Karting in the year 1962: a history

JANUARY 1962

Motor Karts marketed a conversion kit that included a new chassis, steering, rear axle and all other necessary parts to convert their out-dated Wasp kart into the new Shrike version, all for a modest £40. At this time there was a world-wide depression in karting activity, with USA sales being down by a massive 60% compared with 1960. As a result a group of American kart and equipment manufacturers got together to form an organisation called Karting International with a sensible set of rules for a class structure based on driver age, engine capacity, kart plus driver minimum weight, and whether the engines were stock or modified. We carried an article on tuning the McCulloch MC20, resorting to cutting a brand-new one in half to be able to best illustrate some of the modifications! The subject of the Karting Track Test was the British-built Get Kart C62. Two engines were tried, an Aspera AH58 that provided karting “at its most satisfying” and a Saetta/Parilla.

FEBRUARY 1962

‘Red’ Crise closed down the Grand Prix KC of America to concentrate on breeding Boxer dogs. His ‘GPKC of Bahamas’ would organise the World Champs. The Racing Car Show had 60,000 visitors and the Karting magazine stand was very popular. Exhibits included the Trak-Kart Starfire kart and the McCulloch R1 kart. Twelve British drivers competed before 60,000 spectators at the Spanish GP in the streets of Barcelona. Claude Prax from France won 100cc with Doug Jest coming 4th. An Italian, Enzo Baldi, won 125cc and the Spanish driver Alcala took the 200cc honours with a Bultaco powered machine. Carl Bonner joined Glen Davis and Stan Mott in their round the world drive on karts converted for road use. They had reached Tangier in Morocco and were about to head off through the likes of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya on their way to Cairo in Egypt. New engines announced were the McCulloch MC1, West Bend 58007 and Power Products AH61. The M.B. Super Shrike was track tested.

 MARCH 1962

Famous for their outboard motors, West Bend announced the 99cc 610 model. The timing was bad for the competition was very fierce and the sport was about to experience an economic downturn. They had made engines for the McCulloch lawn mower that was withdrawn on safety grounds. This resulted in thousands of cheap motors being available for the Californian kart pioneers. Rye House staged their first meeting for those under 16 years. Tim Brise, aged 8 and son of John Brise, was one of several who put in very rapid laps. The Sim-Kart, with two l00cc JLOs driving a gearbox, was the first to take advantage of new rules allowing such machines in the gearbox classes. The Belgian father and son F1 drivers, Andre and Teddy Pilette, produced a kart chassis, the Teddy-Kart, that divided into three sections for easy transport in a car boot or similar. We track tested a Villiers-powered, chrome-plated Avenger kart produced by Chester & Morris of Beeston, Nottingham.

APRIL 1962

Karting International, one of several controlling bodies for North American karting, had a regulation that required new engines to be announced by March 1st if they were to be allowed to race in the following 12 months. The manufacturers naturally waited until just before the deadline to launch their latest models with McCulloch introducing their MC2, MC7 and MC3O. The Aden Kart GP was held at RAF Khormaksar over 200 laps of the 590 yard circuit. The winners were Italian, Biesuz and Emiliani, on a Silvercar with two Garelli motors. Despite having a price tag of only £38, the piston-timed French l00cc Ydral H60 engine enjoyed a very limited sales success. We track-tested the Trak-Kart Starfire with its glassfibre shell and Saetta engine and were surprised by its performance – “no kart weighing so much should lap so fast!” – considering it weighed 148lbs, 40 to 50lbs more than other single-engined karts. We showed how to modify a West Bend engine using many tuning accessories from Go Power.

MAY 1962

After the launch of the low priced 100cc Ydral, the French followed up with another motor, the Erikaze GC5O. With 11bhp at 9000rpm for £67.50 this was an increase of 70% in power and price over the Ydral. The track test of the Italkart Record 62, powered by two Komet K12s, described this as a magic combination that would be hard to beat. An article claimed that track performance depended approximately 60% on the power/weight ratio, 25% on driver skill and 15% on the handling. The first meeting of the newly constituted FIA Kart Committee took place in Paris on March 5th with representatives from France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. The committee agreed how it would operate in the future and revised the regulations for international kart meetings for 1962.

JUNE 1962

Dick Chester, manufacturer of the Avenger kart and organiser of the first kart races at Donington still in its pre-war configuration, launched a short-lived British Karting Board of Control to try to break away from the RAC. Although the British had more race wins than the French at Carpiquet, the home team won on points. The British squad included the very rapid Roy James of Great Train Robbery fame. In order to take part he had discharged himself from hospital against his doctor’s wishes, following a car crash.

