Adel Mullakhmetov: ‘Not all shopping malls meet criteria for e-karting, but there is a desire to develop the project’

The founder of the first e-karting club in Tatarstan about a new business project in Russia, a deficit of roads and staff

Adel Mullakhmetov: ‘Not all shopping malls meet criteria for e-karting, but there is a desire to develop the project’
Photo: Maxim Platonov

Professional karting and amateur e-karting develop at the same time in Russia today. Founder of the first e-karting club in Tatarstan Adel Mullakhmetov who is familiar with both sports first-hand explained during an online conference with Realnoe Vremya how the business in pro teams works, what companies help look for talents in regions to develop talented racers from an early age and talked about his new business project aimed to create a big chain of e-karting in Russian shopping malls. The expert also clarified the differences between races on fuel cards and batteries, why all kids shouldn’t do sport at an early age and what impedes karting from developing in Tatarstan.

There are just 20-30 teams with top-level equipment in Russia

“There aren’t former kart racers!” said Adel Mullakhmetov during the online conference of Realnoe Vremya newspaper. “Every age will find something in this sport.” Racing professionally and recently developing a project of rent e-karting, founder of the first club in Tatarstan noted that sponsorship remains a sore point. The club and parents help a child first.

“It is possible to reach a moment when you turn out under somebody’s wing,” admits Adel Mullakhmetov. “But in fact not everybody can do this. therefore we know a handful who managed to get through. Talking about businesses and their support for the teams, there is a handful of such teams too.”

“Nowadays there are 20-30 teams in Russia that can afford top equipment made by the manufacturer.”

How they help develop children’s karting to find talents

Nowadays there is LADA Sport Junior pro karting programme sponsored by Rosneft. According to the results in the Russian Championship, the top pilots can hope for some sponsorship support. Ring races, roads, the Russian ring race series is their next stage.

“It would be great if there were more programmes like this. For instance, there is SMP Racing Gazprom for Children car sport development programme for amateurs. This year, we have implemented such a programme, it was the 3rd Russian tournament held on 16 circuits, in five rounds in three age categories: 9-11, 12-13 and 14-16. Every circuit must do a monthly selection, as a result, talents are detected. Children who had nothing to do with sport, who didn’t have licences can compete. And if they showed a good result during the qualification, we invited them. They could do free training, free practice here thanks to the SMP Racing Gazprom for Children programme.”

This year, 18 pilots out of 980 competitors have been selected in Tatarstan, including a girl. They trained for a month. And Gazprom financed everything. The children who won the tournament could train three times a week for 1,5 hours.

The difference between professional karting and e-karting in shopping malls

According to Adel Mullakhmetov, fortunately there are mid-category circuits in Tatarstan, in the same Naberezhnye Chelny where ordinary children without professional training can participate in races. This is important because not all parents can afford taking the child to the club located in other cities and regions. E-karting in turn is a new area, and clubs providing such services orient to the audience that is different from the one that deals with professional karting.

“By the way this is why we choose a spot in the shopping mall for our club. The main problem in e-karting is charging stations. While the karts running on petrol cannot be placed in shopping malls in general because of safety requirements. As for availability, rent and professional karting is absolutely different categories,” explained Mullakhmetov. “We can see this in the ratio between of the weight and power of cars. A racing car, for instance, is 50 horsepower per 100 kg, while the rent car is some 13-15 horsepower per 200 kg.”

Moreover, if a child liked e-karting in the shopping mall, he or she can start racing professionally or participate in amateur competitions. However, the difficulty is that besides big financial investments, the pilot needs conditioning, warns Adel Mullakhmetov. He put an example of recent competitions in Bogatye Saby when the weather was hot: four races in a row in such weather without any rain.

“Children should put on a one-piece, stay in the tent without air conditioning. Training is done every hour. And this repeats day after day. Children lose weight, parents may even know this.”

“There used to be problems with fuel, foreign fuel had to be brought”

To compete professionally at a good level and obtain good results in races, a powerful kart, time dedicated to training, good tyres that could stand big loads are needed, noted Adel Mullakhmetov. As for fuel, RON100 mostly used in karting today is the minimum threshold.

“We used to have problems with fuel, and some foreign fuel had to be brought so that the engine could operate to the full,” he remembers commenting on the difficulty of maintaining the necessary state of the kart in new conditions with sanctions and adds, “Talking about sport and pro competitions, this is promoters’ job. As for rent karting, perhaps we are lucky, but when all this situation began this March, we had already held talks about supplies of the tyres we needed, and we signed a contract till the end of 2023.”

Moreover, nowadays quality batteries needed for e-karting aren’t made in Tatarstan. Mullakhmetov’s first e-karting club in Tatarstan chose the world’s No. 1 battery producer SODIKART. Interestingly, SODIKART entered Russia for the first time thanks to the Kazan project.

“Of course, our project is about business. There aren’t altruists who would like to simply deal with it. We have already managed to host five e-karting championships in the last 1,5 years implementing SODIKART’s project and obtaining a licence to hold qualifiers for the rent karting WC. Last year, there were four pilots from Russia, but because of the current geopolitical situation, nobody managed to go to the SWS Finals, which were in Paris on 6-8 July 2022. We hold amateur competitions twice a month where we don’t let athletes compete,” said Adel Mullakhmetov.

To make sure rent e-karting competes with professional, it is necessary to create dedicated infrastructure, equipment and, most importantly, people who are ready to actively develop professional e-karting. Mullakhmetov put an example of his project that managed to become a reality only thanks to having charging stations in Tatarstan.

Not enough karting sites

At the same time, the founder of the first e-karting club in Tatarstan admits that there aren’t enough sites to race either in Tatarstan or Russia compared to the same European countries where the culture of karting appeared a long time ago.

“Talking about karting clubs, there are some in Kazan, of course. But their level isn’t the one we want. Some clubs still exist in some underground areas, for instance. Every city must have such clubs to make this sport more popular. Every city must have a circuit, no matter how good it it. We have a problem of a shortage of staff, coaches too. Earlier we had a programme aimed to open 100 karting clubs across the republic. But there wasn’t staff, we had possibilities and equipment. There is not a normal circuit in Kazan. The closest is in Bogatye Saby, 100 km far from the Tatarstan, capital,” sadly noted Adel Mullakhmetov.

According to him, a battering ram and system “that would work differently than now” are needed today in Tatarstan at pro and amateur level.

Since these are costly projects (and costs on the opening of circuits or clubs may not pay back), such projects should develop as either private and public partnership or “discretionary management,” thinks Mullakhmetov. He has a project to create a big chain of e-karting across Russia.

“I have an idea of creating a big e-karting network. But in the last two years I have visited 61 shopping malls — the project can exist only in the shopping mall, but not all shopping malls in Russia meet the necessary criteria so that the e-karting project pays back, though there is a desire to develop the project outside Tatarstan.”

“Traffic in many shopping malls fell today. Ours increased because we didn’t have anchors like Zara and other brands that exited the market. We are talking with representatives of five cities. We have a big desire, but not everything works out. Even the euro rate has a big impact,” the racer admitted.

Sergey Afanasyev. Photo: Maxim Platonov
Tatarstan