The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 22, 2008

Off to the Races (For Real This Time)

Filed under: Entertainment, Family, Redmond — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:00 am

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this Blog for long enough, my family contains its fair share of auto racing enthusiasts, to the point that in our family the sporting world tends to be divided into baseball (as long as we have a team worth watching, which isn’t entirely certain this season,) auto racing, and a bunch of other stuff that happens somewhere in between those two.  Unfortunately, the high speed world of motorsports tends to come with a high pricetag to match, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities out there for the average Joe to go out racing (it has been said that if you want to make a small fortune in auto racing, you need to start with a large one.)  For most people, the closest that they are ever going to be able to get to real racing is a trip to the local Go-kart track.  Although I’m pretty sure this doesn’t exactly match the thrill of screaming down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans or trying to find a way to get your own car around the world-famous Nürburgring in one piece, there’s plenty of adrenaline to be found here, and this place is just a bit closer.

As with just about everything else in auto racing, a trip to the track comes with a fairly steep pricetag, but it seems that my family always finds one excuse or another to make at least one trip to the go-kart track per year.  In this case, it was a somewhat belated birthday celebration for myself, and a less belated one for my brother-in-law Terence.  In addition to these birthdays, Heather and Brooks are in town for a visit this weekend, so we had a field of ten people to go racing.  The track we raced at was K1 Speed, a place that is somewhat hidden in the Overlake area of Redmond.  Until a change of ownership last year, this was known as Champs Karting (link goes to the archived website,) (which also had locations in Bothell and the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle, although those two have since closed) and before that was Crazy Redhead Raceway (link goes to the archived version of their website, which unfortunately has broken links for the track layout,) although I never raced there when that one was around.  Before there was a go-kart track here there was Zones, a small arcade/mini golf amusement center which I believe closed around 1997-1998 or so.  K1 Speed has a number of other locations in California (many with multiple tracks that can be combined into one giant rrack.)

The space in which this K1 Speed is located is fairly small for a kart track, which means that there’s going to be plenty of turning involved.  When Champs Karting was in this space, they actually had a fairly fast layout with straightaways on the outside and tight turns on the inside (you can see the old layout here) which provided for more open-throttle driving but less importance on the turns.  Although the turns on this aren’t quite as narrow as the graphic above indicates, it is still surprisingly easy for the back end of the kart to get loose on you, which will scrub off valuable time, or in some cases spin you around or put you into the wall (which is not an uncommon occurrence here.)  Combine this with the tight steering, the lateral G-forces in the turns and the relative lack of suspension on these karts, and even a short 14-16 lap run can turn out to be quite a workout.  In terms of absolute speed, these karts aren’t really all that fast (I believe they max out somewhere in the range of 20-25 MPH for general use, but can be made to go faster for more experienced drivers,) but speed can be a relative thing, especially when you’re blasting down a narrow straightaway three inches off the ground with some guy trynig to find a way around you. 

Of course, it can’t hurt to look the part while you’re at it.  Decked out in the finest Italian delusions of grandeur, I prepared for the first run.

With a total of ten racers, we ran five people at a time (the track would start to get pretty crowded with many more than that.)  On my first run (a practice run,) I managed to get the second fastest lap out of the group  at 18.14 seconds.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to take photos of the actual racing due to reflections on the glass and the speed of the karts (as you can see above, everything is kind of a blur going by,) so there wasn’t much point in taking a lot of action photos.  The second run (the qualifying run) didn’t go so well for me, as I only managed an 18.91 for my fastest lap, which was well off the pace.  I suspect that I was trying too hard to keep the kart from sliding in the turns and ended up not using enough throttle as a result. 

This put me at the back of the field for the final run, where I stayed for pretty much the whole race.  With all the tight turns and narrow straightaways, there just isn’t a lot of opportunity to pass people in front of you, although I did manage to get in a pretty good run at Jared nonetheless.  In the end, even though I was in fifth place, I significantly lowered my best lap time in the race to a 17.15, which ended up being the third fastest lap time for the whole group of ten racers (for comparison, Terence got the best lap of the day at 16.95, followed by Brooks with a 17.09.  The second race heat (for the other group of racers) was somewhat marred by a couple of scoring glitches and several spinouts which slowed the pace significantly, but the heat I was in managed to get in a nice clean race.

The results ended up being about the same as those of just about any competitive event that happens in our family (Terence and Brooks beating everyone, me ending up somewhere well behind them)  but even so, the whole thing is more about having fun and limiting maniacal driving habits to a socially acceptable context anyway, even if I did find myself worried that I’d break the back end of my car loose on the 520 onramp while I was heading home…  That might turn out to be slightly less entertaining if it happened.


1 Comment »

  1. I won the second final! I don’t know what you are talking about with scoring glitches!

    Comment by Jacki — June 24, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

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