I get this question all the time from parents looking to get their child involved in the sport of karting.
FIRST. I would recommend you do some research (on the internet) on what type of kart clubs are in your area. Then go down to one of your club's events to see exactly what go kart racing is all about. Meet the club officials who run the club and the events. Talk with some of the competitors to get their perspective on the sport and the club. It is a family oriented sport and is a great way to spend the day together.
SECOND. Make sure you meet with the club vendors. They will be your best resource to help you get the equipment you will need to start racing. You will need a go kart, driver safety equipment (see the list below) and a way to get back and forth to the track. Some people have trailers, while other use a pickup truck or small van.
THIRD. Figure out what class you will be competing in. Most competiton classes are based on age and engine type. The younger drivers have less options than the adult drivers. It really comes down to how much of a racing budget you have. In most cases, the bigger your budget, the faster you will be able to go.
There is no question that racing is not a cheap sport. It costs money to get started and to maintain your equipment and requires a lot of time (practice) to perfect your driving skills. But it is an exciting sport to be involved in and will make memories that will last a life time.
Let's talk about your racing budget. As with any sport, you need to have an idea of what you are willing to spend on the sport. Most people come up with a total amount they can (or are willing) to spend on racing for year. Then they decide on how much to spend on the kart, driver equipment, tires, race fuel, transportation, race fees, hotel, etc. The one area NOT to skimp or cut corners on is the Driver Equipment. Investing is good driver equipment is the best and smartest investment you can make. Broken or damaged karts can be replaced, driver's can't. While different racing organizations may have specific rules about the driver equipment, all have some basic guidelines. They following list is intended to be a general list of some of the more common driver safety equipment. Be sure to check with your local racing organization on their specific rules regarding driver safety equipment.
Common Driver Safety Gear
Helmet: Should be Snell, SFI or BSI certified and manufactured within the last 10 years. Helmets without this certification or older than 10 years may not allowed. Once a helmet is involved in a crash or dropped on the floor it should be replaced as impacts such as these can reduce the protection the helmet provides to the driver.
Gloves: Full coverage gloves are required at all times during practice and competion. Protecting your hand and wrists is very important. You want a good pair of gloves that fit properly, cover the wrist area but still allow the driver to have a good grip of the steering wheel. Many of the racing gloves today, provide padding for comfort and improved materials in the palm and fingers for better grip.
Neck Collars: Specifically designed for racing are required at all times. Neck collars help support the head, neck and shoulders during your event. There are many different types of neck collars on the market today. Check the rules of your local organization to see what they require and then speak to some of the competitiors to see why type of neck collar they are using. Some may even let you try them on to see how they feel.
Driving Suits or Jackets and Pants: A one or two piece driving suit of heavy weight abrasion resistant nylon, leather or vinyl material is recommended. Otherwise a heavy weight abrasion resistant nylon, leather or vinyl material jacket and full length heavy weight pants are recommended. Fire rated suits may be required so be sure to check with your local racing organization.
Rib & Chest Protectors: Many racing organizations have specific safety requirements for younger drivers (usually 16 yrs and younger) and highly recommended for ALL other drivers. because of the lateral G forces of racing go kart young drivers are required to wear rib protectors during all practice and racing events. Check with your local racing organization to see what type of Rib and Chest Protectors are required.
Racing Shoes: Protecting your feet and ankles and are just as important as protecting any other part of your body. Shoes specifically designed for racing provide the best protection and are fairly inexpensive.
Invest wisely in your safety equipment. It is the best investment you will make in your racing experience. Always check with your local racing organization on their specific rules regarding driver safety equipment.