Dark clouds loomed around the SRA Karting facility throughout the morning and into the early afternoon but other than a sprinkle here and and a drop there, the rain appeared it was going to stay away. That is until the Finals took to the track to crown the first round of winners in the 2015 Coupe du Quebec Championship on Sunday, when the rain finally came pouring down.
Even with the soggy finish, it was a good day of action to start the year as many of the drivers on hand were very excited to get back into their karts for another race season.
However, the small turnout of drivers was very much a concern throughout the paddock of the provincial event. Only 71 drivers were accounted for across the nine categories competing, only two of which exceeded ten drivers and both of those being Briggs & Stratton classes.
The Rotax Max program is taking a beating in the heart of where it all began in Canada, with only one driver in DD2 and six in the premier Senior Max category last weekend.
Only a few years ago, Senior Max in Quebec consistently had 30 drivers and the talent was some of the best in Canada, if not North America. That could not be said on Sunday.
This issue has been growing for the past three seasons at least and while some have been quick to point the finger at the Rotax EVO upgrade kits, the blame cannot be placed there.
The demand for the kits has been very high since the announcement and almost every Rotax driver was utilizing it at SRA. We also knew some confusion would be found and that happened in tech with a handful of drivers all being excluded for what could be considered a confusion of the new rules. These mistakes were expected to happen.
Some say it is the economy, others say it’s the rising costs, but whatever it is, it hurts to see our sport dwindling in front of us.
There is no simple solution to the problem at hand. The recycle rate of drivers coming and going has declined and the number of X’s, the mark of a rookie driver, are few and far between, at the club and regional level. While this isn’t just a problem in Quebec, it is most obvious in the province that actually supports racing the most and where karting is promoted more than anywhere else.
So is it time that our regional programs be eliminated? Should karting in Canada go back to focus on local club racing, convening only for events like the Canadian Championships and other one-off specials that used to be so prestigious?
We know those in the sport now want the big major events all year long. They appear better, feel special and are great to talk about with non-karting friends, but with the costs rising, the numbers falling and there being very little support from the lower echelons coming in, these big events will not survive, no matter how hard the organizers work, and trust us when we say the organizers are working overtime to make these events happen.