By Michelle Talsma Everson
Like many boys, 8-year-old Aden Rudolph is fascinated by motorsports. He loves the speed, the thrill of competition, and—of course—the cars. But, unlike most kids, you’ll usually find Aden behind the wheel. The son of Alan Rudolph, vice president and general manager of the Bondurant SuperKart School, and a life-long driver himself, Aden races his own kart in youth competitions.
“Winning, driving fast and spending time with my friends and family,” are Aden’s favorite things about karting. So what exactly is karting? According to experts, karting (also known as kart racing) is an open-wheeled motorsport where smaller, open, four-wheeled vehicles are raced on circuits. The sport is usually considered a stepping-stone to other types of motorsports.
“Karting is the hidden secret in motorsports,” explains Alan Rudolph. “A lot of the pros still drive karts. There’s one kart track in Phoenix – PKRA [the Phoenix Kart Racing Association], which is located in Glendale. Drivers can range in age from 5 to adults and, of course, there are different levels and categories of competition depending on age and skill level. PKRA is a very active club—there’s probably about 300 members.”
Jim Wooldridge, Jr., president of PKRA, explains the connection between the Bondurant SuperKart School and PKRA.
“The Bondurant karting [program] rents our facility to train drivers and they are also the title sponsor of our Rotax class races, which, as it stands today, is almost all youth karting,” Wooldridge says. “It is a natural transition for families that have a youth that is interested in karting to either come straight to our track and get involved or join us after they started at Bondurant.”
According to Wooldridge, the PKRA was started in 1982 as a non-profit, member-owned organization to create a place for kart racing in Phoenix.
“A lease was secured with Maricopa County Parks and Recreation for land within the Adobe Park recreation area and they went about building a .7 mile sprint kart race track and all of the facilities over the years,” he adds. “The track operates year round with open practice almost every day for members and non-members. The club operates two racing seasons a year with 18 races total. The participants bring their own karts for practice and racing with drivers ranging from 5 to 70 years old. Over 50 percent of our racers are kids and they race in classes that group the kids by age and speed of the kart.”
According to their official website, the Bondurant SuperKart School trains kart drivers beginning at 8 years old through ½ day to 3-day courses. The courses range from beginner to advanced and cover a variety of kart driving skills.
“We [Bondurant] train the drivers on how to drive the kart and then they’re usually off kart racing regularly at PKRA,” Alan says.
Young speedster Aden has been driving for less than a year and says he’s most proud of the fact that he won his second race. “[Karting] is a lot of fun and gives me something to do,” Aden enthuses. “I love racing and I want to travel for racing with my dad next year.”
Proud dad Alan notes that karting is a great sport for kids because it’s individualized for the driver but is definitely a “team sport on the family side of things” because the entire family is involved during races, practices and in keeping the kart maintained.
“Karting is a great family sport to get into,” Alan says. “The youth drivers get to spend a lot of quality time with their parents.”
“PKRA’s goals are to provide a fun, family oriented facility for the enjoyment of karters of all ages,” Wooldridge adds, echoing the family-friendly sentiment. “We are all about growing the sport of kart racing in Arizona as a member driven organization.”
Like the Rudolph family, Wooldridge is passionate about the sport and enthusiastic about the young racers who participate in it.
“The kids that are out here racing are all very driven and most are straight A students based on parents saying ‘you want to do this, then you have to work hard in school,’” Wooldridge notes. “I enjoy what I do for the club and especially when I watch these young kids race.”