Vale John Pizarro

Australian karting legend John Pizarro has passed away.

The 78-year old died today after a decades-long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

  • scroll down for a statement from Karting Australia
  • an Auto Action tribute is HERE


It is with sadness that Karting Australia acknowledges the passing of one of the sport’s icons, John Pizarro OAM.

John was a 15-time Australian Champion who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019. He was also one of the inaugural inductees to the Karting Australia Hall of Fame in 2011 and was inducted into Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 2017.

He re-wrote the karting record books on numerous occasions since making his debut behind the wheel of a kart at Granville in New South Wales during the early 1960s.

After winning his first National Championship at Sunnybank in Queensland at the 1968 event, John went on to become the most recognisable names in Australian karting with an unmatched record at major events.

He became the first karter in Australia to hold an International Super Licence and was the first Australian driver to enjoy success at the Asia Pacific Championships.

Throughout his karting career, he competed in five world championships, his first appearance coming in 1975 at the Paul Ricard circuit, an event John described as a ‘baptism of fire’.

John was a part of the DAP works team during the 1970s alongside the late great Ayrton Senna and Terry Fullerton, who Pizarro believes is the best kart racer he had ever seen.

After his international exploits, John moved into the manufacture of karts, his ‘Sprinter’ brand very much in demand, built and sold from premises in Parkes, and was a track advisor and inspector for Karting Australia.

For more than 20 years, Pizarro battled Parkinson’s disease. Last decade he was one of the first in Australia to undergo the then-revolutionary Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, involving electrode implants in the brain, to successfully relieve much of the symptoms of the incurable disease.

Via the Rotary Club in his hometown of Parkes, NSW, John worked to raise funds for research into the disease – while at the same time continuing, until quite recently, attending many Historic kart events here and in NZ, where he was a regular visitor.

Pizarro is survived by wife Marilyn and four daughters – Kristine, Lisa, Annette and Narelle.

On behalf of the Australian Karting Community, Karting Australia offers its thoughts and condolences to John’s family and many friends.

Dubbo Kart Club

The Dubbo Kart Club Committee along with our Members and Supporters would like to pass on our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Karting Legend, John Pizzaro.

John had an integral part and influence on the layout and structure of the Lincoln County Raceway circuit.


We and many other Karters had the pleasure of John attending the Coast 2 Country Series in June. He was stationed on the outgrid, behind all the P1 pole sitters as they settled into the event, John with his well trained eye enjoyed looking at all the different chassis that took part. We would like to thank the Miles Family from Parkes, for bringing John to the track for this event.

May you Rest In Peace John Pizarro. A Karting Legend that will never be forgotten.

DKC Committee

Karting NSW

Tonight we bid a fond farewell to the karting legend, John Pizzaro, affectionately known as JP. Our karting community holds JP dear in our hearts, with fond memories filling the thoughts of many tonight. John’s impact on both his community and the world of karting knows no bounds. Attempting to fully encompass the achievements and influence of this gentle and humble man is a daunting task.

A Parkes local, JP started racing in 1964 at the age of 19 years old, with a career that went on to span more than 30 years. He started in a homemade kart fitted with a small motorcycle engine, four years later winning his first National Championship at Sunnybank QLD in 1968. In the years following he has received several awards and achievements including Parkes Sportsman of the Year in 1973 and 1978, Central West Sportsman of the Year in 1979, the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, inducted into the Karting Hall of Fame in 2011 and inducted into the Australian Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

JP has led an exciting career as an outstanding kart racer, with over 15 Australian Championship titles across several classes, competing in five World Championships, an international team win in the Japan Kart Grand Prix, and participation in international races including Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, France, America, Philippines, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Belgium.

In addition to his successful career, John’s contributions to motor sports continued off the track. He was involved in the design and/or accreditation of many kart tracks including those in Numurkah, Dubbo, Orange, Grenfell, Raleigh, Port Macquarie, Griffith, and Wagga Wagga NSW and trained young drivers on tracks around the Central West. Showcasing his ingenuity he designed, produced, and sold 2500 “Sprinter” Go Karts from his base in Parkes. Rather than progress to motor racing JP chose to excel in karting and to do so for many years.

In 2011, John was honoured with life membership of Karting NSW and in 2019 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) a recognition that was made possible through the efforts of his close friend Tony Agland and Jude Preen from the Orange Kart Club. Just a few weeks ago the Miles family and Rhonda & Ray Shields from Parkes organised a trip to Dubbo Kart Club for JP. He was so excited he woke at 3am that day to get ready to go to the track. He really enjoyed the day. He marvelled at the speed of the juniors and loved seeing all the engines and kart set ups. Ross Preen snapped the pic of Jude and JP in the stands. Jude and JP received their KNSW Life Memberships on the same day in 2011. At the end of this day in Dubbo three weeks ago there was a plan hatched to take JP to the Tony Agland Memorial RKA round at Orange Kart Club in early September. Sadly, this plan won’t come to fruition, but we are sure that some special memories of JP along with Tony will be shared that weekend.

We would like to offer our condolences to John’s wife Marilyn, his daughters Kristine, Lisa, Annette and Narelle as well as his extended family and many friends.

RIP JP. Your lifetime has been a wonderful story underlined by extraordinary achievements. Tonight, is a great time to watch this video:

Drew Price

We are very sad to hear of the recent passing of John Pizarro – From Drew and Bart Price, the entire Price Family and past and present staff of DPE we offer our sincere condolences to the Pizarro family.

This year is the 50th anniversary of DPE and from this I remember that it is 51 years ago that I first competed against John Pizarro at the Australian Championships in Burnie Tasmania in 1972. This was the commencement of a long standing rivalry on the track that lasted many years and brings back many great memories.

Whilst we were competitors on the track, and also in business, John and I enjoyed a valued relationship. He was someone I have always admired very much and whose huge contribution to karting made him one of the true icons of our sport – JP you will be long remembered.

Ian Black

It’s with great sadness we hear the passing of karting legend, John Pizarro.

When I first started IKD, then known as Blacktown Kart Centre, I was a dealer for Sprinter Karts which was manufactured by John.

John was very supportive and more than willing to offer me plenty of words of wisdom in the formative years of IKD.

The respect and admiration for John is widely felt amongst all generations and codes of motorsport and will continue for years to come as we remember the 15 time Australian Champion.

Our thoughts are with the Pizarro family during this difficult time.