By Lauren Gemmell: Speed junkies are all geared up for the new F1 racing season.
As Hamilton, Button, Vettel and co prepare to do battle once more, we’ve gone back to where it all started for many of these racing stars – go karting.
Fast Lane Karting in Fenton is an indoor track that boasts the use of 250CC Biz Karts and is very close to Staffordshire University and Stoke-On-Trent train station.
For many, it’s a great place to go as group-bonding session so we had to tag along when Staffordshire University Women’s Football Club went for a team building session.
Not knowing what to expect, event in the car park the atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation.
Our nerves are jingling as we are about to jump foot-first into adrenalin-fuelled excitement.
That anticipation is only heightened by the long safety briefing.
Of course, the sport is dangerous and this is necessary – how much notice people take when they get behind that wheel and hear the engines kick in remains to be seen.
Then it’s the all important change from girl on the street to F1 driver – the driver suit and helmet.
Underneath the driver suit, it’s recommended you wear comfortable but sensible clothes and if you have long hair to tie it up. Shoving lots of hair into an already tight helmet is not the easiest of jobs.
Once in our gear, it is through to the briefing room to watch a safety video, in which you are able to learn many useful things, like how to get dressed in a suit, and also which flag highlights that “you are driving above your capabilities.”
A further briefing track marshals, who had to reiterate that Go Karting is a NONE contact sport, and some more protective gear including very fetching gloves, we are finally ready for the practice laps.
The venue splits groups into teams of two, and we are then handed a number that represents which kart we will drive, and also what racing team we are representing.
The class of Virgin, McClaren, Ferrari and Mercedes are all on show – however choosing number 5, and subsequently receiving HRT is somewhat underwhelming!
Despite this, it is all eyes on the track, and the first seven drivers taking their four practice laps first.
A warning beforehand that the track is slippy is not heeded by many and the skids and slides across the surface are comically dangerous.
The smell of burning rubber and petrol allows the mind to believe you are at a real race track.
It gives you a sense of what the atmosphere must be like track-side when idols like Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are firing on all cylinders.
However, when you look back onto the track, and see the comical near misses, and drivers smashing into barriers, you are reminded of the vast gap existing between would-be amateurs and the best drivers in the world.
Our race is an endurance race, which means we have 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete as many laps as possible, and the time also includes a fuel refill as the petrol tanks last about an hour at a time.
So with a fuel refill and at least two driver changes, it offers a chance to be strategic – but also have an enjoyable time.
My team finishes a very appalling, and not dissimilar to HRT, second from last.
Despite this, everyone has a great time and agrees we should return for another go soon.
One of the participants Hannah Woolfall-Smith says: “We had a really good time, got the adrenaline pumping and it was a really good team building experience.
“Although I was battered and bruised afterwards, I would definitely do it again!!”
Paul, from Fast Lane Karting, said: “We definitely find people will be encouraged to come to us during the Formula 1 season.
“Many of the lads on junior parties talk among themselves saying ‘I’ll be Lewis Hamilton, you can be Jensen’.
“It is very easy to associate car racing with karting as that is where most drivers will start their careers.
“For most people karting with us is affordable whereas Formula 1 is not, so after being inspired watching an F1 race they will call in to book with us.”
Fast Lane Karting is located at 151 King Street, Fenton. Visit http://www.fastlanekarting.co.uk