We will probably never see a 24 hour Formula 1 race, but what if you wanted the closest thing to it and didn't want to mortgage the house to get some seat time? Well, thanks to Johan Schwartz (and his wife!), if you're an average Joe and live on the east coast, you're in luck.
(If you don't know who he is or only know about his 51 mile drift, it would behoove you to check out his sweet video resume)
Anyway, Johan created Endurance Karting; a company that not only acts as a race organizer, but as an arrive and drive rental service as well. They set up events at Lime Rock Park, Englishtown Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motorsport Park, Carolina Motorsports Park, and NFKC in Jacksonville, Florida with more tracks set to be added to the roster for next year. The biggest race of the year is the 24 Hours of America held at Atlanta - and yes, it's kind of a big deal.
The great thing about all of these events though, is the fact that Endurance Karting brings all the karts, fuel, saftey gear, and basically everything you need to enjoy a day of competitive racing. I say competitive because the second reason people in karting circles praise Johan's company is the upkeep and balance of the karts themselves.
Now they may only be entry level karts, but they are so closely maintained that the fastest and slowest drivers in each class are usually separated by a few fractions of a second. Couple that with the fact that all the karts are serviced before each event, as well as having a good combination of rubber to firepower, and you have yourself some damn good racing!
I'm a big fan of a Le Mans start and if you scroll to the 27 minute mark you see part of the finishing celebration.
As the video above shows, it's a lot of fun. Eagle eyed readers might notice one of the drivers wearing a GT academy suit. Now I can't pull up the roster from 2012 to confirm who was in that suit, but I'm willing to bet you can't buy one of those at your local Wal-Mart. There is a Hall of Fame if anyone is interested in name drops. After racing at one of their events it should come as no surprise that pros commonly battle it out along side amateurs because of the sheer quality of competition.
My first outing with Endurance Karting was at Lime Rock Park and I had an absolute blast zipping around the funky and highly technical infield track. Meanwhile, various 911's and other cars owned by members of the PCA occupied Lime Rock's main course, which created a nice background soundtrack to the whole affair. During the event, you get a feeling that everyone around you is an enthusiast. The staff are all very passionate about karting, and are very helpful as well as accurate; they aren't there to try to squeeze money out of you.
Seen here is fellow gearhead, and close friend, John Campbell starting out of the pits after I completed my stint during the race at Lime Rock.
I started karting at arrive and drive tracks local to me, namely F1 Boston and F1 Outdoors - also set up by a pro driver, R.J. Valentine. I can highly recommend this for beginners because it's cheap and family friendly. One of the problems at F1 is how much abuse the karts get daily, and the as-needed maintenance of them causes quite a lot of variation in terms of overall performance. The track staff are all kids or college students so the flagging/marshaling is so-so at best. This is great value per dollar and the flagging is a little better during events and leagues. Once I got fairly comfortable in a kart, I wanted to try something more competitive without breaking the bank. During an event at F1 Outdoors, a friend and karting veteran sold me on the previously mentioned Endurance Karting event at LRP, and I'm glad I did it. I would recommend it to anyone: the prices are reasonable and you're getting excellent karts, good staff, and proper timeing and scoring. If you haven't been impressed by your local arrive and drive, then at least give Endurance Karting a try. You won't be disappointed.
Shout-out to Jack Meeker and Crew for the "Creative signage"
I have a 16 hour enduro coming up next month, along with a trip to see F1 @ COTA, which I'll be doing write ups on those events. Plus I'm throwing around the idea of doing a guide to karting in New England due to it's lack of popularity here. I'll need to touch base with a few of the veterans I know first. -Shaun