Every time I take a trip to my local go-kart track, I see all kinds of drivers. I’ve managed to spectate a 125cc race, where twelve adults showed me how fast a go-kart can truly go. But, recently, I’ve been going to the track right before their academy stops their training. While I’m there, I see several kids that are no older than 10-12 years old, all of whom go much faster than I ever will.
It’s weird to think how different it would have been if my parents had decided for me to take karting lessons rather than karate lessons when I was a kid. It’s not that I regret my martial arts skills, since I not only learned self-defense, but also discipline. Still, becoming a racing driver was always the dream job, and it would have been nice if it had come true.
So, whether you’re a parent or child, most F1 drivers started out with karting pretty early in their lives. In fact, kid karting classes are available to kids that are as young as 5 years old. While they don’t use 125cc shifter karts, they do use kid karts that can go up to 40mph. Knowing that you might be intrigued to get your kid started with go-karting.
While most people say that go-karting is dangerous, it can provide kids with tons of valuable skills, just like any other extracurricular activity. So, let’s check out what you need to know to get your kid started with go-kart racing.
Can My Child Ride On a Go-Kart?
This is the most common question I’ve heard from acquaintances and friends ever since I started karting. I can understand why so many parents are afraid of letting their children drive a go-kart on their own.
But, the answer is yes, your child can ride a go-kart if he’s older than 5 years old. Some tracks may even allow your child to drive a go-kart on their own (in a different and safe round track), even if they’re 3 years old. But, typically, kid karting is available for kids that are 5 or older.
Some countries don’t allow kids to drive karts unless they’re 8 or older. Go-karting age requirements are there for the safety of your child. A more accurate way to see if your child can drive a kart independently is their height.
Most go-kart tracks have a height requirement of 130-140cm (51-55 inches). This is implied so that your kid can be strapped safely on the go-kart and operate the gas\brakes pedals.
No matter how old your child is, if they’re over 5 or 6 years old, there will be a karting category for them. I explain go-karting categories for kids more in-depth below, but all you need to know now is that children are split into age categories, so your 5-year-old boy won’t be racing against a 15-year-old girl.
Speaking of that, most F1 drivers started out with karting as soon as possible. For example, 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg began go-karting at 6 years old. Another example is the legend himself Michael Schumacher, who started out when he was 4 years old.
So, getting your child into the karting world early is essential if you want them to make it big in the racing world. But, this raises the question of how safe go-karting will be for your child, especially if they’re young.
Is Go-Karting Safe for Kids?
Go-karting is generally safer than what most people think. The owners of a track take an extra step to make sure that the young drivers stay safe. But, you’ll need to also keep in mind that, as a parent, you should make sure to keep your child safe by taking a few specific steps.
Tight Clothes are Essential
Whether you’re a parent of a kid racer or an adult racer, you should never forget to wear tight clothes when go-karting. Even the lower categories have go-karts that can go up to pretty high speeds, so it wouldn’t be nice to get your child’s clothes caught up in the engine or the wheels.
Also, since we’re on the topic of go-kart racing for kids, you should dress your kid in long clothes. This way, in case they get into an accident, they won’t get injured. Obviously, if you can invest in a go-karting suit, your child should always wear that at the track.
Never Forget the Helmet
I can’t stress this enough. Whether you’re driving the go-kart yourself or your child is on the wheel, never forget to wear a helmet. Everyone can recover from a bruise or a scratch, but having a head injury is really serious. The only way to ensure that your child doesn’t suffer from one is to not allow them to get inside a go-kart without their helmet. Speaking of safety…
Safety Harnesses can Save Lives
You, the parents, and I know pretty well that wearing a seatbelt in a car can save your life. The exact same is true for go-karts. If the go-kart track you visited doesn’t have any safety harnesses, take your kid and return home. And, even if they do, make sure that they have a tight fit and are fastened perfectly on your kid’s go-kart.
On the other hand, if your kid has their own go-kart, you should always check their harnesses before they take it for a spin on the track. If they aren’t optimally fastened and tight, you’ll need to replace them immediately.
There’s No Need to Rush immediately
Both children and parents want to drive fast. Even I tried to go full-throttle when I got my first real experience in a go-kart. But, this isn’t the safest way to go-karting. Let your kid know that driving too fast can lead to them getting an injury or destroying their go-kart.
And, if they keep nagging you about going faster, you can get them a coach (more on that below) so that they can drive at higher speeds but carefully.
