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May 12, 2021

Kart Racing, Marketing, and Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Driver

by Samuel Pawlak

With Ikoniqa’s first ever karting season kicking off this Friday at Pittsburgh International Race Complex, I wanted to put out an update regarding the experience thus far, written from my own perspective.

First, I’d like to start with the marketing and sponsorship side of the program. If you haven’t seen our “progress bar” recently on the racing page, it’s still pretty low. With great support from 34 Motorsports, as well as a soon to be announced second partner (more on that within the next month), will the team turn a profit karting?...Over the course of the entire season, maybe, but certainly not at this current rate. What I really failed to calculate is just how difficult and time consuming it would be to run a business full time while also setting up a karting effort simultaneously. Then add the challenge of acquiring sponsors and partners to work with in conjunction with the program, and you can see how crazy of a task this becomes for a small and still relatively new business.

It’s also worth noting, for those that may not be aware, that the entire karting season has already been budgeted and paid for. It’s not as if sponsorship will determine whether the kart shows up to a race or not. Rather, the pursuit of putting together smaller partnership deals with the kart team is being done purely as an exercise for us to further hone our own craft on the business side of racing (as someone who believes in constant improvement), allow us to work with smaller companies we wouldn’t normally get to work with, and of course make everything as open as possible along the way such that the learnings can be published. If for whatever reason the team simply doesn’t hit the goals set forth, we 100% still plan on publishing more business related pieces on our findings both within racing, and from our own knowledge base within the broader marketing side of the sport. You can essentially consider this our first “finding” (i.e. this entire program, or any large activity/endeavor that takes you away from your business needs to be readily accounted for). A similar adage taught back in design school was “plan out exactly how long it will take to execute, then 3X that. That’s how much effort and time it will actually consume”.  

From the driver’s perspective.

If you're a racer yourself reading this, none if this will come as a surprise, but to all of those who've never competed, here's a quick synopsis from the perspective of a first time racer. Earlier this month, I got the chance to run about two days worth of practice sessions at New Jersey Motorsports Park prior to the F-Series GearUp Championship. These sessions were essentially used to help me prep and get used to the kart, an OTK 401R powered by a ROK GP engine. As a lifelong racing fan (now in my late 20’s), this was my first time ever taking to a track in the driver’s seat. In a nutshell, it was insane. Let me explain…

To understand something, and to know something are two completely different things to me. I’ve always understood that racers were proper athletes. I understood g-forces, I understood how cardio, neck strength, arm strength, and one’s own mental endurance played a huge part in being competitive, outside of the vehicle set up itself. Now though, I can say that I know these things as a matter of fact. It was so far beyond what I could have ever understood to be true as far as how difficult and physically exhausting it was across the board. Everything I thought I knew about what it meant to be a racer in the moment was completely thrown out the window. Previous to this, I’ve raced on simulators, I’ve ridden shotgun with drivers on hot-laps in racecars, I’ve even had success in the world of professional bike racing as a long-time road cyclist. None of this prepared me for how punishing and brutally fast a racing kart is. I lost count of how many times I over-drove my machine and spun off the track on just the first session alone. I can’t say I’ve ever done bull riding, but that’s the only thing I could think to compare this experience to. That was day 1.

Day 2 – Much Smoother. After the greatest night’s sleep ever, I decided to take a different approach. By the end of the second day of running, I stumbled into a zone while out on track where for the first time I didn’t feel like I had to think about anything. And that makes a lot of sense. Athletes don’t think about every little movement they make, they simply execute the motion, as it’s been executed so many times before, the need to analyze has diminished. And by the end of the second day, I was starting to simply “execute” without attempting to process everything the tires were telling me. I’m still a good chunk of time off the pace of the leaders in my class, but I feel I’ve now got a solid framework to work within come the first race this weekend.  

If there’s one take-away from my entire pre-season experience thus far, it’s finally knowing what it’s like for the very first time to be a driver who’s balancing their racing pursuit with their own business and marketing goals (as many clients of ours must do as well). We’re not even into the first event and my appreciation and respect for what racers are capable of has grown immensely. Beyond what’s published by Ikoniqa, and beyond the racing itself, I hope the experience of racing professionally allows me to further appreciate, comprehend, and assimilate with our client base, ultimately leading to the development of more effective solutions to help racers and businesses within motorsport.

For those in attendance, we’ll see you at Pittsburgh International Race Complex – I’ll be parked up under the OTK Tent.