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Beaver Falls, PA 15010

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Contact: Mark Bergfelt, Executive Director

mark@bergfeltracing.com

724-462-7440

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This article appeared in the Winter 2011 American Muscle Kart, Volume 4 Number 4. It illustrates that the UAS was created to allow a unique place for creative racers to pursue happiness.


Yankee Ingenuity

by Mark Bergfelt, UAS Executive Director


They called it Yankee Ingenuity.  That’s one of the things that used to distinguish people in the United States.  Perhaps my friends from the Southern states would prefer that a different tag were placed on that characteristic more Americans used to possess and pursue, but they definitely are included when the term “Yankee” is synonymous to American as it is often used by people in other countries.


Kart racing, arguably the most widely participated in form of motor sport around the world, was born in the United States and was embraced by the world.  It was invented by Yankees. At one time go-karts made in the United States dominated at the events there, and the rules and races were governed by American born organizations.  In the 1980’s more and more karts were imported to the United States from Europe and along with their rules, style of racing and homologation procedures for allowing acceptable and “approved” equipment.  As a result, every class became some sort of spec class and the rule book became really thick.  Under that new system, anyone who showed up with some new gadget or un-homologated equipment was and still  is attacked by finger pointers proclaiming “Hey, you can’t do that” and the imaginative person talented with a die grinder and shop tools become labeled as a cheater.


Lately I have had the good fortune of building some kid kart engines for customers overseas who have done quite well with them.  In dealing with those people I have been exposed to the attitude toward rules that exists in those places and that has allowed me to compare with the attitudes here.  For the most part, kart racing in other countries is governed by the CIK, or some organization fashioned after the CIK like MSA in the United Kingdom.  In those situations the rules are governed by a large bureaucracy where the individual racers have little if any say so or control over what is going on.  The governing body makes rules and policies when it suits and benefits the governing body.  For those who want to race, they will just have to accept that.  When a racer in those countries wants to come up with some innovation of their own they have to go to the officials to ask for approval which is more likely to be denied since the new component has not been homologated.  Only larger manufacturing companies have the means of affording that process. The way I see it, homologation is simply a tax, ah, I mean fee (I really want to say a bribe) that manufacturers must pay the various sanctioning bodies to have their products allowed.  Of course the purpose of this is to ensure safety and fairness through equal access to equipment for everyone.  I know that the intention of the system is to place the emphasis of the sport of kart racing on driving and set-up, and for most racers it does and that’s fine for the majority of people who are not mechanically inclined and just want to race.  I get it but it just does not appeal to me personally.


About eight years ago I got involved with the international Rotax Max program.  The Rotax Max program is a stellar example of European thinking applied to kart racing.  The CRG importer that I was a dealer for at that time convinced me that would be a great business opportunity due to my close proximity to Beaverun.  The Rotax program, which really is very successful on an international basis, failed miserably when I tried to introduce it at Beaverun.  The track did allow me to include an exclusive Rotax Max only class occasionally so that I could operate a regional program that qualified racers for their US Nationals.  In Rotax Max, EVERYTHING is spec, down to the last detail on the sealed engines.  Since I was a dealer, and administrator for a local Rotax region, I was privy to some of the inside details of the business model that Rotax employed.  I suppose that if the racers at Beaverun and I just didn’t think so darned American, it may have been pretty lucrative for me.  Most of the requests I had for engine work came from outside of my region and many of the racers in my region went to other dealers for service.  Why would that be when the engines are sealed and there were stiff penalties for dealers if they were caught altering engine parts?  I do know that I lost engine service jobs when I refused to apply what I know from rebuilding UAS motors to the sealed Rotax engines.   The business model is supposed to be that since all the parts are spec, and only available through authorized dealers, racers would buy their stuff from their friendly local dealer.  I learned the hard way that it did not work that way, at least for me.  Perhaps a lot of my problem was that my heart was really with the Unlimited All-Stars where every kart is a prototype.  The UAS is the absolute antithesis of the Rotax program.


Part of the problem for me at Beaverun was that the track was most interested in promoting the TAG USA program instead of the Rotax Max program.  Of course the Rotax, the original TAG engine, (Tag = touch and go=onboard electric start) was allowed to compete in TAG there.  The situation is that the track configuration just did not lend itself to the performance characteristics of the Rotax engine so racers chose other brand engines and besides that the racers resented the idea of being told what engine they had to buy and who they were to buy it from.  Consequently the Rotax program there just faded away.


The success of the Rotax program internationally is proof that their model appeals to a lot of people who like competition karting.  That’s perfectly fine for those people, and there are a lot of people who are of that mindset.  God bless them, but a lot of the structure of the Rotax program really frustrates me.  It bothers me pretty much the way the Kingdom of Outlaws, a WKA regional series that was popular in the 1980’s for which I was the 2-cycle tech inspector and a board member, “Unlimited Class” rules bothered me.  It was called unlimited, but it was really just another spec class for larger displacement 2-cycle purpose built race kart engines with a few less restrictions on the engine and exactly the same chassis rules as all the other classes.


I’ve always been a day dreamer who entertained himself in the boring classes in school by building go-karts in my mind. I had a lot of ideas, and still do, just looking for the time and resources to make them into objects others can see and pick up but to me they are real already.  I’ve already built them in my mind. I dreamed of a division of racing where I could do whatever I wanted from a technical stand point as long as it was safe.  From my frustration with other rule sets, and that dream, the Unlimited All-Stars was born.   It was born from the pursuit of my passion for technical freedom in my racing and I realized that no promoter and certainly no existing sanctioning bodies were going to start something like the UAS for me.  The only way it was going to happen would be to do it myself.  You could say that it was my “pursuit of happiness” that our American constitution still guarantees that allowed the UAS to be born.  I am glad that I live in a country where my success is not guaranteed, but my freedom to pursue happiness is.  The recent growth of the UAS across the USA recently, tells me that others besides me build things in their minds too and are looking for an outlet to make them more than an idea.  They share the passion, and even though we are a small minority within the motorsports community we are the ones that refuse to accept the spec classes where we would become frustrated and wind up being labeled a cheaters and outlaws.  It is important that there is a place where creative people can freely experiment with their ideas.  If that needs to be explained to the reader, then that reader would not be happy in the UAS.


I started writing this piece over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  That reminded me of how the small group of Pilgrims who settled in what became the USA to escape European religious and other restrictions, and to bravely try to fend for themselves.  There were leaders among them that envisioned a better, freer way of life than what Europe offered them; of course they had failures and successes, but most important, by traveling here won for themselves the freedom to try different ideas and PURSUE happiness.  The UAS very much embodies and maintains that spirit.  This issue of American Muscle Kart contains the 2012 rule book; arguably the most unrestrictive rule set in all motorsports.  There are two very important lines in that document that largely define the UAS and make it unique.  The first, found in the “Notes to Competitors” states, “We don’t necessarily want the most drivers, but we do want the best.”  That statement was put there to recognize and remind people that the UAS never was intended for the masses.  The second line is found shortly after in the “Spirit and Intent” section and it states, “Generally speaking, if a rule does not specifically state that something is not permitted, then it can be assumed that it is permitted.”  I don’t think you will find that statement in any other motorsports rules book, but it was placed there to make sure that the Unlimited All-Stars would always exist for that important minority of out-of-the-box free minded racers who are frustrated by all other rule sets.  It is there to guarantee that the UAS is a place for them to pursue their happiness; their Yankee ingenuity.