The Dream Of A Singapore Karter, by Eric Ho

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

Eric Ho, Masters champion of the 2011 Singapore Karting Championship (SKC), shared his feelings about the recent debacle on his Facebook last night. Formerly with BMS Racing, Ho is now with AutoInc Racing.

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When I asked what made him decide to write this piece called ‘The Dream of a Singapore Karter’, he said, “I’m just trying to write my feelings which has been inside for a while and I hope it makes sense to all. After the sudden withdrawal of sponsorship from AutoInc, I had to ask why, then I decided to write out my views. I felt that some of the things brought up were untrue. This is from the bottom of my heart.”

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Here’s the full note he wrote on his Facebook wall: 

Calling for support through ‘Likes’, the post has garnered 60 likes and 31 comments (from the 500 friends he has on his account) 16 hours after he posted it up.

The Dream of a Singapore Karter

Having started Karting from the days when kart trolleys were used as a weapon against fellow drivers and flag marshals were almost non existence, I have to say that Karting has been really going good for Singapore with the good media coverage of the competitive kart racing we have seen last year and I thought this year is even better across the board for all drivers from Cadets to Veterans with a good mix of kartright and high speed F1 village track. Shocking is the word I would describe on how I felt when I had to read the news on facebook to know that the sponsors have decided to put a halt to it. I was totally shocked!

Of course I was curious to find out why the decision to cancel some of the sponsorship and have spoken to some who have been there during the meeting to find out a little bit more on what it was all about. Frankly, it’s actually quite simple and straight forward really.

Title sponsor or not, everybody should be happy to see that this is the beginning of someone or some organisation sponsoring the drivers in a relatively big way who have shown their worth as competent drivers. The willingness to help grow karting and reducing the already expensive cost of being in competitive karting by sponsors should be appreciated. No?

Let’s face it, drivers cannot get very far in the world of motor racing without sponsors unless his or her family have the financial means to support the cost of racing all the way. Eventually, along the way finding sponsors could help a long way. With fantastic publicity like what we have seen so far, it can only help and in no way harm the development of the drivers, giving them a better chance to turn their motor racing dream into reality.

To go back to the days of 2010 when we had close to zero media coverage is definitely not a good thing, and by doing so it would be considered as a step moving backwards for the development of this sport in general. Of course some could argue that we had no media coverage then and were all happy enough in the past but we cannot deny the fact that having media coverage is essential to the development of this sport. That cannot make us any less happy then before if we really have the well being of the drivers at heart. If given a choice, almost all drivers would clearly prefer the media coverage over none. Just like choosing smart phones over the older conventional phones, I’m sure we could find joy using the older phones in the past but if given the choice, would you ditch the smart phones?

I suppose nobody on earth can agree with everybody on everything and I think what is important here if deep down we really want to see this sport grow, what we need is to be objective and look at things on how it can move on from here. Mutual respect and appreciation on all parties regardless of individual interest would be great. Let us for once put personal reasons, differences and bias opinions aside, just look at the big picture on what we could achieve together and what can be done from here.

First of all, every single one of us in this little community has to understand that this is indeed one small little community here we are talking about and if we can’t work together to make things move towards the advantage of the drivers, it’s not going to be good for the community. Eventually, the sports would suffer, drivers would suffer and people who have the love for the sports would suffer.

Let us all not be guilty of making a mountain out of a mole hill and I shall share my 3 cents unbiased thoughts.

On the commentator being bias is only human nature and frankly, I did toy with the idea of being a commentator myself if I’m not out there being a race driver. If I’m a commentator, I might just be a little bias too as an example Opai is one of my favourite drivers and I may end up talking a lot about him more and may end up getting shot from the back walking out of the track not knowing some ears might be more sensitive than not depending on which side of the fence you belong to. Well, that won’t happen for the near future as I don’t think I could wake up early enough to be there with that level of commitment our commentator has shown. I even failed to watch all the races from the beginning if I’m not racing myself. For that I respect him and also all the officials that go all the way to race days to officiate the races as they do it out of PASSION and nothing else, whether any commentator or officials have a favourite driver, bias or not in one’s opinion is only human.

Let us all not forget this one important point, our commentator has got nothing to gain doing a thankless job just like the officials. It’s only natural that he knows the Autoinc drivers better and thus speaks more about them. This is very straight forward as we are all adults here and let’s cut everyone some slack if anybody thinks that he is bias and simple as ABC, let him know about it. I’m sure he understands. Even Steve Slater on F1 has been making mistakes with his commentaries all the time on TV.

Besides, our commentator and ambassador has got really good contacts in the motor racing community internationally and he is in a very good position to help the young drivers if they wish to move to the next level in motor racing. Why should we dwell on anything else other than looking at the strength of the individuals and what they can provide to our young drivers in this motor racing world?

On the website media being bias, not that I think it really is bias consistently most of the time but perception can be stronger than reality so let’s put sensitivity one side and work towards a few simple solutions here. If a change is really necessary, consider the following:

Inform the party responsible to be aware not to be bias in future. Invite members of various teams to come forward to be part time commentator for every race from Qualifying to Finals. Everybody do our part, nothing is free.

Each team for each driver writes and contributes their own commentary that is edited for grammar and etc limited to a certain number of words after every race to be posted on the website.

