In the world of go-karting, there are certain brands that stand out among the many who contribute to the industry at large. Among that number of manufacturers is the prestigious Tony Kart, starting from humble beginnings in an Italian man’s workshop and growing into a worldwide phenomenon.
Tony Kart is an Italian brand with a very long and decorated history, winning numerous karting championships and developing several record-breaking chassis over the years. Tony Kart began as a company back in 1958, and they remain one of the most popular kart brands today.
As somebody who’s owned one of their karts, I’m going to look at Tony Kart’s many triumphs and notable points that have made them so great over the years. Join us as we take a look at the rich history of Tony Kart below.
The History Of Tony Kart
The iconic Tony Kart name isn’t just a cool and easily-remembered little tagline by any means. It all started back in 1958 when Antonio “Tony” Bosio saw pictures of makeshift ‘go-karts’ from the United States and tried to recreate them for himself in the tiny Italian town of Prevalle.
His nickname eventually became the branding and company name for these hand-crafted karts. It’s what happens when everybody in your town starts to know you as Tony Kart!
Antonio was far from highly educated, opting to keep his elementary school diploma and simply work on the farms around his town, but he had a great knack for inventing helpful things. Part of why he was so confident about his abilities to make a go-kart from nothing but a photograph was because he previously fashioned an emergency repair vehicle to aid broken-down tractors.
When you can slap together a vehicle out of nothing but spare parts and four Vespa wheels, a go-kart seems pretty easy to envisage!
After he made his very first kart, Tony converted his three-story shop where he sold spare parts for farm machinery into an inventor’s lab for go-karts. It was here that he figured out how to make brake calipers for the first time, among many other astounding discoveries that are now commonplace on every kart created worldwide.
Getting Some Help
The little kart-making business grew when Antonio started accepting apprentices from around the town, mostly nothing more than 16-year-olds looking to learn a trade. That was how a great deal of costs were kept low, and the true heart of Tony Kart was born.
Learning directly from Tony himself was how the handmade kart chassis and parts were consistently made to such a high quality, and it was these apprentices who would shape the brand going forward. One such man, Cecco Winkart, started working with Tony in 1977, and he’s done many an interview where he described his days working with the man himself.
A large part of how Tony could make money was by being a mobile repair service at go-kart races, and Cecco recalls various occasions where they’d pack fruit boxes full of all their tools to make some money in repairs to keep developing new karts back at the workshop.
Until 1984, Tony Karts could only be found in that tiny Italian town. It’s pretty crazy to think about that now, given how widespread these karts are today. But in 1984, all of that started to change. Italy was taken over by the karting craze that originally emerged in the 60s and 70s, and before long, most places were using Antonio’s humble hand-made karts.
He couldn’t keep up with the demand in his small workshop/laboratory, and the fateful decision came that they would move to somewhere bigger to really allow the developed brand to take off.
The new headquarters was kept in Prevalle, but all of a sudden Antonio had so much more space to work with alongside his trained apprentices and various workers he’d picked up over the years. Not only was the decision for the move made to afford more working space, but Tony had decided that he wanted to bring his karts to more and more people.
There was a distinct shift in business tone, from an artisan workshop to focusing on technology and development. 1984 was also the year that the maker of these karts decided to invest in material research, and this decision ultimately led to so many kart manufacturers now using materials such as magnesium in the construction of kart parts.
And last but not least in the list of huge developments within the company, Antonio developed new karts and had all of the chassis painted green – the same green that is still used to this day!
The Tony Kart Racing Era
Only two years after the company’s move to a bigger location, Tony Kart reaped the rewards with their first ever World Championship victory using their Grand Prix chassis in 1986. This was still a time when Tony Kart wasn’t involved directly in the go-kart racing scene and simply made karts that were picked up by drivers to compete independently, but that was all about to change.
After a collection of other victories consecutively from 1986 through to 1989 in different karting categories, Tony Kart took the plunge and started a dedicated racing department, with the birth of the Tony Kart Racing Team.
The Tony Kart Racing Team
They were allowed to work both with and independently of the Tony Kart manufacturers, which in turn meant that they had direct access to the best innovations in karting and also had the free rein to compete in many categories across Europe.
Tony Kart equipped their racing team with a fleet of specialized trucks for kart transport and purpose-built workshop tents, which meant that the team’s official drivers were well-looked after to say the least!
Being signed with Tony Kart Racing was any competitive kart driver’s dream, with the equipment and karts being top-notch, and the well-organized nature of the race team themselves.
Some Notable Drivers
Starting in 1990, the racing team scouted and signed many promising kart drivers who brought them victory after victory, including several future Formula 1 legends. Big names, from Michael Schumacher to Jarno Trulli, proudly wore the red, white, and green colors of Tony Kart, and they were afforded every opportunity to become phenomenal with the race team’s help.
Only a year after the racing team’s founding, Tony Kart manufacturers released the iconic Formula chassis model, which would go on to hold the most accolades and victories in the company’s history.
