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Smedley launches new electric kart series to ‘answer Hamilton’s call for cheaper motorsport’

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Former Formula 1 engineer Rob Smedley has launched a new electric karting series which he says will make it cheaper for first-time racers to enter motorsport.

World champion Lewis Hamilton said last year karting and other categories have become “too expensive” and that talented drivers who could reach F1 get leapfrogged by “wealthy kids”. Smedley believes his new Electroheads series can address that by using electric racing technology.

“As Lewis Hamilton himself said recently, racing has become too expensive and is not diverse enough,” said Smedley. “I totally agree.

“Through electrification we can change that. We will be the driving force to inspire, energise and thrill racers as they climb the ladder. It is cleaner, cheaper, faster and importantly, fairer.”

Smedley revealed the electric powertrain which will power the championship today. He says it will allow the karts to perform at least as well as their petrol equivalents but at a lower cost.

“For the next generation of racers, the era of the petrolhead is coming to a close,” he said. “The whole philosophy of the Electroheads group is to get digital natives to experience the unique awe of the electric revolution. Electroheads Motorsport is a critical part of that ambition.”

The karts will be introduced for the two youngest karting age groups – Bambino and Cadet – in the UK this year. They will feature use ‘F1-inspired technology’ to ensure a level playing field.

“Electrification allows for complete parity, where the principal performance differentiator is driver talent,” said Smedley. “Democratic. Meritocratic. Electric. That’s why we’re here.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Smedley launches new electric kart series to ‘answer Hamilton’s call for cheaper motorsport’”

  1. Things like this and eSports are great for the industry. Too often the talent is gate kept by privilege. A bigger talent pool to pick from is a far better place for motorsport to be.

  2. About damn time. The prices in karting had gone over the roof. Hopefully this brings a new era of larger karting grids, and why not, push simracing so winners can enter karting series far more easily. All of this could really give a chance to drives of any background to prove their talent. And why not, for the most talented of them to make it to the top, given other feeder series become cheaper

  3. I actually went karting very recently and the place we went had electric karts. they absolutely fly on an indoor track. it was very dusty so it was nice and slippery, so we spent the whole time on opposite lock, on the power, it was great. it was quite cheap too (£25 for two 15 minute sessions), though we probably got a good deal because it was in between christmas and new year. obviously what Smedley is talking about is a whole championship, but you’ve got to get people involved somehow, so the very basic sessions are the things that introduce people to the sport.

    I thought i’d done rather well with my 39.6 f/lap, but then found out the lap record is 37.0. i didn’t even make 107% of that…i’m blaming the dusty track!

    1. Where was that out of interest, I’m quite keen to try out an electric kart but all the arrive and drive options near me are petrol only.

      1. @geemac it was team sport in Stoke-on-Trent. Now I’ve looked into it, they have loads of venues all over the country!

        1. Tidy, thanks.

  4. I’d love to see the break down of the costs for the electric karts vs fuel. I assume they can run more hours than
    Coz I wonder whether in the short term electric is cheaper than fuel while driving on the same tracks.
    And you still have the “problem” that the people that can afford the most tires, brakes and battery packs are the drivers that can have the most track time.
    And it will also take some time before there is a second hand kart market, but in good time it should become cheaper than fuel.

    1. This. Tyres run about £150 a set, and a new set are worth half a second a lap over a set that have done 2-3 meetings. When I was racing, the top guys were all putting new sets on every weekend. If you wanted to be competitive, you had to do the same. That also barely touches the sides compared to driving up and down the country, plonking down for 2-3 nights in a hotel, race entries, damage, engine rebuilds, list goes on.

      1. @hollidog I’d guess that applies to any motorsport. And 150 a set sounds rather cheap, I used to race motorcycles (amateur/club level) and a brand new set of tyres was between 300 and 500€ depending on the manufacturer. On top of that, some people were even using qualifying tyres (good for only 1-2 laps) that cost no less than 200€ each. People outside motorsports would often look shocked when I said that I didn’t even worry about how much gas I used, that was the least expensive thing of the weekend.

        1. Yes I was surprised as well but that was the price I found. I remember them being ~$400 in NZ, where I was racing. Generally, these are control tyres, so everyone has to use the same, and as Craig righly points out below, you normally have to use the same set from quali to the end of the last race. However if you race 30 times a year then £150 a weekend is still £4,500. Then consider that many people race in more than one class. Fuel is insignificant as you say, a 100cc 2 stroke maybe uses 10l in a weekend.