Or hire somebody who knows the drivers, their history, knows racing fairly well and could write for every single driver so nobody is left out. However, this is a tall order in my opinion and is not practical as the cost would ultimately be the driver’s at the end of the day.

Let us all not kid ourselves here at all. The media coverage from the websites to the videos will only do good and absolutely no harm at all. In fact, it has made kart racing even more exciting and that can only help to promote, reaching out to far more people who might have got the slightest spark of interest waiting to be transformed into the burning passion in motor racing. The high standard of the media coverage is nowhere to be seen anywhere. Why walk if you could cycle and why cycle if you could drive?

Some might find that the over-all numbers of drivers are on the decrease and question why. Is it really caused by the perceived biasness in the media? If you ask me, no.

As a driver, I’m in the better position to speak when it comes to the drivers decreasing in numbers and could probably understand the situation better than any team boss or organizer.

Although we have seen a decrease in the numbers of drivers entering races in total but on the Cadets and the Juniors I can see that there is an increase in these two categories. In 2010, we have seen the most drivers in Masters. 2011 was the Seniors and so far in 2012, the Juniors. The falling numbers are from Seniors, Masters and Veterans if you look at it year on year. It is actually positive to have more young drivers joining the ranks of race drivers where the future is. The young drivers are the future and I always enjoy speaking to them. However, let us all not neglect the other groups which could in one way or another influence and help introduce younger drivers into this sport, grooming them from an early age if we are really serious in wanting to grow this sport in Singapore.

The main reasons in my opinion for the decrease in numbers for karters in the Senior, Masters and Veteran Categories are due to cost, the level of competition and physical strain the body goes through especially so for older drivers.

Well, for one to race you would be competing with some of the really quick drivers in some classes especially the senior class and some of my close karting friends know that the 3 podium places are far beyond their reach. To spend the kind of time, commitment and money on motor racing not getting the recognition of being on the podium after a while can be disheartening, that’s why I always give credit to those drivers started not too long ago who are there still trying and competing but they are only a handful and would only get lesser unless we change the system a little here. Not that my friends are bad drivers, not at all but the competition is just too steep especially in the Senior class. Cost is another factor as running on the KF engines we all know is the most expensive of all comparing with other engine classes such as the Rotax/X30/ROK/Yamaha and etc. If we are to build the sports, we need to take care of the karters who have got smaller budget or those who really find it difficult to maintain the fitness required being working adults running in the KF engines. Physical strain would affect more on the Masters and Veteran classes as they are generally above 40.

However, we cannot do without the current classes in SKC as that would be of the highest level we need to offer to help our young drivers mature into the international racing scene and get them to be competitively ready. What we are doing with fun kart races like in I-Fast or last year’s OCBC is great in promoting the sports from bottom up but there is a huge gap in terms of cost and standard between the KFs and those. We should consider a tag-series where karts with less powerful engines than the KFs could all race together with different weight requirements, a separate one class race for all ages not wanting to race in the KFs or are simply not ready to take on the usually more experienced drivers in KF level yet. If we do this, I’m sure a lot of our friends who stopped driving karts might just want to be back again. The current classes we have to offer are not accommodating enough for all, especially those with less budget or less competitive drivers who want to start some form of racing but failed to find a class that they can fit in comfortably. Used chassis on the other hand would also be easier to move around as well, promoting the sports further by bringing in more participation.

From Macau to JB, I have seen podium finishes for 1st Place to 5th Place. We should do the same as long as there are 5 drivers or more. That would make it meaningful for some of the drivers to recognize that they are getting some results, an added incentive to compete as being 4th or 5th is not a bad result at all with something to show for as well. Especially for the Masters and the Veterans, it is a hobby sports and we just want to have some fun and not tire ourselves to death. This could revive the number of karters into the sports, competing and learn more about motor racing in a separate class before they think they are ready to compete in KFs. Masters and Veteran drivers could also prove to be good enough mentors or an influence towards the younger generation of drivers we so dearly need and can never have enough of. If karting could be introduced to schools, Masters and Veterans drivers with good enough experiences could also do their part and offer time to coach schools that would eventually recognize motor sports as a main stream sport, thus raising the standards here. For all we know, we could eventually see a home grown F1 driver on the circuits around the world. This is just part of my dream.

Another group of unsung heros are the officials, stewards and marshals. We should all be more than thankful that they have volunteered themselves for the job and I feel that they have been marvelous all these while with their dedication and commitment shown. Just like our karting scene that has been given a new life these last 2-3 years, let’s not forget that the stewards and officials/marshals are also new in this together and trying their best I can see. It’s not easy doing their job as they are like a football referee where any decisions made would make some parties happier and some not. That’s why if people noticed I have always not only waved but saluted them after all my races while coming back during my cool down lap following the checkered flag.

If anybody finds that they are not perfect, nobody is and it’s not easy to do their job without video technology on every kart or on every corner from different angles all the time. Are drivers all willing to increase the cost further given that such technologies are available?

The message that I’m trying to put across here is to open our hearts, cut everyone some slack and work towards the common good of everyone in this sport, appreciating what has been given to us, cherish what we already have and not let little differences in personal opinions shatter what could be the making of a great new era in the Karting history of Singapore. This is my Singapore karting dream.

Please feel free to share and click “like” if I have your support. Thank you for reading.

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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