The Formula Chassis
From 1991 until 2001, the Formula chassis won national and international championships back-to-back and it truly defined the branding and reputation of Tony Kart more than anything else. The now-infamous green chassis was becoming so popular in Italy and on a worldwide level that Tony Kart had to open a new factory facility near their headquarters to cope with demand in 1992.
Following the opening of this state-of-the-art developmental factory, 1993 saw the introduction of 3D design systems, which went on to improve the quality assurance of each chassis without each one being hand-made. Every raw material made was rigorously tested for integrity and then shaped to exact specifications every single time.
Tony Kart’s Innovation Era
It was from the intense developmental period following the founding of the racing team that Tony Kart manufacturers really found their rhythm of excellence. 1994 saw the introduction of the Esprit chassis, which was an improved Formula chassis with a stiffer composition. Year after year, the manufacturers produced fantastic karts that kept winning championships.
A more off-the-wall win came in 1997 when the Australian driver James Courtney insisted on his kart being designed with a 50 mm axle. He absolutely dominated his FIA World Championship category and it made Tony Kart consider the axle choice more closely.
To both commemorate Courtney’s win and keep driving for excellence, the company changed its default axle size to 50 mm from that point onwards, and it’s still made as such to this day.
As of 2003, Tony Kart was truly notorious within the karting field and their production demand was soaring. They made the decision to once more expand their headquarters, opting this time to design the whole building from scratch and allowing for an even better purpose-built location for delivering exceptional karts to the world.
The new plant, remaining in Prevalle in honor of the brand’s roots, became the global hub of the OTK Kart Group chassis division. In the same year, Tony Kart designed another of their front-running chassis that is still used in different variations today – the Racer. Tied with the Formula chassis, the Racer in all its forms has won the most world and national titles of any Tony Kart creation.
Tony Kart In the Modern Era
Finally, after years of securing most of the world titles on offer, Tony Kart had secured victories in every major category around the globe in the year 2008. They won the CIK-FIA World Championship KF1, CIK-FIA European Championship KF1, CIK-FIA World Cup KF2 and the CIK-FIA European Championship KF2.
Shortly after these remarkable triumphs, in the year 2009, Tony Kart manufactured the M4 chassis model, which was the first one they’d ever made to be tested and produced inside of a wind tunnel to achieve the best aerodynamics.
The Quality Control Program
And on the back of this innovation, 2010 saw the introduction of the Tony Kart Quality Control program. This was a set of regulations that were to be followed for absolute excellence to be achieved in every product that they manufactured.
The most recent accolade of note beyond the consistent karting championship wins is when, in 2016, the Tony Kart Racing Team expanded from a kart-specific avenue into motorsports across the spectrum. They are now a fully-fledged racing team that can be found in many motorsport divisions worldwide.
KEY POINTS• Tony Kart began as a small workshop in 1958
• It has grown into one of the most successful karting brands of all time
• They have won titles in every major karting division worldwide
Top 3 Tony Kart Models
1. Tony Kart Racer 401R
The prototypes for this beauty ran in early 2000, with the winning chassis making its debut in late 2003/early 2004. Ever since, there’s been so much success with new iterations of this build that Tony Kart have kept it going even after almost 20 years since its first run on the track.
- ‘High-grip’ steering wheel
- 30 mm molybdenum steel tubing
- Front spoiler
- Iconic green-base chassis
- Specially developed ‘Ergal’ calipers
- Made specifically for gearbox categories
- One-piece chain guard
2. Tony Kart Krypton 801R
Although the Racer chassis has seen most of the spotlight worldwide for its impressive victories, the Krypton chassis has been designed and made with every main component from all previous builds for optimal performance and quality. Specifically designed for the highest levels of competition and kart racing, the Krypton is the absolute pinnacle in its category.
- 32 mm molybdenum steel tubing
- ‘High-grip’ steering wheel
- Front spoiler
- Evolved BSD braking system
- Specially developed ‘Ergal’ calipers
- Flexible performance in both gearbox and non-gearbox categories
- One-piece chain guard
3. Tony Kart Rookie EV
Not only has Tony Kart seen countless successes in adult categories of karting, but their junior and children’s division karts are seen to offer the same level of excellence and innovation too.
Their newest iteration of the Rookie chassis, designed for Mini kart series (ages 9-13 on average), has been revolutionized to not only include extra safety measures, but also to replicate the immense racing pedigree of the Racer.
- Adaptable chassis geometry
- Adjustable seat supports for easier height adjustments
- BSM4 mechanical braking system
- 28 mm molybdenum chrome steel tubing
- Alcantara-covered steering wheel
- Fully adjustable camber and caster
After the beginnings of Tony Kart in 1958, we’ve seen nothing but continued excellence and passion for go-karting in every chassis they create. They’re one of the most decorated karting brands around, and it’s likely that they’ll continue winning trophies for many years to come.