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May 20, 2023 8 min read

Jake Sanson, a commentator for the Feeder Series, shares his advice on how to develop a karting addiction. Karting is a lot bigger sport than most motorsport enthusiasts realize, according to Sanson.

Karting is considerably different from other motorsports disciplines. Not only do many drivers begin their careers in motorsport there when they are just 6 years old, but they may also decide to compete there for the next 60 years.

Some drivers regard it as a stepping stone to Formula One, while others see it as an exhilarating hobby, and still others still see it as the sport's ultimate apex. The sport is so captivating to watch precisely because all three of these schools of thinking are true.

In the same way that Lewis Hamilton referred to his karting adversary Niki Richardson as his greatest rival in racing, Ayrton Senna once cited Terry Fullerton as his greatest rival in all of racing.

Only in karting can Formula One young academy competitors compete against amateurs and veterans who are occasionally twice as old as they are. Every week, a race meeting of some form takes place somewhere in the world as drivers try to advance and have their talents noticed.

In light of this, Feeder Series has made the decision to create a guide to karting, detailing the events to watch, the drivers to pay attention to, the classes that will direct a champion to the greatest car route conceivable, as well as where you may probably find the future stars of Formula One.

FIA Karting Championship

The OK class podium of the third round of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship, which took place in Kristianstad, Sweden. Mercedes junior driver Alex Powell won the final. | Credit: FIA Karting

This is karting's version of Formula 1. In the highest level of karting, there are two racing divisions: direct drive and gearbox, generally known as OK and KZ.

Whereas Max Verstappen had won the KZ world championship the year before, Lando Norris won the OK world championship in 2014. For both men, it was the first step in moving up to Formula One.

Racing here places you among the best of the best, as the FIA title says, and it is the sport's highest honor. In the FIA paddock, winning a title makes you an indelible part of motorsport history.

18 of the current 20 Formula One drivers started out in FIA Karting, and some of them went on to win either a junior or senior world championship or a European championship.

RGMMC promotes FIA Karting championships, which are live streamed on Motorsport.TV, the FIA Karting YouTube, and Facebook.

OK class

The phrase "direct drive" refers to the kart being driven entirely by a throttle and a brake pedal. The current top direct-drive category is called OK. For drivers 11 to 14 years old, OK offers the junior (OKJ) division, and in the year they reach 14, they can move on to the senior division.

The majority of athletes who plan to compete in F1, IndyCar, Formula E, and Le Mans will select to race in both of these divisions. They will be especially focused on winning the World Championship, a one-weekend standout event with a format highly reminiscent of the Indianapolis 500, and the European Championship, which is spread out over four weekends.

Drivers can compete as an individual or as a team, although teams will always be stronger in terms of both numbers and expertise. In actuality, a team reward will not be given out at the end of the season until 2023.

The Intercontinental A (ICA) classes, which were also known as KF classes and had a junior division, were replaced by OK. Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Sebastian Vettel dominated the ICA period, demonstrating the close connection between this class of racing and Formula One.

KZ class

The driver will shift gears and increase peak speed with a greater engine rpm limit in gearbox or KZ. If you win here, you are the best in the world. It is undoubtedly the scariest and most severe style of racing at this level, but it is also the ultimate karting prize.

Before moving on to cars, racers can choose to race in the KZ or KZ2 categories (the latter for drivers 5kg lighter than the KZ elite). Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have both had success with this approach.

The majority of KZ racers are absolutely competent of controlling a Grand Prix vehicle, but the practicalities of moving up the ladder can frequently be challenging. Many racers at this point decide that karting is their forever home and that KZ is actually their Formula One.

Although many KZ teams and manufacturers are headquartered in Italy, there are also several from Scandinavia, the UK, and other parts of Europe. The karts driven by Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Robert Kubica, and Charles Leclerc in recent years are examples of F1 drivers who even have their own racing product that they frequently choose to race with.

Also, starting in 2023, there will be classes for OK-N and OKJ-N, which are meant to support emerging talent on a budget before the OK-N/OKJ-N World Cup makes its debut in 2024. A number of countries, including Italy, France, Australia, Spain, Poland, and Denmark, have already committed to a global effort.
Similar to MotoGP, drivers typically have two karts available in case of a significant weather change or a serious accident damaging the chassis.

Before to 2007, KZ was known as the Super ICC class; this superseded the Formula C category, which has FIA-level origins dating back to 1974.

Champions of the Future

Champions of the Future (COTF), a series that lasted two weeks before the FIA event at the same site, was run by RGMMC, the promoters of FIA Karting and the IAME Euro Series, at the request of the karting teams.

Since 2020, FIA drivers in OK and OKJ have been present in COTF, using the weekend as a training ground. Drivers compete using the same vehicles, categories, and teams as they would during FIA weekends.

Imagine that two weeks before to the Grand Prix, Formula One drivers are permitted to compete in a non-championship points event in Bahrain so they may get extra practice; this is exactly how the drivers and teams view COTF.

The name was first used in the 1990s in Britain when McLaren ran a series dubbed the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future to raise the reputation of their new karting sensation Lewis Hamilton. Nowadays, COTF events take place all throughout Europe.

