Go-karting appeals to young and old who have a need for speed

·3 min read
Denny Simon, a 78-year-old kart driver, says he competes in races for fun, rather than having something to prove. (Julie Debeljak/CBC - image credit)
Denny Simon, a 78-year-old kart driver, says he competes in races for fun, rather than having something to prove. (Julie Debeljak/CBC - image credit)

Alberta's growing community of go-kart racers hosted its first championship race last weekend, and it's proving just how popular the sport is becoming for those of all ages.

Karters from across the Prairies competed at the North of 49 Karting Championships in Strathmore, Alta.

Some were vying for a chance to win tickets to race at the Canadian championships in Ontario later this summer. Others were there just to get some speed out of their system.

John Kwong, a member of the Calgary Kart Racing Club, says it was the largest race this summer in Western Canada.

He says it all started after a few racers wanted a competition of their own.

"We wanted to have a standalone event so people didn't affect their club points championships," he said, adding that many of the members have never experienced an event quite this large.

"You've got people from out of town, we've got prizes, we've got the banquet scenario," said Kwong, who will compete in the Canadian Finals.

Julie Debeljak/CBC
Julie Debeljak/CBC

For Kwong, racing has become quite the hobby. He's been competing for the past 40 years and says he still can't get enough.

"The racing itself is sort of the main attraction, but the mechanical and engineering and the camaraderie with the other drivers and club members, it's really a full-boat experience," he said.

And the event was quite the success. Kwong says 113 people competed, with racers of all ages and skill levels.

"Interestingly, because [of COVID-19] people were shut out of most of their traditional activities," he said. "Our club membership numbers went up. We had more people seek us out because we were something that they could do."

Eight-year-old Harrison Jeffery raced at the event this past weekend and says he got into the sport when he was just three years old.

"I came out of soccer and we were looking for a new sport for me to go in. Then one day we found karting, and then that's how we got into it," he said.

"Karting and driving will be my life. That's what it's going to be."

For the youngster, the main attraction to the sport is the speed.

"I get to, like, go fast, that's my main thing, I just like to, like, really start going," he said. "My max speed so far this year is 82 kilometres an hour. It feels actually really nice, you get all that breezing air by you."

Julie Debeljak/CBC
Julie Debeljak/CBC

On the opposite side of the age spectrum, Denny Simon, 78, says the hobby is perfect for him.

"From a young age, you have this adrenaline and you're born for speed," he said.

Simon says he used to race go-karts in the streets as a teenager in the Czech Republic but didn't get back into the sport until he came to Canada and his son expressed interest.

"So it kind of refreshed my memory and everything," he said. "Then my son quit. [The] kart was at home, so I said, 'Well, I may as well start racing.' I'm retired, so what else you going to do? Do I do gardening?

"No, I'm addicted to speed."

For those thinking of getting into go-karting, Simon says he's been impressed by the community that comes together for it.

"We have a good group here and friends, and we help each other. It keeps you coming back," he said.

With files from The Homestretch.

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