Electroheads: The low-cost kart series with Rob Smedley as a mentor

Karting News

Ex-F1 race engineer Rob Smedley's new e-karting grassroots series has hit the ground running and is in the process of planning a UK series later this year

Rob Smedley, Electroheads

Smedley says there are big plans already in place for the future of Electroheads


The road to grand prix racing usually begins in karts, but what if the experience of Formula 1 began at the very first step?

That is now a reality with the formation of Electroheads, a karting series presided over by ex-F1 engineers, including former Ferrari race engineer and Williams head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley.

Young hopefuls starting out can receive feedback, advice and mentoring from those who have been at the pinnacle of motor sport and worked with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa. That experience will now help promising talents on their way up the junior ladder.

The first full season of competition is planned to take place this year — Covid permitting.

In his spare time from his role as F1 technical consultant, Smedley embarked on the new project hoping to rebuild the entry level of motor racing to make it cheaper, more accessible and competitive.

The racing is done in fully-electric karts presided over by ex-F1 personnel for kids to jump into and race without having to fork over the huge amounts of money typically needed to break into racing. It checks many of the boxes the FIA, Formula 1 and Motorsport UK is aiming to and following trial events last year, the early signs are positive.

Speaking to Motor Sport, Smedley said the events had been a positive starting point for the project and that it had proved popular with those that attended the initial events.

“It was really good. It was about trying to see the market and understand what the market wants.

“The whole point of why I’m doing this is to try and bring about a more affordable grassroots form of motor sport that more families can get involved in.

Electroheads karts

The e-karts that will be raced will all be equally backed as part of the emphasis on talent over money


“We’re a young company and we’re still learning and getting feedback. Those initial events were really really successful. Obviously there were niggles and there were always going to be but I’d say people were really keen on what we were trying to do. Trying to decouple budget and performance is a really big step in most people’s minds.”

Smedley has said that some grassroots championships for schoolchildren cost £100,000 for a single season, and hopes that the equivalent price of an Electroheads series will be up to 95 per cent cheaper, with the cost reducing further as the concept grows.

The e-karts provided mean that no competitor has an equipment disadvantage, lessening the financial strain that is often a huge barrier for those looking to get into racing for a career.

Each Cadet kart is fitted with a 5kW power unit, a 48v lithium-ion battery and a Control Area Network (CAN) system for plug-in speed control and performance maps, ensuring equal performance across each of the karts.

It means that one of the core aspects of performance in karting has been levelled out to emphasise competitiveness and industry-relevant equipment which, according to Smedley, has been a crucial factor in the formation of the series.

“These are real karts, they’re not corporate karts. I’ve got quite a few ex-Formula 1 guys who are coming with me on this journey and our main thing is these have got to be really quick racing karts.

“If you want to try or at least see if you want to have a career in motor sport, then you’ve got to be racing proper racing karts. Corporate karts are fun but they’re not lightning-bolt quick like a racing kart – like a racing car.

“Equally, if you just want to have some fun and have some family time together, they can do that. You’ll get all of the thrill and adrenaline you require as a young driver.”

It isn’t just driving that is the sole factor behind the project. Events staged in July and August last year certainly attracted interested families but Smedley believes it also offers crucial development and interest beyond the driving and racing aspect.

With the technology in use, as well as the Formula 1 brainpower helping with the karts and young drivers, the series is also an important introductory tool to engineering and team interaction.

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“I think that motor sport has so many good values if we forget about the problems for a minute. It has so many fantastic values and especially when you get down at grassroots and you’re able to teach kids about teamwork and discipline, dealing with disappointment. I’m an advocate for STEM education and think this is a great platform and motor sport is a great platform to teach kids about STEM education because it’s kind of the sexy end of engineering isn’t it?

“If you ask most kids that are 5-11 years-old what an engineer does they likely won’t know, but if you put a Formula 1 car in front of them, they’ll think that was cool. It’s using that as a catalyst and the whole motor racing theme as a way to teach kids about STEM education.”

Following last year’s practice events, Smedley says there’s already a vision for the future of the project and how it will move forward.

The positive response included interest from Motorsport UK, which has picked up the series to become an official part of its grassroots karting ladder.

“A lot of the feedback that we got there and what people wanted was a championship. They liked the events but they wanted more than just one-off events.

“At the minute, it’s going really well but we’ve got to get out there and get it to everybody and make sure we’re getting the message to people as to what we’re about. It feels like we’ve got a growing community that are coming with us. Once you’re with us and part of the family then it just keeps growing which is really good.

“Motorsport UK has come in and said they want to back us and be involved which is brilliant because they’ve made us part of their karting pathway. So we need to get out there now.”

With such a positive reaction, there are already further plans in the works for mini championships to identify the brightest talents in the country without forcing parents to drive the length and breadth of the country.

“From October to the end of last year, we put on a five-round championship down south and then one in the Midlands. It’s like a five-round taster championship, people could come and get involved,

“What I want to do [in 2021] is to run three — six to eight round — Motorsport UK championships. I want to do it regionally. Because even if we’ve made the bit at the circuit much cheaper, you’ve still got to take into account that people have got to travel. So if we travel to them and say do a championship in the northern part of the UK, and then one in the midlands and then one in the south, then that’s us again that’s us trying to get out there more.”

With the electric series joining the Motorsport UK grassroots karting pathway, Electroheads is now gearing up for this year’s season that will serve as the proper launch of a karting category that aims to put talent on display and nullify the bank accounts.