Toronto Karting | History of Kart Racing

June 25, 2014

Kart racing has evolved to become one of the most competitive forms of racing. It can be considered as the first step for any serious racer’s career. Toronto karting prepares the driver by developing quick reflexes, precision car control and decision making skills. Professional drivers like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick and Michael Schumacher all sat behind the wheel of a go kart.

Toronto Karting

Toronto Karting

It is an adrenaline pumping experience for everybody, from age 5 to 75! But how did this sport come to be? Where did it come from? Who invented the first kart? When was the first race held?

At Grand Prix Kartways, we are both huge fans and proponents of this thrilling sport. With all of these questions in mind, let us dive head first into the exciting history of kart racing!

The Race Begins!

Everything began in the 1950’s.

A veteran hot rodder and racer by the name of Art Ingels built the first kart in Southern California in 1956. Ingels was a race car builder at Kurtis Kraft, a race car designer and developer.

This first kart sported a McCulloch West-Bend 750 lawnmower engine on a chassis suspended just a few inches off the ground. The first official organized kart race took place in 1957 in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Ingel’s innovative creation then spurred Duffy Livingston and Roy Desbrow to found the Go Kart Manufacturing Co. Inc. in 1958. They became the first company to build and distribute go-karts in the world.

From here on in, the movement grew in size and strength. Since the 1940’s and 50’s, the cost of automobile racing had increased dramatically in the United States. The prices to attend races rose in accordance, and racing fans ceased to buy tickets. However, Toronto karting became a cheaper yet still thrilling alternative.

Unofficial races were held in dirt tracks and dusty fields. As the sport took hold, races began to be run on large parking lots, with courses marked off for the day with stripes and rubber cones. Many racing drivers who became well-known figures in NASCAR and the Indy 500 in the 70’s and 80’s had their start in these races.

Unfortunately, the early groundswell was not to last.

The high costs of owning and maintaining these early karts combined with disappearing tracks and programs culled the numbers to a few, dedicated fans. There were no sanctioning bodies to determine racing programs, and there were too many manufacturers of kart parts and engines. What was cutting edge one week became obsolete the next.

It was a turbulent time for kart racing.

Engine Evolution
In 1959, McCulloch was the first company to produce engines for karts. The MC-10 was a 2-stroke engine adapted from a chainsaw motor. This was the first motor manufactured specially for go kart racing. Towards the early 1960’s, motorcycle engines became adapted for use in karts. Exclusive kart engine manufacturers, such as Italy’s IAME, wouldn’t appear until the early 70s

In the late 70s, Black & Decker bought out McCulloch and phased out production of kart engines. A company by the name of Briggs & Stratton would slowly overtake the market. Yamaha made its own entrance towards the end of that decade.

Design Changes
The design of the karts themselves also went through changes. The position of the engine was moved from the back of the kart to being mounted on the side. This allowed for better air cooling of the engines. It also gave the driver more room at the front.

Beyond Borders
While the movement may have originated in the United States, it was not destined to stay there. Interest in karting piqued in several other countries. Europe and Australia were the first to pick up the karting fever. The Australian Karting Association was founded in 1966 and the first official kart race in the United Kingdom was held in November of 1959.

Toronto Karting

Toronto Karting

Growing up
Sanctioning bodies finally stabilized the sport in the 1980’s with the foundation of the WKA, the World Karting Federation, and the IKF, the International Kart Federation. These groups increased the recognition of go kart racing. It would be only a matter of time before it turned even more heads.

Going Mainstream
Go karting hit the mainstream in the 1990’s. Fans of professional motor sports looked for a level at which they could participate in. Thus, professional go-karting was on a boom, and it hasn’t stopped since. Indoor go-karting became ever more popular as evolving design and engine choices allowed for further participation – and appreciation- from the general public.

Game Changer
The introduction of the electric go kart had a dramatic effect on the nature of the sport. Indoor karting was always hampered by the exhaust produced from the internal combustion engines. The carbon monoxide output severely limited general participation.

The advances in electrical vehicle projects translated very well into go kart technology. Coaxing more power than ever from compact motors, developers managed to change the face, and smell, of the industry. Here at GPK, we are proud to offer these technological advances in our state of the art facility and best in the world electric go karts.

The Race Today
From its humble beginning out of one man’s garage, the sport of Toronto karting has exploded to include over 1.6 billion people worldwide. It has grown into a thrilling experience for the entire family, as well as a legitimate choice for those interested in the world of professional motor sports.

Here at Grand Prix Kartways, we are proud to continue in this storied racing tradition. So come on down to our track and race to the finish with us!

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