A Weekend With Endurance Karting
Emerging from bed at 5:45am on Saturday morning to embark on my hour-long journey to Lime Rock Park for the three 1.5 hour endurance races with Endurance Karting was met with the sight of rain and the rumble of thunder rolling through the nearby mountains. Once at the track, the rain had subsided and the skies began to clear.
Acting as a spectator for the first race, I was immediately impressed with the talent being showcased on track during the first practice/qualifying event. The karts would enter the first corner where I was standing completely sideways on the rain soaked track and just as I thought someone would lose the back end of their kart and spin around, they would recover and move forward in their pursuit of shaving another tenth of a second off their previous lap.
By the time race one began, the track was nearly dry and the morning May sun was shining as it would in late July. Lap times were quick, and the competition was tight; I was itching to be a part of the action.
Soon enough, it was time for race number two to begin and time for me put on my Jeff Gordon inspired, Troy Lee designed Arai racing helmet. As a five time winner of this event, I was ecstatic to gain a new perspective of the event and take a step back from the intensity in this race as my brother (who has sat in a go-kart no more than on a few occasions) and I were splitting the seat time evenly; each driving for a total of 45 minutes.
The intensity, however, was still engrained in my mind as I drove the kart out on the starting grid for the start of the race. With my skills admittedly being a bit rusty and with my brother, Jon, qualifying the kart for 15 minutes of the 20 allotted minutes, my five minutes of seat time managed to be adequate enough to qualify 10th. As the karts were parked on the grid, the drivers all stepped out and walked to the opposite side of the track; this race was going to feature a LeMans style start.
The green flag was dropped and the drivers sprinted to their respective karts. Having kept up with my fitness throughout my entire life, this aided me as I was one of the first to jump in the kart and mash the gas. By turn one I was already up to 5th place and working on gaining a position to 4th. Lap after lap, I became more immersed in the sport which I had so desperately missed during my time in college. Lap six came around and I dove underneath the 4th place driver and took the position.
Out of the corner of my eye heading into turn one on lap seven, I noticed my family raising our neon-pink ‘Pit’ sign; it was time for Jon to get behind the wheel. I flew into the pits and jumped out of the kart. Jon then jumped in and he was off before I had the chance to wish him good luck.
The race progressed and Jon and I traded places four more times in order to satisfy the mandatory five pit-stop rule during this endurance race. Eventually the race ended and Jon and I finished 10th overall and 2nd in our Semi-Pro category; Jon was ecstatic.
“You make that look so easy!” Jon said to me as he and I walked over to the awards ceremony held by Endurance Karting owner, Chris McCoy, after each race. As Chris announced our names, Jon walked over and said to me with delight, “I can’t believe we got second, that’s awesome!”
The third and final race of the day was held in the heat of the day around 3:20pm. With variable cloud cover and large patches of open sky, the track conditions became a bit tricky for this race, yet completely welcomed. I competed in this third race of the day, this time with my very good friend who loves racing just about as much as I do: Martin.
Martin arrived about an hour prior to the start of the race and because he did not have any seat time in the kart yet that day, we opted to keep him in the kart for the entire practice/qualifying session. Martin managed to qualify a solid 12th out of 14 drivers after having not set foot in a high powered go-kart in about two years.
The green flag flew and he began chipping away at the pack. Lap by lap he was adjusting his line, getting closer to the apexes, and closed on the drivers in front of him more and more each lap. Martin soon came to pit road and we swapped positions. The race was running extremely smoothly and our lap times were soon shadowing those of the leaders.
My fifth and final stint as the driver came with 20 minutes left in the race. At this point we had worked our way into the top seven and we were gunning for more. I made passes on driver after driver; having no idea who I was racing for position, I treated every pass as if it meant gaining one more position on the leaderboard.
With just 10 laps left, I encountered some lapped traffic and to my dismay, the quick drivers I had just passed took advantage of this lapse in momentum. A group of four karts swarmed around me, but I would not give in. I forced moves three-wide, performed slide jobs on the drivers I was pursuing, and collided bumpers with the karts surrounding me. Eventually one driver, Andrew, and I, broke free of the traffic.
Having passed Andrew before I encountered the traffic, I knew I could acquire his position once more, but Andrew wanted to have a say in whether this would actually come to fruition or not.
I dove down below Andrew headed into turn one with just a couple of laps to go and our doors (rails) collided. I acquired the position but I wasn’t home free just yet. Andrew got an extremely good run off the corner and dove underneath me headed into the down-hill turns three and four. We battled and swapped positions lap after lap until eventually the white flag was waving. Not close enough to put another slide-job on him heading into turn one, I entered the corner with a wide apex and obtained a massively strong run off the corner. Eager to make sure I made a pass and stayed out front, I closed on Andrew but decided not to make a move on him headed into the downhill turns three and four with the awareness of possibly losing valuable ground.
We remained close headed down the back straightaway and I was within a kart length of making a move. Andrew drove extremely deep into turn five, which didn’t allow me to get beside him; a move only an experienced racer would know to make. With only one corner left, I was running out of options to pass him. Out of turn five I was able to get another good launch off the corner and headed into the final turn (turn six), I attempted to show Andrew my bumper. At 50 miles an hour, with an added gust of wind heading into this sweeping left hander right on his bumper, the front wheels of my kart became slightly unsettled and I was not able to bump Andrew hard enough to perform a Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR style, bump and run. Andrew and I came to the checkered flag with my nose parallel to his left rear bumper; Andrew prevailed this time. As a racer who loses a battle by so little, he/she cannot help but think, “If only I had just one more lap.”
Andrew and I exited the karts grinning from ear to ear. With nothing at stake besides a medal and a pat on the back, both he and I were nothing but happy with the outcome of the race. Sure, I would love to have had one more lap to take the position on Andrew, but with races that close and edgy coming only once in a while, the experience left me content.
As it turned out, Andrew and I weren’t actually jockeying for position on the leaderboard as he and I were on different laps but despite the outcome of the close duel, Martin and I had managed to work all the way from 12th to 5th position and we finished first place in our class (GTSP).
Our day at Lime Rock Park with Endurance Karting could not have been any better (okay, maybe it could have been if I had managed to pass Andrew) and I constantly look forward to racing with old and new friends time and time again. Endurance Karting is unique in that classes of extremely experienced (GTP), semi-experienced (GTSP), rookies (GTR), drivers over the age of 40 (Masters), and drivers over 200 pounds* (Big Boy) can compete cleanly and enjoyably on the same track for hours on end. If you find yourself with a free weekend itching for something fun and competitive, I highly recommend you book a race with Endurance Karting. After six years of competing with this fantastic group of people, I have no intentions of slowing down!
For more information regarding race information/dates/locations held by Endurance Karting, head over to EnduranceKarting.com
*The karts are weighed equally at 200lbs and there is simply no additional room in the kart to add more weight if a light driver needs to weigh into a weight range more than 200lbs