This weekend, I finally cashed in on my Christmas gift from Jenny- two races at Pro-Kart Raceland, in nearby Wackersdorf. (I don’t think that Wackersdorf will ever stop being a funny name to me.) Pro-Kart Raceland has two big tracks, one is indoors, in a giant warehouse type of space, and the other one is outdoors. We were racing on the indoor track.
I’ve been on go-karts before, but never quite like this. For one thing, these were a bit faster than any go-karts I’ve ever driven in the US. For another thing, helmets are required. There are shared helmets available, not unlike the bowling shoes you rent in the US. You can also buy a cheap balaclava (a head covering that just leaves the eyes exposed) to protect your head from other people’s head-cooties if you want. Some people bring their own helmets, racing gloves, and the like. Some people are really into this.
So here’s how the day went. We checked in, paid, and I got the aforementioned balaclava. The next several minutes were spent taking funny pictures of me in a balaclava. Then we went to the indoor track. There’s a short list of rules and then you get assigned to a numbered car. Everyone in that race is lined up, and the engines are started by a staff member. As soon as your engine is started, you floor it out of the holding pen.
Our races were ten minute heats, although there was a twenty minute race after we were done, so this varies. When you see the guy waving the checkered flag like so, it means it’s time to come in at the end of your current lap.
Once you get back in, all the engines are shut off and you get a print-out showing how well you did. There’s a lap time for each lap, and your best time is marked. Additionally, you’re ranked against everyone who was in that race. I was not in first place. Or second or third place. I wasn’t very fast at all, in fact.
I take pride in the fact that my overall lap times were decreasing as I went. The only exception was one lap where Jenny spun out in front of me and I braked hard to avoid hitting her. I braked a little *too* hard and my engine stalled. My time on that lap was 1:37. My best time was 51.575 seconds. And yes, these races were decided on hundredths of seconds.
For the part, there’s good sportsmanship here. The cars aren’t bumper cars, and you can be penalized or ejected for ramming people intentionally. That didn’t stop one kid from hitting me after I passed him, though. Of course he might have just been annoyed by my helmet- I didn’t realize it when I grabbed a helmet off the shelf, but I was giving everyone I passed a Trollface.
After we were done with our races, we spent a little while watching the outdoor races. These cars seemed to be faster even than the cars inside. They also had a more traditional race structure. They started out the same, with the staff members starting the engines, but the first few laps were a qualifying heat to put everyone in their starting positions.
Once everyone had a starting position, they all started at the same time, instead of going one at a time as before.
There’s an interesting side effect of doing this for two ten minute races on Saturday- the muscles in between my shoulder-blades were sore the next day. These cars have slick tires and no power steering, which means that if you turn hard, you’re doing it through strength and artful braking. The track is very curvy, and I was trying to turn without a lot of slowing.
This was a crapload of fun, but it was expensive- two ten minute races came out to around €25 per person. Still, I would do it again. Zoom!
Have you ever been go-kart racing?