The ultimate guide. How to get started with go-karts
To take the first steps into the world of karting, first of all it is necessary to know this sport which really has so many variations, from Rental karts to Racing versions, now going through the Historic and the so-called Cross karts. Then, there are the single-speed and the shifter versions. In short, the panorama is wide and at times complex. In this article we will remove any doubts you might have about this large and extensive motorsport.
As a motorsport is composed by Formula, Rally, Stock-car and Endurance car types, karting too is divided into multiple categories. Each has its own distinctive features and is used in different competitive fields.
The Racing type represents for karting, in essence, what a single-seater is for car racing. Known also as Sprint racing, it is used in races on asphalt which are no longer than 1.7 km and is undoubtedly the most widespread karting format in the world.
What defines racing karts are the general geometry of the chassis which, besides small differences, it combines all karts of this type and the fairings, made up of separate parts such as a front spoiler, a front number-holder panel (or Nassau), lateral panels and a rear bumper.
This kind of kart is widespread in all countries and is basically regulated by CIK-FIA (International Karting Commission – International Automobile Federation), the primary international sanctioning body for kart racing. In other words, with CIK-FIA homologated karts, one can even participate in the Karting World Championship.
Generally powered by 2-stroke engines, shifter or single-speed, racing karts powered by 4-stroke engines are becoming increasingly popular, with lower performance yet able to offer a lower purchase price and maintenance costs than 2-stroke engines
Racing karts are available in a “reduced” format as well, the so-called “Mini”, intended for children up to the age of 12.
Anyone who wants to practice real karting must think of this type of kart, which is certainly more demanding in terms of money, time and also from a physical point of view, than a Rental kart. However, we can say that this type of kart currently represents the purest and most original kart.
In this case the name is self-explanatory. These vehicles are specifically designed for the needs of the rental kart. They are also suitable for those with very little driving experience as they are not too powerful and are often weighed down by significant safety systems. Rental karts aim at focusing on reliability rather than pure performance to withstand several hours of consecutive use.
This is a type of kart that, until recently, has benefited from strong investments by all of the most prestigious manufacturers which have introduce into the market increasingly different models (think of the two-seater variants, for children and for XXL sizes, etc.), high-performance and with an attractive look.
These karts offer lower performance than racing karts, both in terms of power and the driving enjoyment that they are able to guarantee.
A “Rental” kart, as the name implies, is not purchased but rented by the user at indoor and outdoor karting circuits that offer this service, as opposed to what is usually done with racing karts which can be rented at the track, but which are generally purchased and then managed independently or with the support of a team.
Rental karts are an excellent first step to try driving a kart. In fact, they are not demanding at all, as all you need to do is go to a track and invest about 20 euros to be able to enjoy a 10-15 minute session. Even children and or total beginners can experience it as well. Real championships have also been developed with this type of karts such as endurance races of 1, 2, and up to 24 hours (just like the legendary Le Mans car race). In this case, the degree of commitment in terms of time, ability and money rises, yet in a limited way and never at the level of a racing kart.
Downhill karts are not equipped with an engine and use the incline of the road and the force of gravity to generate their speed.
It is practiced all over the world, but not on a large scale. This discipline, after all, almost does not exist outside of competitions (in fact, it can only be practiced on public roads closed to traffic), mostly concentrated in certain geographical areas (obviously where there are roads with steep descents) and definitely not in all countries.
The categories within this type of kart are many and, excluding the few which also allow the use of racing karts adapted to these particular safety needs. With road gripping due to the slope, all are based on specifically built chassis, often handcrafted, unusable in other contexts and on which an engine cannot be installed. TKART participated in a Downhill kart races and organized a very special test in the section “Once in a lifetime”.
To get the idea, the race format is similar to that of a rally, where the drivers take off one at a time and whose final ranking is based on the time it took the individual drivers to travel a certain stretch of a downhill road.
If karting is a niche sport, downhill karting is the niche of the niche! Honestly, if it were not for the structure of the chassis and the wheels in some classes of the downhill karts which are similar to those of a racing kart, this type of kart would really have very little to do with the purest kart. Suffice to say that it does not have an engine! That being said, it is probably ideal for ecological kart drivers and for those who make driving cleanliness and the ability to trace perfect trajectories the real pleasure of driving. The secret to winning is to make perfect trajectories and use the brakes as little as possible!
