Autocross and HPDE seasons are wrapping up in the temperate climes, but that doesn’t mean an end to amateur motorsports. Casual go-karting is a relatively inexpensive, accessible opportunity to get out on track and, particularly, experiment with racing line. Karts don’t drive like cars, but they offer their own set of related skills to hone.
Near my office is Pole Position Raceway, which offers two tracks to run their electric go-karts. In contrast to the nasty lawnmower-engine contraptions I remember as a kid, these carts are clean, performant, and consistent. The racing surface is something like polished concrete, tires are hard rubber slicks (I think?), and top speed is around 45 mph.
Brakes are rear only, and effective in my experience. The weakest point of the mechanics of these carts, to me, is the throttle. Maybe it will improve with more seat time, but to my foot there is only on and off, with maybe-something in between. This makes it hard to feather power in and out as you corner; you’d better be set up right coming in. For the fast corners, I had good results with light dabs on the brake while on the throttle.
I did three 15-lap sessions today, more than I’ve ever done in a single day in the past. The overwhelming feeling today was EXERTION! After 40 minutes driving these things, I was sweaty, sore, and trembling. Granted I’m not in shape. The steering is manual with a super-fast ratio, meaning you are muscling your way around the track the whole time. Core strength is also put to the test as you lean in grip-inducing directions while getting hurled back and forth.
As with track days, I see video as being key to improvement. When I go back and watch the video, I can see things about the track and about my driving that I wasn’t able to pick up on the fly. It’s easy to compare corner entries on different laps, and see how they affect the turn and the exit. I picked up a GoPro specifically for this trip to Pole Position, although I’m looking forward to using it on my backroads drives as well.
Getting back in my Jetta afterwards, it felt like a 70s Cadillac: extremely light steering, remote chassis, and sluggish acceleration. It felt like I should have been flogging it around the ramps back on the NJ Turnpike, and power-sliding every corner. But I’m back to normal now.
Have I mentioned I’m looking for an S2000?
P.S. If anyone knows who the guy was who was coaching me in the video, let me know — he just randomly came over and I didn’t have the presence of mind to get his name.
P.P.S. Sorry for the sketchy audio; this is my first time doing voiceovers.