Kart racing

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Kart racing or karting is a variant of motorsport road racing with open-wheel, four-wheeled vehicles known as go-karts or shifter karts. They are usually raced on scaled-down circuits, although some professional kart racing are also raced in full-size motorsport circuits. Karting is commonly perceived as the stepping stone to the higher ranks of motorsports, with former Formula One champions such as Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso having begun their careers in karting.

Motorsport Sport primarily involving the use of motorized vehicles

Motorsport or motor sport is a global term used to encompass the group of competitive sporting events which primarily involve the use of motorised vehicles, whether for racing or non-racing competition. The terminology can also be used to describe forms of competition of two-wheeled motorised vehicles under the banner of motorcycle racing, and includes off-road racing such as motocross.

Road racing Form of motorsport racing on tracks that contain both right and left turns

Road racing is a form of motorsport racing held on a paved road surfaces. The races can be held either on a closed circuit or on a street circuit utilizing temporarily closed public roads. Originally, road races were held almost entirely on public roads however, public safety concerns eventually led to most races being held on purpose built racing circuits.

Go-kart small four-wheeled vehicle

A go-kart, also written as go-cart, is a type of open-wheel car. Go-karts come in all shapes and forms, from motorless models to high-powered racing machines. Some, such as Superkarts, are able to beat racing cars or motorcycles on long circuits.


Karts vary widely in speed and some (known as superkarts) can reach speeds exceeding 260 kilometres per hour (160 mph), while recreational go-karts intended for the general public may be limited to lower speeds.


Superkart is a form of motorsport road racing in which the class is a racing vehicle sized like a kart but with several characteristics more strongly associated with open-wheel racing cars.

Rotax World Final kart racing Fina mundial.jpg
Rotax World Final kart racing


Kart racing in Illinois in 1962 Photography by Victor Albert Grigas (1919-2017)00025 sept 62 (37295972680).jpg
Kart racing in Illinois in 1962
Kart racing in the streets of Berlin, DDR, 1963 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B1007-0016-001, 5. Berliner K-Wagen-Rennen.jpg
Kart racing in the streets of Berlin, DDR, 1963

American Art Ingels is generally accepted to be the father of karting. A veteran hot rodder and a race car builder at Kurtis Kraft, he built the first kart in Southern California in 1956. [1] Instantly popular, Karting rapidly spread to other countries, [2] and currently has a large following in Europe.

Art Ingels is known as 'the father of karting'.

Kurtis Kraft company

Kurtis Kraft was an American designer and builder of race cars. The company built midget cars, quartermidgets, sports cars, sprint cars, Bonneville cars, and USAC Championship cars. It was founded by Frank Kurtis when he built his own midget car chassis in the late 1930s.

Southern California Place in California, United States

Southern California is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises California's southernmost counties, and is the second most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. The region contains ten counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, and Kern counties.

The first kart manufacturer was an American company, Go Kart Manufacturing Co. (1957). In 1959, McCulloch was the first company to produce engines for karts. Its first engine, the McCulloch MC-10, [3] was an adapted chainsaw two-stroke engine. [4] Later, in the 1960s, motorcycle engines were also adapted for kart use, before dedicated manufacturers, especially in Italy (IAME), started to build engines for the sport.

McCulloch Motors Corporation manufacturer of chainsaws

McCulloch Motors Corporation is an American manufacturer of chainsaws and other outdoor power tools. The company was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1943 by Robert Paxton McCulloch as a manufacturer of small two-stroke gasoline engines and introduced its first chainsaw in 1948, the Model 5-49. McCulloch and its brand are owned by Husqvarna.

A chainsaw is a portable, mechanical saw which cuts with a set of teeth attached to a rotating chain that runs along a guide bar. It is used in activities such as tree felling, limbing, bucking, pruning, cutting firebreaks in wildland fire suppression and harvesting of firewood. Chainsaws with specially designed bar and chain combinations have been developed as tools for use in chainsaw art and chainsaw mills. Specialized chainsaws are used for cutting concrete. Chainsaws are sometimes used for cutting ice, for example for ice sculpture and in Finland for winter swimming. Someone who uses a saw is a sawyer.

Two-stroke engine internal combustion engine

A two-strokeengine is a type of internal combustion engine which completes a power cycle with two strokes of the piston during only one crankshaft revolution. This is in contrast to a "four-stroke engine", which requires four strokes of the piston to complete a power cycle during two crankshaft revolutions. In a two-stroke engine, the end of the combustion stroke and the beginning of the compression stroke happen simultaneously, with the intake and exhaust functions occurring at the same time.



The chassis are made of chrome moly tubing. [5] [6] There is no suspension so chassis have to be flexible enough to work as a suspension and stiff enough not to break or give way on a turn. Kart chassis are classified in the United States as 'Open', 'Caged', 'Straight' or 'Offset'. All Commission Internationale de Karting - Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile or CIK-FIA approved chassis are 'Straight' and 'Open'.

