It was going to be my first ever go-karting experience. The adrenaline that had been pumping throughout my body in the last fifteen minutes had made me ever keener just to jump into a kart and do as I wish. But of course, common sense prevented me from doing such a thing. This time.
We walked into the PowerKart Raceway in Kingston, and I was amazed at how big and how well kept it was. I had encountered another go-karting place in Fyshwick once, at a birthday party my brother attended, and it was rather on the filthy side, with petrol go-karts. But this was nowhere near that. This was a large warehouse-type building, with a smooth polished concrete floor, and half occupied by the track and half by the register and a small arcade. I watched in amazement as large electric go-karts zoomed by at what seemed a phenomenal speed. Well, to me, anyway. I walked straight to the register, after saying hello to a certain two fellows who happened to possess the names of John and James (see AT THE WHEEL_ drivetribe.com/t/VKo-Z1erR46e9AjlnLfYZw/Kto1lPLpTbKeqWkdTYscOw). We signed up and gave our details, when we realised that since I was just under 12 years old, I would have to go on my own in a junior kart. I was disappointed, because this would mean that I would have to go on my own instead of racing with the others, and my kart had almost half the power. Adult karts could reach 50km/h, while junior karts were limited at 35km/h. Anyway, I sat down to watch the adults race, and boy, was it entertaining…
The start was fairly slow, but John, James, and others soon warmed up and seemed to gradually go faster every lap. At one point, while go-karts flew around the track at tremendous speeds, I saw James take a relatively smooth corner with ease, followed by some brainless hoon at top speed. This very brainless person seemed to have forgotten the concept of braking or turning into a corner, at least until the very last second, as he apparently realised he was going to demolish both himself and the barrier in front of him. To prevent this, he suddenly turned and braked at the same time, a little too hard in the end, as he skidded diagonally into the wall anyway in a most ungraceful manner. There was a tremendous bang. This brainless person, John Coleman, coincidently, was obviously not worthy of his go-karting licence. By the time I had recovered from my semi heart attack, all I saw was a host of PowerKart Raceway personnel moving onto the track, sliding the much-moved wall back into place, while John looked on, slightly dazed and grinning stupidly like he was simply amazing and had achieved something brilliant. He was briefly educated on the left pedal and its proper usage, and the race went on. By the end, John’s best lap time was 47.840 seconds, while James managed 40.524 seconds, thrashing John’s top score by a good 7 seconds.
After all the adults had finished, it was my go. My body was absolutely tingling with excitement. I was ushered into the small briefing room, and sure enough, I was briefed not face to face, but through a video. I slipped on a head-sock, a helmet, and made my way toward the pit lane.
As I sat waiting in my red and yellow electric kart (number 34 for the record), I briefly surveyed the track. As you came out of the pit lane, there was a fairly long straight, followed by a couple of S-turns toward the left. Shortly after that, there was a 45-degree turn to the right, followed by another 180-degree turn to the right. This means there was then a short straight stretch to speed up for the next two corners. The first corner was the very one John crashed into, and was a 90-degree turn to the left. The second was an identical one, creating a long U-shaped turn. According to PowerKart Raceway, this is one of the turns you can theoretically take the fastest (as long as you remember to actually turn). The upcoming turns are pretty much the hardest turns on the track: the hairpins. These are then followed by two intermediate level turns to the left, before entering the pit straight again. The pit straight is one of the two longest straights on the track, and at its end, there’s a left turn, and your back at the beginning of your next lap.
Of course, as I had expected, the junior karts were a fair bit smaller than the senior ones. But as I made my way out onto the track, little did I know how fast they were, or how fast they seemed anyway. As I got to the straight, I put my foot down and suddenly, my kart whizzed to life, and I was off at tremendous pace, or that’s what it seemed like, even though I was barely exceeding 35km/h. It felt like I was racing on a big track in a super sports car. As I came into the first turn, I braked fairly heavily, even though I realised later that there was really no need to slow down except for the hairpins. In the whole track, there were only three turns that caused me trouble at the beginning. Two of those were the S-turns, which I would keep hitting either one side or the other. Well, not hitting, more like gently skimming. But the one turn that caused me the most trouble was the first hairpin. I was forever sliding out and bumping into it.
The worst of those bumps was when I came around the corner, slowed down too much, and then put the power on as I was going around the corner, causing me to slide sideways into the wall. I’ll admit that I nudged it a little. I was fine after that, however, and ended up taking the turns at full speed. I was really enjoying myself a lot, but unfortunately, the designated 14 laps were soon up, and I was summoned back to the pit lane. My best lap time ended up at 36.126 seconds. Faster than both James and John. On the same track, with half the power and a kart that was 15km/h slower. Needless to say, I was pleased.
What I learned that day was that really, you don’t need to own a Ferrari and have a private track nearby to learn the basics of racing. Go-karting is pretty much racing, just on a smaller scale. I also learned that you really don’t have to slow down to take a corner, even if deep inside you think you probably should, because the karts are fitted with slick racing tyres, so the more they heat up, the more traction you get.
So, if you’ve ever sat down and dreamed about what it would be like to race, stop moping and go and drive a go-kart.