The History of Karting at Rotax

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100 years of Rotax represent 100 years of history of mobility – including almost half a century of karting history. The development of the BRP-Rotax kart engines started in the 80s with the production of the first high performance engines which soon dominated the karting market and succeeded at national and international championships

While Rotax engines had long been an established brand in motorcycles, they had to break new ground in karting. With the entry of Bombardier into the motorcycle market, the Rotax engine type 124 used for the CanAm MX and -TNT motorcycle models became available. 1972 started the first drivers to adopted the motorcycle engine for 6-speed shifter race karts. Towards the end of the seventies, this engine was successfully used by many national and international pilots (e.g. Franco Baroni became Italian champion).

Later on the Rotax engine type 124  has been updated with a water cooled cylinder to improve the thermal stability. Based on the success and experience of the engine type 124, Rotax has developed in the eighties the engine type 128, a liquid cooled engine with a dry clutch according to the CIK Formula C regulations.

In the nineties the engine type 128 has been replaced by the engine type 129 with sideload gearbox which enabled a quick adoption of the 6-speed gearbox according to the track conditions.The premium karting class for engines up to 250 cc was also designated a “long-course” class, since it primarily raced on automobile circuits with a top speed of over 250 km/h. To start with, the class was dominated by Yamaha motorcycle engines. That changed when Rotax introduced the engine type 256, a tandem twin engine, whose performance and slimmer construction squeezed out the competition. 1983 Martin Hines became the first World Champion on a ZIP kart powered by the Rotax engine type 256. When people referred to karts in these years, they mostly mean the 100cc class with an air-cooled two-stroke engine, which was the most widespread.

In 1983, Rotax entered the far less technically regulated Formula K category with the Rotax rotary valve-engine type 100 DS. The renowned Dutch car racing driver Toine Hezemans became responsible for the global distribution as well as the CIK homologaton for Rotax 100 cc kart engines. At the Karting World Championship of 1988, Rotax 100 cc kart engines faced nine of the top ten positions. 
 
“Towards the end of the seventies, the Rotax engine type 124 was successfully used by many national and international pilots.”

Created by: cggiuliano - 17/03/21

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