Karting is one of the most exciting and accessible motorsports in the world. You can experience high-speed, wheel to wheel racing but on a smaller scale, we don’t mean Micro Machines scale here, just smaller than a ‘regular’ sized race car. You might not know but not all karts are created equal. In this blog, we will explore the various types of kart available, their uses, differences, associated costs, racing types, specific regulations and age requirements. It might be on a smaller scale but it’s no less fun and exciting!
We will start this journey into the types of kart with one you will almost certainly know about (we at least hope you do…)
We said you probably would know about these. Rental karts or otherwise known as ‘arrive and drive karts’ are the backbone of commercial karting circuits, catering to a wide range of drivers with varying skill levels. These karts are purpose-built to withstand the bumps and bangs of frequent use, ensuring durability and reliability on the track. They need to be like this because not every driver is as good behind the wheel as you, we all know someone who drives around the circuit on Forza backwards to crash into their mates.
These karts are equipped with 4-stroke engines meaning they won’t scare you into never climbing in one again. Rental karts are known for their ease of operation, making them accessible to drivers of all experience levels, even your gran would be able to drive one!
The solid, robust construction of rental karts includes features such as remote engine cut off switches, enclosed bodies, with surrounding bumpers and restricted engines. This prioritises safety during races and ensures the well-being of drivers. These safety measures offer peace of mind, particularly for self confessed novices who may be developing their driving skills and your mate who thinks he’s Lewis Hamilton but comes last at every race you go to…
One of the key advantages of a rental type of kart is the forgiving nature. They provide a stable platform on the track, allowing drivers to focus on honing their driving technique. This nature of rental karts enables novice drivers to build confidence and gradually improve their skills.
Rental karts serve as the ideal choice for everyone from beginners, casual racers and those fast and furious enthusiasts. But hold on there Dom Toretto, you still need the equipment in order to race, but fortunately you don’t need to buy any for rental karting, as the tracks can supply it for you – nice of them isn’t it! Even though it is worth it having your own equipment, as it means you don’t have to put on a suit filled with someone else’s sweat.
The karts’ robustness, safety features, and user-friendly design make them an integral part of commercial karting circuits and an excellent entry point for people interested in racing, they provide countless hours of exhilarating fun on the track, you can simply arrive and drive! (Hence the name).
Rental karts are primarily used for leisure and recreational purposes at rental tracks or entertainment centres. But as of 2020 the British Indoor Karting Championship was created by Teamsport in association with Motorsport UK (the governing body of motorsport in the UK – they are a big deal when it comes to racing) This championship offers the opportunity for people to take their racing to the next level. You will need a race licence to compete though. Rental karts offer an excellent entry point for beginners and casual racers to enjoy the sport without the need for significant investments.
Rental karts are generally available for use at the circuits, and the cost is typically included in the track fees.
Rental karts usually have age restrictions, with minimum age requirements typically ranging from 8 to 12 years old, depending on the specific circuit and kart size.
Countries of Use:
Rental karts are commonly found in karting facilities worldwide, including the UK, the United States, Europe, and many other countries.
Bambino karts are purposefully crafted to introduce the youngest drivers to the world of karting – not that young but younger than you think, all within a safe and controlled environment. These specialised karts are carefully designed to cater to the unique needs and abilities of young racers. One of the defining characteristics of Bambino karts is their reduced size, so a scaled down version of a scaled down version of a racing car. This ensures a comfortable fit for your son, daughter, niece, cousin twice removed, neighbour down the road, whoever! This allows them to maintain proper control and positioning while on the track.
To prioritise safety, Bambino karts are engineered to operate at much lower speeds compared to other kart types. This deliberate limitation ensures that they can navigate the track with confidence and minimises the risks associated with higher speeds. Additionally, to help with this the engine power of Bambino karts is restricted to provide manageable and controllable acceleration, allowing them to focus on developing their driving skills.
Typically, Bambino karts are equipped with a 50cc two-stroke engine. This engine configuration strikes a balance between providing sufficient power and maintaining a level of control that is suitable for the youngest drivers. The reduced engine capacity helps in creating a manageable power-to-weight ratio, making it easier for young drivers to manoeuvre the kart effectively.
