KART CLUB GEARS UP FOR CHAMPIONSHIP
Racing karts is often seen as a first step toward a career in motorsports. But John Kwong, president of the Calgary Kart Racing Club, says his organization considers karting as a hobby unto itself.
Clearly the CKRC is doing something right, as its membership continues to grow. The club now has 275 members and, according to Kwong, is considered the largest not-for-profit kart club in Canada.
“COVID has been an interesting factor,” Kwong says. “Last year, people were looking for things they could do (within the restrictions set down by the province).
“And we're seeing more than just fathers and sons out here; there are fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, and entire families getting involved. Karting offers a youngster lots of life lessons, too. Nothing is handed to you in karting,” he says.
“It offers a different experience for parents and kids because the child is on the track, but the parent is in the pit. The parent plays an important role in the development of their kids' skills, they're more hands-on and involved in karting, dealing with tire pressures, and clutch and carb settings. And kids, as they move up, they learn to appreciate more of the engineering side of the karts and the setup.”
Of particular benefit is the club's Try A Kart program. Anyone curious about karting can sign up and attend: from ages five to seven in Kid Kart, ages eight to 10 in Cadet, ages 11 to 15 in Junior, and 16 to over 70 in Senior. All sessions cost $155, with the exception of Kid Kart, which is $100.
“My dad always said, `Give someone a ride in a kart, and things will happen,'” Kwong recalls. “Getting someone interested before they're eight years old, when they're often entrenched in other activities such as hockey, is important. With Kid Kart, if they start at five, by the time they're eight, they're a veteran.”
According to the CKRC'S website, all that's required for any of the Try A Kart sessions is “a pair of running shoes and enthusiasm.” The club provides everything else, including the kart, helmet, race suit, rib vest, gloves, and instruction.
Since the late 1950s, the CKRC has operated at a number of locations around Calgary. Its last track opened in 2001 as a purpose-built facility dubbed Varsity Speed Park, adjacent to Race City Motorsport Park. That lasted until the end of 2013.
In 2014, the CKRC found a site within the town limits of Strathmore, 30 minutes east of Calgary. It chose to construct a track based on a mirror image of one located in Wanneroo, Australia.
On the Strathmore property, there is an approximate 10-metre elevation change from highest to lowest points, and the track is nine metres wide, 1,225 metres long, and has 14 turns. Since hosting its first race in May 2015, the club has expanded the paddock area and added a tech building where pre- and postrace safety inspections can be done. Importantly, a washroom building was installed.
“The ATCO structure is what you'd see in an oilfield camp,” Kwong says. “It provides a flushing toilet, which is more civilized than a porta-potty.”
Normally, the CKRC'S race season would have started in early May, but the club had to juggle its schedule to accommodate Alberta's lockdown restrictions. Its first event this year — round one of the Alberta Shoot-out — was held in early July. The club is now gearing up for the North of 49 Karting Championships, slated to run July 22 to 25.
“This is a new event for us this year,” Kwong says. “It's our own championship, and is not really a part of any other affiliation.”
He says it will be the largest karting event in Western Canada, and the club expects to see more than 200 entries from Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba. “We took an approach to make this event an all-around experience for the family. Many events just focus on the racing, but we're planning a Saturday evening dinner served by Fork + Farm Catered Events.
“There'll be a beer garden, food and drink will be available on site, and there is free spectator admission. We really want to draw some spectators to see our level of racing.”
For more details, visit ckrc. com.