When we ran the actual race, Brook did the crowded start, drove the lion's share of stints-there were 11 mandatory driver changes and two refuelings-and took the checker. She notched our team's fastest laps by far, while Porsche Club member Patrick and I skittered and spun. She kept faithfully unlapping us, retrieving the places that we guys lost every time we planted our middle-age asses in the kart's stiff, unforgiving seat.
It gripes me when jock-sniffing big-city sportswriters announce that racecar drivers "aren't athletes." Strap on a kart for just an hour or so and you'll get a hint of what the stresses must be like in a real racecar. After 4 hours we were stiff, bruised, cramped, and brain-dead. Indeed, Pat wilted after the third hour, and my daughter took up the slack. "Oh, this isn't really an endurance race," de Marcken's assistant later said. "Most of our long races are 8, 12, or even 24 hours. We did a 24-hour down in Florida a while ago, and a 10-year-old and his brother (Le Mans driver Wayne Taylor's kids) won it." There's still something to be said for a high power-to-weight ratio.
One nice thing about karts is that they have no rearview mirrors, so I was spared the intimidation I normally feel when I see a car close behind me on a racetrack. The faster kart drivers-and there were many-did announce their desire to pass by belting my rear bumper hard enough to make me see stars and curse, but unless you glimpse a front wheel in your peripheral vision, you just work on your line, braking, and power, which is as it should be. At least that's what I thought until some bozo straight-lined a chicane and in a split second launched himself over my front end and out into the dimly floodlit off-track darkness as the final half-hour of the race unwound.
I was a bit embarrassed to see Brook's "team fastest lap" notation every time I checked the big video monitor that tracked the race positions in the Oakland Park clubhouse, yet I couldn't have been more proud as I watched her wail past in her tiny racecar lap after lap. "You should have seen the look on her face when the guy chasing her at the end of the race came by our pit and told her she was fast," Patrick later said.
In a country where size matters, low-horsepower karts have never gotten the respect they deserve as competition machinery. This is the cheapest, simplest, safest, and most effective way on the planet to experience the thrill of real racing.
Want to go karting? Start with de Marcken's sites, www.startracing.com and www.dinousa.com, then check out the track's at www.ovrp.com.
When stationary, Wilkinson receives mail at firstname.lastname@example.org