Karting occurs on various...
Karting occurs on various types of tracks, including road courses like Virginia International Raceway, shown here. Kevin Thorne
First of two parts You have decided that you, or a family member, or some of your buddies are going racing. What is it that you want to accomplish in this endeavor? Are you just looking to go racing for fun and to have something to do on the weekends? Do you want to start the progression from hobby racer to semi-professional, followed by the step up to the professional ranks? Not really sure? These and many other questions will need to be answered prior to ever turning a wheel at the track. But you do have options.
Have you considered karting?
Prior to talking about the types of karting that may interest you, there needs to be a period of discovery. You need to ask some questions and employ some critical thinking to this endeavor. Why are you going racing? Are you just racing to fulfill a need for competition? Do you want a motorsport hobby? Maybe you want to take a more active role rather than just being a fan of racing. What kind of budgets are you thinking about? Yes, we're talking about time and money budgets, even though the topic is karting.
You need to think about how much of your time you are willing to dedicate to racing, and you need to be realistic about the amount of money you are willing to spend. Yes, karting is a less expensive form of competition, but it is not free; contrary to popular opinion, it is not really that cheap.
Speeds can reach over 100...
Speeds can reach over 100 mph, so becoming familiar with the kart is a must. Kevin Thorne
Any form of racing is going to cost time and money. If expenses start to eat into, say, the mortgage payment, racing will suddenly stop being fun. The costs are not just for the kart, but for the special tools and equipment required to work on the kart. Although not as expansive or as expensive as the infrastructure required to work on a Late Model or Hobby Stocker, equipment specific to kart racing will need to be purchased.
From an infrastructural perspective, you need to determine where you plan to keep the kart. If you live in an apartment or a house without a garage, this may require some creative thinking. I have helped carry a kart or two up three flights of apartment stairs for a buddy so he could create a makeshift race shop in what was also a living room. While this may sound funny, it was not funny to the guy's wife. This is a serious consideration and should not be taken lightly. You need to make sure that you have the support of your whole family prior to coming home with a four-wheeled surprise.
Along the same lines, how do you plan on getting the kart to the track? If you do not already have a truck or a car that can pull a trailer, the logistics can be a very expensive part of the whole kart racer equation. You will not need a big truck and/or a big trailer, although a big trailer will require the big truck. If you are just going to race on a local level, a small van or the trunk of a big car will work. This is not the most efficient method, but it will get you started. The small size of the kart allows the tow and/or support vehicle's size to be much smaller.
As in other forms of racing,...
As in other forms of racing, there are periods where you have to hurry up and wait to race. John Hill
Kart racing offers many advantages to the new racer that other forms of racing cannot. Compared to big car competition, it has low cost of entry and maintenance. You will get huge amounts of track time, especially when compared to other forms of the sport. The biggest difference is the range of diversity in the various types of kart racing. Aside from the obvious differences between dirt and pavement racing, there are different forms of kart racing that offer the racer many different options. Kart racing can be broken into three major components: Sprint, Speedway, and Road Racing.
Sprint Karts are what most people think of when kart racing is mentioned. Sprint racing is accomplished on tracks that are paved with either concrete or asphalt, or a combination of both. The tracks are usually 11/44 to as large as 31/44 mile in length and closely resemble a road racing circuit. In fact, many are small copies of larger established racing circuits many fans would recognize.
In Sprint Karts, the driver sits in an upright position, very much like the seating position in a car. The competition is very close and the races are very short in duration, usually no more than 8 to 12 laps. Races are separated into three heats, with each heat having the same value. The winner is determined by the cumulative score from the three heats-a classic Motocross scoring system. Often, the race format will vary with geographic location. Some Sprint races run a format that has heat races that qualify the racer for a main or final event. The heat races will also range from 8 to 12 laps, a number usually dependent on the size of the track and the number of racers. Larger tracks with lots of racers will usually have fewer laps due to time constraints.
This is a typical Road Racing...
This is a typical Road Racing kart, powered by a Yamaha engine. Yamaha makes a kart-specific engine that displaces 100 cc and has no gearbox.
There are multiple classes within Sprint racing tailored to meet the needs of most racers. The classes range from the beginner to the highly experienced. There are junior classes and classes for the very senior. Most tracks provide classes for a broad range of ability and experience. Karting has made a concerted effort over the years to please a large number of racers by tailoring programs to meet the needs of many.
There are some paved ovals that are used for Speedway racing, but this form of kart racing is done mostly on dirt. This type is very visceral and very quick. Karts do not slide as much as big cars that race on the dirt. Karts can slide, but they just do not have the surplus of horsepower to powerslide through the corners. They pay the price in speed if they try to drive tail out all the time.
The ovals can be as small as 1/8 mile and as large as 1/4 mile. Half-mile ovals are used, but they are the exception, not the norm. Speedway Karts usually have bodywork that is very different from the type of bodywork used on Sprint Karts. The bodies range from a wedge type (which makes the karts look like wedges of cheese racing around the track) to a very smooth, low profile that completely covers the tires. Again, the types of bodies used are very regional and depend on what is popular in a particular area. Full bodies are very popular in the South, while the wedge is very popular in the West. In the Midwest and central part of the country, there is a combination of the two.