Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Karting for 4 hours, fun!

This past saturday some of my friends decided to enter a local amateur motor racing competition: 4 hours go-kart endurance race. Their team was all made up so I joined in as the official pit-boy, controlling their times and helping wherever I could. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and we all had a good time.

Friday night:

Arrived at the place. In week days, it's a big market, but for the coming weekend it had been transformed into a kart track/expo center for cars. I had a couple of beers with the fellas and paid a little fee to get 10 minutes around the track. We usually go to the local indoor go-kart track, which is ran by the same people who were organizing this event, and I have to say running them outdoor a lot more fun.
There was a limit of 4 pilots per car and my friends had already organized a nice team so I couldn't run with them, however I offered my services of time keeping and organization, based entirely on theoretical knowledge of racing since I'd never done this before.

Saturday evening:

Race day came and I went there to meet the team, but the previous event was running longer than it was supposed to. It was supposed to be some kind of "skill" test where drivers had to take their cars around some cones, spinning around them, completing a course in the least time possible. However the course was too tight for most cars which were getting stuck in turns, and drivers didn't seem to even know in which order the turns had to be made.

 The crowd was going wild by the show of skill!
Ok they weren't.

It was an organization disaster and it was 8 pm instead of 7 when the karting teams were called for the pre-race briefing, which should have been done before hand, delaying the whole thing even more.
Being in-door karts on their normal days, these cars were all in different running conditions and we know some of them were pretty poor. It was a bad surprise to draw #6, one of the worst of the pack.

Wish we could have had that #17
Finally the race got under way with a Le Mans style start - that is, the drivers start away from their cars, have to run to them, sit down and set off - and by the first corner we were stone dead last. I started our timer and lap counter, for which I borrowed my friend's netbook.
On the first few laps our driver overtook two of the cars and we were back in contention - but the car's pace was noticeable slower than the ones in the lead.

We gave it our best, but other teams were struggling against each other to give their best too, so much that they were messing up the circuit made out of plastic traffic barriers which weren't even filled with water, so they flew around at lightest contact. The competition got intense, with the fore runners knocking each other trying to pass and taking half the corners with them, to the point that the race was red flagged so the organizers could have a chat with the drivers to tell them to cool down.

Another thing that was cooling down was the air temperature. A chilly wind came along and not even my back up jacket saved me, I was getting really cold. But I kept taking the laptimes and advising the team about how much there was left on the current driver's stint.

One of the pilots trying to wave a driver in, 
but he was too entertained trying to overtake.

The race settled down into a good rhythm, one of the cars got a puncture so we climbed another place. For the next 3 hours we did our driver changes and refueling correctly, so we finished 4th overall, behind 3 cars that were at least 1 second faster just because of their better condition (one second of a 26 second lap is quite some time).
Our #6 car developed a further concern in the form of a scraping front bumper. It seems that after being driven by every kind of person in town and bumped against other cars and kerbs, the thing got loose and started falling off, scraping along the floor and slowing us down further, both by hitting on the ground and making our drivers concerned about "what if the car self destructs any second now?".

Damn front bumper!

By the end of the race the drivers had gone out 3 times each, in stints about 20 minutes long, and the car had completed around 500 laps.

The view from my station...
We were all happy to even have finished and it was a fun despite the frustrating set backs, but the little problems are the charming and challenging part about endurance racing.

I'm very much looking forward to doing something like this - or who knows, bigger - again, this time from the driver's seat.

If there is a local Kart or racing circuit near you, I urge you to go there and give it a go. Even girls like going around! Take your friends and family. A little friendly competition is always healthy and fun. If you have a group of petrolhead friends like me, get together and find something like this to do, it's really rewarding. 


  1. It sure does look like fun, glad you enjoyed it.
    Liked this one, keep 'em coming

  2. It was an excellent experience :) Great coverage btw! Next one will be here @ north of Portugal, Braga most likely.
    Prepare yourself x)

  3. That really does sound like it would be fun. Should keep us updated about more stuff like this.

  4. Go-Kart endurance? Wow.. That sounds pretty awesome honestly. I would love to do something like that.

  5. Go karting is awesome. I need to do it again. We had a go kart race at the school I went to.

  6. Sounds like great fun! :o It's been a while since I've been karting myself.

  7. Aw, looks like you had a really fun weekend! I haven't been gokarting in forever..this makes me want to go lol.

  8. I always liked karate, and sounds like you had fun.

  9. Damnit, now I want to go go-karting :(

  10. Sounds like a heck of a lot of fun! Followed.