Ayrton Senna called karting “the purest form of motorsport.” Karting is a variant of open-wheel motorsport with small, open, four-wheeled vehicles called karts, which are typically raced on scaled-down circuits. Karting is commonly perceived as the stepping stone to the higher ranks of motorsport. Veteran hot rodder and racecar builder Art Ingels built the first kart in Southern California in 1956. The World Karting Association, or WKA, is the largest sanctioning body for kart racing in North America. Founded in 1971, the WKA is located in Concord, NC and has approximately 5,000 members.
The beauty of karting is the seemingly simple nature of these vehicles: no suspension, no differential, no roll bars and no seat-belt systems – just four wheels and an engine. This simplicity is exactly what keeps the cost of karting down compared to other forms of motor racing. It also makes it easier for the novice racer to comprehend the vehicle in its totality and to identify and focus on those components that may be adjusted or tuned for optimum performance.
Road Racing came into being when sprint karts began racing on long sports car tracks. It was found that by laying the driver down, out of the windstream, aerodynamics and top speed were greatly improved. As the length of the races increased, there became a need for large capacity, side-mounted fuel tanks. Soon the road racing kart had its own distinctive look and purpose. However, in recent years, sprint and sprint crossover classes have been added to improve participation and to give sprint competitors an opportunity to run on the "big" tracks. The sprint road race classes generally run races from 20 to 30 minutes in length. Road races for the enduro or "laydown" karts are usually one hour in length.
Sprint karts are characterized by their sit-up driving position. Races are conducted by either of two systems on the regional level: three heats with motocross scoring or a pre-final and final format. On the national level, the pre-final/final format is preferred. In both cases, qualifying will determine the starting order of the first race. For the motocross system, the winner is determined by combining the finishing positions for the three heat races. For the pre-final/final system, the winner of the final is the overall winner. Sprint racing gives the competitor an opportunity to learn the basics of karting, at speeds somewhat slower than those found in Road Racing.