If you’re even a bit curious about go-karting as a motorsport, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question about how fast they can go. Well, look no further! I’ll take a trip on a go-kart track and reveal all you’ll need to know about kart top speeds.
So, what is the top speed of a go-kart? The top-most speed is of a superkart, reaching 150mph. However, karts possess different engines to compete in varied race categories. As such, the top speed of a kart is dependent on the race category they are involved with.
There’s a lot of variation in go-kart top speeds; even between ones with the same or similar engines. It’s part of what makes the sport so exciting! Before we jump into some solid figures, let me go into some of this motorsport’s background.
Go-Karting History 101
It won’t be like your hour-long high school classes, I promise! But as a go-kart racer across many categories, I know a thing or two about how go-karting as we know it today started. And it’s pretty important to know, as it explains a lot about why speeds are so variable and why we use different engines for racing.
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The man who is widely accepted as the father of go-karting is Art Ingles, an American hot rod racer and race car builder. The first kart he built was completed in the year 1956, making the motorsport over 60 years old!
Karts have been built to a certain standard since manufacturers started to spring up in the late 60s and early 70s, and haven’t deviated from the standard blueprint too much ever since.
To begin with, they were made with modified chainsaw engines (the McCulloch MC-10, to be precise) and later progressed to purpose-built variations since IAME was founded in Italy around the year 1968.
Manufacturers who helped realize the vision of karts as we know them today included Tony Kart, Birel ART and Margay Racing, to name only a handful. They used moly tubing to create the kart chassis, a lightweight material that acted as the kart’s suspension as well as its tough base to hold everything together.
Although the sport truly began in America, European audiences really embraced the sport, as you might expect of a motorsport-crazed continent (just look at Italy!). They started to create varied race divisions after the birth of IAME, because they started to realize that racing a 50cc go-kart against a 150cc kart was hardly a fair fight.
So, race divisions were created for the varied displacements of 2-stroke engines; favored choices of early kart racing days. Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, however, the introduction of the 4-stroke karting engine brought about a whole other factor to set divisions by.
Today, we use 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines divided into their displacement amounts to set racing categories as a universal manner of splitting the divisions. Within those displacements you’ll find different levels of competition, such as beginner classes, intermediate and so on. It’s because of this that karting is a motorsport universally considered to be for everyone.
Example Speeds Of Go-Karts
Now that you’re hopefully a bit more in the know about karting and why there are different engine displacements in play, I think it’s a good time to go over some solid figures for top speed!
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I’ll pick out the fastest kart combinations within all of the engine classifications; 50cc, 100cc, 125cc, 200cc and 250cc. You’ll be able to see direct comparisons in this way!
Also keep in mind that the top speeds I’ll list are recorded and estimated with perfect track conditions, so they’re a bit variable in and of themselves:
- 50cc: Coyote Kryptonite Cadet Kart LO206 Engine – 34mph (limited), 60mph (unlimited)
- 100cc: Top Kart SR30.1 IAME KA-100 – 73mph
- 125cc: CRG Blackwheel Vortex RoK GP Engine – 79mph
- 200cc: Birel Art AM29-S11 World Series Briggs Engine – 71mph
- 250cc: Anderson Racing Maverick 250 National Superkart Yamaha TZ250 Engine – 147mph
Probably the biggest thing you’ve likely noticed from this list is the fact that the 200cc kart is slower than both the 100cc and the 125cc kart I’ve taken top speeds from.
This is due to the fact that 200cc karts cannot handle the torque that a 200cc 2-stroke engine puts out, and all karts in this displacement have to use 4-stroke engines. Top speeds for 4-strokes are lower by a fair amount, because they have to make more rotations to reach the same combustion power as a 2-stroke, which reaches that velocity much quicker.
Another interesting thing to look at is the 50cc go-kart, and how variable the speeds are between limited and unlimited settings.
This is because 50cc is a very common kid kart racing series, and you don’t want 5 or 6-year-old kids zipping around a track at 60mph right off the bat. As such, their engines are limited for early racing series and have these limits removed when they become more experienced.
