Ready, Set, Go-kart!
Driving a car 65 mph on a highway is no problem for the average driver.
Driving 65 mph on a racetrack 1.5 inches off the ground in a souped-up go-kart is a pure adrenaline rush for Amanda Tyler, and she’s always trying to go faster.
Tyler, a junior at UW-Eau Claire, started driving go-karts this past spring when her dad, Kevin Tyler, bought Amanda Tyler her very own racer.
Tyler said her dad began racing seven years ago in a kart that could top out at about 100 mph.
“I always wanted to race, but they (parents) thought that go-karting was too dangerous for me,” she said. “Then last spring he bought a new, slower kart and told me he wanted to put me in it.”
The first time Tyler drove was racing day. The 4-mile road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. challenged her with hills and tricky turns. It was on her birthday, July 11, and after a few practice laps she took off, and ended up winning her first race.
“It was a little intimidating at first, but you go out and get a feel for the course,” she said. “It just kind of comes naturally; I guess it runs in the blood.”
Tyler said there is no practicing or training for go-kart racing and that it’s really no different than if you were driving a car … except the fact that you’re only a few inches off the ground.
“People assume it’s like NASCAR, or that I must be so good at regular driving,” she said. “It’s just a small, compact piece of metal and fiber glass, but it gives you a rush like none other.”
Tyler won first place in the two races she competed in this summer, the second win coming at Blackhawk Farms in Beloit, Ill.
Even though the track was shorter, Tyler said it was more exciting because of the technical turns that require quicker thinking.
The most thrilling moment Tyler had on the track was at Blackhawk Farms, when she spun out and found herself facing karts going 80 mph head on. She said it was still early in the race and she took a turn too fast before her wheels were properly heated.
“It was one of those ‘my life was flashing before my eyes’ moments,” she said. “I was all amped up and took a corner so fast my back end flipped around and two karts were coming right at me.”
She said the karts flew past her and she was able to correct herself quickly enough to keep her track position and ended up winning the race.
“It’s kind of cool that I went out there and won when there are people who have been racing for years,” she said. “Plus, I’m a girl and it’s awesome to go out there and get respect on the track.”
According to the World Karting Association, the “go-kart” phenomenon began in the late 1950′s.
The website stated that karting is a fun and affordable motorsport and occurs in informal parking lot events. The sport has now spread and forms a “true grassroots” in motorsports.
Karting has become a primary recreational activity for an estimated 100,000 Americans annually, according to the WKA.
The regulations of go-kart racing are based on kart weight and engine type. The driver is put in a certain weight class based on the type of engine and the combined weight of the driver and the kart itself.
Tyler’s class is a 4 Cycle Clone international in the 360-pound weight category. In order to qualify, racers have to be at weight; everything from the engine to the helmet is weighed to make sure no one is cheating, as being underweight is a strong advantage in the race.
The winner is the driver who can go the furthest distance in an allotted amount of time. Tyler’s races last 30 minutes.
Kevin Tyler said it is great to have his daughter out racing, because for so many years she sat to watch him; now, however, she can have fun too.
“I got started after my wife’s brother got me into racing and it became sort of a family thing,” he said. “I like that Amanda is involved because it’s extremely fun and it brings out the competitive spirit.”
Amanda Tyler said racing is just a great hobby that she can do with her family. Because the sport is relatively small, she said, it is a very close community of people.
“Because not many people are involved in this, anytime there’s a race it’s like a reunion because we know everyone,” she said. “It’s something fun we do together.”
Tyler said she hopes to continue karting for a long time. Her dad is currently working on a new engine for her that will get her speeds up to about 70 mph. Tyler said she can’t wait to try it out.
“I really just hope to keep getting better at it,” she said. “And my dad’s working on ‘project Blue Bird’ which is my new engine and he said after he’s done I’m going to fly.”