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Getting Started

So you want to race a Superkart? Of course you do, you'd be mad not to!!!

Value for money and pound per performance there is nothing else that comes close to any of the Superkart / gearbox kart classes in British motorsport!  

This is not a definitive guide to Superkart's but it should hopefully be a push in the right direction and help your investigations further.  If you want to race I would recommend taking your time deciding what class, level and type of venues you wish to compete on. Taking your time in deciding class, chassis and engine that might be suitable for your needs and budget will save a lot of heartache, time and money in the long run.

Beginners Guide

How do I start racing? What do I need to do?

The different classes

What safety gear do I need? 



How do I start? What do I need to do?

If you are not sure and you want to try one then there is a school at the Darley Moor Circuit. It is approved by the MSA and ARKS (Association of Registered Kart Schools). Visit their web site http://www.superkarting-uk.com/Race%20school.html


Next step is to gain a licence, this is a very simple task, you must purchase an ARKS pack from the MSA (Motorsport Association) the pack can be bought online so go to the MSA website for further info.

You can always contact the Series Co-ordinator Ian Rushforth - He's and ex racer and winner. He knows the sport inside out. 

There are a few directions from which you can start racing gearbox karts on long circuit. As a complete beginner, from short circuit, from car racing or from ACU bike racing. In all cases you will need a competition license supplied to you by the Motor Sports Association (MSA)

New for 2012 is if you are under 18 your parent or guardian will have to sign a consent form if they are not with you or attend and hold a PG License.


Buy the “Starting Karting” pack from the MSA or your local ARKS School. It costs £45 including postage. In it you will find a video and copies of all the regulations you need to learn to pass the test for your competition license. There is also your license application form.

If you are covered by any exemption to the test, you do not need to take the test. The exemptions include having had certain grades of kart, foreign or racing licenses in the past, or holding a NATSKA Schools karting license, or applying for an endurance license.

Assuming you have a kart and have had sufficient practice and have learnt the regulations you can book the ARKS novice test. This can be taken with an ARKS school or with your local club who will have a club examiner. If you are 18 or over, you need to have a medical, both you and the doctor need to complete the relevant parts of the license application form. You need to pay the doctor for this, usually around £90.

Take the ARKS test, this costs around £85. The test is in two parts, a driving test and multiple choice questionnaire covering the flag signals and regulations. If you do fail either part of the test, you can re-take it for an additional fee. Next you need to send off for your MSA competition license, this costs around £30. (free for under 16’s)

You will be issued with a National B NOVICE license to start with. At this stage you are classified as a Novice driver and have to collect six signatures of competence from an MSA steward. Passing your ARKS Test will qualify you for one signature.

You can only compete at this stage at a Closed to Club or National B permit event. This can be done at either a short circuit or long circuit event.

If you race at a short circuit event you will need to have black number plates with white numbers attached to them. On Long Circuit it is different and you will require only a yellow number plate 22cm x 22cm with a black diagonal cross with strokes 15cm x 2.5cm fixed to the back bumper beside the rear number plate Once you have got six signatures you can now remove your novice plates and upgrade your license to a FULL National B grade. You must then continue to race at National B events for a further six signatures after which you can upgrade your license to a National A grade

All British Championship races are run to a national National A permit and National Superkart Championship events on Long Circuit are run to at least National B permit.


If you have raced previously on short circuit, have a National A license and have never raced on long circuit before it is easy to transfer to competing on long circuit. In the first instance you will be regarded as a Long Circuit Novice and will have to attach a yellow number plate 22cm x 22cm with a black diagonal cross with strokes 15cm x 2.5cm fixed to the back bumper beside the rear number plate. Four signatures are then required from the MSA Steward before you can remove your novice plate. Unlike short circuit you will not be required to start from the back of the grid. Don’t forget that for long circuit you will need to wear a leather racing suit.


If you have a Race National B license it is valid for Clubman and National B kart events. Once you have the required Upgrade signatures for karting you can add a National A kart license.

If you have a Race National A license. it is valid for Long Circuit Kart Events. For the first four events you well need to carry the Long Circuit novice numbers plates as detailed above and receive four signatures from the MSA Steward. However for some reason it is not valid for short circuit at National A permit kart Meetings.


