Go-karting, most simply put, is the least expensive form of motor sports that exists. Go-karting got its start in 1956 in California. It was a huge hit.
It started into the first phase of its life, the fad stage. Everybody had a go-kart (or at least it seemed like it), there was a go-kart track in every little town. Some tracks were no more than a path in a field, others were actually paved. The fad stage lasted through the early 1960s until a combination of cost and disappearance of local tracks and programs reduced the sport to the dedicated few. Why did this happen? There were no sanctioning bodies that cared to control the cost of the racing programs.
Manufacturers of go-karts and engines were as numerous as the early days of the automobile industry. Design was changing rapidly, as were parts and engines. What you raced one week was obsolete the next. Local racetracks were operated as hobbies, and as the fad slowed, the number of tracks diminished quickly. In the middle 1960’s many European built engines found their way into American karting. In the early 70’s kart design evolved to something similar to current day karts with engines mounted on the side rather than the rear. This allowed for better air cooling of engines and positioning of drivers so their knees weren’t in their chins!
In the late 70’s we saw the decline of the dominant American engine supplier, McCulloch (Black & Decker bought the company and phased out kart engines). Briggs & Stratton engines began the long climb to becoming the dominant source of horsepower for American go-karting. We also saw the introduction of the Yamaha karting engine in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, sanctioning bodies started to stabilize with World Karting Association (WKA) east of the Mississippi River and International Kart Federation (IKF) governing west of the Mississippi. Many different forms of go-karting were becoming recognized and formalized. Some different types are, but are not limited to, Oval racing done on dirt, asphalt and indoors in the winter months.
Road Racing is long distance high speed racing conducted on sport car tracks. Sprint racing, (the first form of go-karting that SRR conducts) and Street racing or races conducted during special events on city streets. Go-karts are now being used for driving schools and on a rental basis (One time race events for individuals and/or corporate outings). In the 90’s the impact of big time professional motor sports hit go-karting. After being exposed to motor sports many looked for a level they could participate in, finding it in go-karting.