What is karting anyway?

This question crosses my mind whenever there’s a discussion about growing the sport of karting…
What is karting? What are we hoping to grow?

It doesn’t seem like a singular thing… which is strange to say because in the scheme of things… karting\gokarting is a very small niche, yet there are some big differences that are not particularly nuanced.

I feel like I haven’t really seen someone ponder the question of “how do we grow motorcycling” because it seems awfully broad.

So anyway, what is karting? There’s no right answer, but I thought it would be interesting to pontificate.

I know it when I see it :slight_smile:

I think a kart must pass these set of rules that are pretty generic and found in most regs. The source here is Motorsport UK Yearbook which are based on FIA regs

16.3.2. It must be of one piece construction, either welded or brazed.

16.3.3. Any form of chassis frame control which includes pivots, dampers or similar devices is prohibited.

16.7. Any method of suspension, either by elastomeric material or by pivots, is prohibited

and a solid rear axle.

I think that’s a base that we share across almost all aspects. Karting is very fragmented, but I think we do share a common DNA across almost all of the sport.


Are we being objective/subjective?

Objectively it feels a bit like tennis or any other solo competitive sport. You learn how to play and then go find people to race. Theres a sliding scale of events available for different skill/sophistication levels. You start at the bottom and work your way up. As you get better you start going to bigger tourneys etc etc.

I guess what’s different is that we don’t have a singular unifying org that oversees stuff and instead we have lots of individual promoters doing their own thing, sort of.

Subjectively it feels more like surfing. It grabs you by the heart and you arrange your life around doing it.

(Side note: to the best of my knowledge there are no karting “hustlers” but there are plenty of tennis hustlers. So that’s also a difference (hustling for money matches). I don’t think you can be an anonymous fast guy in racing. We are a tiny group, relative to most solo sports I think.

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I think the answer varies, which is also at the heart of where some of the challenge promoting and growing comes from. It is a passion, hobby, past-time, lifestyle, investment, stepping stone, development ladder… Take your pick!

I see parents who think their kids will be the next Mario Andretti and are pursuing accordingly. These are the same type parents you see in youth basketball, football, or baseball that believe they have a kid with professional sports future.

I see people who love motorsport and this is how they enjoy it with family. There is no expectation beyond enjoying some tinkering and a sensation of speed/power. These folks are cut out of the same cloth as folks that like to hang out and ride motorcycles, do some off-roading, etc.

I see guys that have been professional drivers that do it for fun and to satisfy the competitive juices. They either got too old, made family choices, progressed to the limit professionally. They all seem to universally enjoy the drive just for the drive and the chance to dice with others on the track.

I see folks that show up and drive around for practice, but never come race. They just like the sensation of speed when you are 1" off the pavement braking as late as possible and being pushed around in the seat.

I also see people that never raced, never envision racing beyond karts, but love the competition of it all. They come out to beat a close friend, even if its for 5th, and go home happy about the day.

My family is a strange mix of it. We enjoy motorsport in my house, but my son is also passionate that he wants to be in motorsport. We are realistic that the odds are long and the pockets are most definitely not deep enough. We hope he learns some skills, makes some contacts, and finds the path into endurance racing that he desperately wants. We also have a family history in motorsport, albeit none in karting. My mom raced, my dad raced, both doing off-road and drag racing. I did not get that opportunity, but it was in the blood. My son started driving RC off road and oval stuff at age 5 through COVID when it all closed down. It was all we could afford to race! As he got older and my employment and wages progressed, the potential for karting became real. So now we are 18 month in and about to start our second full year karting. We will carry through 2 more years for sure, beyond HS graduation is an unknown.


I always tell people its like a R/C car that I get to sit in and drive.

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Yes. But also… not so much what is a kart… but what is karting?

I’ve said that too when shaking my head at (some) RC car budgets. I operated a kart track that also had an RC car store and track. It was interesting.

BUT, to each to their own.

Yeah, I should expand, but alas first principles is a start.

I understand the notion we don’t get ‘let’s get people into motorcycling’ isn’t prevalent, but I have seen it start to be suggested by various figures now and again. There is a concern somewhat that young people aren’t riding motorcycles any more, and this is relatively broad. The racing scene has benefited from the main function of motorcyles which is personal transport. What ‘F1 dream’ is to karting is what personal transport is to motorbike racing. It’s a passive semi-promotional element that drives new people in. But it’s something entirely out of control of said scene, over-relied upon, and thus unstable.

(I think this is mainly a western thing, new markets aren’t quite as downbeat)

So once we all agree what a kart is, we then can understand the shared culture/experience. For me, when I am in promotion mode I think very much about karting ownership. That can extend to the ownership of the experience. By that I mean you might be in a scenario where you’re in full development mode and you don’t own a chassis, but you are owning the experience. Naturally, I do not like it when the ownership aspect moves away as is the case with spec components. You relinquish control.

But at a base stage I think most of us here want or desire a kart in a garage, or at the extreme be part of a project that seeks to improve a kart. I think as a culture that’s what we all share. When I think about growing karting that’s what is in my head.