Chassis internal vehicle frame

A chassis is the load-bearing framework of an artificial object, which structurally supports the object in its construction and function. An example of a chassis is a vehicle frame, the underpart of a motor vehicle, on which the body is mounted; if the running gear such as wheels and transmission, and sometimes even the driver's seat, are included, then the assembly is described as a rolling chassis.

The Commission Internationale de Karting is the primary international sanctioning body for kart racing. It was founded in 1962, and is headquartered in Paris, France. In 2000, it joined with the FIA. Its most important event is the Karting World Championship.

Fédération Internationale de lAutomobile international sport governing body

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is an association established on 20 June 1904 to represent the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users. To the general public, the FIA is mostly known as the governing body for many auto racing events. The FIA also promotes road safety around the world.

A roll cage is a specially engineered and constructed frame built in the passenger compartment of a vehicle to protect its occupants from being injured or killed in an accident, particularly in the event of a rollover.

The stiffness of the chassis enables different handling characteristics for different circumstances. Typically, for dry conditions a stiffer chassis is preferable, while in wet or other poor traction conditions, a more flexible chassis may work better. Temperature of the track can also affect handling and may prompt additional chassis adjustments. The best chassis allow for stiffening bars at the rear, front and side to be added or removed according to race conditions. [7]

Braking is achieved by a disc brake mounted on the rear axle. Front disc brakes are used in most shifter kart classes and are increasingly popular in other classes; however, certain classes do not allow them. Shifter karts have dual master cylinders, one for the front and one for the rear and are adjustable to allow for front/rear bias changes.

Professionally raced karts typically weigh 165 to 175 lb (75 to 79 kg), complete without driver. Avanti, Tony Kart, Trulli, Birel, CRG, Gillard, Intrepid, Kosmic, Zanardi or FA Kart and EKS are a few well known examples of the many European manufacturers of race-quality chassis. Emmick, Coyote, Bandit, Shadow, MGM, Titan, PRC and Margay are American companies producing kart chassis.


Shifter kart engine Shifter Kart Engine.jpg
Shifter kart engine

Amusement park go-karts can be powered by four-stroke engines or electric motors, while racing karts use small two-stroke or four-stroke engines.


Karts do not have a differential. [6] The lack of a differential means that one rear tire must slide while cornering; this is achieved by designing the chassis so that the inside rear tire lifts up slightly when the kart turns the corner. This allows the tire to lose some of its grip and slide or lift off the ground completely.

Power is transmitted from the engine to the rear axle by a chain. Both engine and axle sprockets are removable; their ratio must be adapted to the track configuration in order to get the most from the engine.

In the early days, karts were direct drive only (requiring push starts), but the inconvenience of that setup soon led to the centrifugal clutch for the club level classes. Dry centrifugal clutches are now used in many categories (Rotax Max is one example) and have become the norm as the top international classes have switched to 125 cc clutched engines as of January 2007.


Wheels and tires are much smaller than those used on a normal car. Rims are made of magnesium alloy, aluminum, or composite materials. Tires can support cornering forces in excess of 2 g (20 m/s²), depending on chassis, engine, and motor setup. Some car tire manufacturers, such as Bridgestone, Dunlop, and Maxxis make tires for karts. There are also specific kart tire manufacturers, which include MG, MOJO, Vega, Hoosier and Burris.

Similar to other motorsports, kart tires have different types for use appropriate to track conditions:

Data acquisition

As in other motor sports, several data acquisition systems have been developed for kart racing. These systems allow the driver to monitor from a display fixed on the steering wheel some parameters such as RPM, timing of laps (including sectors), number of laps, best lap, cooling system temperature, exhaust gas temperature and sometimes speed or even gear for shifter karts.

Some of those systems are able to record (logging) laps data from the sensors, allowing replay of an entire running session or/and direct download to a personal computer equipped with a data analysis software. More sophisticated systems allow for more information such as lateral and longitudinal acceleration (g-force), throttle position, steering wheel position and brake pressure.


Sprint race at Eastern Creek, Australia KartingNSKC.jpg
Sprint race at Eastern Creek, Australia
Rotax DD2 Series (sprint) Rotax Max1.jpg
Rotax DD2 Series (sprint)

Kart racing is generally accepted as the most economic form of motorsport available on four wheels. As a free-time activity, it can be performed by almost anybody, and as a motorsport in itself, it is one of the sports regulated by FIA (under the name of CIK), permitting licensed racing for anyone from the age of 8 onward.

In the United States, there is not as much FIA involvement; instead, many organizations regulate racing, such as the IKF (International Kart Federation), WKA (World Karting Association), KART (Karters of America Racing Triad), USPKS (United States Pro Karting Series).

