HISTORY OF KARTING
The Kart has come a very long way since the mid-fifties when American fathers helped to get their sons mobile by mounting discarded washing machine motors on wooden rail chassis and clothing them with vestigial fruit-crate bodywork.
Art Ingels worked for the renowned race car builder Frank Kurtis and, while pondering means of improving that basis ‘soapbox’ package, he came up with a new idea that would revolutionise motorsport Karting. Children had trundled round Californian parking lots at little more than five miles an hour in those first racers, but Ingel’s employed welded steel tubing in place of wood and crude sash-cord steering gave way to a properly engineered system with a steering wheel. A surplus single cylinder West Bend two-stroke engine provided the power for yhese early Karts via chain and sprocket and top speed rose dramatically to 30mph. The day that Ingel’s Karting creation first ran in 1956 marked the birth of the worlds’ first go - Kart. Within weeks, he was inundated with demand for replicas.
From these humble beginnings,The Kart has developed into a world-wide business and has become the crucible in which motor racing talent of the future is more often than not forged.
Karting came to Europe early in the late 1950’s via American Air Bases and over the ensuing decades the machines have become ever more sophisticated.The Kart is now recognised as the entry level to motorsport for aspiring racing drivers and the most important breeding ground for future World Champions. It is fast and furious competition between up to 30 small machines, typically powered by 60 or 100cc two-stroke engines. The fastest are capable of speeds up to 90mph with acceleration faster than a Ferrari sports car. Competitors can now start at 8 years old.
Karting is arguably the least expensive form of motor racing and is open to both male and female competitors. All international Kart racing is licensed by the Controlle Internationale Karting which is part of the Federation International Automobile. This is the same administration body for Formula 1 and all international motor-racing. Individual countries administer regulations via an FIA appointed national body (in the UK the MSA administers the sport). Kart Circuits are licensed for competition by the individual national bodies to an agreed minimum specification. At this time the minimum length for an international circuit is 1 Kilometre and the minimum track width is 7 metres.
Venues are expected to provide a full range of participant and spectator facilities including race control building, lap scoring computer system, viewing grandstands, fenced paddock, medical centre, media centre, officials centre, restaurant/cafeteria, toilets, showers, changing rooms, Kart sales outlet, storage and workshops. The Controlle Internationale Karting lay down the circuit criteria for the promotion of international events and details on the existing criteria required are enclosed.
The majority of Formula One racing drivers in the past decade – Fernando Alonso, Kimi Rakkinen, Justin Wilson, Ralph Firmin, Michael & Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Johnny Herbert, Alex Zanardi, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost started in Karting which is acknowledged as the grass roots of all motorsport and essential to the development of young drivers and engineers. Formula One Supremo Bernie Ecclestone says “I am pushing Formula 1 circuits to build kart circuits which we could include in F1 weekends. With the fan base and television audience that F1 has, it would boost kart racing, which would in turn provide new talent for F1”. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. Satellite, cable and terrestrial channels screen some of the top international events and the sport has many dedicated monthly magazines throughout the world. Media exposure continues to grow boosted continually by the ongoing interest as Karting drivers graduate through the motorsport ranks.
Until the mid 1980’s, Karting was purely a motor sport for individuals who owned and prepared their own equipment and was not available to the general public. However, the arrival of leisure hire Karting, where 4-stroke Karts are hired to drivers on an arrive and drive individual basis or as part of a group of friends or a company incentive, has resulted in a transformation in the commercial side of the business. Karting centres, both indoor and outdoor, now attract over five million participants in Europe and in excess of 1,000,000 participants per annum in the UK alone. In particular, Karting, as part of an incentive package, has seen unprecedented growth in line with the increasing popularity of active participation Corporate Entertainment. The interest in leisure Karting, which initially spread into Europe and the USA, is now reaching South East Asia and South America. Massive growth is predicted in these areas as Karting is seen as a young, competitive, vibrant upmarket sporting pastime for both children from the age 8 years upwards to adults.