The Grand Go-Kart (& pizza) Tour 2016 – The Maestro’s Take Pt. 1

Last Friday, the Doc and I met in Virginia and started on our epic drive down the east coast to cram in as many go-kart places as possible in 4 days (accompanied by a reasonable amount of pizza). Friday night we arrived in Garner NC at Rush Hour Karting. Not only does this place have a very respectable indoor karting track, but there is a pizza place inside the freaking building! How cool is that?

The pizza was not bad. The doc was suffering from a previous rib injury, and my left eye was going kablooey, but we had a long weekend ahead of us and we dived right in. This was the perfect track to start off our journey. It had lots of what we already knew, in an atmosphere that was new to us. First off the track:

rush-hour

As you can see, it’s not very long, but there are lots of twists and some alarming bumps [………], but in our first race the Doc and I came in in the top 3, I believe. Out of something like 11 racers. The cars were very similar to our hometown track, Chicago Race Factory, and it always takes a few laps to stop squealing around the corners (which is fun, but completely destroys your lap times). We did a quick 2nd race and came in respectably, and definitely improved our times.

Every time we do this we’re reminded that the way to win is always the same. Take the corners slowly and carefully. Why is that so hard to remember? Every time it takes a few laps for us to remember that. Brake into the turn, accelerate out. The illusion is that it’s more fun to go screaming around the corners. But it’s not. It’s more fun to nail the corner perfectly and leave your opponent choking on the fumes of your tiny Sodi go-kart.

When you go into a situation like this you never know who is good and who isn’t, so you have to approach it like every  driver could be amazing, or could be terrible. Within a lap you know who is who. And one of my favorite things to do is to overtake a cocky driver. I’m one of those drivers that if someone is riding me, I just wave them on to go on past me. Because I want to follow their line, and I don’t want to get into a pissing match, and possible fist fight over something as ridiculous as go-karting. I always learn something from faster racers.

But when I’m behind a meatball that doesn’t want me to pass, especially in a small indoor track, all I have to do is keep the pressure on. Stay right up in his business. They’ll look back at you, and all you have to do is wait for him to come into a corner too hot, and they’ll skid out, and you can pass by waving a hankie. More on this in the next installment.

Suffice it to say, even the people who were new to it on Friday night were great. There was a real good mix of people, and the Doc and I made quick friends.

After our 4th race we each got a pizza, and I have to say it was more than edible. Maybe it was the fact that we were eating just junk food in the car, but it kind of hit the spot, and jazzed us up for our 5th and final race.

We went in there with respectable times and came out with the 2 best times of the night.

Did I mention that it was our first time ever on that track?

The next day we were facing some serious rain, but we needed to get to Gopro Motorplex in Mooresville NC, and we needed to get there before the rain started. It wasn’t that far from Garner, and we got up at insane o’clock in the morning, because the Doc insists on running for an hour in the morning, and when I’m up, I am UP. So we pack into the car, start on our way, the doc realizes he’s left his wallet in the hotel room (I’ll let him tell that story), we fix that problem, and we get to the place with about 2 hours to go before the rain starts.

First of all, this is a world class place. Beautifully set up, nice clean reception room, everything state of the art. Over the next 3 days that doc and I got real good and real quick at filling out registration forms on the little computers that are at these places. He experimented with different nicknames. I always picked the same one.

It had been raining a little bit, and there was still a lot of fog and mist. The track looked wet, which was not a good sign. First a bit about the course. Here it is:

gopro-motorplex

The numbers are here for a reason. Pay attention.

Coming out of the pit was easy enough, but turning at 7 was when we realized what a world of pain we were in for. The little bump after 7 should be nothing more than a typical chicane, but on track conditions like this it was monstrous. People spinning out left and right. And I’m not talking just newbie drivers, I’m talking experienced karters who had clearly been there many times, spinning out like little toys and going off the track.

Needless to say the brake was my friend on that first race. You can’t see from the picture, but in addition to # 2 being a very wide turn, it’s at the bottom of a small hill, so whether or not you want to be going fast, you are going downhill. But have no fear. There is a WALL OF TIRES that will stop you if you go jetting off the track. Somehow I made it through the entire course about 5 times at minimum speed without killing myself or even really bumping into anybody.

My first thought after that first race was “That was like being on ice.”

But that’s not really accurate. Imagine that the entire track is iced over. And then imagine a lazy-susan on the track:

lazy-susan

And then imagine the lazy-susan that is on the track, instead of having a flat little support thing at the bottom had instead a single ice skate blade:

lazy-susan-with-blade

and then imagine that the lazy-susan itself was iced over:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade

then imagine taking your standard Sodi kart and putting it on the iced, 1-bladed lazy-susan that is on the ice:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade-with-sodi-car-without-blade

And finally, imagine attaching a single ice skate blade and attaching that onto the bottom of the Sodi kart, which is on an iced lazy-susan, which itself has  a single ice skate blade, the whole monstrosity of which is on an iced track:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade-with-sodi-car

That’s what it felt like. In fact it was so bad that the Doc and I went out for a second race, and after a few laps he threw in the towel. For some reason though, the second race was easier for me. I couldn’t place why at the time, but decided to give it a third try, and by the third race I had found my rhythm.

Or, as is more likely, the track started drying up. Suddenly I could take corners a little faster. I didn’t have to brake every time I turned the wheel.

By the 4th race I completely hit my stride, and was going full throttle into # 2, whomping the brake, and easily hitting the apex, and firing out of it. I barely had to take my foot off the gas on # 3,  # 4 was tough, and # 5 was way tougher than it looked.

I should say that at the very beginning of racing my best time was 90 seconds, and I was in about 11th place out of 13. By the fifth and final race, I was in the low 70s, and was in 5th place.

But alas, on the last race, a heavy fog started rolling in. I had to keep wiping away the condensation from the helmet mask, and drops of rain started coming down in a slow, even stream. Nevertheless, like I said, it was my best race, and by them I felt I had done a good job of understanding the corners, although # 4 was always the toughest. I even got some decent experience overpassing people, as opposed to being overpassed myself.

I need to go back to this track.

Need.

 

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