But, go-karting isn’t only about safety…
The Mental Aspect of Kid Karting
I believe that karting can be a really beneficial extracurricular activity for a child. In my list of best activities, it’s right up there with martial arts. That’s because there’s a huge mental aspect in karting that most parents neglect.
In go-karting, the progression is non-stop. Your kid will start from rental karts, and then they can get into local and regional championships. From there, they can take part in national and international championships, and after that, they can get into junior formulas. All of this can happen in the course of ten years.
In those years, your child’s self-confidence will be constantly rising. When your child sees the progression that they make, from being last at the local track to competing against the best karting racers in the world, it will fill them up.
That being said, as a parent, you’ll need to be by them throughout this experience. While I’m not a psychologist, I can say with certainty that the support your kid receives from you will be more fulfilling than any trophy they win. So, being there and supporting them is essential for them to not only become better drivers but also see karting as a hobby and not a hassle. Plus, I don’t know any parent who would say no to some quality time with their children.
But, that’s not all. While team sports are always the go-to option for kids, there are a lot of qualities that one can gain from individual sports.
Go-Karting is Great For Quick Decision Making
Most go-kart laps are around one minute, and most go-kart tracks have at least 10 turns. This means that your child will be going the main straight at one point and going through turns 2 and 3 in a matter of seconds. Once you add more drivers to the equation, you’ll understand why knowing what to do in less than a second is vital.
Also, the same is true for timed laps. When you want to find the best line, you’ll have to consider whether you can maintain more momentum when turning without drifting the kart. This will help your child gauge a situation (in this case, it’s a corner) and act accordingly.
The Spirit of Competition is Everywhere
Whether we like it or not, go-karting is a highly competitive sport. Everybody wants to be the new Lewis Hamilton, and every parent wants their kid to be the next Max Verstappen. The same level of competition can be seen in many aspects of the world. So, learning how to celebrate a victory, but also how to cope with a loss will be amazing for your child, especially from a young age.
Go-Karting Teaches You How To Adapt
This summarizes the two statements above. Go-karting and car racing are unpredictable. While you might be in first place at one point, your tire might blow up, and you’re disqualified from the race in a matter of seconds. So, learning how to adapt to a situation won’t only help your child become a better driver, but they’ll also know how to act when something changes suddenly in their lives.
For all of the statements above to be true, your kid will need to progress through the several karting categories. But, what categories can kids participate in?
Go-Kart Racing Categories
There are five go-kart racing categories in total: Bambinos, Cadets, Juniors/Minis, Seniors, and Gearboxes.
Out of these categories, I’ll focus on the first three. The senior and gearbox categories are for teenagers that are 15 or 16 years and older. At that point, they’re closer to being adults than being kids.
In most tracks, you can sign your kid up for the Bambinos between 6-8 years old. In some countries, your kid can race as a Bambino from 5 or even 4 years old. There are no classes in the Bambino category since kids race the same karts with the same engines.
Usually, Bambinos are part of a karting academy, and they don’t take part in actual races. This is great because it would be dangerous to put beginner kid racers against each other. However, they do take part in time trials, with one go-kart being on track at a time.
This is where the real racing starts. Cadets are between the ages of 7 or 8 years old and 13 years old. Depending on the track and the country you’re based in, your child will be able to race for different classes. These are divided depending on the engine that your kid is running on. I’ll mention the two classes that exist at my track, but these might be different from what your track has.
In this class, the Cadets will drive around in 2-stroke IAME Parilla Gazelle engines, with a minimum weight of 103 kg (Kart & Driver).
In this class, the Cadets will drive around in 4-stroke Honda Gx160 engines, with a minimum weight of 103 kg (Kart & Driver).
This category is where F1 drivers are made. Juniors and Minis can start from the age of 11 up to 17. The age range is different in every class, so you’ll need to keep that in mind. By now, your kid will probably know how to race go-karts better than you, which is fantastic. There are several classes in this category, so here are some of them.
Rotax MiniMax and Rotax Junior Max
In the Rotax MiniMax, the racers get introduced to Rotax engines for the first time. The ages range from 11-15 years old, and the engine used is a limited version of the 2-stroke Rotax Junior Max. The minimum weight is 135kg (Kart & Driver), and the driver also needs to be at least 39kg.
The Junior Max is available for kids between 13-17 years old. The engine used is the 2-stroke Rotax Junior Max, but this time it’s unrestricted. The minimum weight is 148kg (Kart & Driver), and the driver also needs to be at least 42.5kg.
X30 Mini and X30 Junior
Both of these are available for 13-year-old to 17-year-old racers. The X30 Mini class uses the junior version of the 2-stroke IAME X30 engine, while the X30 Junior class opts for the senior version of the same engine.
