Karting - Why Motorsport Needs To Embrace It

September 23, 2021

As the FIA Karting World Championship approaches and Jake Sanson tunes his vocal chords for another spectacular event at Campillos next month, he’s decided to open the can of worms as to why the motorsport press doesn’t report on karting in the same way it does for cars and bikes. 

Karting goes back to 1956 when Art Ingels and Lou Borelli created what is recognised to be the very first kart in California, on a simple tubular chassis powered by a lawnmower engine – a West Bend, for the record. When Ingels drove the kart around the pits at a car meeting in Pomona, a few caught the bug instantly. Duffy Livingstone and Roy Desbrow quickly built their own versions of the kart and by the end of ’56 the sport was almost ready to conquer the globe.

The first official race was organised in December 1957 by the new Go Kart Club of America and by 1960 karting was global. Formula One drivers of the day such as Graham Hill were sampling these karts and raving about them to anyone who would listen. The FIA formally set up the CIK or International Karting Commission in 1962 which this year is enjoying its 60th year of operation.

Great drivers have been turned into household names based on their prowess in karting from Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell to Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and George Russell. Formula One legends, touring car racers, Le Mans winners, Indy 500 contenders, rallying heroes and GT stalwarts alike can all look back on their ‘racing school’ of karting with an air of gratitude and dependence. Were it not for their karting roots, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

There have been multiple competitions and championships worldwide, every driver on the current Formula One grid began their journey in karting – 18 of them in FIA Karting – and most of the racing drivers we see in single seaters, touring cars, sportscars, rallying and more all cut their teeth in the karting world. And yet for all this history and influence on the car racing world, the motorsport press on the whole tends to turn a blind eye to it all.

The only significant stories reported by the motorsport press in recent times were the infamous Luca Corberi incident at the 2020 World Championship, and when Nico Rosberg – a Formula 1 world champion – won the World Championship in 2018 as a team owner. The headlines certainly didn’t credit the driver that day, namely Lorenzo Travisanutto.

Many of the current Formula One grid have won an FIA Karting title – Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Sir Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and George Russell have all won either a European or World title as a junior or senior kart racer on the world’s stage, so it’s clear that the talents from karting are rising to the pinnacle of the sport.

So after a decade of being involved in karting here in the UK and overseas and commentating on some of the best races I’ve ever seen and mixing with some of the most talented athletes I’ve ever worked worth, I am forced to ask a very simple question: why?


Why is the motorsport press keen to report on everything except karting? Karting is the school of motorsport, the very backbone of racing. Drivers regularly return to it, either professionally or as an amateur charity racer or in private testing. We regularly see drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and George Russell sharpening their skills between Grands Prix, so why is the motorsport press blatantly choosing to ignore the sport?

These competitors are racing a couple of millimetres off the ground, with a power to weight ratio akin to a Formula 2 racing car, with 50-60 second lap times meaning everything is lightning in terms of reaction times, with more overtakes in one lap than you often see in some car races, with over 150 drivers worldwide competing. And the racing goes on for longer too – the average motorsport commentator will work for a total of about 5-6 hours a weekend total on air, whereas in karting you’re on air for about 8 hours a day!!

It has infuriated me for quite some time now that the motorsport websites and magazines choose to disregard the sport of karting with no genuine explanation as to why they won’t cover it. In recent times, Autosport were given mixed feedback when they elected to cover MotoGP and now they are embraced as an important publication within the motorcycling world when MCN pretty much ruled the roost. But karting has more relevance to the car industry than motorcycling does, so why is it completely swept under the carpet? I may inadvertently touch on the reason in these simple arguments, which I have heard on several occasions when having conversations with the regular powers that be:



This is blatantly not true, but I have heard it so many times. There is affluence aplenty in karting and businesses that want to get their names out there in the global motorsport world who would fund coverage and press on a global stage. In addition, there are many passionate parents who want to shower love and devition on their star child in column inches by the plenty. It wouldn’t take many man hours at all to discover that there’s actually more money to promote karting for the major motorsport press than in many other disciplines of motorsport!