A bike competitor holding a ACU National Motorcycle Road Race license is eligible for a National A Kart Race license.  If you have held an ACU National Road Race licence for the previous three years and have proof of this you can obtain a Kart National A licence on completion of the written ARKS test.

For the first four events you well need to carry the Long Circuit novice numbers plates as detailed above and receive four signatures from the MSA Steward. 

Once you have got the licence you may need the equipment, I would recommend you take your time and do your research, the end of the year is the time to pick up a bargain as the top guys will be replacing there equipment.  The best sites are our own & UK Karting, I would also advise you to order Karting magazine as they not only have some good adverts but its worth reading up on what's happening in the UK scene.

Or do you want to help within the organisation?

The Different Classes

Superkarting can be a little confusing when you are new, all the classes and formula. Thankfully we have unified the classes a little more these days, so read on to find out what they are.

Superkarts are split in to several classes.

  • 125 ICC

  • 125 Open

  • 250 National

  • 250 Twins / Division 1

F125 Superkarts

These are a very competitive class of Superkart, with less ferocity in terms of engine performance compared to that of a 250 Superkart, but still capable of keeping within a couple of seconds on lap times in comparison to that of a 250 single.  There is a vast array of engines eligible for use in the class, with the most popular ones such as Pavesi, TM and SGM being favoured, which are specifically designed for use in karting.  There is also a vast array of Chassis options available for use as well, the chassis can be divided into "short circuit" and "long circuit" use and they can be very different looking machines depending on the discipline, with some chassis that perform well on both.  Its just a matter of bodywork, but again the most favoured tend to be that of the Anderson and Formula 1 in 125 Open and Energy and Tonykart in 125 ICC.

The 125 Superkart class is split into two categories, the 125 Open and 125 ICC.  The 125 Open class is for all single cylinder Reed and Rotary Valve engines comprising of six speed gearbox’s, tuning is allowed together with big Carbs.  The class also runs full long circuit body work and open tyres.  The 125ICC is very much similar, using the same engines, but they are all reed valve induction, and the Carburettors are restricted to 30mm in size and a set head volume also has to be adhered to.  Tuning in this class is very restricted so driver skill is very much the thing.  The ICC’s run with the standard short circuit body work best suited to the short circuit but produce extremely close racing on both short & long circuit.

The 125 Superkart is a very cost effective class, with plenty of good quality second hand outfits available for as little as £1500 upwards.  But if you fancy the more competitive option then a full new outfit can be bought for around £6000.  While you don’t need to be a bit of a mechanical guru to run one of these as you do a 250 Twin Superkart and they are relatively a lot less costly, don’t underestimate the performance of these little beauties!!!!  The handling and performance of these  mini superkarts will certainly leave you gob smacked!!! 

Performance Facts :- 

  • Top speed is 120mph -  0 – 60 in 3.5secs
  • Power Output  = 42  to 48bhp
  • Fastest 125 Open Lap Record   =  0.47.166   -   103.04mph   -   Justin Doherty  -  Mallory
  • Fastest 125 ICC Lap Record   =   1.29.913   -   94.331mph   -   Matt Clarke   -   Thruxton

Blue Plates/White Nos. for Open

Engines are six speed 125cc single cylinder units with either Reed or Disc Valve Induction. Minimum Weight is 190kgs for L/C trim and 180kgs in S/C trim for Open. 

Cost £1500 S/H to £5000 ish new ready to race

Healthy short circuit scene, good choice of equipment available for a good price, good close racing and performance, lots of knowledgeable drivers and engine developers always willing to help!!!!  Relatively inexpensive to buy and maintain engines. If you get the hang of one of these you will be fast in a 250!!

