When it comes to sports, sometimes the behind-the-scenes politics is enough to make you shake your head. Motorsports is no exception and it even plays out here in the Quad-Cities. Take the case of the Labor Day weekend Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix kart races, powered by Mediacom.
First a little background. Most auto racing in the world falls under the control of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The FIA has representatives in each member country — the national sporting authority (ASN) which in the United States is Automobile Competition Committee for the United States, or ACCUS.
ACCUS is comprised of the six major motorsports sanctioning organizations (known at the FIA as member clubs): IMSA, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, SCCA and USAC.
Unlike the rest of the world, which functions under FIA, when it comes to kart racing in the U.S., the sport is very fragmented. Different parts of the country — or segments of the sport — do their own thing with little reference to FIA guidelines and rules. For the most part, it doesn’t matter since karting mostly functions as a sport unto itself in the U.S.
But when it comes to hosting foreign drivers, or drivers who are licensed and compete in another levels of motorsports where FIA rules matter, things can get a bit dicey … and political. The Rock Island race is one of the few karting events big enough to matter and has had foreign drivers each of its 23 years. Last year for example, it had competitors from Canada and Bermuda.
For many years, the Rock Island race was a fixture on the international kart racing calendar. Regulations and fees eventually made having an international race on an approved temporary circuit impossible, but the race continued to welcome international racers. Countries previously represented at Rock Island include Canada, Mexico, France, Colombia, England, Poland, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bermuda, Italy, Poland and the Philippines.
Last year, one of the U.S. karting organizations threatened sanctions against FIA-licensed drivers for competing in an unsanctioned event at Rock Island. It was a petty action, but within the rules. In addition to foreign drivers, the Grand Prix also has some racers who hold FIA licenses for other types of auto racing.
Competitors could have sought prior approval to race Rock Island from their country’s ASN. But rather than risk punitive action against its competitors, Grand Prix organizers decided to license the race but circumvent the karting organization. Grand Prix organizers weighed reaching out to friends at both IndyCar and the U.S. Auto Club (USAC), both of which are FIA member clubs, and eventually chose USAC which has other kart races on its schedule.
USAC is one of the oldest racing bodies in the U.S. When the American Automobile Association withdrew from auto racing after the 1955 season, USAC…