Electric Kart series pushes diversity

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This year is shaping up to be the year of the electric race series, with a host of competitions announced. The latest is the Electroheads e-kart race series, the brainchild of former Ferrari and Williams F1 engineer Rob Smedley, which held its first race this week following a delay to the series launch due to Covid-19.

Smedley, who heads up Electroheads’ motorsport division, explained how the electric karts will change the way that budding racers take their first step on the racing ladder forever. “Our ambition has always been to make it far easier – and cheaper – for the next generation of racers to experience the awe of motorsport; we want to bring the know-how and skills learned at the very highest level in Formula 1 to the grassroots to make that happen,” he said.

“As Lewis Hamilton himself said recently, racing faces some real challenges. It lacks diversity; it’s too expensive; and for too many children it doesn’t even make it on to their radar as an option. That has to change.”

By simplifying and reducing the cost of entry-level racing, the series hopes to break down existing barriers to entry thereby making it easier for more new drivers and their families to get involved. Entrants will be able to compete in equal karts that have been designed, tested and prepared by Smedley and his team of engineers.

The series will operate on an ‘arrive and drive’ basis, and will provide racers with everything they need to go racing – be it a half-day ‘taster’ for a complete novice, or as a competitor in a full race weekend. The organizers said they have gone to great lengths to ensure each competitor has precisely the same power available and the team will be transparent about sharing that data, so all competitors can see that absolute drivetrain parity exists.

As part of the same ethos, Smedley will be calling on two decades of experience to boost the performance and development of racers. “At a race meeting, every driver can call on me and my engineers to help them understand the fundamentals of racing and developing as a driver. We want every child that joins ‘Team Electroheads’ to feel like they are learning and having fun in a world that really isn’t too different to a Formula 1 pitlane,” he said.

“Our karts offer a credible pathway to those that want to compete at the highest levels of motorsport and our philosophy is to pass on the technical learnings forged from many years at the forefront of motorsport . And because we offer complete technological parity, the principal performance differentiator is going to be driver talent. Democratic. Meritocratic. Sustainable. That’s why we’re here.”

The 2020 race series will be launched across two kart categories: Bambino and Cadet. The entry-level Bambino karts are powered by 3kW electric powertrains in a chassis developed by specialists Birel Art. With an age span of 6-8 years old, the Bambino class is aimed strictly at teaching the youngest drivers the basics of kart driving before they climb the ranks of racing. From aged 8-12, drivers can race in more powerful 5kW Cadet machines.

As part of the powertrain development program, advanced virtual powertrain simulations were carried out by ex-Formula 1 engineers to create an electric kart powertrain that the series says has no equal. Smedley noted, “The challenge of designing an electric kart that matches or exceeds the performance of a traditional petrol-engined one is huge. Karts are the lightest, most nimble race machines imaginable and standard electrification and battery technologies add far too much weight.

“It was imperative that we brought to market something that was aligned to the top level of racing karts. We’ve brought F1 engineering principles to the creation of our powertrains and have been able to build something that is as light, quick and agile as a standard kart. On top of that, our powertrains will be cheap and easy to run. It really is a win-win and I hope this brings younger people into a sport that has given me so many special opportunities.”

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