Ayrton Senna, Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, James Hinchcliffe and Lewis Hamilton are among the hundreds if not thousands of professional racers who developed their skills in tiny racing karts that offered no suspension, no downforce, the bare minimum in protection, and yet more than made up for those short-comings with more fun and excitement than is available in just about any other sport.
Sadly, for many of our readers the image of a kart may be that of a tragically underpowered machine you rent at your local go-kart track or amusement park. But consider there is a racing kart that can do 0-60 MPH in under four seconds, hit 125 MPH on the back straight, pull 3 g in the corners, and we’re talking serious racing.
Karting has always been the safest, cheapest and the best entry into motorsports for those with the desire to compete, yet lacking the financial backing or connections to start in they're career in a professional racing series. Plus karting as a kid helps develop skills that will translate to being a better safer driver when you turn 16, and what parent couldn't get behind that?
So our Tribe, Team FMR invites you to join us and become a Karter. If not you, maybe you can interest your friends, family, kids, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or neighbours? The more of us racing, the better the future is for motorsports and car enthusiast sites such as this one. So let's spread the word. Karting is where it's at.
Now this is exciting!
Unfortunately karting is (even to those of us competing in it) a confusing range of classes, chassis, engines, tires, tracks, rules, and governing bodies. So finding the right way in and getting the most for your money can be difficult. That's where Team FMR comes in. The purpose of our Tribe is to get more young people interested in cars and motorsports, and there is no better way to do that than through exposure either as a fan or competitor, to competitive karting.
In Canada (where Team FMR is based) you can start competitive karting as young as 8, but as we found when we began to compete there were kids who had been driving since they were 5.
But for the purpose of this article, we'll stick with the rules, OK?
Possibly the best way to get into karting is to begin with your local track's “Arrive & Drive” program.
In Canada, this program is sanctioned nationally by ASN Canada FIA. As Canada’s governing motorsport body closely affiliated to the FIA, the world motorsports governing body, you know right away this is the right place to begin. And as a bonus, FIA sanctioned events run rain or shine, and there is nothing better than racing in the rain to develop your car control skills.
One of the great things about an Arrive & Drive program is that other than a neck brace, everything is provided. You pay a membership fee up front (typically $100), then pay to play at anywhere from 10 to 12 scheduled events. At each event there are prizes, usually medals for Positions 1 to 3, although some tracks recognize the top 5 finishers. This is a great way to develop your driving skills, make friends and decide if this is something you want to pursue as a hobby or serious sport.
As an aside though, and from personal experience we say invest in your own helmet as shared helmets are gross. Really gross! A race suit is nice to have too, as sometimes you might not be able to pull a suit off the rack at the track that fits well. Don't worry about driving shoes though, as regular running shoes are perfect at this level.
At our home track, Goodwood Kartways just North of Toronto, exceptional drivers are awarded larger trophies at an end of the season banquet along with an opportunity to move up to the Club Level where you campaign your own kart with a discount and support for a season. But more on that in a future FMR DriveTribe instalment which will focus on 4-stroke club racing.
(If you have an interest in karting, or have participated in karting yourself, we encourage you to become a part of our tribe and to share your own stories on this Tribe. We can never get enough people interested in cars, karting and motorsports, so the younger we begin to influence further enthusiasts, the better.)