In the UK, the Motor Sports Association (MSA) regulates most 'owner driver' Karting. Some associations, such as NatSKA (National Schools Karting Association), organize race meetings throughout the country under the authority of the MSA. Various four-stroke 'hire kart' series such as EPEC (European Prokart Endurance Championship) [11] or BRKC (British Rental Kart Championship) [12] fall outside the governance of the MSA. Billed as the UK's first national karting league, the Elite Karting League also falls outside of MSA governance.

In Australia, kart racing is administered by the Australian Karting Association on the behalf of FIA and CAMS. There is a manual released every year detailing the various rules and regulations that race meetings and drivers have to follow.

Racing classes start at age 7 or 8 (5 in the US with "Kid Karts") and generally run in 3-year age groupings or weight divisions until "senior" status is reached at age 15 or 16, depending on the series.[ citation needed ]

Racing formats

Typically, race formats are one of the following:


Sprint racing takes place on dedicated kart circuits resembling small road courses, with left and right turns. Tracks range from 1/4 mile (400 metres) to over 1 mile (1,600 metres) in length.

The sprint format is a series of short-duration races, normally for a small number of laps, that qualify for a final, with a variety of point scoring calculations to determine the event's overall winner. Typical duration does not normally exceed 15 minutes. Here, speed and successful passing is of the most importance. It normally occurs in the format of three qualifying heats and a final race for trophy positions.

The FIA championships, including the Karting World Championship, take place in this format.


Pack of laydown enduros at Daytona International Speedway Enduros.jpg
Pack of laydown enduros at Daytona International Speedway

Endurance races last for an extended period, ranging from 30 minutes up to 24 hours or more, for one or more drivers. In general, consistency, reliability, and pit strategy is of greater importance than all out speed.

Called "enduro" racing in the United States, most WKA and IKF sanctioned events typically last 30 minutes (sprint enduro) or 45 minutes (laydown enduro) and are run continuously without pit stops. Enduro events are held on full-size road racing circuits that are usually between 1.5 and 4 miles in length.

As well as the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race for automobiles there is also a 24-hours event for karts which takes place at the kart circuit Alain Prost at Le Mans, France. [13] This race has taken place since 1986 and its winners list include four-time Champ Car champion Sébastien Bourdais (in 1996).

Endurance racing is also considered a more affordable way of getting into karting. In South Africa, the 24 Hours of Karting Festival race is held annually and lasts 24 hours with multiple classes participating. This event is hosted by the Prokart SSS Club [14] near Johannesburg. The most popular class runs the Honda GX390 four-stroke engine, which is both affordable and durable, keeping running costs to a minimum. The Prokart Super Single Series, also known as Prokart SSS, has been running for more than 20 years and has proven to be a very popular entry platform for drivers of all ages who want to get into karting. Many clubs worldwide have taken on four-stroke endurance karting for this reason, since two-stroke karting can be very expensive.


Speedway racing takes place on asphalt or clay oval tracks which are normally between 1/10 mile and 1/4 mile long. Tracks primarily consist of two straights and four left-turn corners, few tracks are symmetric and often the shape parallels that of an egg or a tri-oval.

'Offset' kart chassis have been developed for precise handling and adjustability in left-turn-only racing competition taking place on oval and tri-oval tracks. Depending on the track material, different tires are used on the kart. [15]

Speedway kart races range in length from 4 laps for a trophy dash, to 20 laps for a main event.

The two chief racing formats used in dirt speedway karting are heat races and timed laps qualification:

  • The International Kart Federation (IKF) runs a racing format of two 10 lap heats followed by a 20 lap final. Finishing positions in the two heat races are used to calculate the starting position in the feature race.
  • The World Karting Association (WKA) uses time qualifying. Karts equipped with transponders are sent out onto the track in groups of 5 or less to try to achieve the fastest lap time. Positions for the 20 laps feature event are determined by qualifying time.
  • The American Kart Racing Association (AKRA) [16] uses group transponder qualifying to calculate starting positions for 20-lap features.

Racing categories

There are many different classes in kart. One of the fastest growing in the USA is Lo206. The general classes are 125cc Shifter, 100cc tag, 125cc tag and then the rotax equivalents of these karts.


Superkart Ben Willshire GP1.jpg

The CIK-FIA sanctions international championships in OK, OKJ, KZ1, KZ2 and Superkart. These are regarded as the top level classes of karting and are also raced in national championships worldwide. The World Championship is decided here. Recently we had the international under 15s championship. The Dilbert who finished first overall was Vlad Sputzki (Russia) followed by Daniel Smith (England) and in third Maximilien Blank (Australia). CIK-FIA categories:

  • OK (the top level) and OKJ for a younger age group. All are using the same water-cooled no-gearbox 125 cc "long life" two-stroke engines which are direct drive, each with different technical specifications (mufflers, air boxes, carburetor, rev limit etc.).
  • KZ1 and KZ2, both 125 cc gearbox categories.
  • Superkart, a 250 cc gearbox category.

