Karting in the year 1961: a history

JANUARY 1961

The hopes of the Villiers factory that their 10F 95cc motor would be a success in the direct drive 100cc class faded once pitted against the superior rivals from the USA.

A winter overhaul article covered such items as measuring tyre tread depth in case they needed remoulding and repairing any tears in seat upholstery.

An amazing 52,000 spectators watched a street kart race in Barcelona, Spain, in front of the Royal Palace. The 18 British entries plus supporters and equipment travelled as a group by train. Despite still changing the spark plug when the race started, Lennox Broughton, on a Fastakart/Villiers, caught and passed everyone to win a massive trophy.

We tested the Jo-Kart and found it to be the lightest kart with engine (Clinton E65) that we had tested so far, weighing in at 103lbs (47kg) with a half-full petrol tank. Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon returned their two karts to Trokart to have the Clinton engines fitted with silencers.

FEBRUARY 1961

The Formula Fun Kart Club In the USA had unusual rules such as the engines being limited to 3bhp at 4,000rpm. Silencers with a maximum output of 85dB at 50 feet were compulsory with a gearing of 6:1. No prize money was allowed. Villiers announced a factory Super Sports conversion for the 9E with a claimed 78% increase in power for £13.50. We showed everything that was involved and described the first of two stages being so simple that… “an average housewife could tackle it”! Jim Rathmann marketed a reduction unit for high-revving motors such as the McCulloch. It consisted of an alloy casing containing two triple sprockets connected by three lengths of light chain running in oil. A chain linked the external sprocket to the axle sprocket. An event was held at the Go Kart Raceway at Azusa so that Riverside Records could record top drivers on timed laps for the long playing record ‘KARTS IN ACTION.’ We tested the Cheetah XL from Get Kart fitted with a Stihl SK100 engine.

MARCH 1961

Wolfgang von Trips, a Ferrari Formula One driver, bought an Italkart with two McCullochs. He won the Dutch and British Formula One GPs, and was well placed to take the 1961 World title when he was fatally injured at Monza. There was a bookmaker present at the Three Counties KC kart meeting at Long Marston near Tring but the small number of spectators made the venture unprofitable. A twenty four strong group of enthusiasts travelled from England to the American airbase event at Mannheim in Germany. They won just about all the prizes with Roger Biss, using two McCulloch MC6s, taking four trophies. We carried technical articles on how to raise crankcase compression and maintaining the McCulloch. A Class IV Buckler Space-Kart fitted with a Villiers 9E and 4-wheel brakes was the subject of our track test and we found that it could “mix it with the best of them and can out-corner most” and was of the highest standard of finish and extremely good value.

APRIL 1961

At a meeting in Birmingham it was agreed to form the British Association of Kart Clubs. At St. Louis, USA, the Kart Industry Board was formed and a significant decision was to adopt class capacity limits of 100 and 200cc rather than 5.8 and 11.6 cu.in. The RAC announced that there were 116 kart clubs, 342 kart race meetings scheduled for 1961, and 5100 kart licences. The arrival of the Spanish direct drive 99cc Montesa was to mark the beginning of a very successful period for the motor, particularly when prepared by John Mills, Paul Fletcher or John Brise.

Jim Patronite, who had been a code-breaker for the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Chief Cryptographer, had an accounting practice the clients of which included the Go Kart Manufacturing Co. Realising the need for a firm to supply speciality parts for karts he started Azusa Engineering on April 1st 1961 and was joined by Roy Desbrow in July.

We track tested the Go Kart 900 and inspected the Rathmann Xterminator.

MAY 1961

Keele Kart announced their Sportsman model with a 48in. wheelbase. Without engine, but with an adjustable front axle, it sold for £100. By way of comparison the Aero-Kart mark 111 was £105 complete with Villiers 9E three speed motor. McCulloch started production of their own brand of kart chassis available in versions for racing, family and concession use. The first deliveries of the new McCulloch MC20 motor started to arrive in the U.K.. The rules for the first RAC Kart Championships had regional qualifying rounds to culminate in the finals at Brands Hatch. Roger and John Mills broke the Karting magazine records from the standing 1/4 mile to 50 miles, on a Comet/JLO. The entry at the Cologne City Stadium included the Stihl factory team with Schetter, the German Champion, winning 200cc and beating Maico and Konig powered machines. We modified a pre-production Konig 100cc motor and expected that the production models would incorporate many of the alterations.

JUNE 1961

Attempts on the Karting magazine 200cc records saw J.Moss and Flight Lieutenant Price, MB Wasp/Villiers, cover 100 miles at RAF Dishforth at a 60mph pace. A team from Jersey of Bill Knight, Eric Bisson, Ron Goode, Tico Martino, Tony Sargeant and Peter Wakeham hired the famous banked Montlhery circuit near Paris. Their special carried a spare Villiers motor in case it was required – it was! They recorded a flying mile at 66.12mph and averaged 60.38mph for 6 hours, but failed to complete the 12 hours.

An ingenious multi-class engine was designed by Bert Fruin. The barrels, heads and rods were from 50cc Demm and NSU motorcycles. Using alloy split crankcases and distance pieces, Fruin engines of 50cc, 100cc, 200cc and 250cc could be created.

A new American organisation was launched – Karting for Fun Inc. with a magazine called ‘Track-Facts Digest’. We track-tested a Aero-Kart Mk III fitted with a Villiers Super Sports 197cc engine.

