Formula One has come and gone for the year, but you can continue to get racing action the rest of the year with go-karting!
Go-karting is the most basic of motor sports and is usually how F1 drivers start, before they progress on to single-seater racing.
For example, three-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel started leisure karting at the age of three-and-a-half, and raced karts at eight.
I enjoy karting too, and have taken part in kart races, in both a recreational kart and a professional kart.
Karting is a pretty physical activity, especially when you push hard and try to better your lap times. There is something addictive about the thrill of driving as fast as you can, while trying to improve your lines and hunting for the next person to overtake. Recreational karts can go up to 80 or 90km/h, depending on how long the straight is.
The kind of kart you get at a typical go-kart track is the recreational type, but those who wish to take their karting to a more serious level can purchase their own kart and participate in races. Kart racing is a whole different kettle of fish, and expensive too — be prepared to fork out about S$20,000.
If you get hooked on kart racing, local karting outfits such as Kartmaster Drakar Racing or Veritas Racing have driver coaches and mechanics to help you along the way. There is also a permanent go-karting facility called Kartright Speedway (511 Upper Jurong Road, 6265 3303). Opened in 2009, it caters to both competition and leisure karters. Walk-in rates for a 10-minute ticket range from $25 to $35 for students, to $35 to $45 for adults.
Another karting circuit that you can check out is Changi Karting Circuit on Aviation Park Road. Opened in April this year, this 1.1km circuit plays host to the annual Singapore Karting Championship (SKC), KF1 Championships, corporate competitions, local school competitions and international events. But it seems that this venue will take the chequered flag earlier than expected. Even though it opened only recently, its occupation license expires on 10 November, after which the land will return to the Singapore Sports Council.
Two-seater karts are available at some circuits.
No driver’s licence is required for recreational karting, so anyone is welcome to try that. (A Competition Licence is needed from the Singapore Motor Sports Association for professional karting.) There are also two-seater karts for those who wish to take their little ones for a ride. At Kartright, to ride in a kart you have to be at least 10 years old and 1.45 metres tall.
Dress appropriately and wear comfortable clothes for sports, like if you were going for a run. There should be no loose pieces on you, as they might get caught in the engine. Most importantly, wear covered-toe footwear like sneakers, but no Crocs. Helmets are provided (complete with shower caps for hygiene).
Mandatory safety briefings take place before you head out on the track.
A mandatory safety briefing is usually held before you go out on the track, so don’t worry if you are not sure where the pedals are or what to do. If you run into trouble, just stay calm, stay out of people’s way and the safety kart will get to your rescue.
Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Basic karting techniques:
1) Sit correctly in the kart
Sitting in the correct driving position is essential to avoid fatigue. The optimal driving posture allows your arms and legs to move comfortably, without having to stretch your limbs fully.
2) Hold the steering wheel right
The steering wheel should be held in the ‘quarter-to-three’ position, or slightly higher at ‘ten-to-two’, if you prefer.
3) Take it easy the first time
Go slowly on your first few laps to familiarise yourself with the track as well as how the kart drives. Test your brakes! Once you have a better feel of the track, start to increase your speed gradually.
4) Play around with racing lines
There is no fixed racing line, though there are ideal racing lines. Experiment with different lines; for example, you might be turning too early into some corners. When taking corners, remember to hit the apex and reapply power quickly upon the exit.
5) Keep the kart straight as much as possible
Turning slows a kart down, so keep your kart going straight as much as you can, say by entering a corner late. However, although you want to carry speed as efficiently as you can into corners, be careful not to enter too fast or you might end up having to brake too hard.