In the early 2000’s, I used to spend a lot of time and money at a place in Calgary called Indoor Grand Prix. I was however, one of very few who did, and soon after I discovered the place it was forced to close it’s doors. Before it did though, I learned a fair bit about driving a kart fast, and on their small circuit at least, I felt able to challenge anyone. Indoor Grand Prix did really well to keep records of lap times, and thus it always had a bit of an arcade feel to me: set a fast time and come back the next week to defend, or be proud to see it still standing.
With Indoor Grand Prix gone, and now Race City Motorsport Park gone as well, Speeders who opened only a few weeks ago is the buzz. I was pretty stoked to check it out, and did last night with a couple friends. Here are my thoughts…
Electric karts are kinda nice. I love being able to leave the place not smelling like oil and gas. But they have limited range which means short races. No 15 minute sessions possible, instead you go out for about 5 minutes at a time. Not that you really have energy for a lot more as a driver… but if you are only a tenth quicker/lap than the guy 1 second in front of you, good luck catching him. Especially when they try really hard to keep you out of traffic by staggering your starts, and vigilantly watching and flagging drivers to pull over and let others pass. Not that I want to be the asshole who blocks people, but I’m not really interested in Solo. (I did for my video pick a lap where I was in traffic though… pretty boring to watch otherwise, and probably is still.)
While the course at Indoor Grand Prix never changed, it was fantastic. There was a straight long enough to enable you to reach the rev limiter if you were good and there was a hill that really punished mistakes going up, and was really tricky coming down as well with a hairpin at the bottom. I never wanted it to change. I’m not bored of Speeders course yet, but I will be. They at least have the ability to move plastic barriers around and mix it up. But I don’t think they’ll fit a hill and a tunnel. I do think they should fill those plastic barriers with water though. Punish me for running wide. Indoor Grand Prix had solid barriers that were covered in carpet for a nice velcro effect when you rubbed them. Rad.
Maybe that’s why Indoor Grand Prix died though. Maybe it was just a little too raw. When people got in those modified Rotax karts maybe they saw exposed mufflers and gears and chains and felt like they were getting into a death trap? Maybe unmoving barriers were scarey? Maybe the surly and often uncaring staff got them down? Maybe? Likely. I even witnessed two fist fights at Indoor Grand Prix between fellow patrons who got into each other on track.
That isn’t really anyone’s idea of a great time, or a good business plan for that matter. So in that sense I think Speeders stands a good chance. Maybe eventually they’ll have special Race nights when they lock the door to the general public and open it up to degenerates like me. They could take all the fairings off the karts, the insulation off the power wire for the motor, fill the barriers with Mercury, and install a loop-de-loop. For that I’d pay $420/hr of driving.
Check out how close everyone is. Pretty amazing. Note that after 12 races they up your engine output to what they call “PRO SPEED”, thus enabling even faster lap times… but looking at the Best of The Week, not significantly faster. This is the arcade theme though that would hook me pretty fast… if I didn’t have to survive twelve races with a handicap first.