WHAT IS KARTING?
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
By reading this you have taken the first step – seek proper information. Obviously the Internet provides an easy starting point of reference. As much as you can learn on the Internet there is a point at which you are going to need to talk to someone in person. The best places to start are 1) At a racing school, 2) Your local karting dealership and 3) Your local karting facility.
Racing schools offer many advantages to those new to karting. Racing schools provide the opportunity to learn from experienced drivers in all aspects of the karting experience. Racing schools not only cover karting basics, but also racing technique and typical kart and engine maintenance. The opportunity to learn the right way to do things can save you hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in repairs and maintenance. In addition, racing schools provide the opportunity to “test before you invest” – they provide the opportunity for the beginner to make a much more informed decision regarding their entry into the sport.
Starting with your local karting dealership provides an opportunity to learn from an individual(s) who not only have a vested interest in the sport, but have made an investment in karting. We highly recommend you deal with a legitimate karting dealership as opposed to an individual who is merely trying to sell you their used equipment. (As a point of reference many shops often have used packages available). These shops will be able to provide you the insight and experience necessary to ensure your karting experience starts out on track. In addition, these are the people that are able to provide the much needed support to beginning racers at the track. Try getting support from someone you bought a kart off of E-bay from on race day…
Attending your nearest karting facility provides the opportunity to find out what they actually run at the local track. There are many choices. 4-cycle, 2-cycle, Touch-and-Go (TAG) and Shifterkart classes are all predominant in different pockets of the country (influenced heavily by what the local shops support). 100cc classes refer to the displacement of the engine. In karting, 100cc classes are 2 cycle classes, air or water cooled, and utilize an external starting mechanism. The predominant engines are Yamaha and HPV. Classes are differentiated by age groups, weight and horsepower (typically affected by exhaust and carburetor choices). These classes provide an excellent segment for juniors and adult drivers with no or limited understanding of racing or mechanics. TaG (Touch-and-Go) classes represent the newest segment of karting introduced within the last few years. TaG engines offer both 100cc and 125cc models, both air-cooled and water-cooled. These engines utilize on-board push button starters and reduced maintenance costs. These classes provide an excellent segment for juniors and adult drivers with limited exposure to racing principles and mechanics that have an interest in high-performance karting with limited maintenance needs. Shifterkart classes typically utilize 6-speed sequential gearbox watercooled engines. While a motocross engine provided the staple of growth for this segment, pure bred gearbox engines developed strictly for karting (referred to as ICC) have grown in popularity over the past few years. This segment is recommended only to beginners that have previous experience in motorsports and advanced mechanical aptitude.
Of course these are only recommendations. Be sure to see what is prevalent in your area and what is supported by the local dealership(s).
Okay, back to the task of finding the rest of the information you’ll need to convince yourself that karting is a sport that you should be in. Find your favorite sites on the web and bookmark them. Investigate the class structure and where the local race program starts their new karters. This will be your guide to what kind of equipment you will need to buy. The equipment, although looking somewhat similar, is specialized for each type of kart racing in which you can become involved. It’s very easy to make mistakes buying equipment that just won’t fit the class rules once you get it to the track.
FINDING KARTING EQUIPMENT
And now for the big question: New or Used? In our opinion, whatever meets your budget needs. But we highly recommend you buy from a kart shop that is actively involved and available to support your efforts on a local basis. We at Michiana Raceway Park stock NEW or USED karts for both RENTAL or PURCHASE. Call or email us for more details!
HOW OLD ARE KART RACERS?
At some tracks karters can start at ages as young as 5 years old. The kid kart class, a common format for young racers used across the United States, groups racers aged 5 through 7. Most tracks run this as a demonstration only class, but this provides the opportunity to teach young drivers the skills needed to compete in later years for points championships.
