Trackmagic is Back – The Return of the Legend
Former factory drivers Jason LaPoint and Gary Carlton re-fire iconic brand
During the mid-1990s, the American karting community witnessed a disrupter to the norm. The name ‘Trackmagic’ emerged from the historic kart tracks of NorCal and the American-made karts that were turned out of the San Francisco, CA shop quickly became a household national name. Fueled by the passion and drive of Fausto Vitello, the publisher of Thrasher Magazine and a producer of skateboarding components and gear, Trackmagic successfully tackled the SKUSA ProMoto Tour and SuperNationals, the WKA Constructors Championship, and the IKF Grand Nationals, to name a few series and events. Trackmagic karts were shipped all over the country and their dealer network grew. Trackmagic wasn’t just a kart chassis, it became a culture.
The Trackmagic factory team featured winning drivers like Memo Gidley, Jason LaPoint, Kyle Martin, Oliver Rowen, Alan Rudolph, Bobby Wilson, Jonathan Bomarito and Landon Yee, and Vitello spared no expense in tackling the status quo. Testing and development was on-going and they rolled out countless prototypes and new innovations to stay even or ahead of their European and American counterparts.
Tragically, Vitello passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 2006 and the brand was essentially put in limbo. Ownership of the name changed hands on two occasions as new blood attempted to continue with the program, but neither succeeded. You can buy a brand, but you can’t by the culture, which comes from the leadership. At that point, the Trackmagic legend came to an end and would take its rightful place as a very colorful chapter of American karting history.
Or so we thought.
Fast-forward to 2014, and a few veteran Trackmagic members got to talking about the brand and the family that grew from the program, including LaPoint, Martin, and Rowen, as well as long-time Trackmagic driver and mechanic Ryan Pfau. Former Trackmagic driver Howie Idelson was also part of the discussions and he would play a crucial role moving forward. The obvious questions arose regarding the current ownership of the name and the brand, and if it was simply in limbo. Idelson’s professional experience was brought to the forefront and a plan was put into play to do the necessary research. After 3.5 years of choosing categories and staying patient through waiting periods, Idelson and LaPoint finally secured all the trademarks for Trackmagic in 2018. At a very basic level, Trackmagic was back. At this point, with the trademark secured, the question now was what to do with it.
“We could only think of a million ideas, but the truth was we just wanted it (the trademark) because of our history and love for the brand,” LaPoint told EKN. “We did not want someone else to buy it and ruin it.”
During this time of trademark research and work, the Trackmagic brand was enjoying an actual revival of sorts, led by Bob Iriks, who was restoring the 2001 Trackmagic 80cc Dragon kart that he had bought directly from the factory. Iriks launched the ‘Trackmagic Owners Group’ on Facebook and it was quickly being filled with chatter, stories, and old-school images from Jeff Deskins of Shiftsport Imagery, who shot for our magazine Shifter Kart Illustrated in the late-1990s and early-2000s. It was a walk down memory lane for those who drove the trademark yellow and black chassis. At the same time, a movement was gaining momentum in NorCal to buy up older 80cc shifters off Craigslist and eBay, as they are now surprisingly cheap, and get them back out for fun track days. Quick restorations helped fuel a couple of outings for the drivers of these newfound machines, as the class had once been a huge part of IKF karting in the region. A few garaged Trackmagics were being found for sale online, and former drivers were grabbing them up and beginning their own restoration projects. This affection for the brand fueled a group within a group, as the NorCal 80cc drivers enjoyed a subset of Trackmagic followers.
Two additional ‘Trackmagic Track Days’ have taken take place since that first one at Davis, and everyone expects this to be an annual meet-up. The most recent outing held particular meaning, as a new chapter of the story was unveiled. More on that later.
Enter Gary Carlton.
The NorCal star joined the Trackmagic factory team in 2005 and would be the last driver in the story before Vitello’s unfortunate passing. Carlton bled yellow and black those days, sleeping on a cot at the shop while prepping and building karts to go national racing with the team. Carlton would eventually go on to race in Europe, becoming arguably America’s most successful international competitor. Having returned to the US, the Californian’s launched his own ‘GFC’ team and chassis line in 2018 and has become a key player in the industry.
The excitement and momentum being created by the Trackmagic Owners Group Facebook page and Track Days eventually motivated Carlton to reach out to LaPoint. Despite running for Trackmagic in separate eras, Jason had kept up on Carlton’s career through Ryan Pfau and his father Garry LaPoint, who continued to work in the paddock as a mechanic for Idelson, while also helping Carlton and visiting competitors like Anthony Abbasse. LaPoint followed Carlton’s European karting career with interest and told EKN that he’s always considered Gary to be the “Last of the Jedi” when it came to Trackmagic factory drivers. Discussions between the two former factory drivers would lead to an actual re-birth of the brand as a competition product, ready to return to the fight. With the trademark secured, the door had been opened for more.
