The stars aligned. Not only was there a karting practice slot on Saturday, but I was able to attend! It’s been a horrible few months without the sport I love but things were finally looking up.
I’m not one of the fortunate few who are able to practice during the week, so the last few weeks have been a case of balancing family commitments on Saturdays (with a new baby) and a desperate desire to get back to racing.
I did manage to squeeze in two track tests with the S2000 and kept the petrolhead juices pumping, but there’s nothing quite like karting.
The S2000 isn’t a racecar, so trying to brake as late as possible to improve my lap time isn’t smart. The brakes overheat after a few laps and there is no insurance. As much as I love taking the car on the main circuit, the point isn’t to do the best possible lap times. The experience is missing something when you are a racer.
Karts are built to be abused. The components take incredible punishment and so does your body. You can go flat out every single lap, safe in the knowledge that the kart is ready to respond to your inputs.
Karting is about finding every tenth of a second. It’s a game of inches, both in finding the perfect line and in the distance between your crown jewels and the tarmac. It becomes utterly addictive to try and improve your lap times. The smallest change in a corner can improve your time by 0.1s and that can make the difference on race day.
It was a special moment opening the garage door to reveal the gleaming Carbs and Coffee karts.
Ok, one gleaming kart. Andrew’s CRG looks mint and mine looks like it’s gone 12 rounds with Tyson. It’s also worth mentioning the “Yellow Submarine” – a very used Senior MAX kart that we sometimes use to help get new drivers into the sport. It was donated by a Clubmans driver who left SA to work for the Mercedes F1 team. Dreams do come true.
We both race in DD2 Masters these days, having started our karting careers in Clubmans. We both got into the sport as adults which proves that it’s never too late to start racing.
A DD2 kart is a particularly beastly thing. Unlike all other karting classes in Cape Town, a DD2 has front brakes. It behaves more like a sportscar on corner entry than a Senior MAX for example (rear brakes only). I struggled without front brakes in Clubmans (where Senior MAX karts go to die once they are too old).
The other benefits of DD2 are that they have two gears (way more fun than single gear karts) and no chain, perhaps the biggest joy of all. I enjoy a bit of spannering, but a man can only clean chain lube so many times with a smile upon his face.
The g-forces generated in a DD2 are no joke either. With top speeds at Killarney of over 120km/h and the ability to do go around corners at only slightly slower than that, your neck takes a beating. So do your ribs and your arms. It’s magical.
Karting is more gladiatorial than anything I’ve ever experienced. As brilliant as practice days are, the most exhilarating part of the sport is the actual racing. The track is tight and the karts are wide, but there are still gaps if you are brave enough to take them. With a full grid of DD2s, the rivalries are fierce and there is constant action.
I suspect there is more overtaking in 15 laps of karting than in an entire F1 race.
70 or so laps later, my body was finished. I could barely move my neck. I was running within 0.5s of my personal best – not bad for a windy day with old tyres and no practice in 4 months.
In just a couple of hours, I had reminded myself why one of the best decisions I ever made was to start karting. It’s a magnificent sport and you should really consider it if you have any interest in racing.