Go-karting. Easy right? It’s like learning to drive at Legoland without the brightly coloured blocks.
Thing is, this wasn’t a light dabble on a stag night; this was University Karting. And not just some training course, I was signed up to compete in the actual Varsity Race 2008.
The night before, Team Captain Jamie Harvey advises me to watch a video of him going round the track we’ll be racing on. I do: he’s going very fast. Dispirited I decide an online go-karting game would be a better way of honing my skills. I come third, it’s a promising omen.
Race day: 0800 hrs. Up far too early, to catch the minibus to the track. We’re heading to Rye House in North London. Jamie admits its one of the harder tracks. Spirits buoyed by last nights online game.
Ah well, what’s the worst that can happen?
Foolishly I ask that exact question to Will Brat. A second year at Lincoln, Will is currently spending his summers racing around Europe in Formula 3. Apparently the karts stay the right side up as long as they don’t hit any gravel.
‘What happens if I hit a piece of gravel?’ I ask apprehensively. ‘You’ll flip over, probably just break a few ribs if you’re lucky,’ comes back Will’s reply. Great.
Some time later I find myself suited up in overalls clutching a very tight Homer Simpson branded helmet in the hanger as we get briefed.
Apparently the karts we’ll be using are a lot faster than the normal ones (5-60 in 3.5 seconds, top speed 75mph!) and I’m meant to have quite a bit of training. I stay quiet. Can’t let the team down now.
It’s race time. The race is an hour long and everyone is split into pairs – go ‘Oxford F’ – with the drivers changing halfway through.
My partner, Rob Apsimon, goes first. Our main aim is not to come last. Rob does well and by the time he pulls in to change drivers we’re a few laps up on the worst Cambridge team. Trouble is, now it’s my turn. Here we go, foot, accelerator, shit, this, really, is, quite, fast.
The race itself is a bit of a blur but by the end I’m barely able to walk. Turns out all those g-forces from turning corners at speed are pretty exhausting.
Oh, and the result. Well Oxford won as Harvey and his co-driver were the faster pair on the day. And me? Well lets just say I spun out eight times. Quite conclusively last. Turns out karting isn’t quite like the video games after all.