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Many Formula One Race Drivers Started their Careers in Go Karts

Updated on January 31, 2024

information on Formula1 racing



Daniel Riciardo no longer races for Red Bull although he is hoping to get back in that team.

A lot has happened since he left that team

Great race Daniel, First place on the podium. That is terrific.Keep it up

Well another year has gone by and now the new kid on the block for Red Bull is Daniel Ricciardo. He also started his career in Go-karts in Western Australia at the age of 9. He has done great so far, first race 2nd, and because of a technicality lost that position and his points, through no fault of his own. It was fuel related.

2nd race was a DNF because of another mechanical fault. The wheel was not put on correctly. Again he was penalized and even though he qualified 3rd, he was given a 10 grid penalty so started 13th.

3rd race he came 4th, so he is really showing the world that he is willing to push. Although I have one problem with the F1 organization. I just hope that no one is injured because of the weight rules. These guys have to lose so much weight to be able to drive that one particular driver cannot even have his water bottle. What if he becomes dehydrated and has an accident. Where does duty of care come in for these drivers?

After the three races, it looks like poor old Sebastian is going to have to fight for his wins now.

Which in my opinion will make him a better driver, because in the past he was in the front all the time without needing any experience at competing because there was no competition. Now he has to fight through the traffic.

Mark Webber Australian Formula 1 Driver finished another year to driving for Red Bull. And has now gone racing Porche cars. Good luck Mark I wish you all the best with this team and hope no more team rules to have to compete with.

Billy karts and Soap box karts

Many formula One Race drivers start their careers in Go Karts at a very early age. They could start driving these go karts as early as five or six years old. In the old days parents and children used to make up a contraption with a wooden box and four wheels which they would tie a rope on the front and often toe it behind their friends bike gradually this improved over the years and became more streamlined.

Soap Box cars (karts)

Step by step they built a shell around it with a seat so it resembled a car. They called them soap boxes or in Australia we called them Billy carts, which would be pushed to the top of any hill the driver would hop in and it would be pushed to start. As you can imagine there were many injuries suffered from this sport because they had no brakes, the higher the hill the faster they would go. In some towns I believe they still have soap box races in some countries.

My son in front. My daughter super imposed on picture of Kalgoorlie race track

Go- karting is a great family sport

Karting has been around for many years. From 1957 to 1984 they started with the home made lawnmower motorized go karts. As technology improved so did the speed of go karts, some with direct drive (no gears).

Types of Kart classes :

  • Rookie’s class- This is usually from 7-12 year olds (boys and girls)
  • Junior National 100- Ages from 12-17 year olds. Junior drivers should complete 12 months in this class before going up into the Junior International class. This is where it starts to become more expensive to be a competitive driver.
  • National 100- Yamaha J motor- you can have any chassis with a restricted tire compound.
  • Clubman Class- Yamaha motor- with any chassis and restricted tire compound- this class is great for the heavier driver and less expensive.
  • Class Australia – gives them choice of motor with a restricted tire compound.
  • Stock Reed- Reed induction motors, now allowed to modify.
  • International Senior and International Junior- These can have any engine, rotary or reed valve with modification. Formula one of 100cc racing. This is for the more tough, and reckless driver with competitive attitude.
  • 135cc-200cc Super Class- You can have a single135cc engine or twin 100cc engines. The pace of this race is fast and furious and you will need to have deep pockets to keep your kart competitive in this class.

Both men and women can drive in all the above classes of go karts.

Editors Note- The above was taken in some degree from the days that my son raced with Garth Tander and also competed in one race in Whyalla, South Australia with Russell Ingall both these drivers competed in the V8 Touring cars. Our son started in soap boxes and progressed to the go karts from ten years of age, and kept us broke until he turned sixteen and then told him he had to pay his own way.

Our son also did some hot laps with John Bowe (inserted picture) in his touring car.

He soon lost interest as we would often spend over a $1000 on a weekend just for tires and bits and pieces. It is not a cheap sport by any means and the go kart engines are not cheap either. It is a great sport where the whole family can be involved. Our daughter took all the go kart photos at the age of sixteen.

Other forms of motor car racing

There are many other classes of motor racing that you can progress to from the go karts. All of these drivers started their careers in motor driving by learning on go karts.

Mark Skaife was born April 3rd 1967 in Gosford, New South Wales. Mark is a five time winner of the V 8 Australian Touring Car Championships and Bathurst 1000.

Mark began racing go karts in 1980 and won his first big race at Amaroo Park in 1984

Russell Ingall was born on February 24th1964 in the United Kingdom. He first won the V8 Supercar championship in 2005. His particular driving style won him the nickname “Enforcer”

Russell also started his racing career at the young age of twelve by racing go karts at Whyalla in South Australia.

Marcos Ambrose was born on September 1st 1976 in Launceston Tasmania. He was the Australian V8 supercar champion in 2003-4. He now races in America in NASCAR.

Marcos began his racing in go karts when he was ten. He was the Australian champion in 1995 in the Clubman heavy Class at Dubbo.

Formula one Drivers

This is where the real challenge begins and the big money is spent. Most of these drivers are contracted to drive for a variety of companies. The rules regarding cars and their drivers appear to change from time to time at the discretion of the powers to be which often causes a lot of controversy. This can result in fines and penalties handed out to drivers and manufacturers alike.

Michael Schumacher was born on January 3rd 1969. He drove for Ferrari during which time he was a seven time World Champion. He is thought to have been the greatest driver in formula one. He retired a few years ago and decided to come out of retirement this year and drive for Mercedes this year.

Michael also started off by driving go karts.

Mark Webber was born on August 27th 1976 in Queanbeyan in New South Wales. He is the only Australian to win a Formula one race since Alan Jones won it in 1981. His achievements have improved in leaps and bounds winning 2 races this year and second last meeting after his team mate put him out.

Mark started of riding motorcycles and changed to go kart racing at the age of 14.

Lewis Hamilton was born on January 7th 1985 in Stevenage Hertfordshire England. He is the youngest ever Formula One World Champion and is currently racing for the McLaren Mercedes team. He was a child that knew what he wanted and told Ron Dennis at the McLaren team that he wanted to drive for him at the age of ten.

He also started driving go karts when he was six years old.

There are many more successful stories of how racing car drivers started their careers in go karts. It is a great family sport, although it is not a sport for everybody as it will stretch your budget. If you are a motor fanatic then this could be the best way to start your career off.

Billy and John Bowe After hot lap at barbagallo Raceway

After the lap Billy Said it was "Best drive ever"
After the lap Billy Said it was "Best drive ever"

© 2010 Eileen hughes


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