Another big race weekend has come and gone. Another thread on Facebook has been posted. Another discussion and call for change in officiating, penalties and race craft. So why haven’t the North American karting industry leaders pulled the trigger and just introduced the push-back bumper system? At least to silence those begging for change, but won’t punish their drivers for poor on-track decisions.
I know it’s not perfect, but that hasn’t stopped European karting from using it, the global leaders of our sport. In the few events that I have seen the system used, it has changed the way most drivers race and no doubt, there was less carnage, albeit with a little less passing as well. And for the most part, the only people I see complaining about it, are the ones who feel wronged…the ones who always feel wronged.
In every discussion I have had with those asking my opinion on the system I’ve been blunt in saying it is track dependent. At last years Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal, Ben Cooper, myself and Neelan Nadesan talked about how it changed that entire event, given the number of compressive corners that, if defended properly up front, would harm those drivers further down the train. But on the flipside, at South Garda Karting only weeks early at the Rok Cup International Final, it was the total opposite, given how free and flowing the corners were there.
On Sunday at the TRAK/MIKA Annual General Meeting, the bumper system was discussed and the door was left open for the possibility, which I was happy to hear. But I honestly want to see the trigger pulled and the system introduced, with black and white rules. In North America, we leave the door wide open for anything and everything to be challenged, which has changed the way races are officiated, drivers act on track and parents react after a race. Whatever the rule that gets introduced with the bumper system, it cannot be challengable. If their bumper is pushed back, it has to be a penalty. No protests. No Appeals. It may not need to be 10 seconds like it is in Europe, but whether it’s 3 seconds, 5 seconds or whatever, it has to stay at that and it doesn’t matter if someone brake-checked a driver coming to the scale line or on the pace lap. It has to be black and white.
Drivers need to be aware that the nosecone is there for safety and stickers, not for moving karts and gaining an advantage.
On a number of occasions, I have discussed the system with Robert Wickens, now an Indycar driver. At the SKUSA SuperNationals last year in Las Vegas, he was actually pleased to hear they were using the system in KZ2 Shifter, simply because he treats his nosecone like he treats his car, whereas any contact on the front results in damage and a slower vehicle. With the majority of our racers having future car aspirations, this mentality needs to be pushed onto them. Only in karting and in Nascar can you use your nose to move another driver, and let’s be honest, there are way fewer drivers with Nascar ambitions in our sport than those wanting to go the open wheel or sportscar route.
Finally, Rok Cup USA has used the pushback bumpers for a few classes at this years Florida Winter Tour, but on a trial basis. In my opinion, it’s been a waste, as drivers disregard the system simply because they know they won’t receive a penalty. Plus the number of pushed in bumpers, especially in Junior, has been astronomical. I know it’s too late to introduce a penalty for the final round at Orlando next week, but I still wish it would happen.
So I’m calling on all of the sports major players. ASN Canada, Rok Cup Canada, Rok Cup USA, SKUSA, and GoRotax. Pull the trigger and introduce the pushback bumper system this season. The time is now. Quit stalling.
Side note: I’m calling for the system for two-cycle racing. The system is not designed and will not work for Briggs LO206 action, given the different speeds and style of racing.
Editors note 12:26PM: We have been informed that at the SKUSA Pro Tour race in New Orleans on the weekend, a meeting took place between competitors and organizers and it appears that SKUSA will introduce the pushback bumpers for round two in Phoenix. However, no official notice has been posted yet.