In Australia, the name ‘Superkarts’ refers to all of the karts raced on long road-type circuits,  both ‘shifter’ or gearbox karts in 80cc, 125cc and 250cc capacities, as well as the new Formula Rotax 125 MAX class.  In 1985 all ‘shifter’ type karts in Australia moved under the control of CAMS to race only on long circuits until very recently when the 125 ICC and KZ2 class karts have been re-introduced through the CIK series back to the AKA to run on sprint tracks again.

The Non-Gearbox are classes with restrictions that limit the engines and tyres used, with 125cc engine capacity adapted directly from Sprint Karting for the unique requirements of long circuit racing.  The Non-Gearbox classes may well be the cheapest form of motorsport sanctioned by CAMS, but they also produce some of the closest and most entertaining racing, with slip-streaming and constant changes of position in every race.

There are three classes of Gearbox Superkart, or shifter karts, with engine capacities from 80cc through 125cc and up to 250cc.  Many of the engines, particularly 80cc and 250cc single cylinder ones, are adapted from motocross motorcycles, while the 125cc and 250cc twin cylinder classes are dominated by Grand Prix motorcycle specification engines.  The costs to build and maintain the gearbox class Superkarts are proportionately higher than the non-gearbox classes, as are the top speeds!!

Needless to say, Superkarts offer the choice in classes to match your budget, mechanical expertise and desire for the ultimate adrenalin rush.

Superkarting has been the ‘racing passion’ of Ian Williams since the early years of  Enduro karts. And as almost every top driver in karting in Australia over thirty years ago raced 100cc or 200cc  laydown style Enduro karts, Ian’s return in the early 1990’s to the 100cc Yamaha class took him ‘full-circle’.

125cc Formula Rotax MAX Class

The 125cc Formula Rotax MAX class made it’s debut worldwide in karting in only 1999,  and it entered Superkart competition in Australia in the year 2000. The 125 Rotax does not have a gearbox but utilises a centrifugal clutch and is water-cooled.  Top speed is around 170kph, and the rules restrict engine modifications and components to ‘as standard’, and the karts must use a controlled longer life tyre.  The technical regulations for the Rotax Max Superkart class are nearly the same as the AKA sprint kart class, with the option of fitting a more aerodynamic nose cone for the long circuit.

The class has now become the largest Superkarting class available across Australia.  With over 6000 Rotax Max powered karts sold in Australia in 15 years, many drivers are now moving from the cut and thrust of sprint kart racing to the higher speeds and more subtle style of long circuit racing.

The non-gearbox Rotax Max class is the most affordable form of Superkarting.  In South Australia with so many drivers in this class we have split them into four divisions, lightweight Seniors division #1 and #2, heavyweight Seniors division #1 and #2, and juniors for 12 to 15 year olds. All of the classes provide heaps of fun and great racing for the young and not so young , and the reliability and minimal mechanical maintenance of the Rotax Max engine provides very low running costs.

Used 125 Rotax Max karts start about $4,000 with complete new machines available at around $9,500.

How about maintenance on a 125 Max non-gearbox Superkart?? 
Maintenance generally involves things like new top-end piston/ring/bearings every 20 hours, costing about $500. You might want to replace your slick tyres after 4 or 5 events at about $270 a set. Other than the odd oil change, new spark plugs now and then and a new chain after 3 – 4 meetings, that’s generally about it.  Your annual racing budget may be $2,500 including fuel, tyres and race entry  –  to go incredibly  fast and have an enjoyable time doing it!!

125cc Gearbox Class

The 125cc gearbox class at various times in our history has been the largest of the gearbox classes in numbers of competitors.  Today this class primarily uses Honda RS125 engines with some Yamaha TZ125’s.

Full aerodynamic bodywork including rear wings are used to achieve speeds of up to 190 kph , and these karts have compulsory dual circuit front and rear brakes which means on tighter circuits they can almost match the larger capacity classes on lap times.

The 125cc gearbox class appeals to those that want the performance of a proper GP type engine, with the lower maintenance requirements of a single cylinder engine.  Cost of a 125cc gearbox kart can vary from $5,000 to $8,000 for an early used kart to $20,000 and upward for a later model with a new engine. 

250cc Gearbox Class(es)

There are two 250cc gearbox classes, International for twin cylinder engines and National for single cylinder engines. Commonly referred to as the Formula 1 of Superkarts with the twin-cylinder engines coming from manufacturers like Rotax, Honda and Yamaha. This class of Superkarts reach speeds of up to 280 kph and at many circuits are as fast as V8 touring cars and 500cc GP motorcycles. The power to weight ratio makes this class not only the fastest but the most high-tech with the use of carbon fibre bodywork, and computer controlled data acquisition systems.

The cost of a kart for this category varies from $10,000 to $15,000 for a complete used kart to in excess of $40,000 for a whole new outfit.  This is not a class for the faint of heart, and requires a large effort to maintain the kart and to also prepare the driver for some sensational experiences.

This class of Superkart were seen on the streets of Adelaide during the years when the Australian F1 GP was run here. In the 1980’s we had fields of  30 to 40 of these monsters racing regularly at club meetings, and over 60 at many major V8 rounds and other events. 

So there you have it, a brief run down on what some of us like to get up to on weekends.