First, there was indoor karting. This mushroomed from a minority interest, known only to a hardy few who didn’t mind getting their fingernails dirty in the mid-80s, into a major corporate entertainment activity. Within a couple of years of the first circuits having opened up in musty old bus garages and converted banana warehouses, to name but a couple of typical locations, there were new tracks appearing all over the country as the craze caught on.
Inevitably, fierce competition between operators led to some business casualties, and franchise holders began to look for fresh ideas in order to woo customers. At first it was a question of brightening up surroundings, providing decent catering and comfortable spectator terraces. Then the product came in for close examination, and new methods of presentation were initiated, including the advent of more powerful, twin-engined karts, ice racing and rally karting, the latter entailing indoor competition on specially laid loose surfaces.
Less radical, in that it employs traditional single-engine technology on a tarmac circuit in a disused bus garage, but none the less worthy for that, is Playscape Racing’s endurance karting format, which has been up and running for a while, mainly at the company’s Clapham venue, where a special pit lane, pits and refuelling area have now been constructed to support the initiative.
The new facilities were unveiled during a recent media challenge, where seven magazines were invited to take part in a race over 400 laps, or three hours, whichever was the greater. Teams are limited to a maximum of 10 drivers, and tactics are purely a matter for the individual (although schedules can be upset by the black flag, which flutters for any misdemeanours, e.g. forcible relocation of the oil drums which line the circuit or over-obvious use of the opposition as a braking medium).
MOTOR SPORT had worked its way into the lead, after half an hour or so, when the front left wheel bearing crumbled, the resultant stop costing 14 laps and putting us out of contention barring a sudden time warp.
A fluctuation in the earth’s orbit having failed to materialise, Triple C eventually clocked up 400 laps after over three hours’ effort, beating Chequered Flag, a recovering MOTOR SPORT, Motoring News, Autocar & Motor and Auto Express. Autosport was a long way behind at the death, having forgotten to turn up.
Although Playscape reckons that its traditional sprint race meetings continue to take up between 60-70 per cent of its bookings, the popularity of endurance karting is on the increase. If you enjoy a challenge, and can put up with a few bruises (MOTOR SPORT team members had them on ribs, knees and shins, according to personal dimensions; an indoor kart does not offer the lumbar support of a Mercedes 500SL, nor does it come equipped with an airbag), Playscape can be contacted on 081-9867116. Entry fee is £200, and the regulations stipulate a maximum of 10 drivers per team and 10 karts per race. At least a couple of weeks’ notice is required. For a little extra outlay, cups of tea and egg and cress sandwiches can be provided, though a decent power to weight ratio needs to be maintained, so we advise you steer clear of the sausage rolls. S A