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Serious karting fun from Fastline
After experiencing continued growth throughout 2010 and 2011, Fastline Group, the global one-stop shop for racing, rental and concession go-karting centres, continues to diversify its operation and expand its product range.
The UK-based company, which provides complete go-karting solutions for operators in addition to supplying parts and accessories around the world, has experienced strong success with its complete turnkey solution, particularly in the high-growth Middle East and African markets.
"We are a true one-stop shop for all operators' go-karting requirements," said Simon Heap, chief operating officer for Fastline.
"Essentially, a client can provide us with an empty building or stretch of land, along with the concept, and we will design the track; work with our architects to design the amenities; provide all the equipment, from go-karts and helmets to accessories and components; and help train their staff before handing over the keys."
Cutting out the middle man
Fastline is a global company, with around 5,000 customers across 70 countries. According to Heap, the company's main focus in terms of the turnkey solution is the Middle East and Africa. "The market there is embryonic and need good backup," he said.
"Despite the fact that karting is increasing in popularity in those markets, many still do not understand the sector completely - and running a good, safe operation is, of course, crucial."
Heap noted that this lack of understanding has resulted in many go-kart operations in the developing world falling far short of the high standards demanded in more mature markets.
Moreover, those operators who choose to deal with unscrupulous suppliers run the risk of being charged extortionate prices for the equipment they buy.
"In the Middle East, for example, there are a lot of middle men touting that they know everything and ripping off their clients," Heap explained.
"In one particular example I can give, not only was one middle man supplying helmets at double the price, he failed to instruct the staff at the track how to fit the helmets correctly. To make things worse, it was a children-oriented venue, and the majority of the helmets were for adults.
"Helmets are not an optional thing," Heap added. "The same rings true with all aspects of go-karting, from safety barriers to fuel storage locations. Some individuals are out creating a very unsafe environment, and this ultimately harms the entire go-karting industry."
In an effort to help grow the popularity of karting in a safe, professional environment, Fastline interfaces with operators, offering advice and quarterly audits to help operators improve and optimise their venues.
"Currently we are working with one of our customers to open a new centre in Brighton, UK," Heap said.
"We have been working with this customer for several years now and have developed a customised set of products for each centre which has helped speed up and simplify the process of opening a new centre.
"They simply now find a location advise us of the size of the project and we organise the supply and delivery of about 90 per cent of the equipment and fittings, leaving the customer to focus on the build and marketing of the new venue."
In addition to its burgeoning turnkey operation, Fastline continues to grow its supply division. "Over the past six months, we have really ramped up our spare parts operation," Heap said.
"We can supply the majority of parts that any kart manufacturer is supplying, but giving operators anywhere between a 30 to 50 per cent saving.
"Our spare parts operation is global. For example, Fastline supplies about 90 per cent of the go-kart centres in the UK and Ireland because of our diverse range of products.
"We have customers in Australia, the US, Europe and across the Middle East, as they realise that we can save them a great deal of money - so much so that even some distributors are buying from us rather than directly from the manufacturer.
"For example, a set of brake parts that cost around £26 from manufacturers we sell for £6.50 - a saving of 78 per cent for exactly the same part.
"This new line has been successful, with some foreign manufacturers' distributors purchasing parts directly from us."