Karting – Where does it come from?

It is not often that one can say that a sport is to thank a specific person for creating it. But when it comes to go-karting, then you know who it was that the first time welded together a simple tube frame, put on four wheels from a cartwheel and ran the entire rig with an engine from a Clinton lawnmower. As is so often the case with anything fun, it was in sunny California it began.

Art Ingels was the inventor that in the mid-fifties, in other words, just about more than forty years ago, built the first kart. Yes, we have him to thank not only for the concept itself, but also for the name. Cart is the word in English for a simple cart or carriage, but Art chose the spelling go-karts, a name that still today is the most common for anywhere where you race go-karts. Art was very surprised himself how fun it was to drive go-karts, and what a tremendous sense of speed he would experience when he drove around the parking lot to at the local supermarket. Soon, friends and acquaintances stood in line to try it, and that’s how it all started to roll. Someone began to build a small series of chassis, someone arranged the first competition, someone found out that the chainsaw motors were even sharper than the lawn mower, and so the whole circus started. In Sweden we could read about what was going on at the Crescent Raceway in Los Angeles and elsewhere as go-karting started getting special magazines, such as Karting World. Kart on football fields in Gothenburg But in Sweden we would naturally have our own version of the new sport, and in the early sixties, there was more go-karts with motorcycle engines than with ungeared chainsaw engines. We drove on makeshift courts, and because the switched cars had big ten-inch wheels, it was fine to drive on gravel fields. The magazine Teknik för Alla (Technology for all) committed themselves to the new craze, and in the TFA there was a building schematic on a very successful design. To borrow or rent a field to run the kart on was not always easy. In Gothenburg one of the first races took off on a rainy Saturday at Wartas field, one of Gothenburg's many fields. As the rain poured down, as it often does in Gothenburg, the karts dug deeper into the field. At last there was only one deep groove where the karts flew by. The following day they were supposed to play football on that same field. When the caretaker for Wartas saw what the karts had accomplished, it led to a total ban on the rental of municipal fields to ride go-karts at in Gothenburg.

– on idle for some years

However, a trend went towards the ungeared classes, and then gravel fields weren’t good any longer. We borrowed parking spaces and made routes using endless amounts of rubber tires which had to work as makeshift curbs. Security was sometimes so-so, people were standing right in front of the tires watching the races. They drove with the speed classes with 250 cm3 engines varied types, Sachs, Durkopf, DKW, yes it was mostly German engines in that class. Ronnie Petersson first drove a magnificent geared kart, built by his dad, the pastry chef from Örebro. But the ungeared karts became increasingly popular, but drove with two 100 cm3 engines that ran on the same rigid rear axle. The most popular engine was McCulloch who came in many different models. Whoever came with a darts-kart with dual MC10 engines got many admiring glances. But there was also a Swedish engine that successfully ravaged the fields and parking lots. Chainsaw manufacturer Partner in Mölndal had a kart schematic, Partner RS90. They stuck with its own driver, Sven Faijersson, who managed to drag out an unimagined number of horsepower out of small engines. It ran with a clutch and starter. Many engines were difficult to start and the drivers and technicians jerked and pulled the starter cord before starting. Sven Faijersson was always completely calm and waited until everyone else were exhausted. He then took a start string in each hand and simply lifted up the rear of the kart. Then he put his foot on the rear arc and stomped - and - the engines started and rattled calmly at idle!

First track in Laxå

The first permanent course in Sweden was built in Laxå, and the driving force behind the construction was Bertil Lundberg, who has been a prominent person and initiator of all go-kart sport in Sweden, and that also contributed to the international success sport. What a thing it was to get to Laxå and run on a track built specifically for go-karts, then one can justifiably say that people came from all over the country. By today's standards, it was quite a small track in just under five hundred meters, but with the Laxå-Track go-kart took the step from a fun game on a parking lot to become a real racing sport. Svenska Bilsportförbundet (Swedish Automobile Sports Federation) took the go-kart sport under its wing, and through the carting Committee headed by Nisse Björkman, the sport got a chance to develop in Sweden, a development that many other countries followed suit.

European Championships-World Cup in Sweden

When the first Italian engine came to Sweden, called Komet K10, we realized that a new area in the sport had begun. They ran without a silencer at the time, and two (!) Komet Engines on a go-kart not only ran laps so much faster than the chainsaw engines, they were also heard so much more. Or, as one driver said: "you drove kart on Saturday and Sunday, and on Sunday night you were completely deaf. Then tinkering from Monday through Thursday. On Friday you could begin to hear a little bit again, and then it was time to race on Saturday again!" No wonder many had impaired hearing. Bertil Lundberg was for many years a Swedish delegate in the International Carting Committee, the CIK as they say. Thanks to this, Sweden got to be part in arranging international competitions early on. In the early seventies, both the European and World Championships were run in Sweden, it was the on the tracks in Kristianstad, Kalmar and Jönköping, which already held a very high international standard. Us Swedes were known for organizing competitions with order and tidiness, but the drivers complained about our price table. When the Swedes eventually came to compete in Italy and France they understood the reasons for the complaints. A European Championship in Italy could put up three motorcycles as prizes, and all participants received something to bring home with them. It was a lot different from when the first prize winner in Kristianstad got the Swedish Automobile Sports Federation coat pin! If one were to try to sum up the karting sport's development during the forty years since Art Ingel drove the first kart in California it will be to conclude that the sport today has an enormous breadth. There are many, many people who still think it's fun to just drive around from time to time and for these, there are many rental tracks. Recently, these have moved indoors so that you can now karting all year in Sweden. But the go-kart sport is also an extreme elite sport with skilled drivers and big, expensive teams. International Karting Committee Chairman, Swiss Ernst C. Buser emphasizes that there hardly are any really successful formula drivers who have not started his racing career in a go-kart. All the big names have a past as a go-kart driver, and they happily go-kart even today if the opportunity is offered. Should you meet the world champion Lewis Hamilton and you do not know what to talk to him about, you can ask about his go-kart period. That he will probably love to talk about for a long time.

Sweden - a model country

In Sweden, the go-kart sport largely followed international trends, and partly we have driven by international regulations. But in one aspect, Sweden has been a model country in the go-kart sport. In Sweden, we have seen the potential go-karting have to gather the whole family around the sport. Automobile Sports Federation early opened up for simpler classes for younger drivers, which led to a very positive development of the sport.

This development has largely to thank one man and one company for its success. Leif Radne is the man who started the driving go-kart himself, but soon realized that the sport could have better use of him if he engaged in manufacturing and marketing of engines, chassis and all the other accessories needed for karting. In 1971 he built a custom engine using the piston and cylinder from a Partner chainsaw engine at 100 cm3. It laid the foundation for the engine that currently exist in the classes Mini and Micro under the name Raket 95 It is the same engine that currently has sold 40,000 copies across almost the entire world and that has been in the start of the youth classes in many places. It was in the Mini-class that Marcus Ericsson and 4 of his Formula 1 colleagues began driving kart with Raket!