In an effort to take advantage of Dubai Kartdrome’s later opening hours during the month of Ramadan, I suggest the idea of a Time Out team karting excursion to fuel everyone’s competitive spirit. Yet it’s not long before I’m wondering what on earth I was thinking. Pelting forwards at goodness-knows-how-many kilometres an hour (probably at least ten), with 18 competitors zooming around me like angry erratic bees,
I’m nothing short of terrified. And having jumped out an aeroplane in my time, I feel at liberty to say that I found that particular pursuit more relaxing.
Despite it being after 9pm on a school night, the outdoor Kartdrome at Dubai Autodrome in MotorCity is a hive of activity, with drivers of all ages and nationalities queuing up for their turn behind the wheel. After a 30-minute wait in the air-conditioned reception area, during which we shrug on the mandatory overalls and collect a helmet and gloves, we head outside to find our allocated vehicles.
As we steadily crawl out in single file, following the pacemaker obediently, one of the 19 drivers in our group speeds up and slips past him, quickly followed by another. There’s always one – and you can usually rely on there to be more than that, especially when it comes to motoring.
Soon I find myself, zooming (cautiously) around the outdoor track alongside a handful of my trusty colleagues – at least, I would be alongside them if I could bring myself to attack the accelerator with a little more gusto. The fact that everyone is wearing identical helmets makes identifying friendly faces all but impossible, so I’m unaware that Time Out’s esteemed Music & Nightlife editor is trailing behind me. Like me, he’s a first-timer on the track and I’m glad for some company in this category – the rest of the group are apparently all quite confident karters.
I crawl around my first corner tentatively, getting a feel for the steering and brakes, and I’m soon feeling brave enough to pick up some speed. Encountering a relatively straight stretch, I put my foot down and speed towards the next turn – unfortunately, a conflict between my feet on either pedal sends me into a stomach-lurching spin, made all the more intense by a simultaneous surge of adrenaline. I crane my neck to scout for oncoming traffic as I career back onto the track, musing the absence of wing mirrors as two drivers hurtle past and screech across in front of me as they tackle the next bend. I scream, loudly. Twice. And then it occurs to me: the only way to combat the terror and stress I’m drowning in is to find a balance of fearlessness and calm determination, and go for it.
Though I’m moving faster and taking bends at speed, even overtaking a couple of drivers on the last lap, it’s too little too late, and not enough to beat any of my colleagues (save for my fellow first-time karter, who is unlikely to thank me for this outing). But 17th place out of 19 is better than nothing – and nothing was a very real prospect a couple of minutes in, when I wished I was skydiving instead.
And, let’s face it, learning how to react quickly behind the wheel is a far more useful tool in Dubai.
Dhs110 for 15 minutes with a Dhs10 registration fee, valid for one year. Open daily 7.30pm-1am throughout Ramadan, open daily 4pm-midnight until August 31. Dubai Outdoor Kartdome, Motor City, www.dubai
autodrome.com (04 367 6744).
Tips for first-time karters
1 Drive only when you feel strong. Karting is not for the faint-hearted and requires a modicum of core and arm strength. If you’re tired after three laps, your times will suffer.
2 Never drive if you’re taking medication or feeling unwell. Karting, as with all forms of motorsport, can be dangerous and requires complete concentration at all times. If you’re affected by illness or medication, you put yourself and other drivers at risk.
3 Aim to be smooth and consistent on track. There’s a reason why Formula 1 cars look as though they’re glued to the tarmac – sliding round the corners sideways may look spectacular, but it’ll lose you time. Treat the kart nicely, avoid losing grip with the tyres and you’ll be rewarded with more speed.
4 Don’t be reckless and aggressive. You’ll damage the kart, hurt yourself, or get thrown out. Or all three.
5 Practice, practice and more practice. But be warned, the chase to shave off an extra tenth of a second from your lap time can be very addictive.