A new year is upon us and with the holidays complete and the turn of the calendar, everything from 2014 has been left behind and a fresh new season of racing is here. In North America the apparent ‘off-season’ is far from the title as for nine of the next twelve weeks there are major karting events to be found in both the East and West coasts of North America in the few remaining warm regions of the continent. These winter championships have become more competitive and prestigious than those found during the ‘regular season’ and therefore most teams will travel huge distances to compete and keep face in our industry that never stops.
The USA hosts these two major international championships from January through March, on the East Coast in Florida, and out West in Arizona and California. These two series draw drivers from around the world, most who’s home tracks are covered in snow or temperatures too cold to race in, and through nine of the next twelve weekends teams, tuners and the media are thrown into frenzy that rivals the World Junior Hockey Championships tournament, intense from start to finish and no time to catch your breath until it’s all over.
It is the first chance to see the new chassis, products, teams and driver changes that occur between the SuperNationals and New Years, and this year there has been a lot of action in the ‘Silly Season’. Just that fact alone has so many people excited for the opening rounds of the Rotax Challenge of the Americas and Florida Winter Tour. There has also been another winter championship created in Florida called the Florida Pro Kart Series giving those who want, the chance to race three weekends a month in the Sunshine State with each weekend on a different engine package…mind and pocket blowing. There is no doubt the racing is some of the best we see all year with the diversity only found in off months of National competition, especially in some of the classes that aren’t as popular on the national and regional levels, but at what cost?
There is no down time in karting and teams are forced to be present simply because there is so much opportunity to make a buck and potentially score a championship from a driver they won’t see again for at least six months or maybe ever again. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for a lot of us in the industry it is so stressful and takes a toll when things get back to normal in the spring and summer months and the racing is less exciting just based on the simple level of competition and because it just isn’t comparable. It is also a huge hit the wallet and for many drivers and teams, the budget is overblown on travel and arrive and drive packages on these winter championships and again effect things when they come back to their National programs in the spring.
Needless to say, while there will be no shortage of competitive racing over the next three months in the United States. It is very tough to justify missing out for both drivers and teams. For a driver it could easily be a boost of confidence and the track time needed while your competitors at home are shovelling snow that could be the jump start at the beginning of the season. However that track time comes at a cost that doesn’t appear to have a ceiling anytime soon and could be what keeps a driver from competing on the National level later on in the season.
Happy winter karting everyone, we love the chance to escape the miserable Canadian winter and will see you in the sunshine soon!