The weight requirement for the Mini class is 136 kg (Kart & Driver), and the driver also needs to be at least 39kg, while for the Junior class, the requirement is 148 kg (Kart & Driver), and the driver needs to be at least 41kg.
There are many other classes depending on where you’re located, but these are the ones that exist at my local track. However, let’s not get too far away from the dream.
The Dream: How to Become a Formula 1 Driver
Whether it’s your or your child’s dream to become an F1 driver, you’ll need to know that there’s a lot of sacrifices that come with it. I’ve made a more detailed article specifically about the journey to F1.
Simply put, becoming an F1 driver requires a lot of dedication, skill, and tons of luck. Your kid might be the best driver in the world, the next Ayrton Senna, but they might never make it to F1. That’s because they’ll need to be consistently great at karting and car racing, and you’ll need to have the financial ability to support their journey.
Nowadays, more and more F1 teams have their academies, where they fund the drivers. But your kid’s chances of getting into one are pretty slim. This isn’t to say that your kid is a bad driver; it’s just that there are kids whose parents have some kind of racing experience, or they’re even former F1 drivers. Just take a look at Max Verstappen, whose dad, Jos Verstappen, raced in F1 in the 90s.
So, you’ll need to know the costs to expect throughout your child’s go-karting and racing journey.
How Much Does a Go-Kart Cost?
This is purely for the parents who are reading this. Firstly, you should know that karting is a pretty expensive sport, especially for beginners. Compared to more traditional sports, like football or basketball, you’ll be paying ten times more for everything needed in professional go-karting. After all, you’re basically buying a new vehicle.
For starters, unless you’re a former racing driver or you have an idea of racing, you’ll need to hire a coach for your child. The last time I checked the prices for the karting academy at my local track, the prices were between $50-$100 for a lesson that lasted 3-4 hours. These lessons are done either once or twice a week.
You’ll also need to remember that if you want your kid to get into the world of professional karting, you’ll need to provide them with the appropriate equipment. That includes a helmet, gloves, a racing suit, and a karting license. There are also several other pieces of equipment that you’ll need to buy, which will surely set you back by a few thousand dollars.
And, let’s not forget the go-kart itself. Go-karts can be anywhere from $150 to $10,000. On average, a beginner’s go-kart will cost less than $3000. But, you’ll also have to account for any crashes your kid might get into, which are extra costs. Plus, you’ll need to pay for it to be parked at the track unless you have a house with a garage to store the kart while not on the track.
As you can see, many costs come with professional go-karting. And I didn’t even talk about junior formulas, where the prices are even higher. But, if you’re still up for it, here’s what I would do if I had kids and I wanted them to become the next F1 driver.
If I Was A Parent, Here How I Would Start With My Child
If I were a parent, the first thing I would do is make sure that my kid wants to become a racing driver. I’d never try to enforce my missed chances on my child because that would just be wrong.
Once I’ve established that my kid wants to start the journey to professional racing, I’d take them to the local go-kart track and let them try out a kart on their own. If my kid doesn’t immediately give up because he cannot drift through a corner like Mario Kart, then karting isn’t for them at this point. I’d probably sign them up for some karate class.
But, if they enjoy their first experience with karting, I’d set some realistic goals financial-wise. Knowing myself, I wouldn’t be able to provide my kid with a gold-plated go-kart, but I would be able to get them started in the Bambino class.
If they enjoy the competitive side of the sport, the last step I’d take is to provide the emotional support that the kid needs. And, I think that this is the best start to go-karting between the parent and the kid.
That’s all there is to say about go-kart racing for kids. My best tip to any parents out there would be to take a trip to the local go-kart track this weekend. And, who knows, maybe your son or daughter will be the next F1 World Champion.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs For Kid Go-Kart Racing
At what age can a child start karting?
A child can start karting as early as 5 years old in most tracks. However, if your child wants to take part in karting championships, they’ll need to wait until they’re 8 years old, as I explained above.
Are kids’ go-karts dangerous?
Kids’ go-karts aren’t dangerous if they’re maintained properly. However, if the go-kart track doesn’t include safety harnesses on them, they can be a life hazard to your child.
Is it cheaper to build or buy a go-kart?
It’s way cheaper to build your own go-kart rather than buy one. However, if you have no idea of how to do that, you should go ahead and purchase one.
Does my child need a license for karting?
Technically no, your child can drive a go-kart as long he met the minimum height or minimum required age. Later on, if he will become a professional driver he will need an FIA license.