Tonight we went to the Singapore go-kart track, way out at the end of the East-West line in Joo Koon. The last time I was in a go-kart must have been about a quarter of a century ago, pootling around an oval track at the Lightwater Valley amusement park in Yorkshire.
There were twenty of us, mostly the competitive types you get working for our company, and when we went round the track I was the nineteenth fastest. By a tenth of a second. Or, to put it another way, on a track where the fastest lap was 50 seconds, the quickest I could do was eighteen seconds slower. It makes no sense: I’ve played lots of racing games on the Xbox.
Come to think of it, I’m not too fast there either.
After a break, where everyone complained how exhausting it was apart from me (which could have meant I was much, much fitter, but actually was just evidence I wasn’t getting properly stuck in) we went out for 10 minutes of qualifying. I took ten seconds off my best time. Unfortunately I was now in twentieth position, as everyone else had improved too.
The racetrack is fairly big for go-karting, with a long start straight into a big turn. Go karts are wide and low enough that it would be hard to tip one over, so the way to go round corners is to wrench the wheel hard and keep your foot on the gas. I’d keep panicking mid corner and hitting the brake, which would leave me close to spinning off. I should have known from all the racing I’ve watched that you need to go into the corner hot and get out before you know what’s wrong. Those bald old tyres would screech and the kart would go sideways but more gas was almost always the solution.
Perhaps I’m too placid on the track. People with more aggression kept overtaking me. At last, though, we had a race, lined up on the grid with me at the back. I began to feel the red mist descend.
Going round one of the corners just behind somebody else, seeing sparks fly as he grounded out the bottom of his kart, I began to realise I needed to toughen up a bit. When I started going into turns like a nincompoop and not braking but just trying to gas it more, I survived. When I thought I was going to go into the tyre wall and braked, that was when I’d spin out.
I finished the race in fourth out of ten, feeling frisky and wanting to go again. That was still over half a minute slower than the winner, on a six minute race. However, I’d chopped three more seconds off my best lap time, and (maybe) if I’d carried on for a few more hours, I’d have worn everyone else down.
But driving a tricked out lawnmower around for a few minutes is not an endurance sport. I’m contemplating sneaking back and putting in a few hundred practise laps over the next month, then organising a return trip, but I might go deaf in my right ear if I spend any more time doing that.