by S.Murtas (realized and published on January 2014)
These are the keywords at BRP, the head company that produces Rotax kart engines. Every single product designed, manufactured and sold by BRP, from Rotax engines to Ski-Doos, Sea-Doos or Can-Am vehicles, ultimately has this motto engraved in its DNA. We met BRP President and CEO José Boisjoli at the Rotax Grand Finals in New Orleans, for an exclusive interview.
Not many people know how vast, varied and far-reaching the BRP world really is. From the world-famous Rotax engines, in its various productions and applications, to the technologically advanced Ski-Doos, Sea-Doos and Can-Am vehicles, BRP is leader in the recreational vehicles automotive industry, and its products are distributed in 105 countries.
How does the CEO of a company as important as BRP, which employs roughly 6,800 people worldwide, view Karting?
“BRP is all about passion and innovation. We try to come out always with products that have good performance, the best handling and also style. Karting is a sport for enthusiasts, and what I like to see is younger drivers, supported by the family who grow into the sport. This fits perfectly with what I like to call the DNA of BRP, which is about passion and innovation.”
The history of Rotax kart engines dates back to 1983 with the production of the first 100cc Rotax engines. Thanks to the experiences of the company with 2 stroke high performance engines, Rotax soon dominated the karting market winning in national and international CIK classes. After a very successful spell in CIK World and European championship racing, with as many as 23 titles won overall, in 1997 Rotax took the Karting world by storm introducing the Rotax 125 MAX Kart engine and two years later its own race series based on the revolutionary 125cc MAX engine. In 2000, BRP introduced the first conversion kits with which it was possible to adjust the Rotax Kart engine to the age and ability of the driver with little effort. To date, sales of more than 75,000 Rotax MAX engines make BRP-Powertrain the global leader in the kart market.
“Each product is very important for us. We have six lines of products plus the engines and we believe we can do more in karting. We are looking to bring new technologies, new ideas into the sport to continue developing the industry worldwide. And what I like most about the Rotax Grand Finals is that from a local race in Portorico back in 2000, it grew into a brilliant international event. In the 14th edition of the Rotax Grand Finals we’ve had 360 drivers coming from 60 countries, which mirrors perfectly what BRP is. We sell in more than 100 countries, we have other types of events in Latin America, in North America, in Europe, but the Rotax Grand Finals is the event where we have the biggest number of countries represented at once, a truly international event. We believe we can do more for the sport and to make people aware of BRP. And this is the reason why we are trying to grow further and further the karting portion of our business.”
What do you think is the winning factor for BRP and the Rotax Max Challenge?
“The organization is certainly key to our success. We have a structure where the rules are clear and are enforced strictly, a racing series where the best driver wins and the equipment is the same for all competitors. We try our best to provide top quality equipment and to be loyal to the spirit of our series, and also the big plus for all these young drivers is the possibility to race every time in a different country and in a different continent, something which we believe must be quite inspiring for all drivers.”
After the outstanding success of this latest edition of the Rotax Grand Finals, will you stick to the same format for next year?
“It was the first time in the USA for the Rotax Grand Finals, the site is really beautiful and I think more and more people are interested in investing in this type of facilities to promote their activities and their region, and also to play host to the Rotax Max Challenge. But with 360 drivers from 60 countries we feel we have reached a good level of participants. Beyond that, the track time for each individual would be too short and it would be too difficult to package an exciting event. That being said, things have to evolve because once you stop evolving you start declining, and it’s our job to continue to push.”
The Rotax Max engine is a very reliable product that has had a lot of success, but it has been in the market for quite some time. Do you foresee a change or a development of the existing concept?
“There will be some evolution of the existing motorization and technology. We think we can do better and we’re looking to improve the high performance aspect of the sport. We’re also want to make it more affordable in order to reach more and more people. Some families invest a lot of money each season to race in karting, and how can we interest more people in take up karting? This is what we are thinking at the moment.”
What strategy will you employ to reach more people?
“I give you the example of what we’ve been doing with our watercrafts. The watercraft industry in the mid ‘90s was of about 50,000 units and it declined because the technology was too expensive and the boats were too big. Last September we came out with the Sea-Doo Spark, which goes back to the roots of the ‘90s equipped with 60bhp engines. We are selling this product in North America for $5,000, and we call this democratization of the product, and we have some ideas on how we can replicate the same model for karting.”
What do you think karting lacks to become a sport for the masses?
“High performance karting, where the technology, the mechanic and the driver are all extremely important, will always be for the elite. If we can make the sport more affordable and easier we will succeed at increasing the base. And when I think that countries such as Brazil and China are developing, I know there are huge opportunities in these markets but we need to find a way to democratize the sport.”
What country is ready to embrace your new approach?
“I think Latin America in its entirety, because like in Europe and North America there is a long tradition in karting but we need to find a way to make it more affordable for the masses. Because I strongly believe that by enlarging the base, also high performance karting gets fed as a result.”
What do you think about attracting external investors in Karting? Is this also part of your strategy?
“What we are trying to do first is to find people to invest in new circuits because it’s of the essence. The track is an essential component not only in organizing races and events, but also in functioning as engine distributor. We believe our product, the facilities and our series have to evolve together, and if we can accomplish this the sport would be more popular as a result.”
Passion and innovation are at the core of all your products and activities…
“True, these are core values for us, which are also evident in our design philosophy. It’s something that grasps your emotion. Our design and innovation group (based in Valcourt, Canada) is one of the best in the industry, and with the Austrian side of the company, home of the Rotax engine business, it truly completes our philosophy.”