Bambino karts serve as an essential stepping stone for young drivers, offering them an opportunity to develop their racing skills before progressing to larger and faster kart categories. By starting with Bambino karts, young drivers can learn fundamental techniques such as proper kart handling, racing lines, and understanding track dynamics. This invaluable experience prepares them for future endeavours in karting and lays a solid foundation for their racing aspirations – who knows they could be the next Max Verstappen…
Bambino karts are suitable for drivers aged 6 to 8 years old, depending on local regulations and race series. This provides a safe and enjoyable introduction to the sport, while gradually building their confidence and abilities, preparing them for the challenges of higher-level karting.
Bambino karting is primarily used in specific Bambino championships or introductory events for young drivers, found throughout the country.
Countries of Use:
Bambino karting is prevalent in countries such as the UK, Europe, and various other regions.
Cadet karts are meticulously engineered with the specific needs of young drivers in mind, serving as a perfect entry point for those embarking on their karting journey or the next step after bambino karts. You don’t have to start in bambino karts to then go to cadet karts. You can start at any age, one of the things which makes karting so accessible.
Cadet karts are intentionally smaller in size to accommodate the proportions of young racers, ensuring a comfortable and ergonomic fit that enables them to maintain proper control and positioning while on the track. I hope you’re seeing a trend here, as drivers grow up their karts ‘grow’ with them.
To prioritise safety and enhance control, cadet karts are equipped with engines that deliver reduced power compared to other karts. This deliberate design choice helps young drivers handle the kart with ease and maintain a level of control that matches their skill level and physical capabilities. As I’m sure you don’t want them flying over the circuit into something! Cadet karts typically utilise a similar 50cc two-stroke engine to bambino karts, which strike a balance between providing enough power for their need for speed while ensuring they can confidently handle the kart’s around a track.
Cadet karts play a vital role in nurturing young talent and providing a developmental platform for junior drivers. As many current racing drivers in F1, WEC, you name it started in karts. They offer a controlled and supportive environment for young racers to gain experience, develop their racing skills, and establish a solid foundation before progressing to higher-performance kart categories.
Cadet karts serve as an invaluable platform for young drivers who are beginning their karting journey. Through their smaller size, reduced engine power, and restricted top speed, cadet karts offer a safe and controlled environment for junior drivers to develop their skills, gain racing experience, and establish a strong foundation in the sport. These karts lay the groundwork for young talents, allowing them to progress to higher-performance karts as they continue to grow and advance in their karting careers.
Cadet karts are primarily used in junior karting championships and regional competitions.
The cost of a new cadet kart can vary but generally ranges from £1,500 to £3,000. Maintenance costs depend on usage and wear, including tires, fuel, and occasional engine rebuilds.
Cadet karts are typically suitable for drivers aged 8 to 12 years old, depending on local regulations and race series.
Countries of Use:
Cadet karting is prevalent in various countries, including the UK, Europe, the United States, Australia, and many other regions.
Junior and Senior Karts
Junior and senior karts serve as the natural progression for older children, teenagers, and adults who have outgrown cadet karts and are ready to take on the next level of karting. These karts are not as restricted anymore and provide increased speed, improved manoeuvrability, and overall enhanced performance, catering to the developing skills and physical capabilities of the drivers. As when young drivers grow they become accustomed to the speed and then want more, so these karts are perfect.
Junior karts typically utilise 60cc or 100cc two-stroke engines, finally a bit more power! But with power comes great responsibility. This boost in performance allows junior drivers to experience higher speeds and more dynamic on-track action. The increased power-to-weight ratio of these karts mean improved acceleration and overtaking opportunities, which means more fun racing.
On the other hand, senior karts take the performance level to just below 9000. These karts can feature engines with capacities up to 125cc, these karts are for the big boys & girls The larger engines allow for mega straight-line speeds and even greater cornering capabilities, although don’t think these are at the level of F1 just yet. But they do demand advanced driving techniques and precise control from experienced drivers. In other words, these aren’t suitable for your gran…
In addition to more speed, junior and senior karts boast advanced chassis designs that optimise handling and responsiveness. These karts are engineered with enhanced systems, improved weight distribution, and often incorporate aerodynamic features to maximise grip, cornering ability, and overall stability. The combination of engine power and refined chassis design enables drivers to explore the limits of their skills and experience the thrill of technical driving styles, such as executing precise racing lines and mastering complex overtaking manoeuvres.