Several hundred thousand fans worldwide watch karting, either at national or international level. Magazines such as Vroom, Kartmag and TKart have been promoting the sport in continental Europe for years and have proved that the market for the sport is definitely out there. Livestreams for karting are equally comparable to those for stock cars, rallycross, motorcycling and rallying.

Besides the hardcore motorsport fan can’t get enough of their favourite drivers so the chance to see the old clips of Hamilton and Verstappen behind the wheel of their fabled karts always gets big hits on YouTube. Sounds like plenty of people are interested to me….


Formula One is a very technical sport and has never tried to dumb down to its audience. In fact hours and hours of coverage on Sky Sports F1 is dedicated to trying to explain to nthe viewers how the car works, how important DRS actually is to a car’s handling, and the commentators will regularly discuss tyre graining, brake bias, aerodynamic drag and so on to its viewers.

Karting is a very technical sport too, but the argument that nobody understands it is moronic. It is very easy to explain how a kart works and what can be changed on it. Basically, the answer is everything! Seat positioning, camber and toe, chassis flex, the difference in Nassau panels, everything can be considered in the quest for more speed and more balance. The motorsport fan would embrace this as much as they do for Formula One, so to consider that the average motorsport fan doesn’t understand karting essentially insults their intelligence, in my honest opinion. If they’re interested, they will want to learn more.


Now this argument really amuses me. I’m constantly trying to explain the differences between car categories to people, and how one is more important than another for example. Even recently, the F4 to F1 argument has made it easier. But what is Formula Regional? And where does it slot in to the mix? How does an Indycar compare? Is it basically F1 for Americans? And what’s the real difference between a NASCAR and an Australian Supercar?

Karting is way more simple by comparison. Yes it has its moments, but on the whole its nowhere near as complicated:

- you start in Bambinos, aged 4-8

- then move up to Cadets aged 8-12, or Mini 60 if you’re in a major competition

- then up to Junior aged 11-14

- then up to Senior aged 14 and over on the continent, or 16 in a national competition

And that’s about it.

There are some countries that add more levels to it, and there are gearbox karts in addition to their direct drive counterparts, but you can’t race them until you’re 15 anyway. And then there are separate race series for OK, IAME X30, Rotax, Rok and TKM, but that’s no different to when Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini have their own race series on the continent.

Motorsport fans are not idiots. They will watch what they want to watch and embrace the disciplines of karting they like. But to make the decision for them and state that ‘they just won’t get it’ as one journalist pointed out to me a show a few years ago, is quite frankly offensive.


I have never once found the karting community to be closed up, if anything it is the opposite. It’s a warm and family orientated environment, the likes of which are hard (but not impossible) to find anywhere else.

You can share good times with drivers and teams, and pre-COVID I would even regularly play football matches, share music around campfires and stage scooter races around circuits with some of the stars of the motorsport world. I vaguely remember racing George Russell up the hill at Glan-y-Gors a few years ago in a lunch hour! He beat me savagely, I must report.

To learn about the true beating heart of a community, you have to get in there and embrace it. Social media was made for karting in my view, and more of the motorsport press outlets should embrace karting for this very reason. If you embrace the karting community when they are young, they will stay with you forever. I regularly get messages from drivers in Formula 3, Formula 4 and even touring cars and Sportscars from racers I used to hang out with in karting. They never forget their roots, and those doors will always open for those who embrace the karting days…..


For a start, karting was never originally for kids at all. It took almost ten years for the first cadet and junior karts to be built. Karting may have become a sport that gives youngsters their first taste of racing, but that was certainly never the sport’s grand design.

