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"Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!" If those words make your blood rush, then you should consider go-karting for fun and profit.

All over the world, people are gassing up their tanks and revving up their motors, hoping to be the next championship racer on the track. They all have one thing in common: a need for speed.

Kart racing is the fastest growing form of motor sports in the world. A go-kart is a small gas-powered car that seats one person. The driver sits only a few cm above the ground and there is no body on the car, just a chassis.

Go-karts go back to the '50s. They were invented by Art Ingals, who made the first go-kart out of a water pipe and a lawnmower motor. He worked for a race car manufacturer and made his own little car in his spare time.

When he drove it around in public, people asked where they could buy them, so he and a friend went into business producing the "carettas," as he called them.

Duffy Livingstone was a friend of Ingals who also began producing karts -- it was his advertising man that first used the word go-kart. The word stuck. Today the word "go" has almost been eliminated from the lingo and they are now referred to mainly as karts and karting.

The highest award in U.S. karting is the Duffy award, named after Livingstone.

Many famous race car drivers got started in karting -- Michael Andretti, Ricky Rudd, Al Unser Jr. and Scott Pruett, to name a few.

The International Karting Association has a class for kids as young as five, and children can start racing at age eight. Karting is a family sport. Go to the track and you'll find dad and daughter both entered in races.

Depending on the style of kart, you can go from 40 to 100 miles per hour.

Getting Started

The first thing you want to do is buy a ticket to see a race or two. By viewing a race, you can get a good feel for the environment and what kart racing is all about. If you're still interested, pick up a book or magazine on the subject and learn some more.

If you think you want to give it a try, check your phone book for a track near you where you can rent a kart by the hour. These tracks may offer classes where you will be taught maintenance, safety rules and basic driving skills.

Practicing outside of a race is very important. Be sure you can start, stop and turn without any problems.

Joining a local kart club can be a big help to a beginner. Kart members are happy to answer your questions and keep you moving forward on the "right track."

Once you decide that racing is for you, you'll want to invest in your own kart. You can buy used karts or parts to build your own, but be careful that you're not buying anything bent or broken. A beginner may be better off spending the money with a good kart shop so they know what they're getting.

A kart kit (which has everything you need to get started) can run around $2,000. You will have to pay for track fees (ranging from $50 to $100), gas, oil and new tires for almost every race. If you're not interested in racing, you can get away with a lot less just riding for fun.

Racing is just the end result of karting. Before you get there, you'll be building a kart, doing maintenance and having fun running with a great bunch of people who like the same things you do.

Here is a list of some of the routine maintenance necessary before racing a kart:

  • Clean the cart; check for cracks and loose bolts; check the wheel bearings
  • Check fuel lines, drain old fuel and check filter
  • Disassemble and clean axle and clutch
  • Replace worn or dirty parts
  • Check battery
  • Mount and balance a new set of tires (may need a new set every two races)

Here are some of the different types of karts and races:

Sprint Racing   -- A sprint kart looks like the original '50s style with a seat that lets the driver sit up straight. This is to give the driver a better view and better control since sprint courses are full of turns. Drivers average about 70 miles per hour. This is the oldest type of racing.

Enduro Racing or Road Racing   -- They are called enduro since they take endurance to run. These karts are designed so the driver is in a reclining position like a luge driver. This reduces wind resistance and helps the car go faster. Enduro cars can go up to 125 miles per hour.

Superkarts   -- These are fairly new and were first designed in Europe. They are described as "expensive flying lawn chairs with clutches." Drivers are between the sit-up and lie-down positions. It has six speeds and a clutch and can go up to 165 miles per hour. A superkart can cost you $15,000 and is expensive to repair and maintain.

Like many sports, karting can be dangerous if you're not well prepared. You'll always see an ambulance standing by at a race, but that is there for everyone's protection -- it is rarely used to take someone to the hospital.

Drivers must wear a helmet and clothing that protects them from bumps and scrapes. Because the engines are noisy, earplugs are recommended as well. And for those of you with long hair, be sure it is well secured beneath a helmet to keep it from catching in the moving parts of the kart.

Flags are used during a race to communicate with drivers:

Green -- race has started

White -- one lap left

Yellow -- caution

Red -- stop immediately, track is unsafe

Rolled Black -- driver is using a technique that is not allowed and he may be disqualified if he doesn't stop it

To race in most of the official competitions in North America, you will need to belong to one of the two kart associations, the International Kart Federation or the World Karting Association.

They will help you determine your class for racing, which is based on your age, experience and the type of kart you drive. Being a member of one of these associations helps assure that all drivers will operate in a safe manner and within the rules.


World Karting Association
5725 D Concord Parkway N.
P.O. Box 1030
Harrisburg, , NC   28075

International Kart Federation
P.O. Box 2569
Montclair , CA   28075


THE Karting Web Site
Racing schedules, news and a mailing list for karters

KartLINE and GoKarts USA
Here's a karting bulletin board where you can post your picture and info

Superkarts USA
Site for this special class of karts

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