To drive these karts consistently lap after lap requires physical and mental strength, it’s not just professional drivers which should train and eat well, if you want to make it big you need to be doing the same, you have to limit those Big Macs and get on the leaves found in the supermarket. As this is what your competition is doing, so don’t put yourself on the back foot, not everyone is as gifted as Usain Bolt who had chicken nuggets right before setting the 100 metre world record at the 2008 Olympics…
Junior and senior karts find their place in competitive karting events and regional championships where people either buy their own kart or are part of a team who have one. These karts are commonly seen in local, national, and international competitions. Whether it’s battling for the podium or simply enjoying time on track with friends, you’ll know you’re alive when stepping into one of these.
Junior and senior karts are used in local, national, and international championships.
The cost of a new junior or senior kart can range from £2,500 to £5,000, excluding additional accessories and equipment. Maintenance costs are similar to cadet karts, including regular maintenance, engine rebuilds, and tire replacements.
Junior karts are typically suitable for drivers aged 12 to 16, while senior karts are for drivers aged 16 and above, depending on local regulations and race series.
Countries of Use:
Junior and senior karting is popular globally, with widespread participation in countries such as the UK, Europe, the United States, Australia, and many others.
Gearbox Karts (Shifter Karts)
Gearbox karts, often referred to as shifter karts, represent the pinnacle of short circuit karting, they are extremely high level performance racing machines. Designed to deliver face bending speed and so require finesse and proper control. These karts are purpose-built for experienced drivers who want to race at the top level of the sport.
Drivers need to possess the driving skills and just as importantly, the mental and physical strength as these are not for the faint of heart. They are as brutal as they are beautiful, they will push the limits of your abilities.
At the heart of gearbox karts lies their larger-displacement two-stroke engines, which typically range from 125cc to 250cc. These engines generate substantial power and torque, propelling the kart to speeds of over 88 mph, but there’s no risk of travelling through time so don’t worry. The increased engine capacity combined with advanced engine tuning and performance enhancements result in unparalleled acceleration and top-end speed.
One of the distinguishing features of gearbox karts is their manual gearbox (Hopefully you guessed this from the name), this sets them apart from the other single speed kart types. Equipped with a sequential or manual gearbox – although you’d be hard pressed to find a genuine manual box in a kart. These karts add an additional layer of complexity and demand advanced driving skills, as control and a strong upper body is essential to extract peak performance on track. You might go all lap with only one hand on the wheel as you’re using the other hand to constantly change gear – this is obviously dependent on the track.
Take a minute and watch the KZ2 karts in the British Karting Championship at Glan-Y-Gors to see what we mean. The manual gearbox provides a heightened level of driver engagement, requiring finesse and skill to extract the full potential of the kart’s performance.
The immense power and technical demands of gearbox karts require drivers to possess a high level of experience and skill. But if they can be tamed they offer an almost unparalleled experience (almost is the key word, just wait till you read about Superkarts – yes they are a real thing!) Achieving mastery of a gearbox kart involves understanding weight transfer, optimising gear ratios for different sections of the track, and executing precise braking and acceleration techniques, and maybe most importantly modifying your driving to accommodate changing gear.
Gearbox karts find their home in high-level national and international karting competitions, including CIK-FIA (International Karting Commission – International Automobile Federation) events. These races attract the most skilled and dedicated karters, providing a platform for drivers to showcase their talents and compete against the best around. The intense competition and adrenaline-fueled action make gearbox kart racing awesome, if you like the sound of it but not sure you’d be up to it, make your way down to a track near you and watch, that’ll make or break it for you.
Gearbox karts stand among the kings of karting, offering drivers an experience which is hard to find elsewhere. What with their larger-displacement two-stroke engines, manual gearboxes, and astonishing speed, which demand respect. Competitions such as CIK-FIA events provide a stage for drivers to display their mastery of gearbox karting, showcasing their expertise on both national and international levels. Gearbox karting represents a perfect fusion of power, skill, and exhilaration in the world of karting.
