“ Address: West Coast Indoor Karting Ltd, Solway Trading Estate, Maryport, Cumbria CA15 8NF / Tel: 01900 816472 „
When my friend asked if I'd like to join him and his friends go-karting for his 30th birthday I said I'd go - it was so far in advance I didn't really give it much thought. But as the date came nearer and my friends pointed out that I don't actually like driving I started to wonder what I'd let myself in for, and had visions of me turning up to work on Monday with a neck brace. I knew that I was either going to be surprisingly good, or monumentally crap - suffice it to say, it was the latter!
West Coast Indoor Karting is situated in Maryport (CA15 8NF for your Sat Nav), which unsurprisingly is on the west coast, and a map can be found on the website (www.westcoastkarting.co.uk/location.htm).
---Arrival, and other details---
This is the bit where you sign your life away. Was a bit perturbed by it saying that you shouldn't go go-karting if you don't have good physical or mental health. Well, my mental health's seen better days, but unless you're suicidal or homicidal then I don't see the problem. And much as I'd like to, I don't think I can blame my sheer crapness on my mental health! Obviously you're not allowed to participate if under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but that's common sense really.
We were in a group of nine, and were taking part in the "Super Grand Prix" which costs £40 per person. There's various other options with prices starting from £16. It's not a cheap activity, but then it's not something you're going to do every day!
There's also karting for children (aged 8-15) which costs £14 and they do kid's birthday parties which I think would be great fun, assuming of course you have the money! Further details can be found on the website here (www.westcoastkarting.co.uk/races.htm), so there's no need for me to regurgitate all of that!
They cater for stag/hen parties (obviously do the karting before you start the drinking), birthday parties, corporate events etc. They can also put on buffets, but I can't comment on that since we didn't do that. There were also signs up saying that they sold pizza for £8.
We were lead into a room and shown a DVD. Since most of the group had been go-karting numerous times before they weren't really paying attention, and I was hoping I wasn't missing anything too important while they were all laughing - have to admit the DVD was fairly amusing at times, apparently you must not "Whack off" other drivers!
When the DVD ended I was left feeling slightly panicked by it all, there seemed to be so much to remember, different coloured flags, what to do and what not to do. While I wasn't worried at all before, after this I was feeling distinctively nervous! On the website it says about the film "It is very comprehensive and particularly reassuring for apprehensive beginners." - I though quite the opposite!
---Getting your kit on---
We were led over the bridge to the two changing rooms, one for the girls and one for the boys. Thankfully my friend's sister came so I wasn't the only female, and also she hadn't done it before, so that reassured me a bit. I think otherwise I'd have been in a complete panic! We all picked up balaclavas and then went into the changing rooms. The all-in-one-suits didn't seem to be in any particular order but I picked up a size 14 and hoped for the best, unfortunately the zip was broken, but I found another and was sorted. And the pink in the suit (boy's suits not pink!) matched my trainers - bonus! I think I looked slightly like the Michelin man with no discernable female figure, perhaps I'd have looked better if I'd taken my jumper off, but it was pretty cold in there (picture on Ciao!) and it's not really about looking good! Then there's the lovely yellow gloves, and a helmet (I went for medium as I imagine my head is of medium size), had a bit of trouble doing it up, so my friend's sister helped with that. Once my helmet was on it stayed on as I couldn't be dealing with the faff of putting it on again. It meant I couldn't really hear what was going on and felt a bit out of touch with everything, but such is life!
---Getting in the karts---
I was a bit worried when getting in the kart as they'd said on the DVD about adjusting the pedals, but they seemed to be in the right place for my feet. Despite being fairly short my legs are fairly long. Each race you're in a different kart (everyone is given a number - I was 2 - and that number is put on the front of your kart before each race so you know which one to get into). For those who like technical details, the karts we used had 6.5hp 200cc engines. Children's karts are 160cc restricted. They also have a 200cc kart for the disabled.
