A Day At CalSpeed Karting
The Hunt For Six Seconds
Zoran spends the day two inches off the ground at (up to) 55 mph, chasing the last seconds off his lap at CalSpeed Karting next to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
By Zoran Segina
Wed, Oct 27, 2021 01:29 PM PST
"You are turning the steering wheel into corners," complains my instructor Evan. Applied to daily driving his statement defies logic. At the go-kart racing track, however, he is right. On the chart he draws my wobbly path through a tight turn number one. I should "flatten the curve" - start sliding through the apex of the corner and straighten the wheels before I exit. My 270cc Honda-powered GT2 kart is the quickest when pointed straight.
I'm spending the day at CalSpeed Karting, at the CalSpeed track in Fontana. Our rental karts can reach 55 MPH, but my first session is mediocre. The stopwatch counter strapped to the steering shaft blinks 1.06.43 - my best lap. Evan claims I should lower my time to one minute or less. Fortunately, I have two more sessions to find six seconds. The 3/4 mile competition track is incredibly busy. Every quarter hour another group of racers lines up in the pit for a session. As we don the gear and adjust the seats, the high pitched noise of the 125cc karts racing ahead of us fills the air. These guys own their machines and go 75MPH on straights. My friend Brent came from Wrightwood to join us. One look at the racers sliding - screaming - through turns two inches off the ground convinces him to spend the day as a spectator.
Parking lot is filled with trucks and trailers serving as mobile pits - the most devoted racers rent their own sheds. Everybody is tuning and adjusting something, including two dads in a big trailer acting as a pit crew for their kids. Children can start at the age of six. One session resembles kindergarten on wheels with little tykes clad in helmets and racing suits gripping steering wheels and concentrating on the job ahead. This may resemble little league on wheels, but karting is a serious sport. Victor, parked next to me, brought his vintage 125cc Leopard-powered kart. He tries to be at the track every weekend. Victor tells me about Ryan Hunter-Reay, a 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, who practices on go-karts in the off-season to keep himself in competition shape. Ryan’s R2 kart can accelerate from 0-60 mpg in two seconds and reach speeds of 175 MPH - the closest in performance to an Indy or Formula 1 race car.
The McLaren F1 team recently signed Ugo Ugochukwu, a 13-year-old New Yorker who started karting in 2013 and last year won the 2020 FIA OKJ European championship. McLaren has an option on Ugo’s services in the future in exchange for support in junior categories. In 1998 they did the same thing with a teenager from England named Lewis Hamilton.
My performance is unlikely to get me a contract with any F1 team, but my second session looks better. The counter stops at 1.04.09 - two seconds faster. At this point my biggest issue is getting out of the kart at the end. A twelve minutes race without suspension and power steering is physically demanding. Brent offers a helping hand.
At the end of the day I am exhausted, dirty, and happy. The sun broke through the clouds and my Sparco suit and fire-proof underwear feel sticky and hot… My best lap is 1.03.25, which means that I found three seconds during the two sessions. Not to mention a new appreciation for the comfortable suspension and air conditioning in my old BWM during the hour-long trip home.
I have to come back. There are three more seconds to look for in Fontana.
About The Author
Zoran Segina grew up in Eastern Europe, where he owned several Zastava 750s (a variation of the Fiat 600) and participated in local rallies. After a lengthy diet of Yugoslav-manufactured cars, he came to the Mecca of automotive culture – wherein he promptly lost his heart to a tall girl and a short Dart Swinger. He currently commutes around LA in a BMW 633Csi, having made a switch from a Volvo 240 DL with a quarter million miles on the odometer.