I’m sitting in a small vehicle, practically bum-to-the-floor on the track, wiping the breath from my visor. Around me, 9 of my colleagues, hunched in padded racewear, are focused and ready for the off. And suddenly it’s 1982 and I’m back in Southport, my dad proudly watching as I take off to attack its large figure 8 track.
Get back in the room, man! This is 2016 and we’re at the brilliant TeamSport Indoor Karting in Lancing. Full race kit, 200cc karts capable of hitting 40mph full-whack, 13 corners and a Team Spicer who are suddenly transformed into hardened, competitive racers. But this is the warm-up heat where surely we familiarise ourselves with our machines: accelerating, braking, working out how to handle the ramp and its gut-lurching descent before hitting one of those hairpin twists designed to maintain knife-edge, nerve-jangling concentration. People are going to be holding back a bit, right?
Wrong! The green light’s up, pedals are hammered and we’re off! And it’s instant pandemonium as former comrades tear into each other with a manic intensity not witnessed since a Christmas tub of Roses was handed into the office. And here comes another one of those niggly corners; and who’s this ploughing into everyone to gain dominance as he emerges from the bend? None other than usually mild-mannered warehouseman Stuart Sheffield; from now on to be known as ‘Kamikaze’. But look out for those black flags – too many of them and you’ll get pit-stopped. That’s not going to happen to me, I’m travelling much too carefully to even get a penalty sign for intentional bumping. But quick; cop a look at this demented blur scything past into a bend – the normally butter-wouldn’t-melt Catherine Jervis, cackling banshee-like as she carves her way up the field. And I don’t know what they teach in Bulgaria, but overtaking people on a red light, waving triumphantly as you do so, is not the done thing in England, Ilian Ganchev.
After what seems much longer than the allotted 15 minutes, the intense blur of bends, banks and blasting down the thrilling home straight is over and we’re chugging into the pits, keen to find out our scores. Within minutes, backs are patted and disbelieving howls are uttered upon disclosure.
And I’m last. Last. Sure, it’s only a bit of fun; I can handle the inevitable ribbing but inside I’m thinking of the younger me watching F1 whilst playing with my favourite Jackie Stewart Tyrrell car. And maybe that’s the kicker, being one of the oldest in our team, perhaps my competitive spirit and instincts have been tempered over the years? Maybe the spark that made that kid fly around the track so recklessly in Southport has forever been dampened.
But no. This is racing dammit. It’s the final and it’s time to get mean. From my final position on the grid I know I’ve got a huge amount of ground to make up, but the final scores are aggregated by lap times, not positions, so I know I have a chance. And we’re off again! And this time it’s even more thrilling; much quicker than the first and I manage to avoid spinning out on corners whilst engaging in what feels like an epic, bruising, tussle with none other than super speedy Sir Stuart of Spicer.
All too soon it’s over and the scores are excitedly checked. And I’m fifth! A hugely rewarding improvement of 50%, but like everyone else I can’t help the feeling as I walk away that I will return and I will be faster.
A great Christmas team-bonding experience and thoroughly recommended. And a timely reminder that back in 1982 the main reason I raced so fast was because I didn’t actually know where the brake was.
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