I was talking earlier this week with Paul Cooke, an old friend
who – when it comes to motorsport in
We were discussing karting, as the national championships will be held next weekend at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant.
Paul is director of karting and vice-president of competition for ASN Canada, which governs all amateur and professional motorsport in the country on behalf of the Paris-based Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
I was gathering material for a column I wrote this week for
Toronto Star Wheels (if you missed it in the paper, you can read it here) and we
were discussing the long-term prospects of two
At some point, Paul said: “So, Norris, are you prepared to acknowledge the importance of karting in the development of young racing drivers?”
And I replied, “Yes, of course. It’s reality.”
But that doesn’t mean I like it, and that’s the question Paul was really asking me: was I changing my mind about kids and karting?
I’ve always believed that anybody in this world can do anything they want to do so long as they realize the implications of their actions and those actions are within the law.
So if a man or a woman wants to go sky-diving, they are free to
do so because they know what can happen. If they want to skin-dive among the
wrecks in the waters off Tobermory or
I don’t know of too many children, if any, who sky-dive or skin-dive.
And yet parents will willingly put their kids in go-karts and sign the waivers that absolve (allegedly) just about anybody and everybody connected with the promotion of the sport, should anything happen. Then they send them out to race, sometimes at very fast speeds.
There’s a reason those kids have to wear helmets good enough for a Formula One driver to wear and that’s because they need them: karting can be a dangerous sport.
And I don’t think a 10 or 11-year-old kid appreciates what can happen to them if something goes wrong while they’re racing, which is why I don’t like it.
There is no doubt that this is a generational thing, and I’m of the older generation. In my youth, you had to be anywhere between 18 and 21 even to get into the pits, never mind actually drive or work on a car. And the reason was simple: society (and race organizers) felt you weren't old enough to know the dangers.
I’ve always been nervous about children being put into a position where they can get hurt. Or being forced to do something they don’t want to do (and that can include hockey and football, too).
In my own case, I have adult children who grew up in a racing household. I told them from the get-go that when they got their licence to drive a car on the street they could decide for themselves if they wanted to go racing.
If so, they would have my full support. If not, that was fine, too.
For the record, they are great fans of the sport – they travelled
with me when I was racing mysef and we had a mini-reunion last weekend at
Oswego Speedway in
I know there are millions of people around the world who enjoy karting and that – like any sport or pastime in which the generations can do it together – it can be a positive family experience.
But that doesn’t mean my personal reservations are incorrect. Whenever I write one of these things, I always get at least one letter from a parent who regrets their involvement because of something that happened to their child.
When that happens, I always think that the one letter is one letter too many.
Having said that, I write about motorsport. As I said – above – to Paul Cooke about karting, “it’s reality,” and I won’t ever let my personal bias interfere with my responsibility, which is to cover all aspects of the sport of racing.
And, at the end of the day, there are always good stories.
Ryley Hulme is 8 years old and from
Racing in the Cadet class, Ryley won the pole position and the pre-final race, which secured him the pole in the feature. At the start, he rocketed into the lead. Although he dropped back as far as third at one point, he held on for the win by 0.064 seconds – less than a nosecone.
“It feels really good to win this race for my mom,” Ryley said from the podium. “I knew she was watching over me all day. I wish she could have been here to see it, but she is in a better place now.”
Ryley will now continue his 2010 championship chase at the Waterloo Regional Kart Club. Currently leading the Cadet class point championships, he will be back in action this weekend at Flamboro Speedway – going for the gold and with his mom’s picture on his helmet, riding with him.
I wish him the best of luck and a safe ride.