Kart racing or karting is a variant of open-wheel motorsport with
small, open, four-wheeled vehicles called karts, go-karts, or
gearbox/shifter karts depending on the design. They are usually raced
on scaled-down circuits. Karting is commonly perceived as the stepping
stone to the higher ranks of motorsports, for example Ginetta Juniors,
FIA Formula 4, FIA Formula 3, FIA Formula 2 and FIA Formula 1, with
former F1 champions such as Nico Rosberg, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton
Michael Schumacher beginning their careers in karting.
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.
Rotax World Final kart racing
2.5 Data acquisition
3.4 Driver equipment
4 Karting as a learning tool
5 Recreational, concession and indoor Karts
6 See also
8 External links
Kart racing in
Illinois in 1962
Kart racing in the streets of Berlin, DDR, 1963
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. Instantly popular,
Karting rapidly spread to other countries, and currently has a
large following in Europe.
The first kart manufacturer was an American company, Go Kart
Manufacturing Co. (1958). In 1959, McCulloch was the first company to
produce engines for karts. Its first engine, the McCulloch MC-10,
was an adapted chainsaw two-stroke engine. 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.
The chassis are made of chrome moly tubing. There is no
suspension, therefore 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 USA as 'Open', 'Caged', 'Straight' or
Commission Internationale de Karting - Fédération
Internationale de l'Automobile or CIK-FIA approved chassis are
'Straight' and 'Open'.
Open karts have no roll cage.
Caged karts have a roll cage surrounding the driver; they are mostly
used on dirt tracks.
In Straight chassis the driver sits in the center. Straight chassis
are used for sprint racing.
In Offset chassis the driver sits on the left side. Offset chassis are
used for left-turn-only speedway racing.
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. The best
chassis allow for stiffening bars at the rear, front and side to be
added or removed according to race conditions.
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
Amusement park go-karts can be powered by 4-stroke engines or electric
motors, while racing karts use small 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines.
4-stroke engines can be standard air-cooled industrial based engines,
sometimes with small modifications, developing from about 5 to
20 hp. Briggs & Stratton, Tecumseh, Kohler, Robin, and Honda
are manufacturers of such engines. They are adequate for racing and
fun kart applications. There are also more powerful four-stroke
engines available from manufacturers like Yamaha, TKM,
Aixro (Wankel engine) offering from 15 hp up to 48 hp. They
run to and around 11,000 rpm, and are manufactured specifically for
karting. Those are used in some National Championship classes like the
2-stroke kart engines are developed and built by dedicated
manufacturers. WTP, Comer, IAME (Parilla, Komet, Woltjer), TM, Vortex,
Titan, REFO, TKM, PRD, Yamaha and
Rotax are manufacturers of such
engines. These can develop from about 8 hp for a single-cylinder
60 cc unit (MiniROK by Vortex) to over 90 hp for a twin 250
cc. Today, the most popular categories worldwide are those using
the TaG 125 cc units. The recent 125 cc
KF1 engines are electronically
limited at 16,000 rpm. Most are water-cooled today; however,
previously air-cooled engines dominated the sport.
Karts do not have a differential. 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:
Slicks, for dry track. Slick kart tires come in many different
compounds, from very soft (maximum grip) to very hard (amusement and
rental karts, less grip but long life span). In international level
racing, because the drivers are free to choose their tires and
because of the short duration of each round (10 to 20 minutes
maximum), these are some of the softest tires found in motorsport.
Rain tires, or "wets", for wet weather. They are grooved, made of soft
compound, and are narrower than slicks. Not all racing classes allow
Special, such as spiked tires for icy conditions, or "cuts/grooved"
for high grip dirt/clay speedways. Cuts are slicks modified with a
lathe to optimize handling.
Tire manufacturers such as Hoosier and
Burris also make a slightly larger grooved tire only used in dirt
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 Granja Viana, Brazil
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 USA, 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 MSA (Motor Sports Association) 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) or BRKC
(British Rental Kart Championship) 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
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
The FIA championships, including the Karting World Championship, take
place in this format.
Pack of Laydown Enduros at Daytona, USA
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 USA, most WKA & IKF sanctioned
events typically last 30 minutes (Sprint Enduro) or 45 minutes
(Laydown Enduro) and are run continuous without pit stops. Enduro
events are held on full-size road racing circuits that are usually
between 1.5 & 4 miles in length.
As well as the famous
24 Hours of Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans race for automobiles there
is also a 24 hours event for karts which takes place at the kart
Alain Prost at Le Mans, France. This race has taken place
since 1986 and its winners list include four times
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  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 onto Four Stroke Endurance
Karting for this very reason, since Two Stroke karting can be very
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.
