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Spanish character

Ramón López Villalba (Madrid, July 8, 1931) had completed higher studies in mechanics while performing his military service at the School of Aviation Specialists, in 1952 in León. At the end, he joined the Aviaco company and later in Iberia, performing duties as a track mechanic, something that did not quite convince him.

[su_quote] "I wanted to be a flight mechanic, but there was never a place for this position, so in 1956 I decided to leave everything and went to work in my father's garage on Padilla Street." [/ su_quote]

It is in this garage where Ramón López will apply his mechanical knowledge to countless vehicles, building numerous spare parts for them with his hands and the lathe. "I worked with normal cars and never made motorcycle chassis, as has sometimes been written."

Ramón López driving
Ramón López, piloting

One day in 1958, the well-known motorcycle pilot Demetrio del Val appeared at the workshop.

[su_quote] “Demetrio had come from a trip to the United States and he was talking to me about the karts he had seen there; so I started building one for him,
using a Montesa engine and Vespa wheels. » [/ su_quote]

This kart and the one that, coinciding in time, was being built by the Catalan Jordi Estela at the Mostajo Velodrome in Barcelona, They are the first built in Spain and indisputable precedents of karting in our country.

It will not be until 1960 that Ramón builds another one again, this time equipped with a Bultaco engine from the new motorcycle of his Portuguese friend Serafín Martins. "We built this kart in five nights and it has been going over a hundred kilometers an hour, the 600 have nothing to do against us ..." proudly declared to the press of the time. It was baptized as "Template" and registered by Martins in the first kart race held in the Retiro Park in Madrid on November 1, 1960, where he would achieve victory.

Ramón López and Serafín Martins circulating with apparent tranquility through the streets of Madrid
Ramón López and Serafín Martins circulating with apparent tranquility through the streets of Madrid

The origins of Hispakart

A momentous event occurs in 1961, and will radically transform the character amateur or "home" in the productions of Ramón López. Demetrio del Val had commissioned him to build 12 new karts, which were sold unbranded in the Canary Islands. After some time, the Canarian customers wanted to contact him to order new units, but they could not locate him ...

[su_quote] “In the end they found me, but it cost them a lot. I realized that I needed a brand to be able to market them. Initially I thought about using ESPAKART, but at that time VESPACAR motorcycles were sold and it was a name that was very similar. In the end I decided that the brand would be HISPAKART ”. [/ su_quote]

Once this was established, the next step was to form a karting team that would bring together the main drivers from Madrid. Ramón created in 1962 one of the most important teams that have ever existed in Spain, the famous “Los Diablos Rojos” team. It was made up of Ramón himself, Serafín Martins and Robert Shelton, a US military man from the Torrejón de Ardoz air base. "Each race we attended could be classified as international in nature"says Ramón himself smiling.

One of the Red Devils in the Retiro Park in Madrid
One of the Red Devils in the Retiro Park in Madrid

Equipped with Hispakart chassis and with Mc Culloch engines, of which he had obtained technical service together with Homelite and other brands, “Los Diablos Rojos” won races wherever they went. Between 1962 and 1965 the list of triumphs is endless: Torrelavega, Gijón, Málaga, Castellón, Logroño, Andújar, Torrejón, Cáceres, Albacete, Ávila, Seville, Alcalá de Henares, Santoña… are some of the scenes of his successes.

[su_quote] “One of the most important victories was the First Six Hours of Malaga, in 1962, teaming up with Serafín Martins and followed by Robert Shelton and Virgilio Ribadulla with another Hispakart. However, I consider sixth place in the 200 cc achieved in the Barcelona International Grand Prix, which was raced on the Diagonal and in which I qualified as the first Spanish rider ”, of greater sporting value”. [/ su_quote]

The team's Chevrolet Bel Air, ready to head to the races, note the amount of karts that the small trailer was pulling
The team's Chevrolet Bel Air, ready to head to the races.
Note the amount of karts that the small trailer was dragging

Ramón López was a regular at Barcelona races, where he shone in front of pilots of international stature, such as the Americans Bob Allen and Jeff Crumb.

[su_quote] “Barcelona was where there was more interest and where important races were run; on the other hand, in Madrid everything was trouble. After José Pujol's fatal accident at the Retiro circuit in 1962, they would not let us organize races either there or in the Casa de Campo or in the Parque del Oeste, so we had to run on a circuit drawn up at the Torrejón air base or on the banked track of the Sports Palace, until we were also banned when a loose wheel injured a spectator. But thanks, on the one hand, to the owners of the Motocine de Barajas (which never worked as such), who were kind enough to let us race in their facilities (where I had to draw the circuit and put the cones and tires) and On the other hand, to Don Agustín Sabio, Secretary of the Automobile Center Federation, who with great enthusiasm helped us by drawing up the regulations, timing us, making the classifications and paying the insurance while maintaining the development of the championship, we were able to continue competing ”. [/ su_quote]

The “Los Diablos Rojos” team poses in full after winning the 1963 Mc Culloch Trophy, from left to right, Robert Shelton, Ramón López and Serafín Martins
The “Los Diablos Rojos” team poses in full after winning the 1963 Mc Culloch Trophy.
From left to right: Robert Shelton, Ramón López and Serafín Martins

In 1964, the veto was lifted, contesting the XXV Years of Peace trophy at the Retiro circuit, where Ramón achieved a brilliant victory and where a pilot who will be fundamental in the history of Hispakart appears for the first time in a kart race: Jorge de Bagration, which is classified in second position with a chassis of the brand.

By then, Hispakart had already become one of the main karting references in Spain. The General Directorate of Traffic had commissioned him to build the karts of its famous Children's Traffic Parks, as well as the fairings, suitcases and various accessories, including some trailers, that were equipped with the Sanglas motorcycles of the Civil Guard. On a sporting level, Ramón López will even compete in the Karting World Championships, held in Rome in 1964 and 1965, where you will obtain a discreet classification but that will allow you to share races with future motorsport aces such as Toine Hezemans or Ronnie Peterson.

Ramón López at the wheel of a Hispakart chassis equipped with a Bultaco 250 with gearbox
Ramón López at the wheel of a Hispakart chassis equipped with a Bultaco 250 with gearbox


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Written by Álex Vèrges & Paris French

Álex Vèrges and Paris Francés: Motor historians. Creators, along with Antonio Palacín, of the magnificent quarterly magazine "Autódromo. Notebooks history of the motor in Spain."

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