In Dirt karts the chassis derives, for the most part, from racing karts from which it differs for some components that improve the handling on dirt. Many dirt kart brands, in fact, entrust the actual production of their chassis to the big brands specialized in racing type karts. The tires have treads for better traction and a larger diameter to be higher off the ground, which is why the seat is also mounted in a raised position. Another detail that immediately catches the eye is the absence of a front spoiler.
Very different categories allow drivers of all ages and experience levels to race even on the smallest of budgets. Many categories, for example, allow the use of engines that have remained unchanged for several years and in which the allowed modifications are limited, therefore with a limited technical experience.
Common mostly in Australia, where dirt tracks are numerous like many clubs, a very lively community of enthusiasts has developed around this type of karting.
Well, first of all this type of karting is dedicated to Australians. Differently than Australia, where dirt karting is well established, this type of motorsport has not yet spread to other countries around the world.
This type includes karts which are very different from each other, which can be divided into two large macro-areas, Asphalt Oval karts and Dirt Oval karts.
The Asphalt Oval kart is based on an asymmetrical chassis, it has a reclined driving position and the fairing is more enveloping and forms a single body compared to, for example, the fairings of racing karts. This type of kart, both with slicks and treaded tires, is found in the world of the Dirt Oval Karting which is enriched by many other categories. Just think, for example, at the Outlaw Karts, a real miniature sprint car complete with spoilers, or the Unlimited All-Star classes.
Oval Karting is certainly the backbone of the American grassroots racing (by this definition we mean the universe of all categories dedicated to younger drivers and the foundation into car racing). This is where many of the drivers who today race in NASCAR and IndyCar have started. This type of karting, with its often sideways driving, is certainly highly entertaining.
Here too, the number of categories are numerous. In the Outlaw Kart, the Open classes race with specially tuned 450cc, 4-stroke engines, yet many still continue to rely on the legendary 2-stroke Honda CR 500. The Unlimited All-Star even allows them to experiment with turbocharged and nitrous oxide injection engines.
There is no shortage of models with more accessible power and costs, thanks to the many turnkey packages made available by manufacturers which combine an entry-level chassis with a 4-stroke engine.
This type of kart tends to appeal to enthusiasts living in the USA where, in fact, it is markedly widespread. For example, it is difficult to find this type of kart and races in Europe or Asia. In the United States, especially in some specific states, there are tracks and Championships that offer everyone the opportunity to race, both adults and children.
This particular group generally includes all karts which are at least over 20 years old. We can, therefore, think of all kind of karts, from the Oval to Dirt including, obviously, the Racing which is very common in Europe. The practice of restoration has given rise to real clubs that often meet for exhibitions accompanied by performances on the track, and even actual Championships.
It hardly caters to beginners. The approach to this type of kart usually presupposes having driven karts before, regardless of the type used. If you intend to tackle the world of historic karts, plan on having a good dose of patience in finding any spare parts for the restoration of a kart, but also in managing vehicles which are anything but that of the latest technology, consequently more fragile or problematic in their use compared to, for example, modern racing karts.
The Enduro kart or Road Racing Enduro is prevalent mainly in the USA. The first feature which distinguishes this type from the others is the fairings which completely envelop the kart, very extended in length, and the driver who is lying down as he were aboard a bobsled, the reason for which they are also called laydown karts. They race both on classic circuits (usually a real car racetrack, not a kart track) and on oval tracks (here too we are talking about real speedways, such as the Daytona International Speedway). In any case, they race on asphalt and with any type of engine, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, single-speed or shifter. The Enduro is one of the types of karting in which the two-engine configuration is more widespread and regulated, capable of pushing the kart’s speed up to almost 160 mph (250 km/hour).
As for the oval kart type, this kart category is aimed at American enthusiasts because it was born and propagated there.
Speaking of cross karts, we could almost say that they are not real karts. This type of kart, born in France, but now widespread in several European countries, resemble very spartan off-road vehicles. They are mostly equipped with suspensions, components which practically all other types of existing karts do not have. They are equipped with 4-stroke motorcycle-derived engines with gears, with a maximum displacement of 600cc and 115–120 hp. They are mounted on tubular frames often designed and built by the drivers themselves and as a whole they offer a weight-to-power ratio which gives them a very high performance. The traction is only relied upon by the rear wheels, by means of a chain, and the tires are of a quad bike design origin (10”).
The high performance offered and the physical commitment they require, direct the use of these karts towards expert driving enthusiasts and not beginners, but adults as well.
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