When you ask someone who is not a fan of motorsports or racing in general, when they hear the term go-kart, the first thing that comes to mind are go-karts that you would usually see in an indoor track.
However, the power and overall performance of those go-karts do not even come close to what go-karts are truly capable of. This gap in performance is most evident in the top speed achieved. So, let us look at the rental go-karts we find often and see it’s disparity to the top-of-the-line go-karts that compete and local and international competitions.
If you’re simply looking to have a good time with friends, then rentals are the way to go. These can be usually found at indoor go-kart tracks and are a cheap option for casual racing. Most rental karts are equipped with a 200cc 4-stroke engine and its power is restricted for safety reasons. For kid karts, they can achieve a top speed of 40kph, with the karts for adults topping out at 70kph. Keep in mind however that because indoor go-karts have little space to work with compared to outdoor tracks, it is rare to hit the top speed as the tracks often feature a lot of tight corners and very short straightaways for the track to fit within the space given.
Now, let’s go slightly out of our budget and talk about racing karts with 125cc 2-stroke engines. These engines are known as Touch and Go (TaG) engines, meaning there is no transmission, and the engine simply needs to be started and you are good to go. Karts with these engines are ones that compete in karting championships across the globe. Like the rental karts, some engines are often restricted for safety reasons, which limits the top speed of these 2-stroke engines to 112kph. Without such restrictions, the engine can reach up to 120kph! In terms of top speed, there is already a big difference between rental karts and true racing karts. And while it is easy to argue that this is only in terms of top speed, 2-stroke engines on average carry more speed over the course of a lap (50-70 kph) compared to 4-strokes (25-40 kph)
Last but certainly not the least, we have shifter karts. When it comes to racing karts, these are the fastest. As the name suggests, shifter karts have a transmission. This gives the shifter an advantage over the TaG karts since the engine hits the redline (also known as the maximum revolutions or revs the engine can produce) less often. This means that not only can they achieve higher top speeds, but they also possess substantially better acceleration. Their transmission is 6 speed, meaning it has 6 gears. As for the engines they use, they are like the ones used in the racing karts that we mentioned earlier, meaning that they have the same 125cc 2-stroke engine. And just like the TaG karts, these engines are either restricted or unrestricted depending on the championship you participate in. As for a shifter kart’s top speed, it can get close to 130kph restricted, and 160kph without the restrictor. And as for the average speed over the course of a lap, shifters have an average speed of about 80-100kph.
So that is the top speed as well as the average speed of racing karts. If those numbers were not enough to impress you, remember that a race is a marathon not a sprint. Drivers face these high speeds not just over one lap, but over the course of many laps. Combine that with the fact that they battle with their competitors on track and the intense weather conditions at play, karting is truly an intense sport.