Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Raceway London Go Karting track - get set, ready, go!

The Raceway London Go-Kart
No way you are cutting in! (Photo by Cristiano Maia

The Raceway (Docklands)
Tel: 020 7833 1000
Nearest Tube station: North Greenwich
I nudge the right pedal down and my 10 hp COBRA inches forward. The lights went green, I push the pedal down hard and off I go.

The first time I tried go-karting was almost ten years back in Meleka city in a makeshift track with flimsy tyres. I remembered being a bit doubtful about the dodgy go-kart which throttling engine looked like it would fall off anytime.

It's vastly different this time round. We just had a five minute safety video clip played to us at The Raceway. All dressed up in a full body racing suit handed to us at the counter earlier, my earlier concern about having my shirt torn proved to be unfounded. Obviously, sporting a pair a sneakers instead of shoes is a good idea.

We were ushered out to the race track after that. A final briefing about what to expect when racing was given before us having to choose our racing helmets. With such a large group, size L and XL went out really fast and I was left with XXL, not exactly a good start.

And here we go!

We were then given ten minutes for a warm up and to familiarise ourselves with the track. During then we would also be jostling for the actual race's pole position.

"Humiliation awaits
at the next corner with two
more racers hot at my heels."
I was still grappling with the controls when go-karts overtook me again and again. Ten minutes flew by and I was lined up right at the back during the actual thirty minute race. The idea is to go as fast as you can while negotiating tight corners and cutting past the other go-karts, all that without bumping into the rest. Well, not too hard anyway.

Things aren't looking good at the moment. Even starting right at the back didn't save me from being overtaken by the front runners even in the second lap. Humiliation awaits at the next corner with two more fellow racers hot on my heels.

Ha! One of those who had just overtaken me crashed right ahead having cutting too tight into the corner. I overtake him with ease. I'm no longer last. Just as I'm pretty smug about it in my helmet two sizes too large, two more go-karts go past me in either side.

Of colour-coded flags

The staff right ahead starts to wave a blue flag at me. Wait a minute, what's a blue flag for? I frantically try to recall the safety briefing session earlier. Red is obviously for danger, yellow for look out. Wait, there's no red flag but there are definitely blue and black flags.

While the colour coded flags flash through my mind, another go-kart overtakes me. I do a sharp left to prevent another from doing the same and crash right into him. The same staff points at me and waves a black flag. Guess I'm going to find out what the colours mean.

"... I would give it another
go in a heartbeat."
With a stern face, he beckons me aside. Uh-oh, this looks serious. "Do you know what the blue means?" he asks. It turns out that a blue flag means that I should be giving way to the driver behind me as he has at least a lap in front of me. A black flag would be a penalty if the blue flag is ignored. I end up sidelined for what feels like a lifetime as one go-kart after another zoom past me.

The result isn't pretty to say the least. The only reason why I am not last is because someone pulled out earlier due to an injury. But I would give it another go in a heartbeat. The next time round, I'd wear my contact lenses instead; glasses and racing helmets just don't go together.

The Raceway operates an indoor racetrack at Docklands. It costs £28 per person and there need to be a minimum of 15 persons to run a private race. A minivan will be at North Greenwich Tube station to pick up the party and the track is just a 10 min drive away. Full racesuits are provided, there're lockers in the changing room as well. Refreshments and hot-dog buns are provided at the end of the race. All that are included in the price.

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