I want to break into go-kart racing (dirt), help a newbie out! :)

NC HillBilly

Back home where I belong
Mar 3, 2011
Hey guys, since I was a kid I wanted to race but we never had the cash to get into go-kart racing. :(

So anyway, now I have some spare cash laying around and I would like to break into racing. I'm not aiming for building a monster or trying to win a bunch of races I just want to be able to run with the pack and learn some stuff.

There are a few tracks around me that run races on dirt, and some on pavement (not sure of the exact surface). Most are really small dirt tracks, but big enough to run modified stock cars on (well some anyway).

So I was wondering...and I'm not exactly sure which karts they run around here btw. But how much does it cost to break in on the lower end? What different kind of karts series are there? How much money does it cost to buy a decent new or used kart? Finally, how much up keep is involved?

I'd love to run every weekend but at first I was thinking about running every month or so. Also, I was going to try to attend all the practice sessions I could at my local track.

I've never driven a kart before and I don't want to get into a race without a lot of practice. What's the best way to get run to driving the kart without endangering others? I live on a farm, could I get away with running around a home made track in a field? ;)

I really wanna race something and this is the only way I see that happening. I need a new hobby and have some cash to invest. Is this a good idea or would it consume every waking moment? :D

Thanks for any help.

PS: Most of the local track are ovals, but I love road courses as well!
This post being almost a year old, I hope you found answers.
If not, and if you're still interested, there's a lot of information on Bob's 4cycle.com.

Before buying anything, visit the track(s) you might race at and see how they run and what equipment people are using. Also find out what rules they use (WKA, IKA, AKRA, their own, etc.) and get a copy. Some of them have practice days. Many tracks loosely follow an organization's rules, but may pick classes and tweak rules based on what is popular in their area. So it's best to go to the track and find out which classes and rules they're using.

It's great to carve out your own practice track (don't forget to make it pretty flat - the kart's ground clearance is only about an inch). But you'll still need seat time on actual race tracks to get good at finding the groove and adjusting to changing conditions.

I suggest starting in a "stock" engine class - that should be most affordable, and a little slower so it'll be easier to develop driving skills. I call them "stock" engines because almost all classes allow some modifications to engines. But there are also classes that allow a lot of modifications - you might want to save those for later in your career.

How much will it cost? I know it's a cliché but it's true - it depends on how fast you want to go. New chassis are about $2500 to $3000 (everything except engine, clutch, chain, rear gear, and electronics). Good used chassis are about half that... even cheaper the older they are. I suggest that you look for a used kart around five to seven years old. Kart technology changes rapidly so if you go older you may have a handling disadvantage, and also karts are designed to flex so the more they've been run the more fatigued they get. Don't buy a kart that looks like it's been in a big wreck. You can't twist them back - they'll never work right again.

"Stock" engines cost from around $600 to $1200. But a few tracks run an out-of-the-box engine called the "Predator" from Harbor Freight that you can get for $99 (with coupon). Until you learn good driving and setup you won't need a $1200 engine. But you will be racing against some of them.

A clutch can cost from about $80 to about $400. The track may specify a clutch, but there are $400 clutches even in many beginner classes. The difference is usually how quickly they grab when you launch. A chain is around $20; rear gears are around $15 each (you'll need two or three to start).

Electronics: a combination tachometer / engine temperature gauge is not required, but it will make adjustments much easier (about $150 to $450 depending upon functions). Some tracks may require you to purchase a transponder for recording laps (about $300, although many tracks will let you borrow one).

Then there are tires. You will need at least two sets, and possibly some preps. Which brands depends upon your track - you'll need to observe and ask around. Figure on about $200 per set of tires, another $200 if you need an extra set of rims, and about $50 in preps (to start). Tires wear out quickly so don't count on used tires being much good.

You'll need a helmet, racing jacket, neck brace, and gloves. Probably $400 and up depending on how fancy you get. This stuff doesn't need to be fire resistant - it's to protect you from scuffs and engine heat. But check your track(s) because some require a recent Snell rating on your helmet.

You'll also need some special tools, depending upon your engine and clutch, and you'll probably want a kart stand, and might need some bolt-on weights. Figure about $300 - $500.

Upkeep? Lots of cleaning if you race dirt, got to keep bearings and chain oiled. You will have to change your engine oil at least once every race day. You will be continually prepping tires. About once a month you ought to clean up the innards of your clutch. As long as you don't wreck the weekly maintenance isn't hard... until you get really competitive - then you'll essentially rebuild the whole kart weekly.
Hope this doesn't intimidate you. Most of the costs are getting everything you need upfront - weekly costs are typically a lot less (as long as you aren't breaking or losing things). If you buy out somebody who's leaving karting you might get a good package deal on all of this stuff.
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