Go-Karting Weight Limit Distribution and Handicap Classes


Go-karting is a fun activity that can appeal to any age group so long as they need speed. It would seem that a frequently asked question regarding go-karts is “What is the go-karting weight limit?” Is this a question of too heavy or too light? Strict weight regulations come into play more when you are driving in various kart racing series.  

Go-Karting weight limit (the total weight represents the weight of the driver and the kart combined) varies from one kart association to the next. Drivers must meet a minimum weight requirement to compete in a given class. However, they can typically drive over the weight limit, but it’s to their disadvantage.

There is no absolute, universal weight limit for riding go-karts. Your local kart tracks may set a weight limit for safety purposes, but even then, it’s usually reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Read on to learn about go-kart racing, racing classes, weight limits, and why weight makes a difference. 

Racing Classes

Like competitive boxing is divided into weight classes, kart racing is typically separated into different categories to make the races as close as possible by skill level. Always getting passed up by lighter drivers will take the fun out of racing.

Your racing class is typically determined by the following:

  • Age
  • Engine
  • Total Weight of Driver and Kart

The governing body regulates these classes, so the rules and limits may differ from one region or even town to the next. Class structures for both the Oakland Valley Race Park (OVRP) and the New Hampshire Karting Association (NHKA) are provided to show the possible variance in classes.

Go-kart racing classes compared

Notice the discrepancies between the two organizations’ class structure. Both have overlap in their children’s classes, but the big takeaway here is the weight minimums. The OVRP gives one blanket minimum per class (and doesn’t even list a minimum for one of the engines), while the NHKA gives a weight minimum specific to the engine the driver is using. 

Classified by Engine

Wait, wasn’t age listed first? And isn’t this an article about weight limits? Yes, and yes. Age will be the first factor considered in making your initial choice of racing class, but it will help cover information about the engines before discussing age and weight. 

Your two primary choices in go-kart engines will be either a 2-Cycle engine or a 4-Cycle engine. When it comes to 2-Cycle engines, there are multiple available brands to choose from, and they make unique engines for the younger classes. With 4-Cycle engines, Briggs&Stratton dominate the industry. 

2-Cycle Engines

One class of 2-cycle engines that has become popular is the TaG (Touch and Go) class of karts. They have an onboard electric starter that allows you to “touch and go.” Get it? The class structures featured before were all TaG. 

Note in the table that it’s mostly the same brands showing up in each class until you get to the Juniors, Seniors, and Masters, then it’s not only the same brands but the same engines. The engines are measured by how many cubic centimeters (CC) of fuel and air the engine can displace.

  • 50cc – This is the engine for your Kid Kart class. Top speeds are usually listed as 25 – 35 mph, though they have been known to reach 50 mph when unrestricted.
  • 60cc – This engine is used mostly for the “cadet” age range (7 – 12 years old). This group was again split into the “Micro” (age 7-9 with engines that reach up to 50 mph) and the “Mini” (age 9-12 with engines that reach up to 60 mph). 
  • 125cc – Whoa. Straight from 60cc to 125cc? Well, there is a 100cc, but it’s not very popular. The main difference between the Junior class and the Senior/Masterclasses is that the Junior class usually has a restricted exhaust keeping its top speed at around 65 mph. Without the restricted exhaust, the older classes can reach up to 80 mph. 

4-Cycle Engines

4-cycle engines are often repurposed standard air-cooled lawnmower engines. There are brands other than Briggs & Stratton (Tecumseh, Kohler, Robin, Honda), but the Briggs 206 is designed and engineered strictly for racing purposes. 

The New Hampshire Karting Association‘s (NHKA) 4-cycle engine class’s only approved 4-cycle engine is the Briggs 206. This engine is factory sealed to prevent internal modifications. NHKA will allow drivers with comparable engines to participate in their races, but they will not be scored. 

But how can the same engine be used for every age group? That’s part of the appeal of the Briggs 206; the different classes use specific throttle slides to regulate the kart’s power. This throttle slide can be changed inexpensively, and the engine itself can be moved onto a larger chassis as the driver moves up in class, making for much more affordable karting.

Classified by Age

As you may have noticed above in the class structures provided, there can be some overlap when it comes to age. This overlap isn’t standard, and some associations have more rigid age guidelines. The governing body/club ultimately regulates age and weight limits.

  • Kid Kart – this age group is typically open to ages 5-7; there may or may not be a weight minimum due to children’s inherently small nature at this age. Both the OVRP and NHKA open this class to ages 5-8, and there is no minimum weight requirement. This is an ideal class for young children to learn how to drive competitively in a safe manner.
  • Cadet – this age group is often open to ages 8-12 and uses a smaller chassis. Sometimes this class is broken up into the “Micro” and “Mini” classes in the 2-cycle engine classes. The OVRP Micro class is for ages 8-13, and the Mini class is for ages 10-12. The NHKA Micro class is for ages 7-10, and the Mini class is for ages 9-12.
  • Junior – This class is typically open to drivers between the ages of 12-15. 
  • Senior – This class is typically open to drivers 15 years or older.
  • Masters – This is a class that is generally open to older crowds (the OVRP has it for 21+ and the NHKA has it for 32+), but often the associations will let drivers over the age of 15 race in this class if they meet the minimum weight requirement. 

Classified by Weight

Finally, the last way that racing classes are separated is by weight. If your association has any overlap in their age groups, this is where competitors may find their edge. You can’t change your age (without lying and forging documents), but you can add weights to reach a weight minimum. 

