Karting in the USSR: how the hobby of American pilots became a massive DIY hobby in the Soviet Union

    [Disclaimer] Before we start the story about the history of karting, in a nutshell we explain why she interested us with alinatestova . We make content for companies (mainly IT) and love to take on complex topics: from IaaS hosting to biocenosis-saving technologies.

    It so happened that this summer we decided to get to a couple of kartodromes - we talked with coaches and pilots, asked around about blogs and profiles in social networks. networks. And, as it turned out, from the point of view of Russian-language content - in the field of amateur and prof. entry-level motorsport - the field is not plowed compared to what comes out in English ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯.

    We decided to rectify this situation and, within the framework of the Friday format, write on Habré about how media management and content marketing make motorsport a little clearer and more interesting.


    But for starters, we’ll tell you what we are talking about. So, an introduction to karting. A screenshot not from the times of the USSR, but from a summer training session ( group on Facebook )




    Start in the west


    It is believed that the founders of karting are American military pilots. Their experiments with riding on airfields on freight carts quickly turned from pampering into DIY hobbies.

    In the early 1950s, Art Ingels, a former pilot and mechanic for race car manufacturer Kurtis Kraft, built the first map. He attached a motor from a lawn mower to a steel frame and mounted semi-pneumatic tires. Ingles demonstrated the prototype in 1956 during a hot rod race in Pomona, California.

    There he also found the first like-minded people - mechanics and owners of the auto repair shop Duffy Livingston and Roy Desbrow. With the permission of Art, they began to build their own versions of karts and conduct the first amateur races. By the end of the decade, rising demand allowed Livingston and Desbrow to commercialize production.

    The appearance of karting in the USSR


    Karting came to the USSR in the late 50s - early 60s. It is believed that the first Soviet card was built by the athlete Vitaliy Enin. Sections in the Palaces and houses of pioneers became the "base" for kart lovers - one of them opened in Kharkov with the support of Enin.

    In Kursk, the pioneer of karting, Lev Kononov, built the first children's sports microcar “Kart” in the USSR and founded a karting club. He was engaged in designing together with students, and map schemes were published in thematic publications.

    The cards were shown to the general public in 1960: cars drove onto the track during the break of the Moscow ice racing competitions. In the same year, the USSR Motorsport Federation introduced the "Competition Rules, Classification and Technical Requirements for" Cart "-type Cars", which were soon used in the first competitions.

    In just a year, karting gained quite wide popularity in the USSR - you could assemble your prototype in a garage with like-minded people. In "Technique - Youth" from 1961, they already wrote about karting enthusiasts in Moscow, Leningrad, Tula, Odessa, Tallinn and Riga.

    Karting as a sport


    In 1962, racing on the maps began to turn from an amateur hobby into a sport. At that time, the first all-union karting competition was held in Riga. It was possible to participate in the competition on maps of two classes: with an engine capacity of up to 125 cm 3 and up to 175 cm 3 . The program included a ring race on asphalt and on a cycle track.

    The competition was attended by 80 athletes from different regions of the USSR: from Moscow, Leningrad, the Baltic countries and Uzbekistan. A film about this event has survived to this day - in it you can see how the first microcars looked and in what conditions the race took place.


    Since 1963, regular competitions began to take place in the USSR. The first summer competition took place in Moscow, and the winter - in Leningrad. The championships were held in the biathlon system with races on the highway and on the cycle track, but already at the third championship of the USSR, the cycle track race was considered unsafe (due to the heavy loads on the riders' vestibular apparatus) and canceled. The kart classes remained the same - 125 cm 3 and up to 175 cm 3 .

    In 1964, Soviet racers first went to international competitions between socialist countries. The championship was called the “Crystal Cup” and was held in three stages in Berlin, Budapest and Warsaw. At the same time, international competitions began to take place in Western countries - the first go-kart world championship was held in Rome.

    Two years later, competitions between the racers of the Warsaw Pact organization countries began to take place regularly - in 1966, the Peace and Friendship Cup (or the Friendship Cup of the socialist countries) was established. The championship was held until 1989, and Soviet kartists often won prizes in it - Alexander Safonov became the first champion in 1967.

    In 1978, kartists from the USSR began to race with athletes from Western Europe. Already at the first championship, the differences between the Soviet and European approaches to motorsport were obvious. In the USSR, the most important feature of karting was its accessibility to the masses, and not the professional component. Soviet cards were equipped with engines that many motorists could afford. Serial production of karts was carried out at factories in Tallinn. It was also established at KamAZ and at DOSAAF plants.


    Kohls | Wikimedia | CC BY-SA

    In the West, karting by that time had become an "exclusive" sport and provided more opportunities for customizing karts. Largely because of these differences, the Soviet pilots did not show impressive results at major international competitions. Therefore, during the 1980s, kartists from the USSR mainly competed with athletes from socialist countries, and international events were rare.

    One of such events was the stage of the championship of the European organization of karting CIK-FIA, which was held in 1989 in Poltava. Later, in 1990, the USSR held another international event - the winter go-kart race with Finnish and Swedish athletes. After the competition, the Scandinavians proposed creating a new championship - the Nordic Cup, but the Soviet riders managed to participate in it only once, in 1991.

    Youth Competitions


    Of course, in the USSR karting was not only done by adults. The first championship was held in Kursk in 1963 - the competition took place on the Railway Station Square.

    Unlike adult athletes, young kartists did not go to international championships - the main tournament for them was the competition for the prize of the Pionerskaya Pravda newspaper. Soviet schoolchildren met with foreign racers on friendly races. For example, in 1989 in Zelenograd a race of young kartists of the USA and the USSR took place.

    In total, by the time of the collapse of the USSR, 130 thousand people were engaged in karting in sections. After 1991, the sport fell into decay, and the popularity of such circles has seriously declined.

    What now


    Karting in Russia did not adopt the Soviet, but the Western development model - professional competitions became its main characteristic, and in the 90s the Russian Karting Committee ordered athletes to purchase equipment that meets European requirements.

    But the legacy of Soviet karting did not disappear. In 1999, the Patriot factory resumed production, which has been issuing cards since the mid-60s. In addition to this, a massive interest in karting has been preserved. Only now DIY-mapping is a rarity, amateurs do not collect prototypes with their own hands, but mainly use the services of rental karting.



    By the way, last year we got out for just a couple of workouts. This season I want to spend more actively and together with those who are interested in one way or another amateur karting (and motorsport in general). No pathos and snobbery in the spirit of a "club for the elite." We select a date, a karting track and go on rental cards. For everyone who is from the sphere of IT and IT media , I would like to join - a group on Facebook (or write in PM on Habré - I’ll let you know how we are going to train).

    Micro-posts on the topic will be in the Telegram channel .

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