There are lots of different karting classes and categories, so it can be quite confusing for beginners. They can also be defined in different ways, adding to the confusion. So, it helps to check out a simplified list of the different kart racing classes.
The 6 different go-kart racing classes are:
- 50cc Kid Karts
- 60cc Cadet Karts
- 100cc TaG Karts
- 125cc TaG Karts
- 125cc Shifter Karts
- 250cc Superkarts
Depending on your area and level of involvement you want to participate in, there’ll probably be a lot more than this somewhat small list mentioned above. But these are the most common/easiest classified classes out there, and we go into more detail about each one below.
Kart Racing Formats
The most commonly thought of and most popular kart racing format is the sprint-style race. Tracks range between a quarter mile up to almost 2 miles, depending on location.
Participating in a sprint race will have you taking part in a number of kart racing sprints around the track for good lap times and track position. You will typically have a qualifying session, where the best lap time lands 1st place on the starting grid for the main event. Then, you’ll race in 15-minute sprints to ascertain a winner.
Some races will only have a qualifying run followed by one sprint race, but a lot will rely on two, three, or even four sprint races before averaging the results to determine a winner. It all depends on how your specific race series organizes things, because even though race classes are universal to a point, every class and sub-division does things differently.
Most international race series utilize this format of racing, one example being the Karting World Championship. It is highly popular in the West and East Coasts of the United States, with decent popularity scattered in between.
In this race format the sessions last for a longer period, highly dependent on the specific race series, with the longest rivalling Le Mans and gunning for 24 hours of constant kart driving! Endurance races typically last for 30-60 minutes.
As you can imagine, raw speed is not the most important factor, as race strategy, driver consistency and kart reliability play huge roles. Commonly nicknamed “enduro” in the US, the formats split somewhat between sprint enduro (30-minute races) and laydown enduro (45-minute races). You’ll find that this format is commonly held on normal road circuits.
Of the bunch, endurance racing is usually considered one of the more cost-effective ways to jump into karting. After all, you won’t be maxing speeds with an endurance kart, meaning that their component parts will last longer and will generally be more reliable. Note that, depending where you are, Enduro and Endurance karting may be defined differently.
Commonly known as oval karting, this race format takes place on oval tracks, which are shorter than sprint varieties, ranging between 150 yards and a quarter of a mile.
Specific karts have been designed for this style of racing, very popular in the South and Mid-West of the US. They possess an ‘offset’ chassis to allow for more precise maneuvering in competitions featuring only left turns.
Speedway races vary between 4 laps and 20 laps, with the longer races being used for feature/main events. Depending on the governing organization, you’ll see heat races or timed lap qualification. IKF runs the former, and WKA runs the latter.
What Are The Different Classes Of Kart Racing?
Due to how differently endurance and speedway karts are designed, they have their own categories for racing. The former format doesn’t split classes by engine displacement, for example, and the latter is split only by age group. The more complicated and varied race classes are found in the sprint format, which is easily the most popular worldwide, not just in the US.
As such, I’ll spend my time going over and explaining the sprint format race classes. Every area will have a slightly different way of organizing races and might have specialist classes, so it’s impossible to cover every single one. However, we’ll go through the main ones below.
The 6 Different Kart Racing Classes
1. 50cc Kid Karts
This category is reserved for kid karting, the affectionately-named pastime for children to first jump into motorsport. You’ll also find these 50cc engines, although unrestricted, on some adult rental karts. But as far as races go, kids will dominate this class.
The biggest thing to remember with kart racing is that, in sprint formats, there are umbrella classes and then race series that are found underneath. These race series are split depending on the engine used with the kart.
As an example, within 50cc kid karting you’ll find the IAME Comer C51 series and Honda GX35 series, along with the more niche Rotax series (although typically with different engine displacement).
In the US, kids can first start karting when they’re age 5, and this class stretches until they turn 7 years old. Some places might use weight classifications, but most race series and classes will split everything up using age groups.
Beginner kart drivers in this category will use what’s called a restricted or limited 50cc engine on their kart, to keep top speeds around the 30 mph mark. As they build their experience within this category, they have the option of their engine being unrestricted so that they can enter intermediate or advanced kid kart races, hitting speeds in the realms of 40 or 50 mph.
2. 60cc Cadet Karts
This class of racing is set aside for the cadet age range, which spans between the age of 7 and 12. A lot of places around the US further divide this in order to make it fairer all round, but generally the only difference is in the engines used in the early ages compared to the later ages in this category.
You’re very likely to find the Micro (age 7-9) and Mini (age 9-12) classes here. This is the same regardless of the engine manufacturer you use, due to the fact that IAME and Rok, the two biggest engine manufacturers used in the cadet class, made appropriately named products to fit the new split.
The Engines Used
This race class is split into many strands, similar to the 50cc kid karting class, and the biggest ones are the IAME Micro and Mini Swift, plus the Rok Micro and Mini Vortex. The Micro engines reach 50 mph, and the Mini engines can hit up to 60 mph.
Experience level is also taken into account with the 60cc class, so even with the two separate age ranges, you’ll find beginner, intermediate and advanced brackets to add an extra layer of fair competition to the mix.
