The rush of adrenaline as you take sharp corners in a kart at high speeds around the track sends jolts of excitement through the rider.
Racing against the clock and your opponents as you avoid ramming into the track walls, go karting is a motor sport for those looking for an adrenaline rush. It takes concentration to manoeuvre that small vehicle across the track but ironically is relaxing at the same time.
It is the closest one can come to feeling what Lewis Hamilton or even Michael Schumacher experience on the Formula 1 circuit. Itâ€™s not only a sport for experienced adult drivers but is enjoyed by children, as young as five years.
â€œAll our karts have a remote controlled limiter, so we can even allow kids as young as six to drive our karts safely,â€ says the general manager of Go-Kart, Mombasa, Reto Casanova.
The sport was introduced in Kenya in 1997 with the opening of the GP Karting track in Langata. In 2004 Mombasa welcomed Mombasa Go-Kart, located on the North Coast, at the exit of Severin Sea Lodge. The tracks are under different management.
Upon arrival guests are given the necessary gear including a helmet, which everyone must wear. The rules and regulations, as well as track etiquette, are explained, especially to first timers, before a basic training on driving the kart is given.
â€œFor younger children, one of our technicians will seat beside the rider until he is sure that the child can steer the kart properly on his own,â€ says Paul Njoroge of GP Karting Limited in Nairobi.
How to drive
Invented in 1956, by Art Ingels, the Kart can be confusing to drive, especially the first time. It has no clutch, just an acceleration and brake pedal. One accelerates with the right foot and breaks with the left; it does take some time to get used to the mechanics.
Sports and motor enthusiasts flock the karting tracks across the country to experience the thrill of the race. Depending on the make the karts have speed limits though the speed is usually controlled depending on the age and experience level of the racer.
At the Nairobi track the Italian manufactured karts, by Topkart and Comer, go up to speeds of 60kilometers per hour. In Mombasa, the Swiss made Karts are powered by 200cc 4-cycle Honda engines with maximum speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour. â€œRacers can come in with their own karts. We stores for owners, so when they come in they just pick them and drive,â€ says Paul.
On average the Karts cost between Sh210,000 and Sh600,000 and can be purchased through GP Karting Ltd, who are the official Topkart-Comer distributor in Kenya. The cost is determined by the size and its performance.
In Nairobi, the track is open from 9am until 10pm but at the coast, due to the heat the track remains closed until 4pm.
â€œItâ€™s too hot before four pm and the rains are mainly in the morning or past 10pm which is why we open between four and 10pm,â€ says Reto.
The tracks offer guests a wide range of experiences other than driving the small cars. Guests can enjoy off-road buggies, paintballing, bowling and in Mombasa can dine as the restaurant. The Nairobi track has recently introduced paintballing as well as a new restaurant and sports bar.
With the various activities the tracks host team building, corporate and private events. The events can be held during the day or at night under the flood lights. Last year GP Karting introduced the Friday Night racing and are already planning the 2013 event later in the year. The event brings together racers for a three hour tournament to set a new record.
Mombasa, on the other hand, hosts the Roundtable Endurance Race every August. The event attracts over a hundred drivers who race for over three hours looking to set a new time. They both host different events, which are updated on their websites. www.gpkarting.co.ke