          1. But in practice session before qual, tires are usually open, so during practice the “rich” drivers also use 1, sometimes, 2 more new sets to tune. And on a big race weekend that makes a big difference in get a few more tenths, and even moreso, tuning to keep from binding up (hopping) when the grip peaks.

      2. Depends on championship rules. It may have changed since I raced (I was in 100 National, which has been defunct for years) but in national championships you’re only allowed so many parts (say 1 set of tyres, 1 chassis and 2 engines) per meeting and they are marked and sealed during scrutineering to make sure you don’t go over that limit or tamper with them unless there’s exceptional circumstances.

        Yes, there’s plenty of other expenses such as travel, staying, entering the event and the initial equipment investment, but there are ways of keeping the costs under control to ensure pure money doesn’t have too much of an advantage.

      3. Tyres: Competitors are permitted only 3 sets of dry race tyres and 1 set of wet race tyres per season (a reserve set of wets may be purchased), which will be barcoded and numbers recorded, set 1 are to be purchased from the SuperoneBKC ahead of round 1 for use at rounds 1-4. A second set of slicks are to be purchased from the superoneBKC ahead of round 5 for use at rounds 5-8, the final set of slicks must be purchased from SuperoneBKC ahead of round 9 and are to be used at rounds 9-12. Wet tyres purchased at round 1 will be bagged and tagged and can be rolled over to all rounds throughout the season. A reserve set of wet tyres can be purchased but once removed from parc-ferme is the set of wets permitted for use.
        Controlled tyres are intended for use on race days only and will be subject to parc-ferme conditions at all times

    2. Tires are the last of the problems and of the expenses. High level karting championships are won over other kinds of expenses, which are the extra budget over an already inflated base which include: engine rebuilds at every race, new chassis every x races, depending on driver and budget, practice sessions before the race weekend (with unlimited tires, engines, chassis), mechanics for the whole weekend (this includes their fee and accomodation). This was the base that everybody is ready and willing to pay for (over the level 0 basics: fuel, tires, gear). And it’s already thousands per every race, even at medium level championships, say regional or nationals.
      The extra which gets you the wins is how much time and money are you willing to spend for a proper “preparer”, e.g. someone with loads of knowledge on both engine preparation and chassis tuning, which follows you along and does his magic on the carburation and your setup at every race weekend. Keeps you kart at his shops, and works on it while you are home. You can do that by yourself, you just will not win the championship.
      This said, I wonder how different would an all electric series be, money-wise… I genuinely don’t know. I guess much of this is marketing material, but it may make sense. The engine is just a part of the total expense, and even on an electric motor you got moving parts, and moving parts mean wear and replacements. Let’s see and embrace the future, but for now I will stick to the sound of the 2 stroke.

    3. As others have noted, it is probably not so much about the fuel, but rather about reducing the cost of engine rebuilds and tuning. Although an electric motor may not be completely maintenance free, the amount of work required is likely to be significantly lower than a traditional two stroke engine – that is probably where the biggest savings come from.

  5. “F1-inspired technology’ to ensure a level playing field

    Rrrright. Read this again, Rob.

    1. Same here, @minilemm. No clue what he wants to say.
      Which F1 ‘technology’ could possibly ensure a level playing field in electric karting?

      1. I mean, which f1 tech was created and is being used to ensure a level playing field anywhere?
        Okay, perhaps if we consider listed parts an f1 technology… (oh hi, indycar, no I cant talk right now, sorry bye)

      2. The FIA sensors which monitors output of the mguk.

        1. thanks @megatron, that makes sense.
          Does that mean that the ‘cheap’ Karts use MGU-K (incl. regenerative braking)?

          1. No idea, but I’ve seen many student projects, electric fsae cars and such with regenerative “braking”. So its possible.

        2. mm makes sense, but not sure if it`s f1 technology, really? Most hybrid/electric cars charge through regenerative braking forever now, and surely they all use sensor to monitor the output, too?

  6. If a single engine can last an entire season then this will surely help reduce costs, but as others have said its a drop in the Ocean. I imagine you are still looking at between 15-20k per season all in when even frequent arrive and drive sessions are out of range most families.

    The best place for young talent in my view is Sim Racing. In much the same way as a kid can get into football with just a football and jumpers for goalposts, they can can sample competitive racing with a basic add-on for their console. As they progress they may upgrade equipment with a great rig coming in at well under 3k with lots of stages between. Most importantly it’s not pay to win. It’s well know some of the best sim racers can use cheap equipment.

    If I was a small Motorsport outfit I’d be looking at the sim world for the next truly great talent. You are not going to get the “Ronaldo” of driving from anything that costs more than £50 per weekend.

