Winnipeg Free Press

KartSTART gears up for return to Winnipeg

by Willy Williamson . Jun 14 2019
Willy Williamson / Winnipeg Free Press files The popular kartSTART learn-to-drive program is returning for more laps around the Red River Exhibition grounds. The Toyota-sponsored program provides kids 10 and older with driving experience in go-karts.

Willy Williamson / Winnipeg Free Press files

The popular kartSTART learn-to-drive program is returning for more laps around the Red River Exhibition grounds. The Toyota-sponsored program provides kids 10 and older with driving experience in go-karts.

For the third consecutive summer, kartSTART, presented by Toyota — a unique driving education program designed to give youngsters a real-world understanding of the physics behind driving a motorized vehicle — will roll through Winnipeg.

The program, led by Russ Bond, a veteran automobile racer, journalist and host of the popular Two-Minute Test Drive segments on TSN’s Motoring TV, will host three days of fun and education at the Red River Exhibition grounds from July 17 to 19.

“We can’t wait to get back to Winnipeg for our third visit there,” Bond said. “The people are so friendly and really make us feel welcome. We hope to have all the courses full again this year, and also encourage all the friends we’ve made to come and visit us while we are back in Winnipeg.”

The half-day courses — a total of six will be held — give kids aged 10 and older driving experience in go-karts. Participants get behind the wheel of a motorized kart under the guidance of qualified instructors. The program, including all the karts and gear, is moved across the country in a semi truck and trailer. Participants are supplied with a Snell-approved helmet and a driving suit, and there is also a catered lunch.

Witnessing the team unload all the karts, set up the tents and carve out the track is inspiring. The crew works tirelessly each day, basically from sunrise to sunset, yet the workers all seem to be having a terrific time — and their enthusiasm for the program is clearly passed on to the participants.

The program, which travels across Canada, wouldn’t be possible without the continued support it receives from Toyota Canada.

“Toyota is a great partner because they realize, first of all, the kids are the future and they need to learn to drive just like anyone else,” Bond said at last year’s event. “So, the earlier we get them started is better for everybody concerned.”

Last summer, a professionally designed go-kart made accessible for kids with physical disabilities was introduced to the program. The accessible go-kart looks the same as the other karts, but with hand-controlled throttle and braking incorporated into the design of the steering wheel.

“We are thrilled to be able to host physically challenged drivers with our accessible kart,” Bond said. “The initial goal was to create a program that all kids, including those who use wheelchairs or have other special needs, could also participate in — and we are very happy to have made that happen.”

Jonak Motorsport, one of Canada’s leading racing fabrication and restoration companies, was tasked with designing, building and testing kartSTART’s accessible go-kart.

The company specializes in high-end projects, from restoring vintage Formula One cars to building safe, quality go-karts. Jonak Motorsport has been a partner of kartSTART for nine years and has been instrumental in developing a specialized fleet of karts for the program.

The cost of the half-day course is normally $79 plus tax, but program organizers are offering a $20 discount to Free Press readers by simply entering the promo code, “Willy.”

You can register your child or grandkids at kartstart.ca. Or if you have any questions, call 647-401-5153.

willy@freepress.mb.ca