Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Very good mixed with significant flaws
on 6 December 2012
Having been heavily critical of this book's tag line (on which more later), I thought it only fair to actually purchase and read it.
It cannot be easy for anyone who has been involved in karting for a long time to look at the sport from the perspective of a potential newcomer. As someone who is reasonably familiar with the sport - though much less so than the author - I can only imagine that this book succeeds in doing what it sets out to do: explaining karting.
The book has an attractive look and layout, making it easy to refer back to particular topics that might be of interest. It is informative without being verbose. It is explicitly written for (potential) newcomers, and I recommend it as a resource for that market. People with some experience in karting may well find some useful information as well, especially given the clear way in which everything is presented.
There are idiosyncrasies: karting with gearbox engines on `short' circuits has declined so sharply in the UK that race entry numbers, if any, are mostly vanishingly small (see exception below), yet this form of karting is given significantly more coverage than the far more popular `prokarts', to which a mere four, wholly inadequate sentences are devoted.
The list of UK kart tracks in the back is oddly incomplete. The list includes Lydd, so it cannot be claimed to be limited only to tracks where there is MSA-governed racing. Yet it ignores, for example, Woodthorpe Kart Club at Strubby Airfield in Lincolnshire. Ironically, Strubby is the one track in the UK where gearbox karts are still very well represented.
Similarly the list of "Useful Websites" is most peculiar. It includes several sites that, I suggest, most active karters will rarely, if ever, visit. Yet it excludes the most popular, especially for newcomers; i.e. Karting1. It similarly misses the granddaddy, UK Karting.
As for what I consider to be real shortcomings:
Given its usefulness in so many respects, I think it is a great shame, and indeed rather poisonous, for the book to be marketed thus: "Kart racing is a useful first step on the ladder to becoming a professional racing driver..." I suspect even the author himself might agree with what is so widely said within the karting community; namely that karting should be regarded as a form of motorsport in its own right and not normally as a 'stepping stone' to anything else. The common complaint about the latter view is that it fuels spend-to-win and win-at-all-cost attitudes. It encourages in youngsters the virtually impossible dream of becoming a `professional racing driver' - i.e. actually earning a living by so doing - and it therefore potentially draws parents into a spiral of enormous spending. This is definitely not how most karters see karting.
This takes me to the glaring omission. Though unsurprising given the author's position, this book is MSA-centric. Apart from the briefest of mention ("Finally there are commercial circuits that offer non-MSA racing..."), this book completely ignores a popular and relative growth area in karting; namely kart racing independently organised outside the MSA's governance. It is surely not unreasonable to argue that one of the reasons for this relative success is that this form of racing effectively avoids the type of attitude described above, which leads to `chequebook racing'. It would have been more balanced and helpful to have provided rather more detail on this real alternative.
NB: Any prospective purchaser from outside the UK should be aware that a significant proportion of this book is UK-specific.