Top speeds are all well and good, don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing better than hitting the limit of how fast your kart can go on a straight stretch of track! However, there’s a lot more to karting than constantly maxing out your speed.
What To Look For Beyond Top Speed
Picking a kart simply for its high speeds is all well and good, but there are a lot more factors to consider when buying a kart to race!
For one, you want to make sure that maintenance on the kart won’t be a living nightmare every time something goes wrong. 2-stroke engines are the fastest out there, but they encounter a lot more issues, wear and tear than 4-stroke engines do. This is because of the high torque and revs they reach on a constant basis.
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They are, however, easier to fix and easier to find parts for. 4-stroke engines are more reliable and age better than their 2-stroke counterparts, but fixing or replacing parts for them is a bit trickier due to the extra components inside.
This aspect of maintenance is also very important when finding replacement parts for the chassis or other components on the kart. If you’ve bought a Tony Kart, you’ll have to import almost everything from Italy; quite the pricey business. But if you’ve chosen a Top Kart, you’ll find distributors here on US turf, making for a cheaper fix.
You also want to make sure you pick the right chassis for you on a personal level. Are you a taller person? Maybe a bit heavier than average? If so, you’ll want to pick out a chassis with 32mm moly tubing as opposed to the common 30mm variety, to give yourself more stability in the kart.
And remember not to skimp on the little details! Some kart manufacturers have implemented small features that can make a huge wealth of difference, such as Nitro Kart’s kart driving tuition/ community that you become part of when you buy a chassis, or Tony Kart’s non-slip steering wheel as standard.
In short, you want a kart that’ll be reliable, within the realms of being repaired when something goes wrong, a chassis that fits you best, and has little touches that truly make the kart your own. Sometimes, these aspects can mean the difference between a win and a loss on the track, so keep those in mind beyond how fast it can go!
Which Engine Type Would I Choose?
As I touched on briefly before, I’ve spent my fair share of time racing all sorts of karts across all engine displacements and race series. I’ve sat in 50cc, 100cs and 125cc karts the most during my career, due to how niche 200cc and 250cc rigs are, so my focus will be in those areas.
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Each displacement is geared slightly differently for each kart racer and their levels of experience. You can probably guess that the lower displacements, such as 50cc and 100cc, are better for beginners, and higher ones like 125cc and 200cc are best for more advanced drivers.
Limited 50cc karts are designed for kid karting, and unlimited ones are also typically seen for the younger generations improving as racers from their beginner days. However, unlimited 50cc engines are seen on rental karts at most tracks for adults. 60mph isn’t slow by any means!
100cc is the displacement that I’d place a lot of beginner adults in when they’re first getting started. Chassis are typically made of the lighter 30mm moly tubing for this category, making it easier to nip through corners and overall being a bit more forgiving when you bump the barriers.
Now, 125cc is the most popular displacement across all of karting. Due to this, it has the widest spread of expertise among drivers in the karting world. There are adult beginner categories, adult intermediate, adult advanced, cadet beginner, cadet intermediate… everything except kid karting, honestly!
On the higher end of the spectrum, 200cc karting is primarily reserved for experienced adult drivers and very skilled cadet-level drivers. Sure, the 4-stroke engines aren’t the raciest around in this category, but it’s a very competitive sector that requires a wealth of experience to compete in and get the best out of the somewhat slower kart.
250cc superkarts are reserved only for the brave, let me tell you! Maxing out at 150mph is no easy feat, so I’d only consider this class if you’re a highly advanced adult driver who’s competed in many categories previously.
I’d personally choose 125cc every time due to the huge number of drivers who make this displacement their ‘home’. You’ll always have races to attend, and you’ll have a lot of people to be rivals with in order to constantly improve.
Karting is as exciting as it is variable, so I hope that this article has given you more insight into the many ways to compete and have fun! There’s truly something for everybody out there, regardless of the speed you’re after.