“It all started in 2017 with rented go-karts,” Stakenberg, 15, said, explaining his interest in competitive kart racing. “That was when I got into it. It was all about having control of something. Those karts may not have much grip, but being able to maneuver around tight corners and such, that was great.”
The young Rockland racer was having fun at a recreational karting track in Gatineau when he found out about high-speed competitive kart racing. Soon after, in May 2017, he was behind the wheel and zooming around the track in his first actual kart race at Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Québec.
“It was a big learning experience,” Stakenberg said with a grin. “I was just getting to grips on the difference it was from rental go-karting.”
Go-kart racing, or karting as its fans and racers call it, has been around since at least the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it had been more a hobby sport for amateur racers who might build their own karts using souped up lawnmower engines for power. Now kart racing is a big business, with professionally designed and built karts available for purchase for those who are serious competitive kart racers.
Stakenberg got his own professional kart racer soon after his Mont-Saint-Hilaire experience. At the time he didn’t know that he could rent a regulation racing kart, but he knew he had to keep on racing after his first time on the competitive track.
“It was a pretty intense experience for a first race,” he said, adding that he had to exert a lot of control over his kart to avoid spinning out. In the end, he finished fifth out of six racers that day.
“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” he said. “The exhilaration, I was just amazed how much fun it was.”
Stakenberg has accumulated an impressive record now after three seasons of kart racing. He roared through 12 races, including two championship events during his 2018 season and last year doubled the number of events on his racing calendar.
One of his highlights of the 2019-racing season was third overall at the Karting Trois-Rivières event, competing in the Briggs and Stratton class of karts. Then, there was the Rivière-du-Loup event in Québec, his first street-circuit race on a public road closed off to normal traffic for the event. He finished first overall in the super pole class and clocked a top speed of 96 km/h on the straightaway, and 85 km/h on the corners at some points during the weekend event.
Like father, like son
Stakenberg inherited his karting enthusiasm from his father, Wil, who used to drive karts during his younger years and now serves as “pit crew” for his son.
“I liked the stories he told about racing,” Stakenberg said. “I thought then ‘I really want to try that.’ So, one season led to two, to three, and hopefully, some day, maybe up to regular racing cars. That was my plan then, and maybe in a couple years, who knows.”
When he’s not racing, not training, and not occupied with his school work or other interests, Stakenberg holds down a part-time job to help pay for some of his racing expenses. He also has one regular sponsor in KoolTech Mechanical of Rockland. More sponsors are welcome to help him achieve some of his championship dreams.
But on and off the track, Stakenberg keeps in mind his dad’s advice: “First of all, have fun. Be safe.”