Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bark: Grilio Kart

I would have typed up this account of my weekend yesterday, had it not been for a mild case of heat-induced death... at least it's good to know I'm not the only one suffering.

My weekend was a good one, with The Gril Man popping out of the Big Smoke to stay with us for some assorted japes and scrapes. Poor old Dan had a bad case of the sniffles (thanks to some rather over-enthusiastic air conditioning at Bioware in Canada) and got through about two packs of kitchen roll (he's going to love me for saying that) and several litres of Lemsip - not quite the beverage I'd planned on us drinking, but never mind... more beer for me!

The main event of the weekend was popping down to the newly opened go-karting track in Camberley. I hadn't been karting in about 15 years, and neither Dan nor my girlfriend had ever tried it before. The main motivation for going was to introduce Fleur to the joys of driving. She recently decided that she'd quite like to learn to drive, so before turning her loose on Surrey's streets, I thought it would be best to initiate her in a relatively safe environment. She didn't take all that well to driving a Mini Cooper S around Florence on PGR2, so I thought karting would be a nice, more practical compromise. Besides, karting is helluva lot of fun, and since I discovered there was a track so conveniently local, I had to try it out at least once.

We were joined on-track by a group of half-a-dozen teenage girls, who unfortunately wouldn't have known the difference between a racing line and a line of coke. Consequently, I got baulked on nearly all of my laps, because they thought that the shortest route around a corner was the quickest one. So despite being a good 5-10 seconds quicker than them around the track on a clear lap, finding enough room to get by without barging them into the barriers was easier said than done. So I know what it feels like being a Formula One driver now...

It wasn't all bad, though - also joining us was a charming young lad (of around 12) from South Africa (and no, that's not a contradiction in terms - for those of you remembering Spitting Image's song; I have indeed met several nice South Africans) who was obviously a bit of a karting veteran: he even beat my fastest lap time in the second session. It would have been interesting if we could have gone head-to-head on a clear track, though - I reckon we would have been quite evenly matched.

I could tell that given a clear track I would have been able to knock huge chunks out of my lap-time though, because I didn't even powerslide once. I didn't really have the room to, with all the other cars on track. The circuit's got quite a good layout, so I'm definitely going to go back at some point. It's just a shame that it's such an expensive hobby. £27 for 30 minutes of track-time is pretty steep going. I'd love to do a team-enduro event, but there the problem is finding enough other people to do it with you. I'll have to try and set up a works do, and see if I can get my project to pay for it... The only downside (other than the ever-expanding hole in my wallet) is that I appear to have been spoiled by power-steering. None of us could believe quite how hard it was getting those karts to go around corners. I didn't remember it being that hard when my brother and I used to go karting at Trentham Gardens in Stoke as kids. My biceps are still aching. Good exercise indeed, but a tad sweaty in 30 degrees of heat when you're wearing a full race suit, gloves and helmet...

After our escapades on the track, Dan and I also broke out the Xbox for a bit of multiplayer. We co-op'ed the last few levels of Halo 2 - the ending of which is the very definition of anti-climax, just as everyone told me it was - plus, being inspired by Wimbledon season, we also played a bit of Top Spin. Unfortunately, it appears that Dan isn't much of a fan of racing games, so we couldn't take to the Nurburgring on Forza Motorsport to put that recent on-track experience to full use...

Next time, we're going to see if we can have an excursion to Buckmore Park, the best outdoor karting track in the country. Maybe after that (and making him play a session of GTR) I'll be able to convince Gril that playing racing games isn't a complete waste of time, and that things have moved on since Outrun...
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