In my first foray into podcasting for the Full Focus Motorsports Podcast, I sat down with Mikko Laine. He’s a successful kart racer, and the organiser of the IAME Kart Racing Series in Finland. We talked about various motorsports-related topics, including his philosophy in organising the IAME Series.
The IAME Series is a one-make karting series, in which only the IAME-brand of engines are used. The series culminates in the IAME International Final at the end of each year, into which champions from local and regional IAME series’ around the world are invited to race against each-other.
The series in Finland has grown quickly since its inception in 2016, and has since expanded into separate series’ in Sweden, Estonia, the Nordic Cup, and the Baltic Cup. This expansion is largely thanks to the three cornerstones of the series: maximum publicity, affordability, and absolute equality.
We should cooperative more inside the sport rather than have such big rivalries between chassis or engine brands and different series.”
Mikko’s quote above is part of an attitude that has almost definitely helped him focus on growing the series rather than worrying about competing against other organisers. It’s much better to work on increasing the size of the pie available, rather than fighting for a larger piece of a smaller pie. It’s probably no coincidence that the other racing series’ around the world that share this perspective are typically the ones that prosper.
As with any business, promoting a racing series is critical to its success. The IAME series in Finland recognizes this and takes several approaches to increase the visibility of the series and competitors.
The essentials such as a professional websites and social media accounts are of course taken care of, but other material such as series information packets/brochures, and professional level video & photography are all made available for the drivers. They also produced 30-min recaps of each round for TV, and continue to live-stream events.
The regulations of the series mandate submitting a driver profile, and pictures are taken of each driver at the beginning of each season for use in promotional material. The driver profiles
If the drivers are able to use the material to promote themselves and obtain sponsors, they’re much more likely to remain in the sport in the long-term.
Another part of publicity are on-board cameras. Ever since action cameras became small and affordable enough to be put on karts, their use has exploded.
A lot of kart racing series’ around the world have banned the use of on-board cameras on karts during competition. This is often because officials don’t want drivers coming to show them the videos – usually complaining about the actions of another driver.
Not allowing the action cameras is a huge letdown from the perspective of driver development. Reviewing on-board footage is one of the best ways to work on one’s driving.
The IAME Finland series’ simple solution to this was to put in place a regulations which states that competitors are not allowed to go to the stewards or race control with their videos. Stewards are allowed to request to view the footage from competitors if they want to look at something they may not have had a clear view of, but not the other way around.
Every driver is also a marketing tool for the sport and for the series. If everyone uploads a video after the race to youtube, we have a huge amount of publicity for free, instead of restricting it because of potential problems we might have in race organisation.”
Mikko noted that the competitors need to work together with the organisers and sanctioning bodies with the camera use. Recognizing the real value of cameras for driver development vs. trying using them only to complain about situations to the officials.
Mikko’s karting career has been largely self-funded, so he knew from the start that keeping costs as low as practical greatly increases the availability of the series to attract more participants, and retain them. It’s important to focus on the long-term viability of the series rather than short-term profits.
We use the regulations to try to keep the costs to the competitors as low as possible.”
Tyres are limited to one set each for dry and wet weather tyres, and the wet tyres can be carried over from one round to the next (there is no requirement to purchase a new set of wet tyres at each round).
The series has an engine-claiming rule in place. This means that any competitor (or the parent/guardian of a competitor in the case of those under 18 years old) has the right to request to purchase the engine of any other competitor at the race event.
The costs for the engine claiming procedure are an administrative fee of 50 euro, and 2500 euro to purchase the engine. If more than one person wants to buy a specific engine, it will go to a raffle. The competitor whose engine was claimed receives a brand-new engine from the importer.
The engine claiming rule goes a long way to limiting the potential of being able to win simply by outspending the competition. In theory the engines are almost identical, but small difference within the tolerances make a difference, and a competitor could for example purchase 20 engines and race with the best one of those. If however his best engine gets claimed each round, it would make the exercise almost pointless, and would also quickly level the playing as other drivers kept grabbing his or her engines. This also limits the emergence of a second-hand market where “fast” engines are sold at several times their retail value.
Mikko also created a nation-wide rental karting competition which awarded 3 drivers with karts, and entries to a full season of racing in the IAME series. This worked as a marketing tool for the series and karting itself, as well as bringing in new drivers into competitive driving.
The final cornerstone is absolute equality. This is not just equality in racing-terms for the competitors, but also applies to all end customers, teams, and sub-dealers.
An example where this philosophy was put into practice was that the new importer for the IAME engine brand had to drop his affiliation with a chassis brand, to remove a conflict of interested where the importer would be supplying engines to competitors racing on “their” karts, and also to all other competitors.
When it comes to equality, a large part of it was already covered under affordability. The engine claiming rule is huge in terms of equal competition, and the tyre regulation also helps simply because the money saved in not having to buy more tyres every race can be put towards more laps in practice.
Mikko concedes that it’s impossible to make everything completely equal, but they do their best in the way the regulations are set and the series is organised.
We minimize the damage. It’s something that we can never remove completely as long as we use some kind of equipment.”
The basic premise is that the regulations apply equally to everyone. Nobody should be able to gain an advantage through relationships with officials or suppliers.
Follow Mikko Laine on Instagram: @mkartteam
More about the IAME Finland Series:
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