|OnTrack with First Kart North America
During the eight-year history of Super Kart Illustrated Magazine, publisher Rob Howden and his staff produced a long list of OnTrack and Chassis Test articles that gave much insight into the karts that were in competition at the time. With the departure of the publication, the program moved to EKN, beginning this past summer with the first online edition of the OnTrack test reports, as our man David Cole went into competition with PG Racing and Wild Kart.
With a busy summer of event coverage and breaking news stories, the winter months will allow EKN to release the other OnTrack segments that were archived from 2007. Toward the end of June, EKN News Desk Manager David Cole was able to pick up a First Kart chassis from First Kart USA, located just outside Indianapolis, to compete in the Championship Enduro Series event at Grattan Raceway. Along with his OnTrack report on the chassis and the outing itself, David will also introduce the EKN readership to Tony Ventresca and the First Kart North America operation through this editorial.
| First Kart North America's Tony Ventresca|
(Photo: On Track Promotions)
Who is First Kart?
First Kart North America was founded in 1998 by long-time racing enthusiast Tony Ventresca. A driver himself, Ventresca put away his helmet and suit at the end of 1997 to focus solely on building a business with the simple goal of bringing the sport to the public.
Tony got into karting when he was racing as a junior driver roughly 25 years ago, with he and his father sharing the kart. Over time, Tony developed as a driver and eventually won at the Canadian National Championships.
Eventually, Tony and his father would go into the business-side of the industry, starting TNT Motorsports and becoming a dealer for different chassis importers in Canada. Through one of his customers, Tony met Gianni Bianchi of First Kart Italy. From there, a strong relationship began and First Kart North America was born in the late 1990’s.
In order to have a great and successful team, you need to have a great line-up to support anything that may come your way. Tony has done that and more with the people he has working for him.
Terry Ventresca, Tony’s father, is the engineer of the squad and is the backbone for the technical support for the team and the company. Working closely with First Kart designers, Terry often recommends design changes to the factory in Italy. He is valued for his ideas, chassis tuning and engine work - as one of the main Canadian engine sealers for the Rotax Max power plants. Being named as Super Kart Illustrated’s Mechanic of the Year in 2002 lifted Terry’s name into the elite within the sport.
Director of Marketing and Co-Race Team Manager Mike Maurini brings a wide array of racing experience. A former First Kart driver himself, Maurini put driving to the side to complete his Business Administrative Marketing program at the University of Ontario. Following his graduation, he took on the position of Director of Advertising for Super Kart Illustrated. After a year of service, he was lured back to the First Kart squad in June 2004. Along with his two job titles he holds with First Kart, he also wrenches for the team drivers, including JICA pilot Spencer Pigot this past season.
| Terry Ventresca, Tony's father, is the backbone of the FKNA|
(Photo: On Track Promotions)
The FirstKart.com race team has also worked with many of the top mechanics in North American karting, including AJ Whisler, Shayne Shipley, Jesse Dunham, Tony Loniewski, Trevor Daly, and many others.
South of the Border
With First Kart expanding throughout North America and especially in the United States, Ventresca looked to expand his business. What better place then the motorsports capital of the world, Indianapolis. After searching for the right location, First Kart USA opened in 2006, located in the Indy suburb of Brownsburg. The building in which First Kart USA is located - owned by NHRA driver Larry Dixon - is part of a small motorsports business area with several NHRA teams, including John Force Racing and many others teams. The First Kart USA location is the central location for the FirstKart.com race team and for the United States dealer network with Maurini and his wife Elena taking care of the day-to-day operations at the shop.
First Kart Equals Championships
Following the partnership with First Kart Italy, FKNA battled in regional championships in Ontario, earning titles throughout the years as they gained valuable experience while attending pro events during the off weekends. Everything came together in 2003 with Wisconsin’s Bobby Wilson behind the wheel of a First Kart and Terry turning the wrenches, as they took home the Stars of Karting ICC Championship, including numerous wins and several awards and accomplishments.
This success brought the First Kart name to a wider audience and with their reputation of solid customer support, they began a strong arrive-and-drive program focused on Junior competitors. Their first signing was Columbian Junior Intercontinental A (JICA) National Champion Gustavo Yacaman, who went on to win the 2005 Stars of Karting JICA National Championship, alongside 80cc Junior National Champion Zach Schiff the same year. With the team’s strong performances during the season, they were awarded the Team of the Year honors from Super Kart Illustrated.