In order to accurately asses a driver’s ability and to make sure that they’re placed into the correct experience level bracket, you can expect there to be some forms of kart driving tests before they’re officially entered into the race. Otherwise, everybody races in the category that their engine fits into, and this is seen more commonly in the older age brackets of karting.
3. 100cc TaG Karts
You may or may not see this racing class in your area, as it largely depends on your local racing scene. It’s considered the stepping stone between lower engine displacements and the highly popular, most commonly seen 125cc engines.
TaG is a very common term in the karting world, and it stands for ‘Touch and Go.’ They’re electric-start karts without a shifting feature, making them highly attractive for the simplicity of the rigs.
TaG vs Shifter
This is why you’ll see stuff like 125cc TaG and 125cc Shifter series, because the latter has a gearbox and needs its own race class to reflect that. Gearboxes deliver more variable torque, and therefore higher speeds.
Most commonly, you’ll see 100cc racing classes among junior-level kart drivers, between the ages of 12 and 15. This is also a good class to enter if you’re an adult beginner, because the slightly lower displacement means a lighter kart overall, and a more forgiving racing experience.
It’s Often Skipped
Overall, 125cc race classes pretty much overwhelm the 100cc class in terms of popularity. A lot of race series completely skip the 100cc class and jump straight to 125cc for junior drivers.
This race class will be split dependent on the engine used, as per every other class, and the most common ones are Yamaha KT100 and IAME KA100 engines.
4. 125cc TaG Karts
Easily the most popular and commonly seen kart racing classes involve 125cc engines, especially when it comes to the TaG category. Within this class, you’ll see junior drivers and adult drivers of all abilities. The junior category is between the ages of 12 and 15, and the senior category (AKA adults) is for anyone above 15-years-old.
The biggest difference between junior and senior classes of racing is the lack of a restricted exhaust in the senior classes. Otherwise, they use the same 125cc engines, which really pack a punch! Top speeds in the realms of 70 and 80 mph make them an exciting rig to race with.
The Most Common Engines
At this level, you’ll start to see Rotax lining up with normal race classes as they predominantly develop 125cc engines. You’ll normally see divisions for the IAME X30 engine, Rok TT engine and Rotax Max EVO engine.
In most cases, both the junior and senior levels will have different experience brackets to make things a bit fairer overall, especially for the seniors. Beginner adults jumping into this class and racing against hardened kart drivers is hardly fair! Overall though, you’ll have the best luck finding packed race series within this class, no matter your level of experience.
5. 125cc Shifter Karts
Unlike the previous class, which is very open and available for all kinds of junior racers and senior racers alike, shifter kart racing is typically reserved for experienced drivers who’ve spent a lot of time racing in previous classes. Anybody can learn how to use a gear shifter, but it helps if you’ve had a history of driving manual or ‘stick’ vehicles before.
It’s part of why this class became so popular with intermediate and advanced adult kart drivers. Most of it, however, is linked to these kinds of drivers wanting an extra level of challenge when it comes to racing, and most importantly for many, a higher top speed.
The Use Of A Gearbox
Due to how a gearbox handles an engine’s torque, you get more control over your speed when using one. The torque is converted appropriately to the correct gear, minimizing overrevving and maximizing speed. Lower gears for higher acceleration make overtaking far easier too, making this class an exciting one to watch!
Common Engines In This Class
Engines that split the 125cc shifter class into different race series include the Honda CR125, IAME Shifter, Rok Vortex Shifter and the Rotax Max DD2 EVO.
You can hit in excess of 80 mph in these karts, with some builds reaching up to 90 mph! It’s a great class for the most exciting races out there, but due to the higher top speeds and more variables to focus on, you should absolutely be around the intermediate level of driving ability before jumping into this category.
6. 250cc Superkarts
Going from 125cc to 250cc is quite a jump in displacement. This is due to a few reasons, primarily because 150cc kart racing is very rare (only seen in master class driving) and 200cc go-karts are barely drivable unless they have a 4-stroke engine.
The next biggest kart racing series is therefore the superkart series, a machine with insane top speed thanks to its 250cc engine. In the US, this class of racing is pretty rare, but there are some 250cc kart series around.
Very Different Beasts
Unlike the go-karts you’re probably used to, a superkart has more bodywork and looks more like a race car, just of a much smaller size. The bodywork is designed with optimized aerodynamics in mind, and the kart’s composition is almost as important as the powerful engine for giving it top speeds of 140+ mph.
Only a handful of manufacturers exist for this class, and everybody races in the same division. It isn’t separated by engine type like the rest of go-karting is, primarily due to how comparatively small engine differences are and also due to the smaller following.
Engines & Experience Level
The engines you can use for this race class are the Honda RS250, Yamaha TZ250 and the BRC250. Superkart races are hosted by the IKF and US Superkarts Championship. In terms of driver ability, you should definitely be an experienced kart driver before deciding to delve into this race class.
There are many different classes, categories, and subdivisions of go-karting, with a large factor in the variation and ones available being where you are located. Different regions will host different series of racing, but the most popular tends to be the 125cc class.