When my buddy Dave proposed that I join him and a couple other friends in an enduro kart race, I was ambivalent. Karting seems goofy. We're talking about grown adults donning race suits and helmets and squeezing themselves into a plastic seat attached to a lawn-mower engine and four tires that look like Stuart Little's space-saver spare. Karting shouldn't require a helmet; it should require a fez. Karts are to cars what ukuleles are to guitars. Also, I resent any sport that mandates spelling as if the dictionary were edited by Kool & the Gang.
OK, I'm done. People will tell you that karts are a great way to learn car control, since they distill the essence of driving to its purest form. It's just you and the machine, unfiltered. You know how else you can really learn car control? Buy a Lotus Exige and book a private airstrip. So let's be honest about why karts are popular: they're cheap. And when Dave told me that I'd get about half an hour of track time, kart included, for 100 bucks, I decided that the time had come to visit the kart kult.
Our team of four met at a local indoor facility where the karts hit top speeds of about 45 mph. If that doesn't sound fast, find a roller coaster that goes 45 mph. Then jump out of it. Because that's what it will feel like if you mess up while going 45 mph in a kart.
Fortunately, our team was a rational group of guys. We weren't trying to win a trophy. We wouldn't need to drive like maniacs and risk maiming ourselves over an after-work go-cart race (yeah, I said it: go-cart). We're not crazy meatheads who'd total our kart in the first half of the first practice lap. As it turns out, we were almost all the way to the second lap when we totaled it.
Our first driver, Dan, spun and got T-boned at top speed. Our mangled kart was wheeled back to the pits with a new feature that it didn't have when we started-a tilt steering column. The whole column was jammed up at a crazy angle, a result of the impact with Dan's upper body. Did I mention that karts don't have seatbelts?