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Go-Karts: A Brief History

Art Ingels Go-Kart
So you’ve enjoyed racing at Kartland Performance Indoor Raceway a few times, and you’re hooked on the excitement and adrenaline. Ever wonder how the sport originated and evolved? Today we’ll take a look at where go-kart racing came from, and how it reached its current state.

The Early Years

Go-karts haven’t been around that long – the first one was built in California in 1956, by Art Ingels and Lou Borelli. The kart sat just a few inches off the ground, and believe it or not, was powered by a lawnmower engine! Within a year, several other Californians that were impressed with the original kart had formed a company to start selling the karts as kits for $129 apiece. Eventually, the handful of businesses that sold the karts created the American Kart Manufacturer’s Association. In 1958 a special magazine by Rod & Custom writer Spencer Murray put a spotlight on go-karts, which put them into the public eye.

The 60s and 70s

The new sport quickly took off, and tracks were built across the country. As it was a recreational sport at this point, there was no governing body and so kart designs changed quickly. By the 1970s go-karting had spread to Europe, and the karts made there became more popular than their American counterparts. During that decade, the modern design was established with the engine moving from the back to the side. The drivers were happy for the additional legroom!

Regulation Begins

Fans of go-karting were eager for it to become a recognized sport, so in the 1980s governing bodies were created. Both were in Mississippi: The World Karting Association and the International Karting Federation. Races became standardized, with oval circuits on asphalts tracks; they might be as short as a tenth of a mile or as long as a third of a mile. There was also a rise in both sprint racing and street racing. 

Modern Go Karting

By the 1990s, go-kart racing had become the training ground for anyone with the goal of a professional racing career. Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher, as well as the youngest ever Formula 1 racer Max Verstappen, both, began their racing in go-karts. Around the year 2000, indoor racing had a huge bump with the invention of the electric kart, which allowed everyone to enjoy racing without having to inhale exhaust fumes the entire time. On top of that, engineers had learned how to make the battery packs smaller as well as more powerful.

Kartland Performance Raceway Frisco TX

A Bright Future

Currently, it’s estimated that almost 35 million people in the U.S. take part in go-kart racing each year, ranging from amusement park rides to professional drivers. It’s definitely a family-friendly event, with the average indoor racer age at 30 years old. You can plan ahead, or arrive and drive for some spur of the moment fun. Come to Kartland for the first time or the fiftieth, and hit the track with us!    
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