Due to the fact that the European Championship rounds will be held at four tracks that have never been used before, this year's events will be very fascinating to watch. In order to outperform their rivals, drivers will be eager to compete here.


Italy, the country known as the home of karting, has the largest non-international grid of OK, OKJ, and KZ2 racers globally. It was never unreasonable to think that Italy would have the greatest and quickest national grid of OK and KZ racers as the teams and manufacturers were mostly headquartered there.

All races are scheduled to take place in Italy, which has a full program of events. You never have to wait too long for a race in WSK because there are five separate contests that begin in January and end in November.

Although WSK is not an official World or European championship, the drivers are aware that this is a testing ground for drivers at the OK and KZ levels who want to pursue their dream of driving in Formula One. Although the strain on the driver may not be as high as it is during FIA Karting weekends, the quality of the racing and the level of competition are quite similar, if not the same.

For the youngest participants in Europe, ages 8 to 12, WSK also organizes a Mini 60 division where they can experience their first international tournament. Due to the WSK Promotion's Italian location and ability to conduct the series as a national event, this is allowed. To be nearer to the teams, drivers frequently relocate to Italy, which enables them to complete an entire WSK season.


There is a heated argument about whether IAME or Rotax is the superior option one step below OK and KZ. The best analogy for this is having to decide between competing in Porsche Supercup or Ferrari Challenge.

Theoretically, if you compete in X30 (IAME) or Rotax Max classes, you can develop strong driving abilities at the national level and race the same machinery abroad as well. A driver can compete in local, regional, national, and international events with an X30 Senior chassis; the only difference will be the level of competition.

The world finals for both IAME and Rotax take place in the fall, with tickets given to exceptional drivers at regional and continental competitions. 
A driver will receive a golden ticket to the fall grand finals, for instance, if they win the IAME Winter Cup or the Dubai O Plate in Rotax.

At the national level, drivers can begin here at the age of 8, while Bambino and Mini categories at local and regional competitions allow drivers to begin at the age of 6. 
IAME and Rotax are more economical substitutes for OK and KZ, and drivers can build successful racing careers here without necessarily competing in the European Championships.


Oliver Bearman, a recent Formula Regional Middle East race winner, and Mari Boya are two recent instances. After winning in IAME, both moved on to automobiles rather than finding the money to compete for the FIA Karting titles. How at ease drivers are with the equipment or how economical it is to compete can frequently determine which series to race in.

IAME and Rotax refers to the brand of engine. The contestants' ages serve as a general indicator of the classes, which are Mini, Inter, Junior, Senior, and Masters. IAME and Rotax racing takes place all over the world, including in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australasia. IAME and Rotax competition can be found on every continent, to put it simply.

Other engine builders that operate in different parts of the world in smaller-scale categories on comparable platforms include ROK, Tillotson, and TKM.

I can promise you that most karting paddocks at organized race events include at least 12 Formula One-caliber drivers who lacked the financing to advance all the way to the top. Of course, there are many karting categories at the national and regional levels, too many for us to keep up with them all.

Watching the events

The chequered flag falls on the final OKJ class race in the FIA Karting World Championship. Red Bull Junior Team driver Enzo Tarnvanichkul crosses the line first to win the race – and the championship. | Credit: FIA Karting

Here is a brief overview of how a weekend of karting works. Drivers frequently go out on the circuit for four to five sessions throughout the day on Thursday, which is typically dedicated entirely to practice. They often last ten to fifteen minutes.

Next is qualifying. The first qualifying sessions, which are infrequently broadcast on television, typically run 6 to 8 minutes, during which time drivers are divided into distinct qualifying groups.

Each driver will compete in three to six qualifying races, adding points to their total based on their finishes. How many points you earn depends on where you place. The contender with the fewest points enters the finals with the biggest advantage, just like in the sport of golf.

While drivers must care for their fresh set for frequently twice as long as the qualifying heats, the final will be an exciting mix of thrilling racecraft and tyre strategy.

Every driver on the grid is hoping to prove to the world that the Grand Prix paddock is where they truly belong, therefore there will frequently be as many overtakes in one final as you'll see in an entire race weekend in Formula One.

There are also occasional one-off events worth keeping an eye on, such as the Trofeo Ayrton Senna in Brazil, the Supernats in Las Vegas, the Trophee Kartmag in France and the Trofeo Delle Industrie and Andrea Margutti at Lonato – but that’s when you risk delving into the addict realms of watching the sport, where the true hardcore geeks like me dwell.

Getting involved in karting

The Tillotson T4 Series or a trip to your nearby karting track are your best bets for individuals who want to race themselves and want to do so on a budget. There will almost probably be information on where to go to compete or who to contact to start karting in your region.

Don’t forget that it’s never too late to get started. 

2023 karting calendar

Below is a calendar of major karting events to look out for this year. The most notable of these are the FIA World Karting Championship finals, which take place from September 7-10 (KZ) and October 5-8 (OK).

An overview of this year’s events in FIA Karting Championship, Champions of the Future, IAME and ROTAX.

This is a summary of an article written by Jake Sanson, and the original article can be found on the Feeder Series Website here.

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