2006 saw two more Junior titles added to their list of accomplishments behind the drive of Idaho driver Brett Smrz. Running both the East and West divisions, Smrz took home both championships under the First Kart banner, along with Devon Sandeen claiming the Western Division championship in the new Spec Racer division running with Western Canada dealer Checkered Flag Racing.
| Mike Maurini is the point man at First Kart USA and the FirstKart.com race team|
(Photo: On Track Promotions)
This past season, First Kart recorded several major win, including the Rock Island Grand Prix King of the Streets victory with Alan Rudolph behind the wheel, Brendan Langlois' Stars JICA Eastern Division Championship (First Kart’s third year in a row), and the Mazda Robo Pong 200 victory with Tony Loniewski and Chris Larson, among others.
Track Test with EKN's David Cole
Just 35 minutes from my door step is the first road racing track I ever competed on, Grattan Raceway. The Championship Enduro Series held an event at the facility over the June 29-July 1 weekend. The event would be my first time driving a TaG kart around the 2.0-mile course. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts would not allow First Kart USA’s Mike Maurini to attend the event with me, but I would have him on speed dial throughout the weekend.
The kart came straight from the Stars New Castle event where TaG driver Zach Beard piloted the car. With a new seat and a new driver behind the wheel, the kart was slightly low and bottomed out quite a bit during the first practice session on Friday, forcing me to come into the pits early. Calling Mike, I learned that adjusting the rear ride height would take me less than five minutes, loosening the cassette bolts and lowering the axle. Besides adjusting the air pressure, that was the only adjustments I made on the kart for Friday practice as I personally adjusted to the kart and the track throughout the day.
For Saturday morning practice, I strapped on new Bridgestone YHCs from Grand Products to break in for the 30-minute race. Running in the TaG Heavy class, 11 drivers took the green flag. Crossing the line for the first lap, I ran fifth but quickly jumped to fourth with the lead group in sight. Running fourth, I was given third when the leader dropped out after running off-course. Still pushing hard, the gap to second, my nemesis from our Gingerman OnTrack outing Scott Grenier, was slightly decreasing. With about five laps to go, I went wide in the tight turn nine exit and hit the curb. The curb grabbed the starter/battery clamps underneath the frame and ripped them away, causing me to spin. The starter/battery ended up under the radiator and one of the cords from the starter to the battery ripped off, thus not allowing me to restart the engine after getting the kart in the right direction. I was classified in seventh place with a fast lap of 1:29.259. The kart ran well except for a slight loose condition on turn-in that, after discussing with Mike, we adjusted with tire pressure.
| The First Kart V32 in action with EKN's David Cole behind the wheel|
(Photo: Joe Brittin)
The next day I ran with the SKUSA Great Lakes Pro Tour in the TaG Senior division. The turnout was low again, as only five drivers entered. In qualifying on new Bridgestones, I was able to run my best lap of the weekend, 1:28.804, just off the pole by half a second to Eric Chappell, the driver I mistakenly hit at Gingerman. It seemed that we would have a good battle for the 30-minute race, however, on the grid, my engine would not turn over. After the field left, we found someone with an external starter that would fit the starter nut on the engine and got it fired as the field came by for the first lap. Putting my head down, I was able to work up to third, running my fast lap on the final lap - 1:29.295 - the same pace as the winner (Chappell).
With the same setupon the kart, I still had the chassis in my garage so I took it to a one-off event at the Waterford Hills Road Course, just north of Detroit. After only five laps of practice, I scored a fifth place finish in the first heat, starting from 16th. From the pole in heat two, I went on to score a dominant victory. In the third and final heat, I got a bad jump at the green but battled back to finish fifth in a shortened race, posting the only 1:12 lap time of the day.
As there are not many First Kart’s in the road racing division, many drivers were investigating the package at both events. With their stellar history of customer service and its on-track performance, I would expect to see more First Karts on the road course of the United States in 2008. I, for one, would like a little more time in one.
EKN OnTrack SuperSpecs:
Chassis: First Kart V32 - 32mm
Engine: Adkins Speed Center Parilla Leopard
Gear Ratio: 16/80
Tires: Bridgestone YHC
Wheels: Douglas 5” magnesium
Caster: 0 degrees
Camber: 0 degrees
Axle: 50mm - Medium
Front Width: 45 1/2”
Rear Width: 54 1/2”
Front Bar: In
Rear Bar: Out
For questions on First Kart and their chassis, visit the official thread in the EKN forums.