Even today, the lessons learned from racing can directly impact automotive technology. Ducati and Lancia used it to develop pioneering features and well-regarded vehicles. It’s thanks to the rally-racing Audi Ur-Quattro that modern all-wheel drive was developed. But racing doesn’t only benefit cars; it also improves the drivers themselves. Not to mention the lure of driving something odd-ball like a Vespa or Porsche 924 off-road. Or modifying a truck for King of the Hammers. It’s that slightly—or in this case, fairly—unhinged adrenaline rush that forms the core appeal of kartcross.
What is kartcross?
Kartcross, aka ‘crosskart,’ Autoweek explains, has its origins in Europe, especially in Nordic and southern countries. It first started gaining traction (no pun intended) in Sweden in the 1980s and has grown in popularity since.
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r/Cars sub-Reddit users report the sport has gained followers in Portugal, and even Australia. It’s also, The Smoking Tire reports, found a home in the US in recent years. There’s a racing series called Formula X Autocross that has a kartcross class. Rally driver and former skateboarder Bucky Lasek races in Formula X.
The racing karts are something like an Ariel Atom crossed with an SCG Boot, on the scale of a classic Mini Cooper. In other words, small dimensions, sturdy roll cages, off-road travels, with long-travel suspension. The kartcross stages are usually similar to rally ones, set on dirt roads wandering through forests. In the US, Formula X competes on specially-prepped dirt tracks.
And the races can be incredible.
What’s the racing like?
The single-seat kartcross karts are powered by an assortment of motorcycle engines and transmissions. The smallest use 125cc engines. But the largest ones compete in the ‘over 600cc’ class. TST’s Matt Farah tested one that had a Suzuki GSXR750’s 750cc four-cylinder engine. That’s 150 hp revving at 15,000+ RPM in a vehicle weighing about 650 lbs.
A US company called Fast & Speed sells fully-built kartcross racers. The typical Formula X build uses a Honda CBR600RR 600cc four-cylinder, which produces 113 hp. The kart’s top speed is 130 mph, and its 0-60 time is 2.5 seconds. The starting price is about $35,000.
The Atom-meets-Boot analogy isn’t too far off, then. With about 10.5” of suspension travel, these karts can take long flying jumps. With manual steering, driving one of these is definitely a workout. But it certainly looks like a fun one.
How can I get involved?
Apart from Fast & Speed, there are a few other manufacturers who supply kartcross racers. The Sierra RX3, for example, has a 200-hp Suzuki Hayabusa motor and a 6-speed sequential transmission. It costs about $50,000—which isn’t insignificant, but it’s definitely faster and cheaper than a Sherp.
For something a bit more entry-level, The Drive recommends the TaoTao Arrow. It’s not quite as fast as a full-size kartcross racer. The Arrow 200 ‘only’ has a 169cc single-cylinder engine. However, it has hydraulic disc brakes, a beginner-friendly automatic, and 12” of suspension travel. Plus, as of this writing, it only costs $1850.
So go on and have some fun in the mud.
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