Gearbox karts are commonly used in high-level national and international karting competitions, such as CIK-FIA (International Karting Commission – International Automobile Federation) events.
Gearbox karts are more expensive, with prices ranging from £5,000 to £10,000 for a new kart. The cost of maintenance is higher due to the more complex engines, gearboxes, and suspension systems.
Gearbox karts are typically reserved for experienced drivers aged 16 and above, depending on local regulations and race series.
Countries of Use:
Gearbox karting is prevalent in many countries worldwide, including the UK, Europe, the United States, Australia, and various other regions.
No you didn’t read wrong, these aren’t things which have fallen from outer space, although you’d be forgiven to think you’d gone to the moon and back after driving one… Superkarts represent the pinnacle of karting. Looking like mini formula cars and with speeds of over 140 mph they are serious pieces of kit and not to be taken lightly.
These high-powered machines are purpose-built for drivers seeking the ultimate karting experience and intense on-track action. They are typically equipped with powerful motorcycle engines, often exceeding 250cc in displacement. The advanced engines, combined with lightweight construction and aerodynamic enhancements, such as front and rear wings, diffusers, and other specialised bodywork., allow superkarts to achieve acceleration and top speed figures that rival many sports cars – no joke!
Competitive superkarting events are held at both national and international levels with the biggest difference between this championship and the rest of the karting championships mentioned throughout is that Superkarts are raced on long circuits, such as Oulton Park, Donington, Silverstone and more all over the UK. Like with other forms of karting, there are multiple classes of Superkarts, ranging from 125cc up to 450cc!
Another difference to ‘normal’ karting is the gear used. Traditional karting gear is made for abrasion resistance but as the speeds are not crazy high these specifically designed products from the likes of OMP, Sparco and Alpinestars more than do the job. For Superkarts however, as the speeds are much higher, a full leather suit or a 2 piece zipped suit is required. Motorcycle leathers are suitable as they offer enhanced resistance.
Historic karting, also known as vintage or classic karting, is a beloved aspect of the sport that enables enthusiasts to relive the early days of kart racing. Participants use karts from the 1950s to the 1980s, showcasing the unique designs and technology of that era.
Vintage karting events bring together enthusiasts to race and display these classic machines, creating a nostalgic and authentic experience. Restoration and preservation efforts ensure that the heritage of early karting is cherished, while exhibitions and displays provide opportunities to delve into the history and stories behind these vintage karts. Historic karting fosters a sense of community and allows participants to appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that shaped the sport’s origins.
This type of racing allows enthusiasts to revisit the past and experience the golden era of kart racing. Through the use of vintage karts, restoration efforts, and community events, participants celebrate the heritage and craftsmanship of early karting. By preserving the legacy of these classic machines, historic karting connects enthusiasts with the roots of the sport and creates a shared appreciation for its history.
If you want to get involved in the glory days of old, there are events held in the UK. Catered for by the British Historic Kart Club. One of the biggest events is the Shenington Historic Revival which is held annually in July.
Motorsport UK Sanctioned Events
Motorsport UK, the governing body for motorsport in the UK, organises and sanctions karting events throughout the country. The specific kart types used in these events depend on the respective racing categories and age groups. Motorsport UK-sanctioned events such as the British Kart Championship encompass various karting classes, including Cadet, Junior, Senior, and Shifter kart categories and require a race licence to take part.
As of 2020 Teamsport in association with Motorsport UK created the British Indoor Karting Championship as an accessible and affordable way to take the next step toward organised competition. With 5 classes and many locations it’s the perfect way to start your racing career.
Note: Specific engine sizes, racing types, and regulations may vary based on local racing organisations, governing bodies, and regional preferences. It’s always recommended to consult relevant karting clubs or racing associations for accurate and up-to-date information on specific kart types and their usage in various racing events.
Karting racing encompasses a wide range of kart types designed to suit different age groups, skill levels, and racing aspirations. From rental karts for beginners when you want to go out with your mates to the experienced driver wanting high-performance shifter karts to race in international competitions, karting offers a motorsport experience for all.
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