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This article appeared in the Spring 2012 American Muscle Kart, Volume 5 Number 1.This article describes the camaraderie and sportsmanship that partly defines the UAS. It also describes the proper application of the various sections of the UAS rule book.


A Different Breed

Camaraderie and Sportsmanship in the UAS

by Mark Bergfelt, UAS Executive Director

“You guys are a different breed.”  Rowdy Jordan, publisher of Chasen’ Racen’ tells methat just about every time we meet up, but I don’t hear that just from him; I hear that from a lot of people familiar with kart racing and the UAS.  Of course it’s obvious that it takes a person who is just a little different to want to get on a wild looking kart with way too much horsepower and ride it in the company of like-minded people, but that’s not all they notice.  I am incredibly proud to say that the quality that people notice the most is the camaraderie that exists among the UAS racers. 

This issue marks the beginning of the fifth year of publication of American Muscle Kart.  During that time I had the pleasure of interviewing most of the top racers and when asked what attracted them to the UAS and what keeps them coming back, it is unanimous that the camaraderie that exists among the racers and is actively encouraged by the UAS is near or at the top of their list of reasons.  I contend that although the technical freedom that exists in the UAS is very often what attracts new racers in the first place, they experience that camaraderie and they’re hooked. 

So many racers from other divisions of motorsport are used to a dog-eat-dog environment where every small innovation that they discover is a closely guarded secret.  In those divisions, their competitors are also their enemy and they must be defeated in the quest for victory.  Many new racers, attracted to the UAS because of the technical freedom the rule book allows, often show up at their first UAS event with that kind of attitude.  Their hard heart usually starts to soften the minute they drop a small part in the grass and can’t find it.  They are amazed when a complete stranger, from another state, with whom they are competing, shows up at their trailer with an assortment containing the item they need and it’s theirs to use, no strings attached.  After attending multiple events they soon find out that that happens over and over again.  They learn first-hand what I’ve said many times about the UAS; “In the UAS racers compete WITH and NOT AGAINST their fellow racers” and that makes all the difference.

For practical purposes it has to be that way.  It would be way too dangerous otherwise.  With the amazingly high speed these prototype karts reach, a UAS show does not need crashes caused by overly aggressive drivers, to be amazing.  Firing up just one UAS kart for a couple of hot laps will draw a crowd to the fence, and multiple karts dancing around each other trying to gain the advantage while avoiding contact is as good of a show as one can get.  Drivers entering a UAS with the desire to get to the front by “taking out” other racers are demonstrating disrespect toward other racers and have no place being there.   They are more of a hazard than a front wheel nut without a cotter pin or a faulty brake master cylinder.  Racers with that type of attitude are too big of a risk and don’t belong in the UAS.  Hey, it’s about camaraderie and sportsmanship too, stupid!  We really do mean that.

Of course, as seasoned racers know, one of the most enjoyable aspects of racing are the bench racing sessions that occur and take up far more of a person’s time than actual time at a race track.  Bench racing can occur anytime more than one racer gets together and is a most enjoyable trading of stories and one-up-man-ship among friends.  It is a sharing of the most precious product of racing; the MEMORIES.  Very little else builds camaraderie than more that good bench racing and racers in the UAS naturally want to do that whenever they can.  I contend that that is what draws so many to the forums on the internet.

Camaraderie and sportsmanship go hand and hand.  The UAS philosophy is pretty simple.  Racers are more likely to race clean when they personally know and are friends with the people with whom they are racing, but sportsmanship does not just happen on the race track.  That’s common knowledge in the UAS.  Although the Class Act Award given at major UAS races is for on-track acts of sportsmanship, very often nominations are made for off-track sportsman-like gestures.

All of the above discussion is helpful in applying the UAS rule book consistently and as it is intended.   The UAS rule book can be viewed as having three types of rules or policies.  The first attempts to level out the playing field by way of the engine/weight formulas.  The second attempts to allow creativity but at the same time do so by requiring karts and driving to be as safe as possible.  The third pertains to administration of events, determining awards and general administration.  They say “there is a time and a place for everything” and that is certainly true for applying UAS rules and policies.  The purpose for the policies is what determines when they are applied.

A proper time to enforce the engine vs. weight rules is at the conclusion of the event.   This is for practical purposes.  The only time to definitively determine the weight of a vehicle is immediately at the end of a race, as it is done.  It is wise for a competitor and shows good sportsmanship toward the tech person if the declared weight is a couple of pounds greater than that required by the engine weight formula.  That provides a margin of error that makes things less stressful and more fun for everyone involved but it is entirely proper to make the final judgment concerning that aspect of the rules at the conclusion of the race.

The purpose of the safety rules is different.  Those rules are there as an attempt to prevent or at least reduce hazards that could cause injury and property damage.  The time to enforce those rules is before a race starts and it is appropriate to observe a race and remove a kart that becomes unsafe during the event at the time the hazard is spotted.  These efforts are simply to PREVENT accidents.  It is not acceptable to disqualify a UAS racer for a perceived safety “infraction” after a race is over, especially if the “infraction” did not cause any harm.  At most, if such an item is discovered at the conclusion of an event, the racer should be informed of it and be required to remedy it before racing again.

Over the years, from time to time, a racer will contact me asking me to consider disqualifying a competitor who the reporting individual who has a kart he believes to not comply with UAS safety regulations.  What is most disturbing is that the reporting racer became aware of the “safety issue” before the race even started but never brought up the issue until after the checkered flag flew.  By the way, the person with the “safety infraction” probably won the race and guess who finished behind him?  If you said the reporting racer go to the head of the class.  Such behavior demonstrates the HIGHEST level of unsportsmanlike behavior.  It’s pretty simple.  Since safety rules are meant to prevent incidents, the time to call safety issues to a racer’s attention is BEFORE a race when he still has an opportunity to correct them.  A competitor who spots a safety issue on a fellow racers kart before a race and does not call it to the other racers attention BEFORE the race is displaying unsportsmanlike conduct. Not only does he show disregard for the safety of others, possibly even himself, he may be saving that information to be used as a weapon to use against the other racer if the other racer finishes higher.  Friends don’t let friends drive unsafe karts.  In the UAS, where we “race with our friends and not against our enemies”, there is no place for that type of treachery.  To disqualify a racer AFTER a race for something like the exhaust pipe not being wrapped exactly right, or with questionable nose, or width, or bumper is just plain BS.  Racers inclined to do that are now officially invited to find someone other than the UAS to race against.  We don’t want you.  Those racers don’t have the right breeding.