With so many karting classes out there – and so many different karts within each class – when buying your first, it’s hard to know what to invest in.
Having been involved in karting for many years, I’ve seen that any main brand of chassis, if set up correctly and driven well, will be more than capable of taking wins at any level. However, there is a pattern of which karts seem to be favourable in each respective category.
Here are my unbiased opinions on the best karts to hunt for in each class…
Bambino class (ages 6-8)
Best chassis: Zip Kart
Bambinos are at the bottom of the chain of karting, and almost certainly the first chance kids will get to drive a kart. There are fewer Bambino chassis available compared to most other classes due to how recently this class was introduced.
Ever since its inception, the Zip Kart chassis has been the weapon of choice for most Bambino drivers. Zip has a great pedigree in karting, especially amongst youngsters. The now defunct Zip Young Guns Racing Team was legendary for churning out awesome young drivers on their Zip chassis.
Cadet class (ages 8-13)
Best chassis: Synergy
Back in the days when I raced Cadets (late 2000s), the Project One chassis was almost the only chassis that was used by anyone in the UK. Its simplicity and ease of use meant it had a stronghold on the UK market, and it still goes well to this day.
However, since the rise and rise of the Fusion racing team at developing rapid young drivers, and their affiliation with the Synergy chassis, tastes in Cadet racing have shifted in favour of Synergy. It now seems to be the chassis to have, winning almost every major title in the past few years.
Junior class (ages 11-17)
Best chassis: Compkart/Fullerton
This category of racing for drivers aged between 11-17 is one of the most competitive and popular. Grids at most club meetings are regularly in the 30s, and the standard of driving is always high. It seems in juniors that the number of popular chassis are fewer, but there is less of a monopoly by any single manufacturer.
Tonykart, Compkart/Fullerton and Mad Croc are among the most popular chassis currently in the UK. The Compkart/Fullerton seems to be just slightly easier to drive than their rivals, and are becoming ever more popular year-on-year. For that reason, I think it is the kart to have at the junior level.
Senior class (age 16+)
Best chassis: OTK/Tonykart
In the senior category, there is a similar situation to juniors, with several chassis that are currently successful. British champion Danny Keirle and Kartmasters winner Ben Barnicoat both achieved their championships on the Fullerton (also branded as Compkart). However, looking at the results and entry lists of all high-level series, it becomes apparent that the most popular chassis is still the OTK (Tonykart and its other branded chassis).
The reason the Tonykart is so popular is that its shape and design have changed very little since they developed the Racer line over 10 years ago. The chassis is soft and user-friendly, allowing you to pretty much put a standard setup on the kart and know you will be close enough to compete at almost every circuit. It’s also so widely used that finding parts and getting setup advice is easy.
Short circuit gearbox (age 16+)
Best chassis: Sodikart
Short circuit gearbox karting is a slightly more niche market; it's often hailed as the closest you can get to F1 levels of performance shy of F1 itself. The way the karts are driven is quite different to their direct drive cousins due to the four-wheel brakes and the amount of torque provided by having six gears. At World and European levels, there are representatives from every manufacturer, but Sodikarts always seem to rise to the top. Sodikart have never shied away from pushing the envelope and being innovative with their design and concepts, but they almost always seem to deliver in this category.
As a beginner, it’s often easy to get caught out by salesmen telling you their chassis is the best thing since sliced bread, and there are a dizzying number of different karts to choose from. But while all chassis have their advantages and disadvantages, the chassis above will almost always deliver, and should give you one less thing to worry about while you're chasing your first win.