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Birel ART Go-Karts: History And 3 Karts Reviewed

Big kart manufacturers with good reputations are what truly make the karting industry, and one such company, Birel ART benefits from a long history in the sport! Through the course of this article, I’ll be outlining the history of Birel and looking at the top karts in their current range.

Passion Into Reality: Birel’s Beginnings

During the 1950s, Europe was taken by the karting storm which swept over from the US since the first kart was built there. Italy, more than any other European country, was especially involved in the growth of go-karting, and it shouldn’t be surprising when one looks at their motorsport history.

One such petrol-head living in Italy back then was Umberto Sala, a manager for a car and motorcycle store in Lissone, near Milan. He’d previously competed in automobile and motorcycle races, and when he learnt of go-karting, he dove into it with both feet first!

Sala opened a light metallurgy workshop and started to make his own karts, simply for the fun of it. Being able to take these karts on outings was a good way to explore his passion for things with engines since he’d stopped racing, and he quickly wanted to expand this hobby into something bigger…!

Among his circle of friends, Sala’s karts started to be known as “Birel” as homage to his family’s nickname. In his hometown of Lissone, Sala family members had come to be known as “Birel” with emphasis on the letter “e” (don’t ask me!!).

So, taking this nickname and running with it, Sala officially started to produce Birel chassis beyond hobbyist levels with his eyes set on kart competitions.

Early Days In The Business

To enter competitions, you first needed drivers. Of course, Umberto himself was a skilled driver, but he started to focus solely on the designing and production of his Birel karts.

As such he turned to his brother, Guido Sala, to become Birel’s first driver who represented the chassis on circuits and during races. This was how the karts started to gain small levels of notoriety, since Guido was able to say that his brother designed and made every part of the machine he was racing.

The true turning point of popularity and early-day fame for Birel came from a somewhat unlikely place, however, in the shape of Umberto’s son, Oscar Sala. He proved to be a real prodigy in the kart, and would go on to hold the most wins in Birel company history.

On the back of this early success and many go-kart enthusiasts asking after Birel karts, the manufacturer started to forge a pathway to success going into the early 1970s.

Award-Winning Partnerships For Birel ART

Until this time in the company history, Sala had simply been making chassis that developed on what he learnt through his brother and son driving them. They were as of yet unnamed Birel karts, but that was all about to change!

In the 1970s, he designed and produced the Targa; a chassis which would go on to carve a notable legacy for his humble company.

After the production of this chassis, IAME the Italian engine manufacturer sat up and took notice. In the year 1974, Birel and IAME formed an official kart racing team with which they signed Riccardo Patrese and Eddy Cheever, future Formula 1 drivers.

Although the 70s were successful for Birel, especially in gaining yet more fame and a building reputation, it was the 1980s that truly kick-started their decorated career.

The Birel manufacturing and racing teams respectively developed tenfold, so that kart and driver were securing titles all over Europe. Mika Hakkinen was signed to the Birel race team in the mid-80s, bringing home podium finishes race after race.

They also conquered four consecutive years of the Junior World Championship between 1982 and 1986, which truly made them a force to be reckoned with. After building an upward trajectory of reputation and overall expertise, they were suddenly rivalling the old, renowned kart manufacturer; Tony Kart.

The 90s saw Birel winning six Formula C World Championship titles, making them the racing force that had produced the most winning teams in the 125 categories ever.

Onwards And Upwards

By the time of the year 2000 rolling around, Birel had truly proved itself worthy to be operating in the same stomping grounds as Tony Kart and built a reputation all their own. But for a manufacturer who was always looking to push the envelope, Birel was far from done!

Although endurance racing was slowly evolving in the US, Birel truly defined this aspect of kart racing by producing the first-ever specialized kart that was mass-produced for it; the NO35. Made to be more efficient and reliable, this chassis officially kick-started and created the European endurance racing scene.

And in the year 2000, Birel outdid itself by producing a chassis called the EasyKart. Until this point, go-karting was far less expensive than motor racing, but it was still pretty inaccessible for most people.

That all changed with the conception of the EasyKart, the first chassis produced which was affordable and easily attained for amateur go-kart enthusiasts all over Europe. This, in essence, birthed go-karting as we know it today; infinitely affordable and available for anybody who invests time into the sport.

By the year 2005, Birel had met its previously-made quota for fulfilling rental kart production in order to bring yet more go-karting passion to Europe as a whole.

Their C-28 chassis, too, saw a huge rise in popularity in youth go-karting courtesy of its eye-catching design and adult-level competitive features. By this point in the 00s, Birel were a fan favorite for kid karts.

