Russ Bond Agency has once again partnered up with Toyota Canada to help give youngsters a hands-on introduction to driving and the basics of road safety. 

Now in its eighth year of operation, the kartSTART program schedule includes multi-day events at 10 cities across the country. The first event will take place at Greg Moore Raceway in Chilliwack, B.C. over the Canada Day long weekend.  The entire operation then begins its annual trek eastward; eventually wrapping up the schedule in late August at Scotia Speedworld in Goff, Nova Scotia.

KartSTART is the brainchild of Russ Bond, a retired auto racer and respected automotive journalist. This unique driving education program has been designed to let kids get first-hand experience behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle- that being a high-performance Arrow racing kart. 

Bond sees the key to the success of his program being the fact that the kids are being taught in vehicles that fit them in a safe and controlled setting, rather than behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle on a public road.

toyota kartstart 2018
Getting ready to hit the track. Now in its eighth year of operation, the kartSTART program schedule includes multi-day events at 10 cities across the country. Pic: Russell Purcell

The half-day program includes a mix of both classroom lessons and on track sessions, and upon completion; participants emerge with a real world understanding of the physics behind driving an automobile, as well as enormous smiles and lots of memories.

Also see: World’s Fastest Go-Kart Snaps Your Head Back 0-60 in 1.5-seconds

It is important to note that kartSTART events are not racing events, but safety is still paramount. In fact, “Safety through Education” is the program’s motto and primary goal. As a result, the majority of events are held at dedicated kart tracks or racing facilities where strict design guidelines have been met to ensure driver (and spectator) safety.  For those few events that require a temporary track to be created, every measure is taken by the organizers to meet or exceed the safety standards set by ASN Canada FIA (ASN), the Sporting authority that oversees all Canadian national motorsport.

The kartSTART Day

There are two sessions held each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The students, young and old, begin their experience by getting fitted with a quilted racing suit and a safety-rated helmet before assembling in the paddock classroom to pose for an individual photo keepsake and get an introduction to Bond and his team of instructors and support personnel.

The kids learn what makes a vehicle go, what makes it stop, and what makes it turn. In short, we teach our students what is happening to the vehicle as they travel down the road.

Bond then introduces the students to the sleek Arrow karts during a walk-around session, demonstrating their operation, safety equipment, parts and controls.

The participants are then split into two manageable groups and a quick rundown of the day’s schedule takes place.  Each student is carefully paired with their kart based on their individual size and weight, and the program hits the track.

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Instructor Russ Bond leading the way. He sees the key to the success of his program being the fact that the kids are being taught in vehicles that fit them in a safe and controlled setting, rather than behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle on a public road. Pic: Russell Purcell

Benefits to Putting Kids Behind the Wheel

Russ Bond sees the act of driving as a life skill, but unfortunately, too few people take the time to learn to do it properly. His program serves as the first step in that process.  “We introduce the idea that when you are operating a vehicle it is paramount that you understand what is going on around you all of the time.”

“You see, the reality is that driving is actually a two-part process – the driving part, and the rules of the road part. We focus on the driving part, as kartSTART has not been conceived to teach you the rules of the road. Instead, we are here to teach you how a vehicle works so you can better understand what you need to do to maintain control of your vehicle.”

“The KartSTART program has been designed to teach young, future drivers how a vehicle works,” said Bond. “The kids learn what makes a vehicle go, what makes it stop, and what makes it turn. In short, we teach our students what is happening to the vehicle as they travel down the road.”

Kids on the Track

Bond and his group selected the Arrow karts for the program due to the fact that they are the perfect size for kids to get their first driving experience.  They represent a basic motorized vehicle that is proportionate to the size of the driver, and have been engineered to be both safe and robust. Judging by the countless smiles and abundance of laughter witnessed at the two events I have attended, they are also an awful lot of fun to drive!

Bond and his team show the students how the kart works with regards to steering, use of the throttle, and of course, the ever important brakes. The goal here is for the participants to understand how all these components work together.

toyota kartstart 2018
The participants are given real world demonstrations of these marvels of engineering from behind the wheel of a small fleet of test vehicles that are on hand at each event. Pic: Russell Purcell

“With our program, if a driver goes too fast they will spin the kart,” stressed Bond,” but that is all. From everyone’s perspective, it is much, much better for that to happen here in our karts, where we can simply walk over to the driver and talk to them about what happened.”

After three track sessions in a lead-follow format behind the wheel (remember, this is an educational program, not an introduction to racing) the program moves back to the classroom where everyone is introduced to the latest technologies that comprise Toyota’s Star Safety systems. This suite of safety aides is a major selling feature for Toyota’s current product lineup and includes Vehicle Stability Control, ABS brakes, Traction Control, Electronic Brake Force System, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology.

Participants must be at least 10 years old, but there is no age ceiling as long as you are fit and healthy, and the Arrow karts will accommodate drivers ranging from 60-260 pounds.

The participants are given real world demonstrations of these marvels of engineering from behind the wheel of a small fleet of test vehicles that are on hand at each event.  Parents and adult attendees can get some wheel time in any of these vehicles they wish on the small handling course setup for these demonstrations.   

kartSTART Restrictions

There are however, a few restrictions. Participants must be at least 10 years old, but there is no age ceiling as long as you are fit and healthy, and the Arrow karts will accommodate drivers ranging from 60-260 pounds. It is also important to note that parental supervision is required both for safety sake, and the fact that Toyota helps finance this program to attract consumers to the brand and have the opportunity to showcase the company’s products by putting butts in seats during the automobile segment.

Registration

For further information about the kartSTART driving experience visit their website (www.kartstart.ca) or give them a call at 647-401-5153. TractionLife readers qualify for a 25% discount. Use promo code RoadTestRuss while booking online.

Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.