This week CKN sits down with a fellow not too many people in the industry may know, but at the same time he has had a huge impact in the introduction of the Briggs & Stratton LO206 program in Canada. Gord Costello of Smiths Falls, Ontario is die-hard racer on track, and true karting ambassador off the track, shown by the growth of his local karting club Lombardy Karting Association. As one of the first kart clubs to introduce the LO206 program, Costello has stood side-by-side with Briggs & Stratton to help bring the program to where it is today, and continue to support and promote it for the future. Taking some time out of his busy schedule as he prepares for the 2013 karting season, Gord sat down with CKN for a few questions.
Name: Gord Costello, VP Lombardy Karting Association
Hometown: Smiths Falls, Ontario
Years in the sport: Many
Industry Position: Track Manager/Promoter/Owner: C2 Kart Supply
How did you get involved in the industry?
I have always owned a Kart, Myself and my children raced and I was approached some years ago to do a proposal on how a Kart track could be built at our local fairgrounds to offset their annual cost by providing some extra income.
It turned out to be such a great proposal that myself and now business partner, Rick Clark got elected to raise the funds, build and manage the facility.
What are the plans for Lombardy Karting Association for 2013?
We have decided to run a 10-race series this season starting April 28th and concluding September 1st. The reason for this is that we find the longer your season goes into the Fall the harder it is to get entries because you are competing with School, Hockey and other numerous life scenarios that take priority of Karting.
Another reason is that we had such great success with our first “Briggs Fall Classic” last year, that we have a lot of interest to have another one this season, so freeing up the Fall makes it easier to have these special events.
Along with the Fall Classic there is a tentative plan for a Enduro also in mid September.
You have been a strong ambassador of the Briggs & Stratton LO206 program since the beginning. What stands out about the program that gives you so much faith in it?
Cody it’s a no brainer. “Affordable four-stroke racing”, what a concept! We look at the history of kart racing and four-stroke never really played a relevant role. The Honda is big here in Canada now for basically 15 years with a number of two strokes being the main classes throughout the history. West bends, McCollughs, US820, 80-125cc shifters, KT100’s and now Rotax, all these engines had their benefits for the sport but the one thing that they didn’t provide us with was ease of operation, maintenance or economical pricing.
The Briggs LO206 program provides us with all of that plus its sealed and has its own factory backed rules, which for a racer it means they know what they are buying and it totally eliminates the unknown when it comes to performance and reliability.
So for me the Briggs makes it easy for people to get into the sport and retain them because it no longer becomes a money game, and by that I mean the people that paid to have the best engines and refreshing them regularly so they could always be up front at whatever cost. The Briggs eliminated this and provided us with an engine you could club race and then show up and race the Nationals with and still be very competitive.
The LO206 program if promoted properly is the best marketing tool we have had for our sport in years, We now have an opportunity to grow four stroke racing into Nationally supported classes that are equal all across the country with then hopefully being able to develop a provincial series,along with a Canadian Briggs Championship that you never know could turn into a International series with our neighbors to the south.
The bottom line is it’s affordable and competitive.
Is LKA sticking with a complete Briggs & Stratton lineup for 2013?
Yes we are, The Lombardy Karting Association was one of the first organizations to run the Briggs LO206 engine here in Ontario in 2009. In 2010 we started mixing them in with the Senior Hondas to see how they would perform and it was evident right away that we had a winner. By the next season Briggs had produced the rule set so we started to promote the package and continued to run them with the Hondas, within the first few races everyone had switched over to Briggs, as that year progressed we started to develop a Junior program and had the same success with that class.
2012 was the last year for Honda in the Novice class, we came up with a combination that works very well for this class and for 2013 all our four stroke classes will be Briggs LO206.
Where do you think the Briggs LO206 program could improve?
That’s a hard question, we work closely with Dave (Klaus) at Briggs and he is more than accommodating when it comes to changes and their really hasn’t been lot. One thing was the serial number was printed on a decal on the fan shroud, wasn’t a real good idea so this year we see the new engines coming in with the serial number now stamped in the block, this will be a big help now for tech identification.
As for changes to the program I honestly don’t see anything that needs to be changed, the biggest thing is to keep the integrity in the program and not allow it to be dissected by the racer or engine builders. These engines are at a cost point where its not worth rebuilding them and after they have been raced for a few seasons its just easier to replace them.
Do you still get back in a kart every once in a while?
Yes, Wednesday evening there is a group of us guys and gals get together for some fun in our Spec racer class (Formerly Box Stock) just to go out and have some fun at much slower pace,its good for the heart and takes your mind off the everyday grind for a couple of hours.
What is your current perspective on Canadian Karting and how do you think we could improve it?
I think personally with the way the economy has been the last few years the sport has suffered. The decline of entry level club racing and the focus has moved towards the higher dollar regional Rotax series, this is great and well run but out of the reach of a lot people that are just looking at Kart racing as a fun sport for a hobby.
I know a lot of people in this industry from the US and we talk now and then and to be honest with you we have it pretty good here in Canada. We all complain about ASN sometimes but I have to say they keep things in line up here and do make decent decisions that keep the consistency in our sport.
My personal opinion is once this economy starts to come around again we are going to see tremendous growth in this sport just because of the programs we already have in place.
Where do you see the sport in five years?
Honestly I can see lots of growth in both the Rotax and Briggs classes; the Honda debate should hopefully have fizzled out by then and it would be great to see both a well-supported regional Briggs and Rotax series.
When you look at karting from a fan/spectator point of view, what do you see?
Its boring, I look at our race days and the spectators that are not parents or related to the racers have no idea of what’s going on. TSN coverage of the Nationals sort of opened people’s eyes up to our sport and with the added commentary made it easier for them figure out what’s going on during the race.
I would love to have an announcer at our events just for that reason and try to develop a local racer following as well as interest in the sport.
Is it better to bring people into the karting world, or bring the karting world to the people?
Honestly a little of both would be nice, most of us got into the sport because we had a family member involved and thought it would be fun but we are one of those sports that doesn’t get the publicity it deserves and I honestly don’t know how to change that. We still have that problem here in this area with a population of only 10 000 people when we do local PR at the mall or something and we always get the same response, “there’s a Kart Track Here?”, so I don’t what the answer is.
What is your favourite thing about karting?
Im going to have to say the new Novice kids are fun to watch develop their skills from just trying to stay on the track the first couple of races to being contenders by the middle of the season and watching the enjoyment this gives their parents.
What is your most memorable event as part of the karting industry? (Team or driver victory, event or award, etc)
You know it’s funny, I’m not a very competitive guy when it comes to Kart racing, I’m in it for the hunt, to run with the pack and battle it out lap after lap is a great feeling and in 2011 when we had the first “Box Stock World Finals” at Mosport was probably one of the most fun races I had ever been in, and then to get on the box made my day. It was probably a better feeling then I had running against Max Papis in the Florida Winter Tour, Okay well not against him but in the same class!
Finally, anything you would like to conclude our chat today with?
Thanks for taking your time today for this.