Photos by Jeff Balliet[ASK Photography]
Most of us can’t wait to get to our next track day, autocross or drag race. But sometimes, when our racecar has a connecting rod oddly hanging out of the oil pan, we are far, far from our next competitive event. Never fear, you don’t need a racecar to race head to head against your buddies. You just need to get to Fast Lap.
Fast Lap Indoor Kart Racing is a place where you can show up, pay your money, and race like crazy on a quarter mile twisty race track in gas powered go-karts. No trailering a race car, no all-nighter before the race fixing the motor, and no fresh set of tires required. You arrive, you race, you show everyone why you should be a sponsored driver in the Speed GT series, and then you go home. Real speed and victory could be yours for less than you would pay for the next Project Gotham Racing video game.
When it comes to cost, you really can’t beat the whole rent-a-racer thing. Go-kart racing at Fast Lap is insanely inexpensive compared to other sanctioned motorsports. With a coupon from the back of a taxi, or one of the magazines in a local hotel room you can get three ten minute race sessions for around $60 (their prices change occasionally and they have group discounts and corporate deals). Let’s do a little math here, 30 minutes of racing for 60 bucks, that’s $2 a minute. Compared to the money it takes to prep, haul and race a car in NASA Performance Touring road racing trust me when I say $2 a minute is a hell of a bargain. It costs over $2 a minute for a motorhome towing a racecar trailer to idle in traffic.
Fast Lap is the name of the business which is crazy enough to put an insanely quick, great handling, gas powered go-kart in the hands of pretty much any lunatic who has 60 bucks burning a hole in their pocket. They have their premier track in the famed city of sin, Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as another track in Mira Loma, California. Information, events, schedules and updated pricing can be found at www.fastlaplv.com.
When you’re looking for a quick adrenaline jolt, go-kart racing your buddies is about as fun as it gets. What other racing series can you actually race against your friends where each of you are in similar cars on a track at the same time? Don’t say Gran Turismo. Low to the ground cars + great lateral G’s + lots of traffic on the track = nobody walks out of Fast Lap without a smile on their face.
Good news: your car won’t suffer any wear at all (unless somebody keys the paint job while sitting in the Fast Lap parking lot). Your real car will be benched as you will be driving the “rent-a-racer” Sodi-Kart which is a gas powered rocket. Trust me, it’s plenty fast enough around the tight course for you to miss the braking zone prior to the hairpin and stuff the front of the kart right into the tires. Oh well, it’s not your car. These karts have 360 degree bumpers and can take a pretty good beating (although the folks at Fast Lap would appreciate it if you didn’t beat on it). Yeah, I know, you’re probably going to anyway.
First thing is first. Fast Lap is in Vegas Baby! This is a city most people will visit. In fact, as soon as one of your high school buddies knocks his girlfriend up, you’ll soon be flying into Vegas yourself for a little bachelor party debauchery. Bars, girls, black jack and some go-karts, it’s a wonderful combination.
Once you and your friends sober up, get to Fast Lap. You will watch a short video with rules telling you the usual stuff, no bumping, no aggressive driving, yada, yada, yada. If you want you can wear a racing suit, but I wouldn’t recommend it because the track is indoors and it’s pretty warm in there. You will be required to wear a provided helmet (don’t worry you germ-a-phobes they give you a head sock).
They will tell you which kart you will be driving for your first ten minute session of three sessions. The first one is practice (learn the turns and the lines). When the green flag drops the fun begins. You and your friends get to prove to each other once and for all who is the real Schumacher in the group. After the session is over you will get a print out of all of your laps. Remember, the clocks never lie, so let the smack talking begin.
While you take a breather and check your times, another group will race a ten minute session. If you show up with a larger group, 5-6 guys, you will probably get your own group for your sessions; which is good for on track shenanigans. Your next ten minute session will be the qualifying round and you will be put into a different car. Your time in this session will give you your starting grid position for the race (third session). You will get another breather and more results after the second session. Bring some cash because they have vending machines and you will be wicked thirsty after your sessions in the hot indoor track.