Besides there are so many adult disciplines of the sport, that never get spoken about. The KZ and KZ2 categories are quite frankly the roughest, toughest discipline of racing I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. Imagine all the intensity of driving a couple of millimetres off the ground, changing direction every couple of seconds, balancing the throttle and brake pedals just right, and then accelerating from 0 to 60 km/h in speeds comparable to hypercars and changing gear between each corner? Could you do it? I certainly couldn’t.

These guys are superhuman, and the skill it takes for drivers like Paolo De Conto, Marco Ardigo, Bas Lammers, Marijn Kremers, Jorrit Pex and their contemporaries to do what they have done over the last few years week in week out is extraordinary. And for their efforts to go unrecognised and their names to be unheard of against the Buemis, Frijns, Di Grassis, Kubicas and Ocons of this world is a travesity of injustice. Especially when you consider that a few short years ago, those drivers where in the same paddock as these men.



In what universe does this argument make any sense at all??? This was ‘pointed out to me’ by a journalist who ‘knew what he was talking about’ at the Autosport Show back in 2016 when I had been the voice of Super One for a few seasons. He stated that ‘karting isn’t really motorsport, really.’

What a buffoon.

Racers learn more about setup, driving ability, weather changes, sporting codes and racecraft in karting than they do anywhere else! Where else can you learn about the raw difficulties of driving slicks in the rain? Where else can you figure out how terrible a race machine feels than when you’re 3 millimetres off the ground? Where else can you study how a race meeting actually works and the difference between an intentional driving error and a racing incident?

Karting is so pure. Drivers are covered in qualifying by little more than a second over a lap, and that’s over 100 drivers a weekend. When the gap is that close, you have to be smart, brave, calculated, smooth and composed to get everything right. Nothing teaches you those skills and those attributes better than karting.

A young driver called Kobe Pauwels was destined for greatness a few years ago, won nearly everything in karting and went for a test drive in F4. When I asked him about he told me he didn’t like it.

“Why?” I asked baffled.

“Because it was boring. Karting gives you more adrenaline than that.”

I think that tells you everything you need to know. The sport is unbelievable, from its roots to its pinnacle. Like touring cars, rallying and NASCAR out in America, it is its own universe but it definitely needs to be embraced by the wider motorsport community. The elitist view that it isn’t important compared to touring cars, rallying and motorbikes, portrays an arrogance that is unworthy. Motorsport cannot afford to be stand-offish, particularly when its competing against the likes of football, rugby, tennis and the Olympic Games for status in the world of sport.

I hope I am joined in the view by many aficionados of karting by stating that I have had enough. Karting is a sensational, exciting and essential form of motorsport. Without the sport of karting, we wouldn’t have many of the drivers, engineers, mechanics, officials, marshals or manufacturers of the top level of motorsport, as karting is a perfect starting point. The racing is exceptional, the driving talent required is phenomenal, the engineering prowess is outstanding and thanks to the RGMMC Group and various others like it the coverage for karting worldwide has never been better.

So it is time for the motorsport community to embrace karting as a global motorsport. It needs to report on the FIA Karting events as well as the European competitions for IAME, Rotax and ROK, and the national championships for each country they have a presence in. How can sponsors back a sport if the media doesn’t give it the credence it deserves? It wouldn’t even require a huge amount of effort or hard work, just a reboot of attitude towards the sport of karting is all that’s required.

In Field of Dreams the ultimate quote is “if you build it, they will come.” If you want motorsport to be a success from the ground up, promotion of it has to come from karting. More money and time would be invested in the lower formulae if the sport has serious promotion from its roots. It’s a lesson we don’t really have time to learn the hard way, we have a duty as media to do the hard work sooner rather than later before more great teams, championships and even media publications themselves die out for good.

Karting needs motorsport as much as motorsport needs karting. So I urge the big motorsport media outlets all over the world to embrace karting on an equal front to touring cars, sportscars, motorbikes and Formula One. It’s time to work together for the greater good, and who knows? It might be the best decision the motorsport media has ever made.


Log in to comment