Monday, September 22, 2008

Bark: Weight penalty

My arms hurt. The pain was worth it, though, because I went karting at the weekend for a friend's birthday. I got to put some of those driving madskillz I gained through all those hours spent on playing racing simulators into practice, and I did pretty well, all told. I didn't utterly blow the rest of the party (there were 11 of us driving), and narrowly missed out on a podium. Not because I'm a slower driver than they are, but mainly because I'm a huge, 15 stone Scottish bull, and the guys who came ahead of me were a good three or four stone lighter than me. I was only 0.4 of a second off the quickest lap time, and when you consider I had around 20 kilos on the fastest guy, I was pretty competitive.

In case you're wondering why I'm blathering on about why being a fat pig is bad for motor racing, well, when was the last time you saw a porky Formula One driver? Weight and racing cars (or karts) do not mix. It's a simple equation: F = ma, where F is the force of the engine, m is the combined mass of the driver and car, and a is the acceleration. F is constant for all the karts, since they all have the same 160cc engines, which means that the acceleration of the kart is dependent upon the weight of the driver/car combination. Obviously, the weight of the kart is going to be consistent across everyone who's racing as well, so it's the weight of the driver which makes the difference here. It was worst when we all had to stop after someone span out or hit the barrier and the race director had to put the red lights on to stop everyone while the marshals sorted them out. I lost so much time on the re-starts, because I wasn't able to accelerate from a standstill so quickly as everyone else, so I had to really make the most of being rather braver (or stupider) in the corners and using the one advantage a heavier weight did give me, better roadholding around the hairpins, meaning I could take them slightly faster than everyone else.

It was brilliant fun, and I really ought to do it more often, but driving a kart really does bring home how much you get spoiled by driving cars with power steering. With a kart you're directly hooked up to the wheels, and you have to steer with brute strength alone. After about 10 minutes of vibration and violent changes of direction, it's all you can do to hold onto the wheel anymore. On the last couple of laps in the 15 minute sessions, you're almost begging for them to throw the chequered flag because your forearms and wrists ache so much. When I got into the car on the drive home I was all like "oooh, the wheel turns! steering doesn't hurt! wow!"

I'm going to try and persuade my project manager to take us for a corporate day to Buckmore Park next time we go on a team-building jolly. I'm not sure if that one will fly, but if you don't ask, you don't get.
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