Not that I am skinny by any stretch of the imagination but the average RC racer wouldn’t fit in even the largest of kart seats.

I think I’m about 10 lbs away from going RC car racing!

What is karting is a good question, especially since some sub-niches of karting might have less than complimentary things to say other sub-niches, and in fact they probably don’t complement each very much in terms of growing each other, but nonetheless can still help each other by supporting the tracks and the manufacturers which all sub-niches share and depend upon. (with all the track closures over the years, this isn’t a trivial issue/benefit)

So, at it’s core the lowest common denominator all forms of karting have is the track itself. Without a proper track, there is no remotely organized form of karting of any kind. My guess is that this makes track owners the ultimate experts on ‘What is karting’, because they see all types who want to use their tracks for a wide spectrum of purposes.

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I like this take because it supports a bugbear of mine. I feel like across the sport in general, tracks (and by extension clubs) are under appreciated. Drivers will think nothing of spending money on engine, tires etc, but gripe of entry fee costs and/or the level of service provided by them. We have it upside down. The tracks and clubs are core, they’re also the ones usually expected to promote the sport…
Yet they get the smallest piece of the pie.

It’s a gross generalization, but I think it’s fairly true.

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Karting for me is …

wrenching in the garage with my friends and maintain those small racing machines . doing racing week end vacations and driving on my limits with the most cheapest way till now coz am coming from motorcycle racing family and karting aloud me to continue and race with less …much more less money costs .

its my daily fix . Its what it makes me rise up from bed everymorning, its my racing and my colour in life . thats karting for me.


I happen to very much agree with you, my distant race pal!


Yup. I think this is important. The tracks and therefore facilities define the “racing” in an area. I think that outdoor facilities seem to be stable/ slightly increasing but the rental indoor facilities seem to be going up at a faster pace. I think this matters longer term (to the question, what is karting?).

Is rental karting and owner karting the same “karting”?? While I see the fun and benefits to both, I 100% do not think they are the same thing. When we talk about growing “karting” are we talking about building more indoor rental tracks?

Unpopular opinion, maybe, but the connection to rental karting is sometimes not helpful to owner karting.

Yes, it can (and very often is) a huge pipeline for drivers. It is a completely different thing in my opinion.

I think the “experience” of rental racing is indeed different. It’s less involved since you show up and use someone else’s stuff. There’s a different feel to a race day versus a race weekend. That being said the big arrive and drive enduros have a similar vibe.

I have trouble imagining a scenario where it cannibalizes owner-karting. Generally if you like the rentals, you will want to try a “race” kart.

I’d also say that there’s a bunch of folks who do both (fun with pals) and you’ll find them at events like the big enduros. Also, there’s a bunch of younger folks who take this stuff serious, so there’s good competition and racing if you are in series that have solid racers participating.

Put a group of folks who kinda know what they are doing into rentals with wraparounds… good racing, sometimes even hard racing. But yeah, the walk-in arrive and drive general sessions can be like an alternate form of karting, kinda (and I have clips to prove it!)

From last night, coincidentally:

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I know a lot of people firsthand that got out of some kind of racing as a kid (karting or oval) and do occasional rentals now as adults. They don’t have the priority for owning, so if it wasn’t for renting, they wouldn’t be out there at all. Looking at how much owners pay for a day of track time at my local track, the rentals do a large part in keeping the lights on.

I also know several people (myself included) that do both. Rentals are good for me for building racecraft without having to bang up my own kart. I also like rentals for bringing friends to the track. Every month or so, a few of us take a long lunch. Two of us in the group are current owners, and two raced dirt as kids.

For some, you can definitely draw a dividing line. I’ve been out there running a low 60s and a group was in the mid 80s. Pretty sure someone ran a 90. But they were having fun. Not my kinda fun, but that doesn’t change how much they paid to support a local business.

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A thought for Derek… rental karting is why I’m still karting as opposed to quit. I couldnt afford to keep going in 2-stroke. I had to settle for what worked for me with the time/money resources I had available.

I would rather do a metric ton of rental racing than a couple nice owner karting events yearly.

Let’s say I do 4 enduros: say that’s 12k spend.
Then I also do weekly sc league, 450 every 6 weeks.

That’s a ton of seat time racing for not a lot of money, relatively.

The dude that rental races weekly is gonna learn to race better, sooner, than the guy who gets out there a few times a year in his owner kart. So, to me, while it’s different, it’s still seat time racing (assuming you find a competitive league).

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Disclaimer: This is not a personal attack and is only a reflection of my opinion on the topic in this thread “What is karting anyway?”…

You know its bad if it has a disclaimer to start :wink:

I don’t think what you are doing or what Caleb describes above is “karting”. I think it rental racing. But not karting. I think it is definitely a form of racing. No different than RC cars or IRacing.

I agree rental racing is an important part of keeping the lights on at kart tracks. No different than tracks that have arcades or allow mini bikes on the tracks for practice days. They are a necessity to keep the $$ flowing in, but they are IMO not karting.

Now, I absolutely would much rather a person do rental kart time trials or rental racing than not be able to do anything at all. I agree, it is a definite form of racing. But it is not “karting” when I think of the sport as the question is asked.