JULY 1961

When Mr Bulto, a senior executive with the Spanish motorcycle firm of Montesa, heard that they were going to stop racing, he resigned and set up his own business called Bultaco. This made Montesa change its mind and the rivalry between the two makes resulted in greatly improved performance. The 175cc Bultaco with four speed gearbox was particularly successful at this time. There were some 400 Rois karts in Brazil, all being 125cc and running in either the Standard class with no external modifications, or Special. A test day of silencers was held at Watford by the British Kart Manufacturers Association. During an interval at the Laguna Seca (near Monterey, California) sports car meeting, 47 karters gained valuable publicity for the sport by racing for 10 laps of the 1.9 mile track in front of 30,000 spectators. Overall winner and 1st in B Super was Bob Sataki on a McCulloch kart with two MC20s at an average speed of 63.3mph.

AUGUST 1961

The fastest time of day at the Rest-and-be-Thankful hill climb in Scotland was put up by Paul Biagi using a Buckler/Bultaco. He was two seconds quicker than the fastest car, a 3.8 litre Jaguar. Thirty-eight years later we came across Paul, still as enthusiastic as ever, living in Tuscany, Italy.

Duffy Livingstone, arch-builder of outrageous specials, built up a GoKart 800 equipped with a Gluhareff G8-2 helicopter jet engine. The standard chassis was fitted with supplementary framework to hold the fuel tank in front of the driver and the engine behind. In 1998 a similar kart was made in Kansas but the performance was disappointing.

Constructed in just three months by Doug Jest, the Rye House kart track opened for business on June 4th, 1961 and attracted 120 entries plus 3000 spectators for a National meeting. The outright record was shared by Terry Forbes and Roger Biss, both using twin McCullochs with identical times.

We tested the British-built Win-Kart fitted with a McCulloch MC20 engine.

SEPTEMBER 1961

The latest tuning mod for the Villiers 9E was the Alpha full circle crank. We track-tested a Trak-Kart Tornado fitted with two Montesa 99cc engines. Soon afterwards, Trak-Kart combined with Brise Karts to form a new concern – their new model being a “most sensational product”.

Bill Davis had been in Mexico when we last heard from him on his ‘Around the World’ trip on a road-equipped Echo Kart powered by two McCullochs. From Paris he now advised that he was using a French Leskokart and had been joined by 28-year-old Stan Mott on an Italian Italkart. Both had trailers and 175cc 4-speed scooter motors. The Atlantic crossing had been by working their passage on a Yugoslavian freighter. They had been to Morocco, Italy and France and would now go to England, Belgium, Scandinavia and Germany. They would return to Africa for the winter and then go to Greece, Yugoslavia, Russia, Japan, Australia, South America, with the four year marathon finishing back at Los Angeles.

OCTOBER 1961

At Shenington the British Kart Club staged the first round of the GPKCA World Championships and had a large entry from the USA. This excellent event was to have a major impact on the development of kart racing in Europe. An indication of what the future would bring was the very rapid Italkart powered by the first kart motor to have rotary valve induction, the Italian Parilla/Saetta V11, driven by Messetti. John Brise won the World Championship l00cc race with a Trak Kart/Montesa from Faye Pierson on a Bug/McCulloch MC10. Bobby Allen of the USA won 200cc with a Fox powered by two McCulloch MC10s. After featuring well with his Keele/Bultaco, Roger Keele retired from the Class IV Final with a seized wheel bearing. Peter Freeman was the victor on a Wackall/Bultaco from Roger Davis on a Bultaco/Maico.

We ran an article on how to tweak the Clinton A490. Three stages of tune were proposed with even the mildest one said to knock 5s off lap times!

NOVEMBER 1961

The RAC Kart Championship, held on a circuit created by utilising some of the service roads at Brands Hatch, was chaotic. The organisation was very poor and the massive baulks of timber used to construct the chicanes resulted in many broken chassis and rear axles. John Brise, former World Stock Car Champion, pressurised his fuel tank by blowing through a tube and won the 100 cc class with a Montesa. The Italian round of the GPKCA World Championship was held at the excellent Pista Rossa track without any UK entries due to the clash of dates with Brands Hatch. Bobby Allen (USA) won 100 cc on a Fox McCulloch and Pernigotti (Italy) won 200 cc with an Italkart McCullochs. Stan Mott arrived at the offices of Karting magazine with his Italkart powered by a ex-Lambretta scooter motor with which he was attempting to drive around the World.

DECEMBER 1961

The GPKCA World Championships were held at Nassau in the Bahamas and three British drivers, Brise, Button and Vereker, took part. Jeff Crumb (USA) won 100cc with a Fox/McCulloch and John Brise came 5th. Bobby Allen (USA) won 200cc, also with a fox powered by two McCullochs. Students from Hatfield College drove the 1080 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groates on an Aero/Villers kart equipped with mudguards, number plates, horn and lights for road use. The American Power Products kart motor commenced manufacture in Italy under the name of Aspera. The price of a new Trokart, complete with Clinton motor, was reduced to just £25! Seven kart clubs associated with the RAF, Navy, Army and BP Oil raced at Aden. The Paris 6 Hourse was held at Thiverval and won by Janoray, Dumond and Verd from the AC du Rhone on a Mercadier kart with McCulloch MC20 motor. The alloy Marcelle conversion barrel for the Villiers was introduced.