Then, in the year 2008, all of the main kart manufacturers the world over chose to enter into the WSK karting series. Of all the kart racing series, the WSK was the most widely-known due to its worldwide participation, excellent organization and high media coverage. In short, it was a kart manufacturer’s dream to have their karts selected to participate.

Many drivers picked Birel kart chassis during the WSK, and it was podiums all round in the top levels of competition. This truly set Birel apart from the competition and made them visible as a highly competitive manufacturer.

More Success And The Great Merging

Further adding to Birel’s star-studded history, the Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica, who had previously raced under the racing reds of Birel, partnered with them to create a brand-new Junior Karting race team in 2009. They were entirely dedicated to educating young kart drivers.

Fast-forward to 2011, and a man named Nicholas Todt decided to launch a new racing project under the name of ART Grand Prix. The goal of this company is to provide assistance to kart drivers in how to better their driving, and how best to progress in the motor racing world.

For three years, ART Grand Prix assisted and guided drivers who were Birel kart owners (think Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Charles LeClerc), and the rest is well and truly history. Aware of this amazing project and seeing the results, Birel approached ART with offers of a partnership, and this was how Birel ART was born.

2014 was the start of something amazing for the kart manufacturer. Birel’s long kart-building and history in the motorsport combined with ART Grand Prix brought a force to be reckoned with into the karting market, as seen when they secured a victory in that same year at the SKUSA SUPERNATIONALS XVIII in Las Vegas with Paolo De Conto as the driver.

To wrap up a very eventful year, Birel ART announced a collaboration with Daniel Ricciardo, a newly emerged yet very competitive Formula 1 driver in the 2014 season. Ricciardo karts were born, and a racing team came soon after.

Ever since, the manufacturer has continued to support kart drivers through all stages of their career and even progressing onto the car racing ladder; all the while building highly competitive go-karts.

Now that you know the decorated and exciting legacy of Birel ART, surely you want to check out the best of their current karts that continue to win them titles out on the track!

I’ve researched the manufacturer extensively and had the pleasure of driving some of their karts, so my picks for their best karts at the moment were pretty easy to make. Check out the current stars of Birel’s line-up!

Birel ART’s Current Range: 3 Karts Reviewed

1. The C-28 S11 Cadet Kart

Through the years, many iterations of the C-28 have brought Birel huge success in youth-level racing, and the S11, the newest model, is no exception!

There was a reason that they were often chosen by up and coming kart racers all over Europe, including future Formula 1 drivers. It all comes down to their focus on driver development and making karts for youth that encouraged that growth.

Compared to the S10, Birel have listened to driver feedback to implement a host of improved features and new aspects to create the most well-rounded kart they can produce for this age category.

Notable Features

  • 28mm moly tubing
  • Re-designed graphics for an “aggressive and elegant look”
  • 4.5L petrol tank
  • Hydraulic CX braking system
  • 950mm wheelbase
  • Optional front and rear stabilizers
  • Versatile steering column

2. The RY30-S11 TaG Kart

There’s little simpler about go-karting than starting your rig and getting straight to the track, and TaG race classes really exemplify that. It’s pretty nice not to think about shifting or gear performance!

Birel’s latest iteration of this senior-level (age 15+) kart has been improved upon over many years of production, and has seen some re-design elements for its S11 form.

These innovations coupled with a winning formula which earned them the most 125cc victories back in the 90s make for a highly competitive kart that looks just as good as it handles out on the track!

Notable Features

  • Overhauled chassis geometry
  • 30mm moly tubing
  • 1045mm wheelbase
  • Hydraulic 1FL brake system
  • 10L fuel tank
  • Magnesium wheel hubs
  • New strengthened floor panel

3. The AM29-S11 Kart

This manufacturing company have thought of everything when it comes to types of kart, and designed the AM29 models to fill the fast-growing 4-cycle engine race class.

The latest iteration of this award-winning kart is highly versatile and easy to tweak for whoever is driving it, which makes it a very worthwhile investment that’ll last a long time; whether it’s for a junior-level racer who grows up, or an adult who’s after a sturdy rig!

Notable Features

  • 28mm and 30mm moly tubing
  • Adjustable wheelbase: 1020mm, 1030mm or 1040mm
  • Floating disc brake system
  • Adjustable spindle positions
  • A choice of 4 rear axles can be fitted
  • Adjustable ride height
  • Black magnesium wheels

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that Birel ART has a colorful, exciting history that truly defines their work to this day, and their karts are just as amazing!

I can’t help but admire a company that focuses on bringing karting to more people to enjoy this amazing sport, and Birel’s focus on rental kart production coupled with certain chassis that won’t break the bank really sets them apart.

Check out their current kart range (there’s a lot to choose from!!), and I really hope that you’re just as enthusiastic as I am!