    This initiative might lower the disposable cash requirement of the parents down a few grand, but honestly if you are spending £15k a year on a hobby for one your children, the odds are this is going to make a huge difference.

  7. Magnus Rubensson (@)
    10th January 2020, 12:42

    A good initiative. It will still be way too expensive for 90 percent of everyone, but good.
    Now, I’m of course biased and old school after my years in Grand Prix Legends (as a backmarker…) so my obvious solution would be simracing.
    Simracing is safe, for starters.
    It is a lot cheaper than ‘real’ motorsport in all forms.
    The playing field in simracing is as level as it is ever going to get.
    Simracing is 100% environmentally friendly since it brings physical travel down to zero.
    All environmental issues sorted. Everyone stays home.

    One bottleneck for simracing – in my experience – was that it took such a mega-effort if you just wanted to spectate.
    Consequently, 99% of all the sim races I’ve participated in only consisted of the drivers themselves. But the races were often good (again, I am biased…).
    I’d personally like to see a virtual grandstand where I can enter – as an avatar – and go and take my virtual seat … and watch an iRacing race from there. In this concept, spectating avatars could chat with each other without bothering the drivers.
    I don’t want to have to sign up for an iRacing account or install complex software to do that – it should be possible to do it from a regular website.
    Maybe this is already being done somewhere. If it is already happening, then the marketing of sim races needs to improve, because I would really like to know about it. And I don’t (despite being interested and formerly active).

    1. @magnusrubensson

      Sim racing is still quite basic. What you talk of would be great when we have quantum computing with better VR headsets maybe even sim gravity experiences which is where computer games currently greatly lack.

      In the meantime battery technology has enabled massive growth in many hobbies and new innovations. Think of Drones (quadcopters) wouldn’t have been possible, which now have race series. We are currently seeing massive growth in E-Mountain bikes. More people interested in off road bikes, thanks to them being easier to ride and faster/more exhilarating. More people involved means more venues and cheaper to compete in.

      1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        12th January 2020, 14:19

        Indeed. You are making very good points – drone racing is actually a very good example of a modern alternative to the “old school” formula-type racing.

  8. you don’t go cheaper by going electric

    1. The kart itself might not be cheaper, but the maintenance surely would. I’m a kart dad in the US. Here we typically start out with four stroke classes and then progress from those to two strokes. The four strokes are way cheaper and very low maintenance, and are wonderful for developing driver talent because having little horsepower means you have to drive very cleanly. BUT at the top levels, despite being sealed they typically visit a specialist tuner about every third weekend. The constant shipping back and forth to the engine builder meant we needed multiple engines. For two strokes, it’s far more maintenance still. Maybe I’m over optimistic, but I think an electric motor would literally be maintenance free.

    2. Ev’s are hop on hop off. so if you value your time then you save a lot just in maintenance. No mixing fuel. No disposing of unused fuel. No visits to petrol stations. More room in the van. No servicing of carbs and engines. No cleaning exhausts. No fine tuning. More even playing field. Also less damage to be done.

  9. Good on you Smedley.

  10. Weekend travelling & accommodation expenses won’t be controlled. Sets of new tyres per season can be regulated. Number of chassis per year can be regulated. Number of new battery packs per year can be regulated. Electric motors kinda cut out the weekly/fortnightly rebuilds & that is a significant saving. One big benefit I see is 100% of engine torque is available at all RPM. Rich stomp & stamp drivers won’t progress due to wearing out the limited tyres.

    None of this addresses the monopoly in places like australia. Here the biggest carting issue is to race you need motor type X with a stamp from the category regulator. In a number of fields the category regulator just happens to be the only authorised importer of engine X. You can buy engine X in the states for USD 750 and race it in the states immediately but you cannot race it in australia. If you buy it from the authorised importer with the all important stamp it is USD2k, or AUD2,800.

    Not sure what the UK is like in this respect but here it’s a close shop monopoly.

  11. In theory with no noise problems E-Karts can run 24 hours and more circuits can pop up meaning less travel expenses.
    You think that very few if any Joe Bloggs has ever been allowed to drive a race spec F1 car (even Richard Hammond with the BBC’s millions was only allowed a restricted car) yet the old Mayor of London and several Youtubers were allowed to take FE cars for a spin. The more people who can take part the cheaper it should become and the more growth we could see with better facilities.
    UK isn’t known to have great facilities. It’s taken years to get decent toilet blocks at some tracks let alone clean paddock areas.

    1. It would make go karting for a lot people impossible, because they simply wouldn’t be able to service it o the track unless they are electricians. End of story. As they say: and pigs would fly…

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