My 14-year-old’s birthday is just around the corner. “He’s too old for toys,” says my husband.
“Maybe he just needs bigger toys,” I answer.
“Our go-carts run on gas and have a 200 cc, 6.5-horsepower Honda engine,” says Gibby at Miramar Speed Circuit Race Cars (858-586-7500; miramarspeedcircuit.com).
“I think you can get better lap times with gas than you can with electric. You don’t get the instant oomph you get from electric, but once you’re up to speed you can corner faster. And with electric, your 14th lap will be slower than your first because the charge is wearing down. With ours, the adult carts go up to 40 miles per hour, and the junior carts can do up to 30. We have people on the track from 7 to 80 years old.”
The racetrack at Miramar Speed Circuit is “about a quarter mile. It’s more of a technical course than some — there are hairpin turns, and it takes some skill to get around without spinning out. Each car has a transponder on it, so at the end of the race we can give you a printout showing your lap times.”
For safety, “There are plastic barriers bolted to the ground, and the carts themselves have safety armor that helps absorb impact. Plus, we have guys out there monitoring. The number-one rule is, ‘No bumping.’ If you see a yellow caution light, that means someone has spun out, and you need to slow down so the guys can get out there.”
Racing is $23 for 10 minutes. “We give you a helmet, but you need to buy a head sock for $2. We also have a membership: $60 gets you two races, a shirt, a head sock, and a discounted rate of $18 [per 10 minutes]for the whole year. And there are specials every week. Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., you get a free lunch with your race. On Tuesdays, $23 gets you 20 minutes instead of 10. And we offer private lessons for $120: three 10-minute races combined with three 10-minute instruction sessions.”
I called K1 Speed in Carlsbad (760-929-2225; k1speed.com), which uses electric carts. Track instructor Kelson told me that he didn’t think one type was better than the other. “They’re just different. Gas carts have a power band, which means that you get maximum torque at the higher speeds. With electric, you get maximum torque at [the initial] rpm, so acceleration is great in an electric cart. As soon as you hit the [accelerator], the cart will perform at maximum capacity. The excess power put to the wheels in the electric also gives you oversteer — the car wanting to turn more than you want it to. That’s an effect that you get in real racing — drivers have to monitor for it. You don’t get oversteer with indoor gas carts because they’re underpowered and operating in a confined space.”
Kelson says that track surface can affect the racing experience. “At K1, we have an asphalt surface, which is the same surface you’ll find in real road tracks. Some go-cart tracks are concrete, and with concrete you get a loss of traction. It’s still a fun experience, but it doesn’t simulate the real racing experience as well as asphalt.”
Races are 14 laps for $20. “First-time drivers must purchase a ‘driver license’ for $5.95. Monday through Thursday, the purchase of two races will get you a third race free.”
Kelson also offers private lessons: $100 for beginners, $135 for advanced. “You get one-on-one personal tutoring, plus three races with just the two of us on the track. Advanced courses get four races, plus discussion of racing philosophy and strategy — things like passing techniques. Because it’s one-on-one, I can address particular problems.”
Other places around town:
Electric power: Pole Position Raceway, Murietta (951-461-1600; polepositionraceway.com). Adults, $19.95 for 16 laps; children, $16.95 for 10 laps.
Gas power: Boomers, Kearny Mesa (858-560-4211; boomersparks.com). Five-minute session: $7 driver, $5 passenger.