Objects of Desire – March 2013

emily-atkinsWham, bam, thank you

I got T-boned yesterday, someone drove into the back of me, and I got cut off in a corner. Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me put your mind at ease. It wasn’t a bad day on the DVP, or a terrible snowstorm that created this mayhem. Nobody was injured and no insurance claims were made.

Nope, I was Go Karting, and I’m hooked. What a rush. Even today, the day after, I’m still grinning like a fool about it. It was rough, quick and very unrefined. A fast start, 15 laps of crazy, adrenalin-fueled bump and grind at speed, then wind it down and into the pits. What an exhilarating ride.

I went in with few expectations, having never driven a Go Kart before (indoors or out), although I had been warned about the karting ‘hangover’—feeling like you’ve been beaten the next day. One or two helpful people tried to scare me with tales of spectacular crashes and flips, but it wasn’t enough deterrent.

There’s no comparison to what we do at the track, except for the silly grin it leaves on my face. There are few rules, at least not ones that were enforced, the vehicles are abused electric karts, and the action takes place indoors in a hanger on a tiny track where the longest straightaway is about 30 metres long. There’s no whine of internal combustion engines at full revs, no smell of exhaust, no squeal of brakes, and you brake with your left foot—if you brake, that is.

The driving is completely different, as well. Right foot in, all the time, left foot needed only to induce a drift to pivot around some of the tighter turns.

The vibration of the karts at speed is so extreme that my glasses were bouncing on my nose enough to blur my vision, even inside my helmet where they are wedged in. The shoulder harness works itself loose after a couple laps, forcing you to brace and steer with one hand, while reaching with the other for the tab to snug it up. The seats are too wide for my hips, so I was slamming into the sides with each corner, and you can’t rely on the dead pedal for leverage because it’s the brake.

And then there’s the competitive aspect. I thought driving at the track was a testosterone-driven sport. Not compared to this. As the only woman in a group of about 15 guys, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’m not sure it made the slightest difference.

What did make the difference was that I was the only one there who had never driven a kart of any kind, gas or electric. Took me a couple laps to get the feel for it, and I placed last, seconds back of the pack in the qualifying. In the first of two races I finished last again, but not without pulling a couple passes. That felt good.

In the second race they reversed the grid, so I started up front. I was holding off the pack until one guy dove in on me in a corner, bumped me out and nearly made me spin. Of course, another two drivers took advantage of the opening and squeezed through before I could get back on the line. The real fun happened when I over-braked trying to avoid rear-ending the kart in front of me, spun sideways and got T-boned—by a friend!

I loved it. By this point I was laughing so hard it didn’t matter that the rest of the field went by me. The feeling of speed, the way you can corner these things, and the rubbing all make it a wildly exhilarating ride.

And the cost of entry is so low—there’s no risk to your precious Porsche car, not too much danger to life and limb. It’s a fantastic way to spend a winter Sunday evening. I hope I didn’t annoy the boys too much with my newbie antics. By the end of the last race the gap between me and the rest had narrowed considerably, enough that I know I must go back and see if I can finish a race in something other than last place.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are bruises, but the ‘hangover’ is worth it!

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