Most organized forms of kart racing, whether local or national, begin serious racing at age 8. Typically a class is formatted around 8-12 year olds with the next common grouping including racers 12-15 years of age. Usually drivers are categorized as senior class when 15-16 years of age or older. Many tracks offer an over 35 year old class system. It is not uncommon to find the upper range of the age of go karters in the 60 year old bracket. So as you can see, karters cross all age categories. You can have great fun at any age racing a go kart!
HOW FAST ARE KARTS?
So, how fast do go karts go? The answer depends on what type of karting you are doing, the length of the track you are racing on, and the class you are riding in. Since we specialize in sprint racing, the kind of racing done on an asphalt road course, we’ll use that as an example. Most of these facilities are between 3/8 of a mile 1 mile in length. Obviously the length of the straightaway is going to have an effect on a kart’s top speed. If you are riding a kid kart, you’ll see speeds of between 20 and 30 miles per hour depending on whether the track runs the kid karts restricted or unrestricted. Regardless of track length most kid karts can achieve this speed and aren’t typically limited by length of straightaway.
Yamaha Can karts are capable of speeds from 50 to 70 miles per hour. If you are equipped to run in one of the 100cc two-stroke classes, which could be a Yamaha pipe or an HPV type of engine, these karts are capable of 55 to 75 miles per hour. If your chosen ride is what is referred to as a TAG kart, these karts are capable of anywhere between 60 and 80 miles per hour, a track with an extra long straightaway may enable them to get to speeds even beyond that range. Finally, the six speed transmission on shifter karts allows the 125cc two stroke engines to get things moving in a hurry. Even with short distances, these karts can hit 80-100 miles per hour on a sprint track. Typically average speed on a sprint track varies between 35 and 60 miles per hour.
The question of how fast a kart goes is a common thought for beginners. The answers above gives you a reference point, but more important than how fast it goes is the fact that the speed becomes relative when you mix in 10 other karts that are all wheel to wheel with you. You can have a great time at 30 miles per hour if the competition is good enough.
Speed and competition mix to make karting an exhilarating sport. When you consider driving 3/4″ off of the ground and lack of suspension, whatever speed you are traveling will seem even greater. As a result, karting is popular way for professional racers to keep their skills sharp. And, of course, this combination of factors is also why karting is popular for the rest of the karting community who master skills and fulfill dreams.
HOW SAFE IS KART RACING?
Like any sports activity there are risks involved. This is why it is very important to take your time in choosing what application to start within and what safety equipment to buy. It is very easy to jump into the deep end of the pool and get way over your head in karting. There are no limits to what you can buy; only what your budget can afford. That’s why it is very important that you check with a local program and that you understand their beginner’s classes. A large part of the design of a beginner’s class is to keep speeds in check and to keep safety where it needs to be.
As injuries can potentially occur, the risk involved has to be understood by each participant. This question comes to mind as you are asked to sign the insurance waivers prior to beginning your kart practice session or race session. We suggest Moms and Dads have a serious conversation with their young race participants. Talk through all of the potential ways of getting into harms way and staying out of harms way – while in the go-kart. This also is a big part of the learning curve – knowing how to avoid what can get you hurt.
Go-karts built today have numerous safety features. Over the years, go karts have evolved bumper systems and nerf bar systems to keep drivers safe. The bumpers guard feet and the nerf bars keep wheels from becoming tangled. When an incident occurs, go karters are usually injured when a go-kart tips over and/or another driver runs over the top of them. Again, this is a rare occurrence, and race programs typically run the whole day without incident that would even produce injury. You will find that most tracks rate safety as a very high priority and will tell you the measures they take to keep their drivers safe.
Some of the safety equipment that is mandatory is the helmet and neck collar. The collar is intended to keep the rim of the helmet from injuring a collarbone, sternum, or whiplash n the case of a rollover accident or heavy contact. Other personal protective equipment used to protect the karter on the track is the racing suit and/or jacket, gloves, and protective shoes. You will find many manufacturers have designed safety apparel tailored specific to the needs of karting.