F250 National    -    The 250 Singles

These are without a doubt the most popular Superkarts in the UK, with a vast array of engine and chassis options.  The single cylinder class called 250 National has rules comprising of any production single cylinder 250 two stroke motocross engine with a 5 speed gearbox with tuning allowed and open carburation and gears.  The Honda CR250 motors is the popular engine of choice and in some ways it has become a one make class. Why you may ask not a Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc?  The Honda just seems to be the best motor all round at the moment in the UK with all the development work having been done for a number of years, all the parts including tuning parts and even complete new engines are easily and cheaply available to use off the shelf through specialist dealers. The Formula 250 National is the biggest supported gearbox class in the UK and is now the premier British championship attracting the best teams and drivers in the UK. We also run a clubman version of this class called 250 Clubman Challenge for drivers on a smaller budget or for newcomers who may not wish to race in the British championship. The single cylinder karts are maybe the best compromise between handling performance and cost, with a complete new outfit available for as little as £8000 or a good second hand outfit with lots of spares for around £3000. If you just want to play then you can buy an older less competitive kart for as little as a £1500. While you don't need as much mechanical knowledge to run one of these as you do a twin, they don't cost as much but don't be fooled by the low prices of these karts, they are no less a Superkart. A well driven single can lap very nearly as fast as a Division 1 Superkart! The handling and power of these pocket rockets will shock you I promise, and if you have never driven one I can assure you wont find it lacking, a great thrill to drive.       If you don't fancy jumping straight in the deep end with a Superkart on the "long circuits" such as Silverstone, Donington & Oulton etc then the other option with for a single is to race on the "short circuits"  where many race each weekend of the year. Short Circuits offer you the chance to learn your craft at lower speeds and for a bit less money!  Favoured chassis include Anderson, ADE, Raider, Jade and PVP

Performance Facts :-

  • Top Speed is 130mph -  0  - 60mph  in 3secs

  • Power Output  = 62  to  65bhp

  • Fastest Lap Record   =   1.17.952   - 108.80mph - Scott Emberson  -  Thruxton

White plates with black numbers,  Engines; any 5 speed motocross derived 250cc power plant although the 6 speed Rotax 257 is permitted. Minimum weight with driver 205kgs

Cost   -  £1500 S/H   to   £8000 New

Biggest class in UK Superkarting. Healthy short circuit scene. Huge choice of equipment available, the most speed for least money. Very close performance, equals very close racing. Huge knowledge base of experienced drivers, tuners and manufacturers in the UK.

Division 0ne    -   The 250 Twins

The worlds fastest and premier class is Division 1 Superkarts. This is the ultimate in Superkarting, in performance and technology.  The class is known over here as the "twins" class and its official name is Division one. The karts can be identified by their yellow number plates with black numbers (the twin pipes and the noise they make also gives it away a bit!)  These karts utilise purpose designed racing kart engines using GP technology. The class structure also allows the use of 2 separate 125cc power units mounted each side of the driver in fact the same engines as used in the 125 Superkart classes.

The classic 256 Rotax tandem twin layout lends itself well to being fitted to a superkart due to its very narrow and low silhouette, and its power characteristics being a disc valve tandem layout. Manufacturers like PFE, DEA, PVP have followed this pattern with the VM using across the beam layout. The Japanese made Yamaha TZ250 V twins GP engine is also permitted. Although the engine design of a V twin does not lend itself as well to mounting on a superkart the development of these power units are now on a par.

Ask the ex German F3 star Peter Elkmann who has won the European Superkart Championship with a Yamaha TZ250 or Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson & Valentino Rossi who race the V twin TZ's in the USA.  You might recognise the last three names from somewhere?  Yes if any proof was needed that Superkarts are the best Buzz on 4 wheels what do ex GP motorcycle world champions do for a rush when not riding 200mph Grand Prix motorcycles?  They take up Superkarts.  This is the pinnacle of Superkarting in performance, price and technology, if you have never sat in a kart before or don't know one end of an engine from another I think you might find it  A; hard to keep it facing the right way round and B; keep it running without the support of a good  mechanic  and/or a large wallet. I don't want to knock this class as it can be raced on a budget as can any other class, and the motor's are intrinsically reliable being built for the job. But this class is normally raced by experienced racer's who have moved up through the classes or had other motorsport experience.

Performance Facts :-

  • Top Speed  is 145+mph -   0  - 60mph  in 2.5secs    

  • Power Output  = 85  to 98bhp

  • Fastest Lap Record    =   1.14.512   -   113.82mph   -   John Riley   -   Thruxton

Yellow Number plates with black numbers. Engines are : Rotax 256, Yamaha TZ250,  PVP , DEA ,BRC, VM & FPE. Min. weight is 215kgs inc. driver.  Use of Carbon Fibre is permitted.

 Cost   -   £6,000 S/H  -  New from £16,000. The fastest karts in the world. Cutting edge technology F3 performance at a fraction of the cost . Can be raced all over the world.  High second hand value. The ultimate straight line performance karts

Safety Equipment?

"You only have one life so get the best you can afford"


What safety gear do I need?


