Report and pictures supplied by Ian Love - Life member Christchurch Kart Club.


When Art Ingles built the first "go kart" in 1956 and roared around the car park of a supermarket next to his speed shop in America, little did he know that 40 years later if you had not raced karts the chances of getting into or being competitive in any open wheel sport or even tin top racing were going to be pretty slim.

Within a year of Art's first broadside in the car park, go karting was the thing to do and by 1958 the go karting phenomenon had hit New Zealand and clubs sprung up all over the country. The racing was organised mainly by motorcycle clubs and some car clubs.

The first two years of go karting were a little disorganised, rules being made on the day to suit the entries. A national organisation to manage rules did not exist in those days. In Christchurch clubs were Ellesmere, Christchurch, Excelsior, Mid Canterbury, Drivers' Own, Pioneer & Banks Peninsula, plus a number of motorcycle clubs had go karting sections. Racing was on paddocks and circuits were formed with a few hay bales and wooden stakes. Schools ran fund raising events and invited the go karts along for a run.

Most popular were the annual event on the playground at the Diamond Harbour Primary School and a twilight event on the streets of Rangiora. Other venues were at Burnham, Gilberthorpes Road (now all houses), Rangiora and Stewart's Gully.

In 1960 the first New Zealand Kart Championships were contested at the Bell Block in New Plymouth and at the same time, a meeting of interested clubs was held to form the New Zealand Go Kart Federation.

In the early 60s, karts were mainly powered by chainsaw engines, the McCulloch being the most popular but twin Distans and Pioneers were very common and there were modified outboard engines such as the Mercury that went very well.

At the other end of the scale, the motorcycle engines were Villiers, Greeves, Triumphs and Maicos. If it worked in a scramble bike it would be okay in a kart.

The basic kart design with no suspension was the norm but a number tried out different forms of sophisticated suspensions but with limited success.

Performance parts were difficult to obtain and very expensive, the main supply is from America. Our customs' system was made up of dictatorial type people in uniforms who took the law to the letter and beyond it. They were also known to walk around the counter with their pocket pushed open so that beer money could be dropped into it to make things a little easier for the karter to get his goods.

Many a karter turned up at the Customs Offices in Hereford Street or Moorhouse Avenue with a great story that the twin pump carburettor, high-speed bearings and super seals, the lightweight conrod, specially forged piston and hydraulic brake units were all needed to repair a water pump on their father's farm at Ikamatua.

A few got away with it, but not many. Wheels were the wheelbarrow type and tyres were industrial types off wheelbarrows, concrete mixers and forklifts. The Motorways Company in Christchurch which retreaded car tyres retreaded these tyres into knobblies which were suitable for the dirt. When karters started racing on hard surfaces Motorways were there to assist and retreaded the slicks.

In the last year of the Aranui Speedway, karts were on the programme and for the first 2 years of Ruapuna Park Speedway, karts would have two or three races before the programme officially started in between the new solo riders having to do their compulsory drops. Kart racing was also witnessed on a regular basis at Stock Car Scrambles and Motorcycle TT events. Dirt racing was fun, but the move in Europe, America and Australia was for hard track racing. In the early 60s a number of tar sealed circuits appeared, but the ones that were constructed to New Zealand Kart Federation regulations were Invercargill at Oreti, Christchurch at Carrs Road and Auckland at Rosebank Domain followed by Wellington at Mana. The circuits of this era were very similar in shape. There were many others that followed over the next 4 or 5 years, some are still there but unfortunately, some have gone.