Go-Karts Are Serious Business

Illustration for article titled Go-Karts Are Serious Business

Ah, go-karts. One of many preferred gathering places of car nerds everywhere. Go-karts are such a nice, relaxing activity to do with your fri—wait. Wait. Hold up right there. We’re going karting? I HAVE TO WIN THIS AND I WILL PUNT YOU OUT OF THE WAY IF YOU’RE SLOW.


There’s something about putting a bunch of car enthusiasts (especially if they’re all a bunch of racing dorks) in go-karts that automatically makes it extremely serious business. I’d even call it the most serious of businesses.

There are certain inevitabilities in karting. For one, anyone in the group who karts competitively will probably blow everyone else away with secret karting voodoo magic. Two, if you’re in a random grouping with other people you don’t know, there’s always That Guy who has a trillion laps at the track who’ll smoke everyone else. Three, if it’s a time trials-style setup where the fastest lap wins, you’re going to run into slower traffic at some point, and playing in traffic is sloooooow. Fun! Punty! But slow.

There’s something about this combination of karts and other people that sets off the derp switch in my head, though. I don’t kart competitively, however, I find that I’m about a billion times more aggressive in a kart than I am in my own race car. I’m in a vehicle I’m not financially responsible for, complete with flexible kart-bumpers. It’s ON.

There is no “taking it easy” when a bunch of so-called grown-ups get in a bunch of karts. Even if it’s the amusement park kind where you can just pin the throttle for the whole lap and never have to lift off for anything, it’s on. This is karting. This is THUNDERDOME. FOUR-WHEELED DEATHMATCH.

Granted, most of us don’t know to look behind to check for traffic, either, because most of us are used to full-bodied cars with mirrors. This means that the preferred method of letting someone know you’re behind them is with a love tap. Err, something tap.



I’ve noticed that the same kind of thing that happens when I get into a car on track. Whenever I have every intention of going easy on it and just having some fun, by the third or fourth lap in, I’m trying to see where I need to push harder.


Karts, though? As soon as we all size up everyone else we’re on track with, it’s on. The first thing anyone notices is who else brought a helmet. Is it a motorcycle helmet? Bikers are usually good at this. Gotta watch out for that guy. Is it a really obvious carbon fiber auto helmet with Hans posts, a bunch of event stickers on the side, and a radio cord duct taped out of the way? You’re going to take endless crap in line for that one, but at least it’s lightweight, am I right?

(I believe the exact words last time were something like, “Oh, a race car driver. Haha, he’s going to try to punt you out to get around.” Cool! It’s like keep-away, but with people.)


The red mist really kicks in when you’re all lined up. Who’s in front of me, and how do I get around them? Oh my gosh, we’re going. Okay, I have to get around this guy. As soon as they drop the green flag, it’s on. If I don’t get around this guy, no one’s going to take my Puffalump, God won’t kill a kitten and Obama won’t outlaw burritos. Much worse. I’m going to be irritated with myself for the rest of the day. Why couldn’t I take that pass? It’s not like it’s my own race car where I have to be cognizant of the fact that repairs eat valuable race time.


And so, karting happens, and it becomes a full-contact sport. I don’t need to protect my delicate knees from anything. Those suckers are going to whack into the kart whenever I lean into a turn. I don’t need to worry about taps and punts and squeezing myself into the inside line. It’s not my car!

I do still have to worry about the obvious part: winning, duh. It’s a little easier to deal with being slow in comparison to the rest of the group if you’re all a bunch of racing dorks and know going into it that there’s no logical shame in losing to them. They’ve got more experience. It makes sense.


But oh, you’re going to stew about that corner you didn’t realize you could take flat all through dinner afterwards.

Go-karts are the most serious business ever.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.



The secret karting voodoo magic is this:

Foot down on the accelerator 100% of the time. Slow for curves using the brake, of course, but NEVER let the revs down.