For the third and final session, the race, you will start in your qualifying position. The green flag will drop and all of the B.S. will stop. You and your buddies will battle on track until the checkered flag falls and one of you is crowned the champ.
You can find anyone and everyone racing at Fast Lap. The only requirement is that your ATM card doesn’t get denied and you’re all of 5 feet tall (What-you-talkin-bout Willis? That’s right Gary Coleman, you don’t get to drive). You’ll race against teenagers having birthday parties, guys from bachelor parties (remember this is Vegas!), corporate team building (Hey ladies!), real racers, wannabe racers and video game racers. Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned go-kart race?
If you win, Fast Lap will honor you with a plastic medal and put you up on the podium (bring your own camera to capture your glorious moment in motorsports history). No, it’s not like winning Indy, and no, there are no trophy girls (it’s B.Y.O.B. –Bring Your Own Broad). The trophy isn’t exactly something you want to display in your glass covered case with your drag racing accomplishments, but at least you are actually competing for something other than just bragging rights. And speaking of bragging rights, they keep a tally of the top laps of the day so you can see how you stack up against other racers.
OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA?
To win, it’s all in the name, Fast Lap. The victory comes down to the fastest lap time, not the driver who actually crosses the finish line first. I found this out the hard way, after I went under the checkered flag with the lead, and raised my fist in the air for victory (I had crushed the shmucks I dueled with on track). After my little celebration, that was when I found out our photographer had completed the fastest lap of the race (fourth place finish –but fastest lap) and was crowned the winner. He picked up the trophy while I stood there like… well one of those shmucks I was describing earlier.
The number of laps completed doesn’t mean squat. Racing and dueling with another driver, which involves blocking, passing, and unusual lines through the corners, will cause your lap times to suffer. If you want to win Fast Lap, when the green flag drops, just wait. Let the testosterone filled bachelors battle it out and crash into each other. You hang out in the back, race on a clear track, concentrate on your lines and get the best possible lap you can without any interference.
Some luck will play into winning. Doesn’t it always in racing? The cars at Fast Lap aren’t exactly built equally. Sometimes you get the fast car; sometimes you get the one which has taken one too many hits to the tires. Good luck wining with that P.O.S. It is luck of the draw, they don’t allow you to pick your ride.
RACER BOY GAUGE
Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here:
FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is just a hair below full because compared to other motorsports, you actually still have money in your pocket after a race (try that after a 24 Hours of LeMons race).
RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 3,300 RPMs because your adrenaline begins to pump as you start racing your buddies deep into the corners. The speed feels good and the go-karts get around the track plenty fast for the course layout.
MPH (Danger): The speedometer is around 25 mph because this safe competition (compared to running 200 mph at Bonneville). Fast Lap provides you with a helmet to wear and the go-karts have seatbelts. The track is lined with soft tires. Your biggest danger is burning your hand on the motor or the exhaust as you exit the car. Lesson here: If it’s hot, don’t grab it and use it as a handle, Genius.
VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is nearly maxed since this doesn’t take much time at all. You arrive, you drive, and you go back to doing your thing, with no racecars to clean, no motors to rebuild and no roll-over damage to fix. You can be in-and-out within an hour or so.
MILEAGE (Car Wear): You’re not using your car so car wear is nothing to sweat. I’ve got the mileage listed at 1 mile because that’s how far Fast Lap is from my favorite bench racing bar, the Nine Fine Irishman pub in the New York-New York Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
We all find ourselves in Las Vegas sooner than later. When you arrive you will have a couple of choices and both of them involve the word lap. The first being a lap dance. You can put 60 bucks in a strippers g-string and see what you’ll get for that (about a song and a half lap dance, a fake name, and a date with a cold shower). Or you do the other lap, Fast Lap. Take your $60 and race your ass off. Trust me when I say you’ll get much more “seat time” at Fast Lap.