RAF Cosford Kart Club

Just Going Round in Circles?
What is karting you may ask but going around in circles. But, anyone wanting to join our Club that says, “Oh, I just want to do the driving thing.” is told, “We are sorry but you are wanting to join the wrong Club, as you must do much more than that here.” The Cosford Kart Club is run by a very few committed individuals who have committed many hours a week of their free time for many years, as admittedly many others do who lead grassroots sport across the country. Our aim is to serve our young trainee population almost exclusively, to give them new opportunities, skills, responsibilities and a feel for a wider Air Force community than their ‘peer bubble’. In this Club, they will meet all ages and ranks with the aim of achieving much more from motorsport than just driving.

New Skills
When first introduced to the Club, everyone must learn how the Club works to provide a safe environment, with safe equipment for all to enjoy. Everyone must take some responsibility. That might be a 17 year old directing track operations; having been trained to do so. Or, it might be another teenager carrying out servicing and maintenance and signing off their work on our new home-designed digital records system.

Yes, digital records replacing paper in grubby motorsport! We have gone beyond simple servicing and, have for example, been maintaining all our engines for many years to MSUK governing body scrutineering standards. Many trainees have acquired these high-level skills. With the kind assistance of the Royal Air Force Central Fund charity, we have passed on ‘Kart Engineering Scholarship’ training to a few young trainees, to their delight, that covers the whole span of motorsport engineering within the karting world. This goes much deeper into set-up,diagnostics, and looking ahead to prevent likely mechanical failures that could cause injury. Seven have graduated from this embryonic scheme so far and, we hope others will follow in the future. Some of the skills learnt during enjoyable activity on the track is done at surprisingly low speeds, not least because of the particular nature of our track’s surface.

These driving skills are transferable, not to go faster on the road, but to drive more safely.
This might be to have more situational awareness, to react to events more quickly and without thought, or to develop handling skills that just might help a driver get out of trouble when conditions or other drivers present challenges.

New Challenges
So, what of new challenges. Soon after joining the Club, trainees will be mixing in a sporting environment with higher ranks and older people. Their challenge is to hold their own, be polite, and yet, still when tasked to do so take control and be assertive.
Other challenges for those selected to represent Royal Air Force Cosford within the RAF Motorsports organised Armed Forces Karting Championships, is to quickly take their driving and engineering skills to a much greater level. This must be a level where they must match the speed and skill requirements of higher-level competition or be refused entry. Be of no doubt that the Inter-Service field is large and the competition fierce, if not fair. In fact, the Armed Forces Karting Championships if it is not the largest motorsport series in the UK, is certainly well thought of by the governing body.

The governing body is always impressed by the behaviour of our young drivers. However, the challenge is that those new to the sport will find driving at this level very physically challenging. There are no comfy cushioned seats in karting and no suspension. So, all bumps, vibration and external forces kick back with vengeance. However, controlling these forces, and positioning the vehicle with accuracy, and carrying speed through corners is indeed the art of karting. Nevertheless, success in endurance karting especially, demands excellence in engineering to prevent costly on-track component failures that at best might spoil the
competition result but at worst cause serious injury.

Without doubt, novices will be nervous of making this leap into higher-level Inter-Service races, but good pre-training prepares them well. The reaction from novices after their first encounter with this entry to motorsport within the Armed Forces is predictable, such as this recent piece of feedback: “The experience was awesome, and I want to do it all over again.”

New Responsibilities
With all that comes responsibility. Responsibility to apply motorsport rules to reduce risks as this is a non-contact sport of high skill. However, in our Club we demand of ourselves other high responsibilities, and only those who will uphold them are welcome. Do not worry as we have not had cause to exclude anyone as yet. But ours is a “Safe Place” according to our Club Rules.
A safe place in every meaning of the word, with respect for behaviours that consider young and old, and inclusion in all its forms. It is a place of mutual respect and common goals. It is a place where a problem is more often solved and friendships formed that are long-lasting.

New Relationships
Those new relationships born out of meeting in our Club are not so dissimilar than those formed in the wider Armed Forces.
They are built on trust: trust that others will do the right thing to keep everyone safe and take swift action if a risk is identified. That an old senior rank when driving one of our machines can trust that a young trainee has maintained that vehicle to provide assured safety. New relationships are built on not looking at our shoulders but from the respect from mature thinking that is rewarded within a culture that provides fun, learning and community support across all levels.

New Thinking
How often do we hear how important our Club becomes to the lives of the trainees who are its members?
They look forward to attending meeting their colleagues and help run the Club. There is no preserve of thinking. If anyone has a good idea, then that will be quickly adopted: such as adopting that idea of replacing a grubby paper trail with a more engaging overarching digital records system. However, let us not go too far. Mistakes are made, things get broken in the mending of karts and engines but here is an environment where mistakes can be made and learning takes place. Quite often the diagnosis of a fault proves difficult because no one has ever, made that mistake before! All learn from our endeavours.

Supporting Roles
The Club’s small team of staff now look to the trainees to help run the Committee and the Club.
This is not a small undertaking. New arrivals might indeed feel overwhelmed by the scale of our ambition. Before COVID-19 struck, the Club had more than a third of Cosford’s apprentices as members. Gladly, they do not all try to attend at once, but it does show the popularity of clubs and activities at Cosford that serve its trainees. So, as ever, the plea goes out to any member of staff who feels a need to serve the Cosford community. Consider helping one of the clubs and societies, and why not the Kart Club.
Your Community needs you!