Kart Racing Club
The club adopted the Chasewater name and ran the circuit in the park until the construction of the M6Toll motorway in 2001 forced the circuit’s closure. The Club was formed in 1959, almost at the start of karting in this country, and moved to a site leased from the local authority within Chasewater Country Park in 1961.
The Club was formed in 1959
The Club moved to a site leased from the local authority within Chasewater Country Park in 1961. It adopted the Chasewater name and ran the circuit in the park until the construction of the M6Toll motorway in 2001 forced the circuit’s closure.
The circuit and its facilities were very basic, but it was popular and the circuit was open for informal testing two/three days per week including every Saturday throughout the year. As a result we gave opportunities for newcomers to gain experience outside of the racing environment. Many cadet and junior drivers would turn up every week for six months or so until they were confident enough to take their ARKS (a test for a MSUK Racing Licence) and start racing. As a result the abilities of these novice drivers was generally very high.
The Club ran 10/12 race meetings per year to MSUK Permit and as members of the ABkC, i.e. one per month generally on the second Sunday of each month. Latterly the Club would also hire the circuit to other organisations like NatSKA (National Schools and Youth Karting Association) and the Mini-Moto Club of Great Britain.
At one point we believe the Club’s two volunteer ARKS testers accounted for 10% of the ARKS tests being undertaken in the Country !
The Club is a not for profit organisation run voluntarily by a Committee elected from its members. Although now a company limited by guarantee the Club has no shareholding and issues no dividends. It has maintained a financial surplus throughout its life. At the time of the Chasewater circuit’s closure due to the construction of the M6Toll the Club held a financial surplus of over £100,000.
Protracted and complex negotiations with the acquiring authority (the Government’s Highways Agency) resulted in a substantial cash payment to the Club as compensation for the loss of its circuit. This has funded an ongoing site search and two planning applications on alternative new greenfield sites that the Club located and considered suitable for development but which were ultimately unsuccessful. As a not for profit operation the Club doesn’t necessarily need to generate commercially viable financial returns.
Without a circuit the Club is currently semi-dormant with only a relatively small number of dedicated members, however when in full operation membership numbers have fluctuated between 250 to 400 and we are confident we can achieve that again when it has the use of a circuit and organises events.
The Club remains recognised by MotorSport UK and is a member of the ABkC (Association of British Kart Clubs).
The Future ….
The closure of the Chasewater circuit was obviously a blow and something we fought hard against at the time, but Government policy and compulsory purchase do generally win out !
The Club’s former landlord, Lichfield District Council, didn’t feel able to offer us any alternative land within the Chasewater Country Park on which to re-locate the circuit and to be fair the majority of the Park is now designated as a SSSI(Site of Special Scientific Interest). The Club therefore took a pragmatic approach and negotiated the best financial package it could and surrendered the remainder of its lease. It has been, and currently still is, trying to find a site on which to develop a circuit with improved facilities. We obviously didn’t anticipate it would take us over 20 years! The Club however is determined to re-locate to a new site and that resolve is shown by the fact that it still exists.
The Club’s ongoing search for a new site is centred around its previous home near Brownhills in the West Midlands but extended into the north Midlands and western Shropshire. Our view being that any new circuit needed take advantage of our existing population catchment area but to be at least an hour’s drive time from any existing MSUK licenced kart club / circuit.
In our search we have actually found two sites we thought eminently suitable for development but we have been unable to circumvent all the hurdles. Our Planning Application for the second of those sites was refused in December 2014.
Although our concept is flexible depending on the site area and topography the Club would like to build a tarmac circuit at least 950m long and 8m wide. In order to achieve this the site needs to be at least 6.5 ha (16 acres) or so.
The development will be roughly divided into two, half being the circuit with appropriate safety and run off areas and half being the paddock. We anticipate the paddock being a mixture of hard surfacing and ‘reinforced grass’ with tarmac circulation roads in some sort of grid pattern. Many competitors tend to stay overnight during events and the Club will need to provide good quality facilities for this, i.e. toilets, showers, catering etc.
Generally as previously proposed sites have been in the Green Belt we have anticipated that buildings will need to be single storey, low key and kept to a minimum in size and number. We have found that the minimum we can work with is a single building of around 200 sq m (2100 sq ft) in total.
Although each site and development obviously is different and will consequently have different development costs we anticipate that the total cost is likely to be up to £2.5m to £3.5m depending on the circumstances of the site.
The Club is flexible over its use of the circuit, but we see our core function is to promote owner driver kart racing and testing. We would like to run 8-12 MSUK permit race meetings per year. We would however also like to provide regular opportunities for open owner/driver kart test sessions on perhaps 1 or 2 days per week. If one of these can be a Saturday so much the better.
In view of the recent growth of non-MSUK licenced owner driver karting (Independent Kart Racing or IKR) it is also likely that there will be demand for this type of racing for at least part of the year, perhaps once a month 6- 8 times a year.
The Club would like to accommodate an ARKS school, perhaps running on the circuit exclusively during the middle of the week and sharing with the owner driver sessions at other times. As part of encouraging new young drivers the Club will adopt the MSA’s LetsGoKarting and Racing for Buttons type initiatives. These could then develop into a commercially run Kids Club based around hire karts.
Although there are commercial circuits in the greater west midlands there isn’t an MSUK licenced circuit and club within an hour or so drive. No ‘competitor’ Club or circuit has arisen to fill the space our closure left in the catchment area within an hour’s drive north of the West Midland conurbation.
We therefore anticipate that with a good well run circuit we should be able to attract an average of up to 130 to 140 race entries per event in the first 3 years of operation. The Trent Valley KC (at PFI circuit) and Shenington clubs regularly exceed this number and attract over 200 race entries to their meetings. There is therefore potential to increase the level of entries. In our view for the development of owner driver karting and the availability of regular test sessions is key to building up a good ‘client’ base. Most drivers will be aged under 18 (currently most clubs find up to 60-70% of their race entries are under 18) and parents like their child to gain some experience before investing in a complete package and progressing into racing.
The circuit and Club activities may also act as a catalyst to attract other commercial uses, say a kart shop, workshops, storage etc. in the way that circuits like PFI and Whilton Mill currently do.
The Club sees it as important to take advantage of karting’s reasonably easy accessibility and low cost to initiate programmes that work with schools, colleges and possibly universities or other community initiatives to interest children and young adults in engineering and racing.