Art Ingels is generally accepted to be the father of karting. A veteran hot rodder and a race car builder at Kurtis Kraft, he built the first kart in Southern California in 1956. Karting has rapidly spread to other countries, and currently has a large following in Europe.
The first kart manufacturer was an American company, Go Kart Manufacturing Co. (1958). McCulloch was the first company, in 1959, to produce engines for karts. Its first engine, the McCulloch MC-10, was an adapted chainsaw 2-stroke engine. Later, in the 1960s, motorcycle engines were also adapted for kart use, before dedicated manufacturers, especially in Italy (IAME), started to build engines for the sport.
Kart racing is usually used as a low-cost and relatively safe way to introduce drivers to motor racing. Many people associate it with young drivers, but adults are also very active in karting. Karting is considered the first step in any serious racer’s career. It can prepare the driver for high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing by helping develop quick reflexes, precision car control, and decision-making skills. In addition, it brings an awareness of the various parameters that can be altered to try to improve the competitiveness of the kart (examples being tire pressure, gearing, seat position, chassis stiffness) that also exist in other forms of motor racing.
All current (with the exception of Russian driver Vitaly Petrov) and many former Formula One drivers grew up racing karts, most prominent among them, World Champions Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Many NASCAR drivers also got their start in racing from karts, such as Darrell Waltrip, Lake Speed, Ricky Rudd, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon.
In August 2009, in anticipation to a possible return to F1 with Ferrari, Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher did some preparation driving a kart in Lonato, Italy. Schumacher also raced at the SKUSA SuperNationals, an event taking place each year in Las Vegas, along with F1 drivers Sébastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet, Jr. Felipe Massa also used karting in September 2009 to test his condition in Brazil, two months after his Hungarian Grand Prix freak accident during qualifying.
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