Chris Wehrheim

Cornered: John Martin of iKart Racing Chassis

America has a new chassis designer and his name is John Martin.

iKart side pod and graphics
Up close with the new iKart livery. Photo: Kart360

1. John, for those who don't know who you are and your background can you tell us a little about yourself? I started my (Carbonix) business in my dad's basement, but quickly realized that to grow the business I would need to move into my own shop. We initially started in composites (carbon fiber) building various race parts for companies and teams in the Indy area. As we continued to grow and started to build a reputation, I saved my money to buy the proper tooling necessary to do the highest quality parts in the business. Now we do a lot of composite parts and high end machine parts for performance applications including USAC, Indy Car, Sports Cars, NHRA, just to name a few.

(L-R) Chris Lobaugh, John Martin, and Nick Ricketts

2. What made you want to start iKart and who all is involved with this project? My dad bought me a kart for $1,500 complete with a Briggs engine at an early age. I was looking at that receipt about five years ago and thought to my self, how has kart prices gone up so much. I see these prices and it makes me upset how expensive it is to get started into the sport. I feel every kid should be as lucky as I was and at least have something competitive and the opportunity to race. It bothers me now how much money it costs and I am going to fix that. When I look at the grid at a kart race and look at the price of the kart something is not adding up. Where is the extra cost coming from? Don't get me wrong, I am not against European karts at all, but I am against prices being too high.

I have been playing around with the idea to build an American made kart for years and decided to call Ron Funkhauser. He has helped me with putting the project together. I didn't know him well at all before talking to him, but we had the same feelings on what needed to be done. Nick Ricketts is our welder and is also a big part of this working triple time. He is my expert carbon guy and is putting a lot of his knowledge into this. CJ Litner has been on board since the beginning and has more laps than anyone in the kart and was instrumental in getting it off the ground.

Lastly we have our most recent addition to the project, Chris Lobaugh. I have known Chris for years and have always wanted to work with him. He has always impressed me with his tuning abilities and his process. Chris is in charge of our race team and getting what we need out of the kart and relaying that information to me so I can go back to the computer and develop the product. Chris and I really compliment each other and we have a trust in each other that helps us improve the product.

3. What are the plans for the future of iKart? When can we expect the public to be able to purchase an iKart? You can purchase one now! We have a full inventory of parts that we have built up over the course of the last month. Right now we are focusing on production and marketing the product. We did not want to build a kart and sell it before it was ready. I did not build this kart to make a living, but to build the fastest kart out there.

4. The chassis has some unique features can you explain some of them? For starters I wanted to design a frame that was adaptable to any situation. To do that you can not have seat struts or the axle welded to the frame. You must be able to redesign the kart in 30 minutes while still maintaining the same frame. We have developed the front so that all of the energy does not get lost in the spindle C, which is one of the reasons why the kart is so fast in high speed corners. The first thing when turn the wheel is that energy is lost because of the C is softer than the spindle. We also adjust castor and camber independently. We focus on the precision of everything when building the kart down to the bends of the tubes. Just because it came out of the tube bender does not mean the measurements are always exact. My dad is instrumental of this part of the process and is a master of making everything precise.

iKart chassis welds
A look at the high quality work from iKart. Photo: Kart360

5. You guys won your first race with Mike Giessen at the USPKS opener in the rain, but were right at the front with both Giessen and Rios. What do you attribute the progression in the development of the chassis to and what are your goals for the remainder of the season? I attribute this to everyone giving 100% of their ability. You take out one ingredient and this success never happens. The karts we ran these past two races were the exact same frame design that I first designed on the computer, but with one small adjustment. We made one small adjustment to the spindle C for more castor and that is it. It is hard building kart for Rios because he drives so hard and is so driven that it exceeds the ability of the kart sometime. I am not building a kart for Jesus Rios and Mike Giessen though. I am building one frame to sell to everyone and there is no such thing as special frames from us. Also having a strong engine program thanks to Comet has helped developing the chassis. We know we are going to get the best stuff every time and never have to question our speed due to the engine.

Team driver, Jesus Rios, winning at the Manufacturer's Cup in 2013.

6.  How is it working with two of the best kart drivers in North America, Jesus Rios and Mike Giessen? I would like to make the analogy of having two quarterbacks on a team. Mike Giessen is the Brett Favre and Jesus Rios is Andrew Luck. What I mean by that is that Giessen has the experience and skill. Rios is young, talented and has that excitement of giving his all every time it's game time. Both are gentleman and the most respectful drivers I have ever been around along with being two of the most talented. When developing a kart you need a veteran and someone with just outright speed like Rios, but they have to be able to work together or the program will not be successful.

7. How can people learn more about iKart and get in contact with you John? Right now the best way is to contact me at 317-457-0811. I would also like to say one last thing. I want to thank everyone for racing us clean on track and showing so much respect. I expect the exact same out of our drivers and look forward to great competition the remainder of the season. I would also like to say that I support all American kart companies and wish everyone to support them such as, Comet Eagle, Margay and Ultimate Karts. We need to support these brands and help the American karting industry grow.