Non CIK-FIA categories: The Kart World Championship (or KWC) [17] as opposed to the FIA's 'Karting World Championship' uses 4-stroke rental karts and travels to a different country each year.


In the UK, the most celebrated karting series is the National karting series, also known as Super One. There are three types of Super One championships:

  • MSA series: KF2, KF3, Formula KGP, Super Cadet and Cadet
  • Rotax series: Minimax, Junior Max, Senior Max, Senior Max 177
  • TKM series: Formula Junior TKM, Formula TKM Extreme, TKM Senior 4-stroke and since 2006, Honda Cadet

Other UK National Championships include: Birel BirelART series UK: Cadet 60cc, Junior 100cc, Senior Light 125cc, Senior Heavy 125cc

The BRKC is the UK's rental karting National championship, and the UK's official feeder series to the rental Kart World Championship.

NatSKA is a budget karting association set up for schools and youth groups in the UK, with 13 classes.

In the United States, Dirt oval classes[ citation needed ] (which often use Briggs & Stratton industrial engines) are prominent in the Southeast and Midwest.[ citation needed ] In the West, European style sprint racing is much more common.[ citation needed ] In particular, 125cc shifter karts using Honda CR125 power units have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. [18]

In Australia, classes include Cadet (previously called Midget), Rookie, Junior National Pro, Junior National, Junior Clubman, Junior Rotax (Jmax), KF3, Senior National, Senior Rotax, Senior Clubman, Senior TAG (Restricted and Unrestricted). Most classes run a light and heavy category (with some running super heavy).

Many people race worldwide in Spec series such as Rotax Max (a TaG class) or those using the Yamaha KT100 engine.

Racing licenses

As in other disciplines in motorsports, a license is required to drive a racing kart on a circuit or enter competitions. [19] The licenses, issued by governing bodies, are provided by clubs or associations. Most of the time, but not always, a basic insurance coverage is included in the licence annual fee. In some countries, such as France, regulations require the drivers to pass a medical exam each year.

License classes differ between countries according to age groups or levels. Most of the time a Practice License can be easily obtained, while a Racing License might require a capability assessment. [20]

Driver equipment

For their safety, kart drivers are required to wear proper equipment: [21]

Rib protector and neck brace, although highly recommended, are optional in most countries. None of the above need to be made of fire retardant material. Superkart drivers are required to wear leather overalls, similar to those used in motorcycling.

As a learning tool

Kart racing is usually used as a low-cost and relatively safe way to introduce drivers to motor racing. Many Formula One drivers grew up racing karts, most prominent among them being World Champions Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Many NASCAR drivers also got their start in racing from karts, such as Darrell Waltrip, Danica Patrick, Ricky Rudd, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon.

In August 2009, in anticipation to a possible return to F1 with Ferrari, Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher did some preparation driving a kart in Lonato, Italy. [22] Schumacher also raced at the SKUSA SuperNationals, an event taking place each year in Las Vegas, along with F1 drivers Sébastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet Jr.. [23] Felipe Massa also used karting in September 2009 to test his condition in Brazil, two months after his Hungarian Grand Prix accident during qualifying. [24]

Recreational, concession and indoor Karts

See also


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KZ1 is a kart racing class using 125 cc water-cooled two-stroke engines yielding approximately 46-50hp, equipped with a 6-speed gearbox. Technical regulations are similar to KZ2 except for the gearbox which can be either manual or electro-mechanical and the use of soft tires. Both engines and chassis must be approved by the CIK-FIA racing governing commission. It is open to top drivers aged 15 and over. Minimum weight is 170 kg with driver. They can accelerate from 0-100 KM/H in 3,5 seconds. KZ1 has a top speed of 180KM/H.

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  6. 1 2 Technical picture of a racing chassis Archived 11 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine Margay chassis
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  13. Kart circuit Alain Prost – 24 hours Archived 6 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. Prokart SSS
  15. https://www.kartpartsdepot.com/Introduction_to_Go_Kart_Tires_p/81.htm
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  17. "Kart World Championship".
  18. http://www.superkartsusa.com
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  21. 2009 CIK-FIA Karting Technical Regulations Archived 6 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine – Article 3 : Kart and Equipment Safety
  22. Michael is karting in LonatoMichael Schumacher official website, 5 August 2009
  23. SKUSA Supernationals/Michael SchumacherYouTube video
  24. Felipe Massa takes wheel for first time since accident The Times , 29 September 2009

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