There is nothing better in life than waking up early to get some adrenaline pumping through your veins. At Sonoma Raceway, just northeast of Novato, souped up go-karts will do just that.
If you have ever driven a go-kart you know that it can be a blast to race your friends around a track like those at smaller venues like K1 Racing or Scandia.
However, what you probably haven’t experienced is the power of a 125cc Rotax engine hurling you down a straight away at speeds topping 70 miles per hour.
“These are the fastest karts in northern California. Compared to Scandia’s karts these things are Ferraris,” said KC Morrison, Kart Center Manager at Sonoma Raceway. “Our karting program is one of the best in the country. All of our instructors and mechanics are real racecar drivers or mechanics. All these guys here have backgrounds racing or working in NASCAR or the Formula circuits.”
Morrison invited the STAR out last weekend to experience the track and their karting program firsthand. We arrived to the track bright and early at 8 a.m. where we began the class with only seven other students. After only 20 or 30 minutes of class time going over the rules of the road and essential driving techniques, the instructors took us out on the track for a slow lap, so we could get accustomed to the karts and familiarize ourselves with the track.
Driving slowly around the track I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking that the karts couldn’t get too much faster or too much more intense. I was so wrong.
We went back in for another quick lesson then finally let loose onto the track to see what the karts could really do.
My first lap was only at about 50 percent of what the car could actually handle, yet it still got my adrenaline pumping and a smile creeping across my face.
Heading down the straight into the second lap I decided to see this speed the instructors were all talking about and punched the gas pedal to the floor.
I was immediately pushed back in my seat as the car reached what seemed like ludicrous speed. My vision blurred, and just as I was getting used to the speed, the next corner came up and I needed to stop.
Unlike conventional cars where you use your right foot for both the brake and gas pedal, a go-kart has your left foot on the brake and right on the gas.
This means that you have to keep yourself from accidentally tensing up and pushing the gas when you need to be braking. I made this mistake a couple times which caused me to spin out.
I don’t think I have ever felt that much fear and excitement at the same time, nor have I felt so much adrenaline pumping through my body.
When it was time to come back into the pit and back to the classroom I was shaking and had a smile that you couldn’t get off my face with a crow bar.
An instructor could tell and with a smile asked how the ride was. I think I just responded with “awesome” because I was, for once, speechless.
If you would like to experience that epic karting program, check out their website at www.pdc.simraceway.com or their Facebook page at Simraceway Performance Karting Center.
Also, if those carts sound too intense or the classes are a bit too expensive, Simraceway has larger, less powerful karts can be rented for $25. It’s a great place to blow off some steam with some friends or even just see if you can beat your own lap times.