---The Practise run---
We had 5 minutes practise to get to grips with the karts and the track. One thing we all noticed was that the track was particularly slippery, and we were all over the place, so no one would be getting their best lap times (that's my excuse anyway!). At one point I ended up spinning out of control and ended up stuck at the side. The man had to come and rescue me. I think that only happened once more to me which wasn't too bad, as I felt like a complete pratt - it happened to everyone else, but then everyone else was going faster than me. Only I can lose control of a go-kart going at 5mph.
I think the practice session was the only time I actually overtook someone...
---The Grand Prix---
The Grand Prix consists of 5 heats of racing for every driver. Thankfully I wasn't in the first race, but I was in the 2nd and 3rd heats - although the race lists were pinned on the wall with our names, numbers and which position we'd be starting in (they arrange it so that you start in all the different positions to make it fair) I wasn't expecting to have one race straight after another - it was exhausting for little old me. There's a running commentary of the race, but I couldn't really hear it, especially when you're in the karts, it's pretty noisy. In fact I was pretty oblivious to most things, even when the man in charge was shouting at me as I was doing something wrong, like not driving into the pit when I should've been.
When you're not racing you get out of the karts (honestly, the difficulty I had getting out of the kart, I think that was the hardest part of it all!) and have a brief break. However, with my helmet attached to my head it didn't feel like much of a break. I could've done with a drink really (there are drinks machines), as I had a bit of a cold anyway, and the racing wasn't helping...but again, with my helmet on I was pretty stuck.
I enjoyed the racing, but didn't really do much racing as such, I just plodded on at a snail's pace (apparently the karts go up to 40mph) getting lap times about 15 seconds worse than everyone else. Not a race went by without me being lapped (and me apologising for being all over the track when people were trying to get passed me - in the end I just slowed down to let them overtake) so each race I actually did one less lap than everyone else. The sense of relief though when reaching the finishing line!
For some reason while driving I found my mind wandering, and thinking that for my 30th birthday I'd quite like to go on a llama trek. On the straight bits of the track I did find myself going (what I felt was) pretty quickly, but there was one bend in particular that I pretty much came to a standstill before going round. The fast parts I actually found quite exhilarating, and despite knowing that I was failing miserably, I found myself really enjoying it. I was glad not to get a black flag for breaking any rules, so at least I was successful on that front.
After the heats, we all took part in the semi-finals (there were two races), where as usual I failed miserably. Then finally there was the final. Of the nine of us, seven were in the final, and obviously I was one of the two who wasn't in it. Quite honestly I was glad to get my helmet and Michelin Man suit off! I enjoyed watching the others racing and not being involved (incidentally there's plenty of room for spectators), they were all very competitive - honestly a couple of the people in our group brought their own helmets with them.
---The Awards Ceremony---
After the races we went into a room (with a snooker table if anyone fancies a game), and the final results were read out. Trophies were given to 1st 2nd and 3rd place, they were really nice looking trophies. I've never won a trophy in my life, and it's starting to look like I never will (dooyoo, please please can you give me a trophy???), and I was slightly disappointed not to win a wooden spoon award for probably being the worst driver in the history of the world.
My friend was given a print out of everyone's results and laptimes (it's all computer-timed), and I will at some point get the times off him and share with you exactly how abysmal I was.
I really enjoyed my go-karting experience, although was absolutely knackered afterwards. A day later my arms and shoulder blades really ache.
I'm not sure if I'd do it again (although perhaps would try outdoor karting), maybe I need to find some equally crap competitors to go with. But it was certainly an experience, and not something I'll forget in a hurry! Anyway, although I'm generally quite a bad loser, I actually left feeling quite proud of myself for getting through the ordeal! Money well-spent I think.
The West Coast Indoor Karting centre is open Tuesday to Fridays 12:30pm - 10pm, and Saturday/Sundays 10am-10pm. For further information email email@example.com
phone 01900 816472, or visit the website - www.westcoastkarting.co.uk (it's quite a good website actually, and you can see a film of people racing round the track). Booking in advance is strongly advised.