Despite the Italian 100cc Gilardi engine having no less than five carburettors it could not match the performance of the Komet K12. With the benefit of hindsight one can now identify that this was when Italian karts and engines took over from those made in the USA. We wondered why the number of lady drivers had dropped off so dramatically compared to the first twelve months of British karting when most race meetings had included special races for them.

JULY 1962

The Paris 6 Hours race was held at the superb Thiverval circuit with the fuel supplied free of charge and excellent prizes awarded not just to the winners but to every finisher. The four British entries, which included a Keele kart powered by the then new 99cc Bultaco, suffered from mechanical woes and spent most of the time in the pits, finishing 32nd, 35th, 38th and 40th out of the fifty teams. The French Star Kart Club entry, using a McCulloch MC30 motor, climbed from 43rd to win after making eleven pit stops with each lasting just 12 seconds. They completed 206 miles at an average speed of 34.3mph.

With only seven delegates attending and the RAC showing little interest in the discussion, the Kart Club Conference was a depressing affair.

We took a look inside the Saetta V11 and V12 models, noting the similarities between the two engines and doubting the claims that the V12 was 3hp more powerful than the beautifully finished V11.

AUGUST 1962

The Britain versus France match at St. Servan underlined the need for a minimum weight rule for kart plus driver for fair competition. The total weight of the French team and their equipment undercut that of the GB squad to such an extent that the French would have needed to have carried ballast equal to that of the driver to have parity with the Brits. Needless to say, the French won and the lesson on the importance of the power to weight ratio was rammed home.

Mickey and Pat Flynn of the Lakenheath Kart Club ran their second annual ‘Lil 500’ on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 with a series of 50 mile races for each class. Performances of particular note were put up by Bobby Alderdice and George Bloom who would both go on to become British Champions using Fox karts.

We published a list of engines and how many could be used in each class to be eligible for trophies under the RAC kart regulations.

SEPTEMBER 1962

The Dreux Kart Club entered two karts, each powered by a JLO LK101 motor in the French Kart Club de Loire 24 hours race. They came home 1st and 2nd, the winner having covered 2360 laps. The Orly club won the Hard Luck Cup having replaced four flywheels and eight condensors on their DEM motor, welded the crank, fitted 5 sets of pistons, welded the mount and chassis and replaced a wheel yet still didn’t come last! In the USA the International Committee for Development of Formula Four Racing published rules for what were, in effect, 250cc karts with bodies. Gordon Diplock created the rear drive Katy II, a successor to Katy I, the first British front-engined kart.

OCTOBER 1962

Tico Martini, a rapid racer and a mechanic at the Jersey rental kart track, built a kart equipped with a 650cc Triumph motor bike engine for hill climbs. In an attempt to widen their product range, several American kart firms marketed Hydro-Karts which were single seater boats powered by kart motors. A well supported Dutch International was held at Utrecht. The 200cc with gearbox class was won by Chris Merlin on a Super Shrike Villiers.The100cc entries included Roy James of Great Train Robber fame. He finished in 7th place with the win going to Pernigotti on a Italkart Komet. Secret experimental projects undertaken by Bug included a rotary valve hub that altered the timing according to the rpm and a slide carb with diaphragm pump. A statement from the British Karting Board of Control announced that they sought a more democratic control of karting.

NOVEMBER 1962

Azusa Raceway in California, the first kart track in the world, was by now showing its age with its narrow width and bumps. Financial difficulties forced the closure of Go Kart and presumably their collection of historic karts stored among the roof timbers went for scrap. Nearby were two firms that would survive the downturn in business and are still going strong, Bug Karts and Azusa Engineering. The superb French Chriskart set new standards for lightness, weighing just 59lbs complete with McCulloch MC7 engine.

DECEMBER 1962

The G.P. of Europe at Lausanne in Switzerland was won by Guido Sala (of the Birel clan) on a Bug/Saetta. Those hoping for a British made gearbox class engine were cheered by Villiers producing the four speed 250cc Star-Maker with twin carburettors. In Class 1 Special at the RAC Champs at Long Marston, every driver broke down in the final and it was a race to see who could repair their kart first. The eventual winner was excluded for refuelling! The Bitsatube kart made by father and son, George and Paul Fletcher, was very successful with its potent 99cc Montesa motor. Honda produced a kart with a 50cc motor and six speed gearbox.