It’s pretty well-known that, barring a few exceptions, most of today’s top professional racing drivers all started their careers in karting. But what isn’t so well-known is that karting is a sport for all and there’s nothing to stop you competing week in, week out until they drag you off to a nursing home.
How does Karting work?
Think of Karting as scaled down circuit racing, for as well as the vehicles being smaller the circuits are too; most karting is ‘short circuit’, although more powerful Superkarts (or Long Circuit Karts) do run on full-size race tracks.
The principle is the same as for circuit racing; karts go wheel-to-wheel and the winner is the first to reach the chequered flag, which falls after the designated number of laps is up.
Karting is split into four main categories: Cadet, Junior, Senior and Gearbox. To find out which is the one for you, get in touch with your local club.
Most Kart events comprise practice sessions, qualifying, heats and one or two ‘finals’.
How do I start?
First of all, have a look at this Association of British Kart Clubs (ABkC) PDF, which is packed full of info to help you get started.
If you just want to have a bit of fun then arrive-and-drive karting is an easily accessible and cheap way to go Karting. The National Karting Association has a list of venues where you can turn up, pay, and race, with the kart and equipment provided.
There is also a British Schools Karting Championship which is a nationwide arrive-and-drive karting championship for anyone aged 13 to 18 in full-time education at either school or college.
If you want to take things more seriously you should go to some meetings and chat with the competitors. Most of them will be happy to talk but choose your moment; the waiting area for a class final is not the place to start asking questions.
Next you need to get your MSA Go Karting starter pack, then pass an ARKS test. You can then apply for your Kart National B Novice Competition Licence. If you are under 18 years old one of your parents must also apply for an Entrant Kart PG Licence.
What kind of kart do I need?
Karts are small, purpose-built racing vehicles with rigid frames and no suspension. There are different Karts for different classes, so you need to choose your class first. Most karts are broadly similar, with the main differences being the size, engine, tyres and whether or not it has a gearbox.
If you want to compete on long circuits you will need a Superkart, which has a gearbox, clutch and aerodynamic bodywork, and is significantly faster than a normal kart.
What equipment do I need?
You’ll need MSA-compliant safety items such as helmet, race suit, gloves and boots. You would also be wise to buy a rib protector, which isn’t mandatory but will save you from some post-race aches and pains.