karting - how to get started

think of it as formula one with most of the costs - and much of the danger - removed and you won't be far from the truth. why else would stars like michael schumacher and before him ayrton senna keep returning to the place they started out?

Like everything else however, getting into Karting has its complications. You have to choose between a huge number of different categories for a start, then find a budget to buy your Kart - which can be anything from £500 to £5,000, depending on the machine you choose.

It doesn't stop there either. There's a whole stack of tools you have to buy, plus the inevitable trailer to tow the thing around with. Plus of course, you have to have somewhere safe to store it. On top of all this, tuning your Kart is something of an expert's black art, a specialist's job that in relative terms, isn't cheap.

If in reading this, you're beginning to think that it all sounds just that bit too much of a hassle, you could be forgiven. But what if all that cost and hassle could be removed and all you had to do was to drive to the circuit, sit in the kart and take the chequered flag, just like David Coulthard on a day trip from Monaco? You'd be interested wouldn't you.

This is the concept behind initiatives like Club 100. While it's karting made easy from a practical point of view, from a competitive perspective, it's as tough as they come. Club 100 customers wouldn't want it any other way. You have to remember that most of motorsport is governed by the cheque book. Those who can afford the best tyres, the fastest engines and the finest components always have an advantage, regardless of whether or not they're actually better drivers. We prepare all our karts to an identical standard, so each race is a superb spirit level of where you're at as a driver.

Normally for prospective drivers, the first choice to make is between the two main types of kart in common use in the UK; two and four-stroke. If you've seen a kart before, it's probably based on one of the bigger four-stroke chassis: these, after all, tend to be most commonly used for corporate use. They're not, however, the kind of machines a real racer would normally drive. Where you really want to end up is behind the wheel of a two-stroke kart - the kind used by real racing drivers to learn their craft.

Here, there's a single two-stroke unit that's much lighter and revs much higher. The chassis is lighter too - and much more responsive. The result is a machine that will out-accelerate many super bikes - and leave Ferrari's and Porsches standing, all with your backside less than an inch from the ground.

If that sounds dangerous, then don't worry. By their very twisty nature, kart circuits are designed to emphasise acceleration rather than top speed, so you'll rarely be going fast enough really hurt yourself. Don't run away with the impression that driving one of these things is easy however; it's not.

For a start, you've got to learn to handle all that power and to get it down onto the tarmac, without the fat, slick tyres spinning it all away. Then you've got to learn the lines around the circuit. The tracks used, though slightly smaller than those used for full sized cars, are every bit as challenging. Through some of the corners, you simply won't be going fast enough until you're almost taking them sideways. In fact, you won't get anywhere near the limits of this simple but exhilarating machine until it's almost functioning as part of you, the wheel and pedals an extension of your arms and legs.

If you think that all sounds difficult, you're right; it is. But it's like no other feeling on earth when you get it right and string a sequence of corners together at ultimate speed. So that newcomers can practice doing just that, Club 100 Test Days enable potential customers to get to grips with their equipment.

In return for no more than £166 plus a £45 membership fee, you'll be invited to a circuit and assigned to a group of four drivers who will help you get used to the handling of the Kart. Previous race winners and other expert professionals will be on hand to help you perfect your technique.

At the end of all of this, you should be ready to race. Once you've paid the nominal annual membership, Club 100 offers a choice either of 2 hour and 2.5 hour endurance races or `Sprints'.

At a Sprint meeting, the participants have three `heat' races of around 8 laps each which they start from near the front, near the middle and near the back of a grid of around fifteen other drivers. Based on results, drivers will then qualify for one of three Finals, the fastest in the `A', the slowest in the `C'. The top four drivers in the C and B finals automatically move up to the next, more competitive one. To eliminate any weight disadvantage, there are two weight categories with minimum racing weights in each class.

Whichever type of racing you choose, you'll find a really friendly atmosphere at Club 100. Whatever stage you're at as a driver, you'll find people to compete with and encouragement to move up to the next level. Which is motor racing as it should be. If you've ever wanted to try it, there really is no excuse for not taking the plunge.

Want To Know More?: Club100 Racing Ltd on 01795 422455, website: www.club100.co.uk or email racing@club100.co.uk.