For a racing driver, I have very limited karting experience.
So limited that I can actually sum it up in one sentence: I’ve done about 3 or 4 ‘arrive and drive’ sessions at a track that closed down, and 1 structured race even with a few mates.
Ayrton Senna I am not!
I have been told that karting will improve my racing, and have been meaning to go (for about 4 years!), and finally booked it in at Teamworks Karting in Halesowen.
The advantage here straight away was that you can book into a slot online, and then email or call their excellent staff who will let you add others to your booking without having to pay until they arrive. This saves the nightmare of having to coral payments from friends in advance, and made it all much easier!
We had a voucher which meant each of our group of 6 paid around £24 for 30 minutes of karting.
Unlike the last place I went to, this was split into two 15 minute sessions, so you get a chance for a bit of a breather and to chat in between your sessions. It’s also valuable recovery time if you’re not used to karting, as it does work some unique muscles in your forearms, shoulders, and hands.
Incidentally, it used to feel like someone had tried to rip the muscle off my forearms the day after I’d been karting. Racing Formula Vee seems to have cured this and I didn’t feel that bad at all – I guess I’m more used to it, now!
We all met up and had to book onto the session with name, email address, and nickname. This is automatically put into the session so you get a personalised printout of your lap times, and times also appear on the viewing screens.
We were then taken to the kit room to choose a race suit and helmet. My suit smelt a bit, umm… ripe, but it was late in the day, and if you were doing it often they’re cheap enough to buy (or I could use my own!). I did take my own helmet, but they have loads available – it’s recommended you buy a balaclava (£3) if you’re using theirs, or they can give you a free hairnet thingy to wear under it.
Gloves are also supplied (again, I used my own), and you’ll be fine in any sensible footwear – I again took my race boots, though!
After that we were shown a quick video about how to drive the kart and what the flags meant (red – stop, yellow – slow down, black – pull in for a harsh speaking to), then sent to wait for our session to begin.
We were assigned a kart by the staff, then they gave each of us a quick check to make sure we could use the brakes, and then we blasted out on track.
Now, bearing in mind I’m a racing driver – the night before I’d gone on YouTube and found some onboard laps of the track, so I already had a good idea where it went, and was able to get straight on the pace.
Speaking of which, Teamworks were happy for me to use a JooVuu X helmet cam to film the action – and they also let me stick a Mobius camera on the helmet of a colleague. I’ll put the video at the end of this.
To be honest I wasn’t that impressed with the track from watching the videos, but driving on it myself I have to admit it’s a very good track. It’s a good mix between flat out and technical, with a lot of lines available through some corners, and a lot of fun.
It wasn’t long before I was taking the first two corners on full throttle, blasting down the big long 40mph straight – that ends in a very tricky left hand curve which you have to brake on, immediately into a hairpin right. Then it’s tight around the left hander which leads up steeply over the bridge, trying to keep momentum up the hill, then back down on slippery wooden boards into another tight right hairpin where it’s easy to spin out.
It’s probably around a 30 second lap for most, with the faster drivers hitting low 23 seconds.
There are yellow flashing lights around the circuit so you know when to slow down if you can’t see anyone waving the flag, so it’s all quite safe, and there are tyres all around with smooth rubber bumpers in case you clip the walls trying to use all the track.
We had brilliant fun, with everyone improving their lap times in the second session now we were all settled in. I didn’t have it all my own way, and was pushed very heard by several other quick people in my group, but luckily just scraped the fastest lap – which also put me in the Hall Of Fame for the 4th fastest lap of the day with 23.547secs!
Not bad for an overweight 40 year old against all the young whipper-snappers (unless none of the fast ones had turned up that day)!
Teamworks also send you an email giving your fastest laps from previous sessions and notify you if you’re lucky enough to make the Hall of Fame – so great touch there! We also all got a £10 voucher for completing a few quick questions about your day.
Overall, it was a brilliant and very enjoyable experience! I’ll definitely be going back for another go, and we’re already thinking of entering as an endurance team for one of the proper race events they host.
I’d recommend them – so go find your local track and get booked on! As for me, we’ll see how it helps with my racing…