In long circuit karting its compulsory to wear leathers, the only stipulation is that they must be a minimum of 1.2mm thick, that means you can either buy a 2 piece motorcycle "road suit" or buy 1 piece racing leathers.


As an ex racer my advice would be listen to common sense, and the experts in the field. And get the best you can afford. 



One piece or two piece?

The Problems that can occur with every 2 piece leather set is that because you have the facility to remove either the top or bottom half independently via a zip, that is always going to be a weak point, as the Auto Cycle Union will tell you in a heavy impact the two parts can come apart exposing your pink bits! that is why they are not allowed for bike racing, we don't generally hit the floor like bikers do, but it does occasionally happen, I wouldn't take the chance for the extra bit of mobility round the paddock, would you?


Also be aware that because the 2 piece leathers are not generally designed for racing, so the body armour inside them may not come up to any CE standards, so it could actually do you more harm than good! And if you don't use body armour of some description then you have obviously never hit the floor hard before!


The most important thing to think of when it comes to safety is that we are 4 wheeled motorcycles, admittedly we very rarely "fall out" but we have no roll cages, head restraints etc this is not a car.


Look around see what the bike racers wear, preferably the ones that fall off a lot, if you cant afford a new set try some on in the shop anyway, get your size right them look on eBay, I bought my sons new Alpine Starts £400 without the speed hump with armour from Hein Gerick.


Don't be put off by the new style leathers with the speed hump on the back, any decent leather place, or saddler will be able to remove it for about £20.


Bikers are great, every time they buy a new road bike they have to get the new leathers to match!!  Once you have got them, try them on in the kart, then only if you have to remove the minimum armour you can get away with for comfort.




Remember you only have one head

New motorcycle helmets are no longer acceptable, (don't get me started on this one) only helmets bearing the latest spec markings are acceptable!


Do not forget the following if you have never bought a helmet before. All helmets are different. They have different construction, different shell shapes and fit, even between the same manufacturers different models.


You can be a size 56 euro in one helmet and a 60 euro in another.  Certain head shapes suit certain makes of  helmets. I would recommend trying on every model of helmet you fancy, & no two makes are the same. I would not personally order a helmet online unless I had already tried and tested that model in that size, and I was certain that it fitted perfect. Try checking out the suppliers at the Autosport Show or International Kart Show.


Why? Because of the lazy streak in all of us thinks, "that will do, its a bit loose but not a problem, can't be bothered to send it back, I'll get used to it."  You are always better off getting a helmet that is a little tight rather than the other way. A loose helmet is a useless helmet!!


A helmet will always "bed in" and as long as its the lining that's the only tight bit, not the shell, don't worry to much as long as you are not going purple!! Anywhere that sells helmets should have trained staff to advise you on fitting.


Useful tip. - Something I have seen people do over the years is they leave helmets in the "done up" position, they leave the buckles fastened, but loosen them off to remove the helmet, you should never do this for a few reasons, the strap will eventually gain a "memory" of the tight position when in fact its not actually that tight. As the strap & lining gives with age it will gradually get looser and you may not notice until its to late!  Also you could quite easily fatigue the strap over time, one of the reasons the ACU makes you bin helmets every three or so years and get a new one, why doesn't the MSA, ask them?


The 2010 Helmet Spec from the MSA


MSA clarifies crash helmet standards

The Motor Sports Association (MSA) has issued regulation clarifications regarding two current crash helmet standards.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has announced that it will cease to recognise the BS 6658-85 Type A/FR helmet standard after December 31, 2013.

However, at its most recent meeting earlier this month, the Motor Sports Council agreed to extend the life of this standard until at least December 31, 2015. This is to offer an additional two years of use for those buying the current version.

The MSA would also like to draw attention to the Snell SA2000 helmet standard. Regulation K 10.3.1 of the 2010 Competitors’ and Officials’ Yearbook states that this standard ‘May be withdrawn with effect from 01/01/11’. However, the MSA is pleased to confirm that this standard will now be valid until December 31, 2014.

Release MSA10-029: 29 March 2010

This communication is for general release and is authorised to hold regulatory value.

Gloves and boots. 

These are more of a comfort issue rather than safety, so its down to personal preference.  We don't have to have fire proof ones like the car racers so at least the karting ones are inexpensive. Suggestion from my side is if you wear the fireproof underwear it will help absorb the sweat and stop your leathers smelling plus give so some safety from the 8 litres of fuel that's between your legs!


