Birth of the Asian Karting Open Championships
The Asian Karting Open Championship (AKOC) started from humble beginnings. From an ambitious dream, the series’ primary mission was to set a formidable stage for karters to hone their racing skills. And it did. Over the years, the series produced several Asian racing superstars who have made their mark in motorsports.
The Call That Started It All
In January 2002, Ikatan Motor Indonesia (IMI), Indonesia’s CIK-appointed governing body for karting, made that historic call to its Philippine counterpart, the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP). IMI invited the Filipino karting officials to meet in Jakarta, Indonesia to discuss the possibility of an Asian Karting Series patterned after the European Kart Championships. Singapore Motor Sports Association (SMSA) was likewise invited to join the meeting.
Mr. Johnny G. Tan and AAP’s Mr. Jun Espino flew to Jakarta to meet Mr. Djembar Kartasasmita, Mr. Dolly Nasution and Mr. Bambang of IMI for the two-day meeting. After careful deliberation, the founding directors of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore decided to invite Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM) to be part of the core group or inner circle of the Asian Karting Open Championship Series. Hence, AKOC was born.
The announcement of AKOC generated considerable interest among Asian karters. Because for the first time, there was finally an acclaimed race series that would pit the best karters in Asia. Many F1 fans and wannabes felt that the AKOC series could bring them one step closer to their F1 dream.
Based on the agreement, the initial three (3) rounds were held in Manila, Philippines, Jakarta, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that same year. Karting categories included Formula A, Intercontinental A, Intercontinental A Junior, Rotax Max 125 Seniors and Formula Cadet 85.
A total of 60 karters from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines joined on the series’ debut year. The second year saw the need to create new AKOC categories due to public demand.
The Rotax Max 125 Junior Challenge was introduced to replace the Intercontinental A category. Formula A was renamed Formula 100 Open without changing the rules and regulation of the said class. On the other hand, the three remaining divisions, Rotax Max 125 Seniors, Intercontinental A Junior and Formula Cadet 85 were retained.
The third year of the series showed a dynamic expansion of the AKOC series in the region. Apart from the traditional rounds in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, India joined the AKOC series. Hence, the third round of the series was held in Coimbatore, India. Hopes were high that karters from Pakistan and Sri Lanka would eventually join the series.
Seeing the growing success of the AKOC series in the region, Macau did not want to be left behind. Home of the Macau Grand Prix featuring the F3 cup, World Touring Car Championships (WTCC), Motorcycle Road Race, the Motorsports Capital of Asia, Macau joined the series by organizing the fourth round through the efforts of Engineer Antunes, Mr. Alex Vong, and Mr. Chong Coc Veng.
The entry of Macau brought in karters from the East Asian region notably China, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau. For the first time in Asian Karting, a total of 13 countries competed side by side in the historic Asian Karting Open Championship in Macau.
In 2005, Bombardier-Rotax joined AKOC by incorporating the Rotax Max 125 Challenge Seniors and Juniors into the Asian Max Challenge for both Seniors and Juniors. Champions of both categories were sponsored by Rotax to join the World Rotax Max Challenge. It became an attractive incentive for Asian karters to race with the world’s best karters.
That same year, there were also talks that Bahrain was interested in participating, fielding in karters from the Middle East to join the series. AKOC by this time, became the most prestigious Asian Karting Competition in the entire East region.
From a small dream of organizing a true Asian Karting Open Championship, the series rapidly evolved over the years. The series was pivotal in developing karting talents within the region and fostered brotherhood, as well as forged lifetime friendships with our Asian neighbors.
The AKOC achieved its initial objective and dream to create an avenue for Asian karters. A new challenge, however, is the series’ sustainability, expansion and development of the sport in non-karting countries within the region.