Smedley launches electric kart to 'democratise' grassroots motorsport

A company fronted by former Formula 1 engineer Rob Smedley has launched an electric kart to encourage the "democratisation" of grassroots motorsport and participation in the sport in general

Smedley launches electric kart to 'democratise' grassroots motorsport

Smedley, who worked with Jordan, Ferrari and Williams during his time in F1, is in charge of Electroheads Motorsport, a division of the wider Electroheads company, which is described as a "media, motorsport and talent group".

The e-kart will make its debut in a 2020 race series featuring the Bambino and Cadet karting categories across the UK.

"Whether it's the perception or whether it's the reality in karting worldwide, to be competitive people are spending immense amounts of money," Smedley said on-stage at Autosport International 2020 on Friday.

"People are investing a lot into their children's future and it's not always warranted.

"We have [heard] some crazy figures that actually get spent, so when we as an independent organisation, as Electroheads, went and had a look at how we would like to get involved and democratise the grassroots of motorsport, what became apparent was that the main cost centre is the internal combustion engines [used in karting].

"And the after-market tuning that goes on with the ICE.

"With the escalating costs, it just means that the barriers of entry are too high and therefore less people get involved.

"So my conclusion on all of that was that actually if we could think about a shift in technology towards electric - there are other sources of propulsion out there - if we could look at electric as a source of bringing parity, visibility, of vastly reducing the costs, then electric became a vehicle for democratisation.

"Democratisation will create a more even playing field, a landscape for more families to get involved with [motorsport] and this is what we're all about at Electroheads - we want families to be involved.

"There's four million kids that go and play football on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and there's about two thousand who go karting - so there's a bit of an imbalance there.

"We're all about bringing motorsport to a much wider audience.

"If we can bring motorsport at the grassroots to a much wider audience then we can catch these people when they're very young [and] then there's a fair chance that they will filter all the way to be Formula 1 fans."

Smedley explained that "principally" the main difference between the e-kart - which has a chassis built by Birel ART - and a regular kart is the powertrain.

When asked how much cheaper the e-kart's powertrain is compared to an ICE in other karts, Smedley said: "Roughly, we'll be about 80-90% cheaper, which is a reasonable chunk for our first year."

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