points. Scott ran in Senior Medium last year and I was in Masters, and the minimum weight is a little higher, so we made a gear change for the heat races. Through the cool morning, we made small changes, widening the rear track and playing with tire pressure to free up the kart, and I raised my game for the final and was able to pull off a last lap pass for fifth after starting eighth. Slipping onto the podium was a bonus, and Iím looking forward to trying to challenge my fellow Masters pilots for race wins before the end of the year. Masters racing is the best of it all. We all have the same goal of enjoying the experience and making it back to work on Monday unscathed, and I like that. Itís the camaraderie at the track that I really enjoy.

With my outing detailed, Iíd really like to use my column this week to give this club a well-deserved spotlight. The WRKC has developed a stellar program that is likely one of the biggest success stories in Canadian karting. Itís a straight Honda four-cycle club, and they get it right. They run six classes Ė Cadet, Novice, Junior Light, Junior Heavy, Senior Medium and Masters, and I believe that they had over 120 competitors for their opening club race. Thatís 120 actual karts, as no one was doing double duty. Itís a clean program that runs from about 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, as the pit area clears at the end of the day so that the stock car teams can pull in for the evening show. Thereís no messing around with downtime. The next class is rolling onto the track before the previous class has even fully left the racing surface. This program runs like a well-oiled machine. The temporray Scribner barriers are rolled out in the morning, and one class is tabbed to put them away at the end of the day. Everyoneís a volunteer, and the focus is on providing an enjoyable race day. We all received five sessions: two practice runs, two eight-lap heats and a 10-lap main. This is grassroots club racing at its best.

The club pulled in over 25 new drivers Ė kids and adults Ė for 2012, most of whom were introduced by existing racers who brought them out to check out the racing last year. What a novel concept. Show people your cool sport and maybe some of them would like to try it. The mix of equipment is wide, from new Birels to more Ďseasoned chassisí that have been around for many years. In the Cadet and Novice classes, itís more about the driver than the equipment anyway, and I saw a competitor in a brand new kart dicing with a young racer in a 25+-year-old Tomcat. They each were smiling ear-to-ear when they came off the track. Talk about a win-win.

To wrap this up, I would suggest that every club executive in the country contact the WRKC for a few tips, because they have it down. Theyíve got a clean program that gets people home for Saturday night parties and family functions, they consistently bring new racers into their Cadet and Novice levels, and they had almost 30 drivers over the age of 15 in the pit area, which is an issue in our sport right now at the club level. Racing at the Waterloo Regional Kart Club is affordable, itís fun and itís competitive. Itís one of the finest examples of a strong foundation for karting that Iíve seen in a long time. You can also check them out here: http://www.wrkc.on.ca

I know Iíll be back this Saturday for Race #2. If youíre interested, come join me.
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