With a shared love and dedication for Trackmagic, the duo set up to honor Vitello’s legacy with a branded package that would be the real deal. They wanted the kart to be its own program with its own chassis numbers and production. Since Carlton had done significant testing in developing his GFC kart and had the connections to various suppliers domestic and abroad, Jason knew and trusted that the chassis would perform. Given Carlton’s recent success on track, they did not want to change a lot from the basic GFC chassis, but since the new Trackmagic would be a 2020 model, it will feature all upgrades for the new year. True to form, the livery that made Trackmagic brand so popular is back, designed by Idelson, and the smallest details were key in the overall build. They immediately worked on the logos for the components, and paid close attention to the color and design of the frame all the way from the tiny details of the brake lines to the color of the water hoses. When Vitello did something, he did it right and Gary and Jason wanted to stay true to that culture. The Trackmagic F.V. was born and name of the kart was an obvious choice to honor the SKUSA Hall of Fame 2018 inductee and founder of the Trackmagic brand Fausto Vitello. The F.V. kart is a tribute to the man who started it all. They decided to do a limited production of only 10 karts to make sure that they didn’t need to make too large of an investment or set themselves up for any issues with production.
“We did not want to bite off more than we could chew,” LaPoint added.
The limited run of 10 new Trackmagic packages is completed and eight are already spoken for. Just two karts remain.
Now building a small run of karts for former Trackmagic enthusiasts to use as track karts is one thing, but both LaPoint and Carlton are champions and race winners, remember? They had a burning desire to showcase the new kart on a grand stage, to bring the yellow and black back to the big show.
“No matter what you do with promotion or advertising, you can’t showcase a kart without racing it,” LaPoint enthused. “It was also the brand’s legacy to give young drivers the ability to complete on national level with no compromises. After much discussion with Gary about the driver Mathias Ramirez, he convinced me he was the right driver for the job. The problem was he did not have a budget to race him and he was currently racing for another team. Thankfully, after a few months, it was brought to my attention he might become available. “
“I told Gary that Trackmagic would sponsor Mathias’ full KZ effort for the SKUSA SuperNationals,” LaPoint continued. “When we announced this at the Trackmagic Trackday at Davis, we were immediately supported as many of the Trackmagic Owners Group were willing to help the effort. Don D’Elia from D’Elia Construction, Rich Bacchi from Gorilla BBQ, Gary LaPoint and LaPoint Business Group, as well as many others, offered time and labor. The Trackmagic family stepped up to not only fund a driver, but cheer on, give advice, and more, from the likes of Kyle Martin, Oliver Rowen, George Barros, Rich Bacchi, and Garry LaPoint, just to name a few. This also set forth the requirement for a Trackmagic Owners Group hospitality tent at the SuperNationals and a number of Trackmagic patrons will be making the journey.”
This new collaboration of Trackmagic enthusiasts are supporting the effort and the future of the brand. LaPoint is not in this program for the money or personal gain in any way. His pure motivation is to bring the Trackmagic name back to the sporting side of karting and to bring the family back together. Ramirez has tested the Trackmagic F.V. aggressively in recent weeks and he and Carlton are fired up to put the brand back on track at the SKUSA SuperNationals next month.
“I want to see Gary Carlton achieve his dreams and I think he has earned the right and has the passion to use the brand correctly,” LaPoint added. “I wanted to reunite relationships with the great guys who shared common goals in the past, and to have the opportunity to do it again. Now we have it! It is truly now a real team and the brand is real. The people supporting it ARE TRACKMAGIC. They made it, they raced it, they shared its lows and highs. We all are now ready to help and build a future with the same enthusiasm and strength. With Gary and the GFC team running the program, we are all excited not to start from scratch but rather build upon an already proven program.”
Carlton is equally as passionate about the program and the potential.
“Since creating my own chassis brand a little over a year ago, it’s really changed the way I have looked at karting,” Carlton offered. “Most would think it would bring me more in tune with all the politics in karting but it’s done the opposite. It’s been only one focus on developing my products and it’s been very rewarding. And then to add the historic brand that is Trackmagic, and it’s a bit unreal. I can tell you I was as emotional when assembling the first chassis as I was my own GFC branded chassis. I cannot thank Jason LaPoint, Kyle Martin, Oliver Rowan and all of the Trackmagic Owners Group Fans enough for the overwhelming love and support. I always felt I was a bit of an outcast as I was a driver for Trackmagic after their glory years, but their support and kind words during the last Trackmagic Track Day in Davis made me really feel like a true Factory Trackmagic Driver.”
LaPoint’s ideas for the future include planning multiple Trackmagic Trackday events for 2020. The concept is to celebrate the older Trackmagic karts in a two-day format with camping, food and more. The events are designed to attract new people and recreational karters to the sport, as well to bring people back to the sport (like himself), who have been gone for years. The Trackdays are going to feature ex-Trackmagic Factory drivers and tuners, as well as new Trackmagic drivers and teams. 2020 will see Trackmagic Karts competing with GFC Racing in numerous series. LaPoint also told EKN that they have a number of other plans that will be announced soon.
“Overall, the future of the brand is exciting, the bringing together of old and new,” said LaPoint, looking forwards. “The creation of non-racing recreational events and the growth of the Trackmagic Owners Group on Facebook has driven the brand to new heights. The Trackmagic family is now stronger than ever and ready to make new memories.