Shift Karts


In early November we had pretty much finished Crash Team Racing except for the Japanese version and so the boss, Jason, treated us all to a day of shift karts.  It was pretty damn cool.

Here is Eric Iwasaki fitting into his kart.

The karts normally go up to 120 miles per hour.  These are not children's toy go−karts.  You can get seriously hurt if you goof around.  As we were all new to this we were told the karts had be geared down so they would only go about 70.

The gang watching from the side lines

There were only 5 karts allowed on the track at once and we were not allowed to pass each other.  The point being that if two karts touch wheels one of them could flip.  So, we were all going for lap time.  Each day there were around 15 of us and so we rotated in 5 people at a time.

Evan showing how it's done.

The karts have a clutch but it is only used when the kart is completely still.  It takes a little getting used to as it's a hand clutch.  Nearly everybody stalled a couple of times.  The karts have six gears.  The gear shift is a little knob next to the steering wheel.  To shift you let off the gas and then pull back to go up a gear or push forward to go down a gear (I may have that backward)  It's important to remember which gear your in as there is no indicator.

The karts have no rev−limiter.  That means you must not use the "downshifting", shifting to a lower gear, to slow down or you could blow the engine.  Instead when you come into a corner you need to really step on the break hard and then once the engine has slowed down quickly shift down a few gears.

Hey, it's me

It's a little scary.  If you look closely at the picture above you can see that the gas tank is between my legs and the engine is right under my right arm.  If you're not careful you could get burnt if you lean over on the engine.

Malcom ready to go

There is no seatbelt either.  The seats are rather deep so that you are not going to come out of the car on the left or right.  The cars are nearly as wide as they are long so unless you go offroad or touch another car they are not likely to flip.

Somebody  has stalled

On the final rotation we were each timed for our best laps.  The boss was the best as he had done it once before and so he knew how best to take the turns etc.  It's amazing just how fast these cars accelerate.  I'm not sure of the 0 to 60 rating but it sure feels fast.  Of course these pictures give you no idea of how fast they go.  If you want to see try downloading this video.  Note: it is about 1meg so it may take a few minutes if you're on a slow connection.  If your computer won't play it try downloading the latest version of the Windows Media Player from Microsoft.

The place we did this is in the California Mojave about 80 minutes outside of Los Angeles at a place called Willow Springs.  I believe the cost is around $400 per person and racing is from 9am to about 1pm.  That's pretty expensive.  As we took 30 people over 2 days I think there was some kind of group discount but still.  On the other hand the karts are not cheap.  I think they generally run between $8000 and $14000 and as they are pushed so hard they often need service and repairs.  Of course they also need tires quite often.  There are of course leagues and competitions.

If you get the chance I highly recommend it.

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