Frequently Asked Questions

How fast is that? 

Superkarts are quick, there is no getting away from that, but in my humble opinion, not as quick (in a straight line) as many people will tell you. Most Superkarts due to the nature of UK circuits are geared for between 120-150mph depending on venue.


If you have ridden motorcycles then you will be quite used to the acceleration and speed, a good 250 single feels on par with a modern 250 production 250 2 stroke road bike or 400 4 stroke.  The twin cylinder karts feel like a 600cc supersport bike of a couple of years ago in performance.  That's just my seat of the pants opinion.


How come you guys are as fast as Formula 3's and faster that virtually all production cars at some circuits? We are all just hero's, legends , driver's of such sheer skill that we can make a "go kart" do amazing feats, no not really, well some of us can. The truth of the matter lies somewhere in the middle ground.  To be fast in a Superkart does take great skill, and some bravery. But we cant take all the credit these little pocket rockets are quite awesome in two area's going round corners and stopping.


The cornering ability of these things cannot and will not be appreciated until you have driven one, and got the bruises to prove it! To be honest unless its a hairpin bend of quite horrific proportions we don't really need to slow down very much for many corners, and when we do need to slow down the brakes on these things are just a bit silly yes they are that good.


That's the thing I remember most about my first drive in a Superkart, the first time I hit the brakes hard it was like being hit in the face with a shovel it slowed that violently WOW. After a go in one of these driving a Scooby turbo, evo, Caterham, gsi 16v blah blah etc, etc feels like riding a pregnant cow at the Grand national.


Is it Expensive?

All motor sport is expensive,  but in real terms Superkarts are a mere drop in the ocean compared to racing "real cars".   I have not done the research as yet but I would dread to think what one might pay to race a single seater or tin top to gain similar lap times to us and have the track time we do at the top venues we get to race at.

As mentioned earlier in this article the karts can be purchased for very reasonable money, check out our for classifieds section regularly.


Why karts?

Well for me It was price and practicality initially to be honest, I had done a few track days in cars and found it mind numbingly pointless flying round in circles with a load of posers who for the most couldn't really drive their over the top cars and I wanted to have a go at the real thing, racing a car.  Then after research into it I found that to buy the type of car I was interested in was going to cost a lot of money, plus the logistics of storing it, transporting it plus preparing it put  the dream right out of my league straight away, I'm glad it did now for I would have never taken up karting!



So lets look at the logistics of racing a Superkart, firstly if you have a garage you don't have any storage issues. Most people either have a van to transport the equipment in, or otherwise the good old "tow-a-van" trailer behind the car, either of these can be bought as you know for sensible money.


You don't really need a vast amount of equipment either, just a reasonable tool kit (doesn't have to be snap on) and if you buy cheap tools you don't feel so bad when you leave some behind by accident!  Obviously a race suit (leathers), helmet, boots, gloves spare pants can all be bought for as little or as much as you want.


Second Hand or New

You can pick up a good outfit second hand. As most drivers know who's kit is who's its best to chat to a Driver or even one of the drivers class reps. (See Contacts Page). For New karts see our Links page for manufactures. 


Cost of a meeting estimate:

  • Average entry fee for 2 races and 15 minute qualifying session : £200

  • Tyres : £150 per set (depending on type will last more than one meeting. Some drivers use a set for 3 meetings)

  • Control fuel 25lt drum (if racing in British champs) : £65 (Tuners recommend that using a consist grade / quality fuel saves on engine problems)

  • Fuel to and from meeting plus sundries, food etc £150 est.

So really  you are looking at say £500 and that's as long as nothing breaks or goes wrong obviously we haven't included costing out engine rebuilds during the season, maintenance, registration fee of £50 for years club membership etc, this is a rough guide, and you could do it for a lot less or a lot more!

So if the above hasn't  frightened you off to look at the Carp angling for beginners web site.....Read on!

But do check out how much it costs to race a decent car!


So yes its quite expensive I suppose but so is that new kitchen / car / holiday / TV / bathroom etc,

Which one of those are you going to be able to tell your friends about with interesting stories of valour, courage bravery, and skill in the pub on a Sunday night while grasping a trophy?  And which one of those will make you new and lifelong friendships and bring a smile to your face when you think back 20 years from now?



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