For example, a 15-year-old driving a kart with an IAME x30 engine in the OVRP could meet the minimum weight requirements for either the Junior or Senior classes. An average kart weighs between 150 to 170 lbs. without a driver. Assume the driver is 125 lbs. and the kart weighs 160 lbs. Then the combined weight is 285 lbs. 

Well, that doesn’t meet the minimum weight requirement of either class, right? As long as they meet the age requirement, drivers can add weights to their kart to meet the weight requirement. So, it’s up to the driver whether they add 35 lbs. or 80 lbs. There’s more to be said about weight placement, but that will come later. 

What about when the racer is overweight? Imagine now that the 15-year-old from earlier weighs 170 lbs.; the combined weight with their 160 lb. kart would be 10 lbs. over the 320 lb. minimum for the Junior class. They could still race in that class but would be at a disadvantage. If they switch to the Senior class, they can add weight to be just at the minimum. 

Does Weight Make A Difference In Racing Karts?

The short answer: yes. Newton’s 1st Law of Motion states that an object will stay still or continue moving in a constant direction unless a force acts on it; this concept is referred to as inertia. The greater the mass of the object, the more inertia it has. It will take more force to make this heavier object move (or to make it stop).  

This is why, as you move up in racing classes, the weight minimum increases along with the power of the engine. Heavier drivers need the added power to get up to speed, but a lighter driver would have a massive advantage if they could increase their engine power without meeting the minimum weight requirement. 

Acceleration 

Mass was used to measure an object’s inertia. Well, the weight of an object is the measurement of the downward pull of gravity; it’s a downward force. In addition to trying to move this object that is at rest, you have an outside force (gravity) pushing the object in a direction you don’t want to go. 

Ryan Jurnecka with K1 Speed, argues that weight only makes a significant difference when driving gas-powered karts. Gas-powered karts need to reach their top RPM (known as the “power band” to create torque. Electric karts produce torque instantly and therefore eliminate any advantage a lighter driver may have. 

This disadvantage will be felt most in the racetrack’s turns and curves, where the driver will slow down and lose momentum. 

Traction

One thing that a heavier driver and kart will have more of in comparison to a lighter driver is more traction. However, since this can be both good and bad for the driver, it is pointed out more as something to be aware of. 

Traction is good when it comes to staying on the track, especially in slippery conditions. Heavier drivers will feel less sliding when going through turns and curves, which will allow them to enter curves more aggressively. However, this same force works against you as more contact with the ground means more friction.

Increasing weight has now increased two forces acting against your attempts to move the kart: friction and gravity. 

Stability

The heavier driver will have a more stable kart (i.e., it is less likely to flip) with a more stable center of gravity and weight. This is good, right? Well, it’s mostly good (flipping is bad). But it can also cause your kart’s handling to suffer. 

Go-karts are designed so that when turning, the inside rear tire should lift off the ground. If it doesn’t do this, the kart will not turn efficiently. By stabilizing your go-kart with added weight, you’ve limited its ability to jack up that inside rear tire. However, no need to worry as this can be helped by tweaking the chassis or moving the seat to adjust your center of gravity.

The added weight will cause your steering inputs to register slower. Remember inertia? Well, your object is moving in a constant direction, and the greater the mass, the greater the force required to change that direction. 

The Benefit of Adding Weight

Imagine your body weight and the weight of your kart perfectly add up to meet the minimum required weight of a given class. Now, imagine a much lighter competitor who has to add weights to their kart. Who do you think has an advantage? The other driver.

The driver who adds weight can add them to their advantage. Ideally, your kart will have an equal distribution of weight from right to left and a 43/57 front to rear balance.

If you’ve already met the minimum weight, then you’re likely reluctant to add any additional weight. Consider testing out a few extra, well-distributed pounds to see if it helps. If not, they can come off. 

Weight Limits At Your Local Track

Local tracks may set weight limits, but they will vary from location to location. Full Throttle Adrenaline Park (Cincinnati, OH, and Florence, KY) and Victory Lane Karting (Charlotte, NC) both have a weight limit of 350 lbs. Victory Lane Karting states that their real test is if the seat belt will fasten. 

Extreme Grand Prix Family Fun Center (Raytown, MO) has a maximum weight limit of 450 lbs. to drive on their adult track. TeamSport, a UK-based Indoor Karting company with multiple locations across the UK, recommends a maximum weight of 252 lbs. They explain that exceptionally large (tall or chubby) people may have trouble fitting into the karts.

Supercharged Entertainment (Wrentham, MA) states that drivers more than 300 lbs. will affect the kart’s performance. While this may be true, the most common reason for weight limits is safety and comfort. Ace Karts (Albion, VIC, Australia) has no weight limit but may suggest a driver not participate if they can’t fit comfortably and safely in the kart. 

To get the best answer regarding your local track: ask them. While this may seem like an unhelpful answer, your local track may have a posted weight limit, but like Victory Lane Karting, they are more concerned with the safety belt fastening. 

Summary

While there is no absolute weight limit for go-karting, weight is not a factor you should ignore, as it will have a significant impact on your go-karting experience.

A minimum go-karting weight limit exists in the world of competitive go-kart racing to ensure that lighter drivers don’t get an unfair advantage. There’s no reason why a large reptilian monarch weighing in at 1200 lbs. should be racing against a slim princess that weighs in at 126 lbs. He could be compensating with a much more powerful engine, but the lack of regulation feels chaotic.

Maximum weight limits exist in the world of local kart rentals to ensure that riders are safe, comfortable, and having fun. More important than a driver’s weight are their width and height. If they can’t fit comfortably or safely, the business may prohibit their participation.

Recent Posts