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:
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
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) uses group transponder
qualifying to calculate starting positions for 20-lap features.
There are many different classes or formula in karting.
The CIK-FIA sanctions international championships in OKJ, OK, 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.
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) 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
MSA series: KF2, KF3, Formula KGP, Super Cadet and Cadet
Rotax series: Minimax, Junior Max, Senior Max, Senior Max 177
Formula Junior TKM, Formula TKM Extreme, TKM Senior
4-stroke and since 2006,
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 (which often
use Briggs & Stratton industrial engines) are prominent in the
Southeast and Midwest. In the West, European style
sprint racing is much more common. In particular,
125cc shifter karts using
Honda CR125 power units have gained
tremendous popularity in recent years.
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
As in other disciplines in motorsports, a license is required to drive
a racing kart on a circuit or enter competitions. 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,
Racing License might require a capability assessment.
For their safety, kart drivers are required to wear proper
Full-face helmet (Snell SA2005 or K2005 certification is required for
racing, K2005 is same as SA2005 without fire resistance)
Driving suit (abrasion resistant overalls with at least one Cordura
external layer, CIK-FIA Level 2 homologation for top level racing)
Driving boots (ankles must be covered)
Rib protector and neck brace, although highly recommended, are
optional in most countries. None of the above need to be made of fire
Superkart drivers are required to wear leather
overalls, similar to those used in motorcycling.
Karting 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, World Champions Ayrton Senna,
Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen,
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Many NASCAR
drivers also got their start in racing from karts, such as Darrell
Waltrip, Danica Patrick, Lake Speed, Ricky Rudd, Juan Pablo Montoya,
Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon.
In August 2009, in anticipation to a possible return to F1 with
Formula One world champion
Michael Schumacher did some
preparation driving a kart in Lonato, Italy. 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
Felipe Massa also used karting in September 2009 to test his
condition in Brazil, two months after his Hungarian Grand Prix
accident during qualifying.
Recreational, concession and indoor Karts
Main article: Go-kart
Kart racing games
^ a b "
Superkart at Magny-Cours – 2007". Parcferme.com. Retrieved
^ 50 years of karting 1956–2006 – CIK-FIA Archived 24 August 2009
at the Wayback Machine.
^ "How the kart was first introduced to Europe – by Burton Reinfrank
– June 2004". Vintagekarts.com. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
^ "The McCulloch Kart Engines". Macbobaust.com. 2002-09-15. Retrieved
^ "1959 – McCulloch's Entry into Kart Racing". Vintagekarts.com.
^ Example of a CIK-FIA homologation form – Chassis, 2005
^ a b Technical picture of a racing chassis Archived 11 April 2008 at
the Wayback Machine. – Margay chassis
^ "Article 21 ; Specific Regulations for KF1 ; Engine speed
limited to maximum 16,000 rpm." – CIK-FIA 2010 Technical Regulations
Archived 30 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Latest decisions of the FIA World Motor Sport Council concerning
Karting Archived 26 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine. - CIK-FIA,
15 March 2012
^ "European Endurance Prokart Championship (EPEC)".
Teessidekarting.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 September 2011.
Retrieved 8 August 2011.
^ Bradley Philpot. "British Rental Kart Championship". BRKC. Retrieved
^ (in French)
Alain Prost – 24 hours Archived 6 January
2008 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Prokart SSS
^ "American Kart
Racing Association (AKRA)". Akrainc.com. Retrieved
^ "Kart World Championship".
^ Go Kart Basics - Go
Motorsport Racing, 14 April 2014
^ Karting Archived 18 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine. - British Motor
Sports Association (MSA)
^ 2009 CIK-FIA Karting Technical Regulations Archived 6 March 2009 at
the Wayback Machine. – Article 3 : Kart and Equipment Safety
^ Michael is karting in
Michael Schumacher official
website, 5 August 2009
^ SKUSA Supernationals/
Michael Schumacher –
Felipe Massa takes wheel for first time since accident – The
Times, 29 September 2009
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Karting.
Kart racing at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
corporate sports league web site
CIK-FIA web site
Motor Sports Association
Motor Sports Association – Governing body for motor sports
in Great Britain
International Kart Federation – Governing body for the sport
of kart racing in the US, mainly West Coast
World Karting Association – Governing body for karting in
the US, mainly East Coast
AKRA – American Kart
Racing Association – Governing body for
speedway oval karting in the US
Australian Karting Association – Governing body for karting
ASN Canada – Governing body for kart racing in Canada
NatSKA – National Association of Schools and Youth Group Karting –
VKA – Vintage Karting Association – Association for support of
karts from karting's 1956 inception to 1975
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