Loved and loathed in seemingly equal measures, officials see many faces of humanity while on the job, perhaps even more so at the karting level. Simultaneously the good guy, bad guy, and the guy just doing a job, officials are a definitely a special breed. Often paid with only food and praise, they endure long hours, extreme weather and emotionally charged people so you can go racing. A special breed indeed, and CKN cornered one recently as the 2017 season is nearly upon us.
Meet Steven Hubert.
He joined the crew of ASN Canada Officials in 2015 to be an additional set of eyes at National level events, primarily the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship and the ASN Canadian National Karting Championships. Like almost all who officiate in the industry, Hubert is in love with motorsport and feels privileged just to be a part of the team that allows the action to happen. He credits getting the opportunity to work at the 2016 ASN Canadian National Karting Championships in Mont-Tremblant as the highlight of his officiating career, while getting the call from police a few years back regarding an incident between parents at a track as a low moment.
Before joining ASN Canada, Hubert grew up in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and was a big fan of Gilles Villeneuve and just motorsport in general growing up. He spent many years volunteering at the GP3R (Grand Prix Trois-Rivieres) and met a lot of people along the way, including an official for the Formula Atlantic championship who gave him his first big break. He helped out with the series at first before joining Team Tonis Kasemets, supporting them in many ways, including spotting. He has also worked with IMSA as a pit lane official and technical inspector for the Porsche GT3 Cup Canada in 2014 and 2015 before getting the call from ASN Canada for his current position. He has also worked as an official for Karting Quebec, Coupe de Montreal and APKLQ events.
During his off-season, CKN had the chance to ask him a few rapid-fire questions this week about the good, the bad and season ahead.
What are some of the positives you are seeing with our current generation of karters?
Steven Hubert: Talent level is one positive thing for sure. While it is true that we are seeing smaller grids, it did not affect the talent level on track. We are competitive everywhere, whether it is at the Rotax Grand Finals, the SKUSA, the Rok Cup Finals, The US Open, the FWT, etc., Canadian talent is flourishing everywhere. And then we have karting graduates from the last few years racing everywhere from the Porsche GT3 Cup in Canada and the USA, to Indy Lights, IMSA, Nissan Micra Cup, F4, F3, GP2, etc.
The current generation of karters is also very dedicated to their racing. Many drivers, even in the younger classes, put in great efforts off track to be in top racing shape, and also focus on eating as well as possible. They are athletes that understand that success is not only achieved when they are in their racing seats. It is away from the track as well.
Tell me some of your pet peeves currently in karting. What do you see drivers doing on track that drives an official like yourself crazy?
Steven Hubert: Well, not a whole lot of things on track drive me crazy to be honest. I have officiated many sports outside of karting over the years and for the most part, people involved in karting are no different than in any other sport: they want to compete and thrive on it, which means they do all they can to win, including sometimes pushing the boundaries of acceptable on-track/off-track behavior, and they can get too involved emotionally (like hockey parents/coaches/players sometimes do, for example).
The one thing that is different in karting from other sports and that can be aggravating sometimes is this: many drivers do not know the rules of their sport! We have karters come up to us quoting a rule they are sure applies to karting, because they watched it in NASCAR on tv?
Some also watch F1 races and expect to see the same kind of officiating or the same rules. While we do have some of the best flaggers and pitlane marshalls in the world (thank you ASRQ and AACA!), we cannot do what F1 race director Charlie Whiting and his stewards are able to do! Karting simply does not have the financial and technical resources to have that kind of officiating.
What are your feelings about Lance Stroll in F1? Did you have a chance to see him race in Québec before he moved to Europe?
Steven Hubert: I did get to see him race before he moved to Europe. I wish him the best and I think he’s gonna do well. He is a good kid with a lot of talent and is 100% focused on succeeding. He is also very good at communicating with media/sponsors and that is so important in motorsports.
I find it sad that he has to carry the stigma of his family’s wealth with doubters saying it was the only reason he was chosen for the Williams seat. The reality is Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had financial backing to make it to F1 from Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel also had backing from Red Bull to make it to F1. That is a part of motorsports all drivers have to face.
Having Lance as a Canadian in F1 again is a good thing for Canadian motorsports. With Canadians in DTM, Indycar, IMSA and now F1, we should hopefully see a few more young karters join our grids in the future.
Working with ASN Canada, what can we all (the karting public) do to help improve our sports?
Steven Hubert: Try to be as visible as possible. When a family is window shopping for a new sport for their child to participate in, often they just don’t see karting as a possibility. All they see are mostly stick and ball sports. We need to have our own spot in the window.
So whether it is by posting pictures of yourself on Facebook, getting your local paper to post an article about your season, talking about karting during school presentations, retweeting every CKN article on Twitter and Facebook, etc., everything helps. And the message needs to be positive! If it looks and sounds fun, it probably is fun. Maybe I will give this karting thing a shot!
Also, let’s not scare away new participants with costs concerns. Yes, karting isn’t free, but you can race on a limited/tight budget, and realistically, that should be the goal of any newcomer coming into the sport. Let them later on decide how far they really want to go!
Finally, what is the reminder all drivers need to hear before this 2017 season gets underway?
Steven Hubert: Good question! Nobody wants to read about the old clichés, like ‘’to finish first you must first finish’’, so here is my reminder of six things that should be on every karter’s mind in 2017:
- Drive for yourself. Not because you have to be in F1 in three years, not because you need to please your parents, not because of outside pressures, but because YOU want to.
- Know that others are working hard to allow you to go racing. You are privileged to be racing karts. Be thankful and humble.
- Be prepared to lose. That’s what happens most of the time. Learn from it.
- Appreciate your opponents. Your efforts and results have more value because they are there racing alongside you.
- You would be surprised how easy it can be to approach officials when you do it with the right attitude. You are HOT when you come off the track. Take some time, cool down and then come see us. We are humans. Just like drivers/crews!
- Finally, create some amazing memories you’ll be able to cherish for years to come. Focus on the positive. When you get older, you’ll realize that karting was the best time of your life!