HISTORY - 50s/60s

Guido Sala, first Birel karts' driver.

Karting become popular throughout Europe at the end of the fifties. The craftsmen who started building the first chassis in Italy called them "cancelli", "gates", due to their weight and size. Umberto Sala in those days was managing a car and motorcycle shop in Lissone, near Milan.

He opened a small light metallurgy workshop and started making his first karts for fun. Sala had competed in motorcycle and car races (including two editions of the Mille Miglia) and karting was a way to release his passion for engines and competitions.

Sala's chassis were called "Birel" which was the family's nickname (in Lissone Sala family members are known as the "Birel", with the stress on the letter "e").

The Sala Family after a victory: from the left Massimo Nava, Umberto Sala, Oscar Sala.

The first Birel Kart driver was Guido Sala, Umberto's brother, who had competed in top level motorcycle races in the past.

Birel took part in the "World Championship" race in September 1961 at Pista Rossa in Milan (which was in actual fact an international competition because it was not organised under the protection of FIA) and won a wonderful second in the 100 class with Walter Eleonori, following American ace Bob Allen.

That same year, the small company from Lissone presented its production range at the Kart Show section of the Milan International Cycle and Motorcycle Show.

The first appearances of Birel on the international scene . Over a few years, Birel built a solid fame thanks to numerous racing successes. Umberto Sala was forced to abandon the shop first and then the light metallurgy activity later to devoted his attention entirely to the production of karts.

One of the drivers who contributed to affirming Birel on tracks world-wide is Oscar Sala, Umberto's son, who would become the company's future number one. Birel built a number of Formula 3 cars in 1967, one of which won the Italian Championship driven by Vittorio Brambilla. 1967 was a crucial year for Birel when the team won the first world championship title in Monte Carlo with Swiss born driver Edgardo Rossi.

The karting sector experience a period of recession at the end of the sixties and Birel attempted to open new perspectives.

The first 125 class chassis was made, and an inexpensive assembly kit kart, specifically designed for the US market, was marketed. During those years the very refined Drag chassis was made, characterised by a sophisticated steering control system which turned out to be rather difficult to tune and for this reason was not very successful.