Sunday 6 January 2013

Racing at Q Leisure

It doesn't matter how many times David Cameron tells us that things are improving, the fact is they are not. The cost of living is higher than ever. A loaf of bread now costs £400. People are homeless and jobless and more importantly, motor racing is really expensive. I have written several stern letters to the PM asking him to address this critical issue, but still it remains elusive from the House of Common’s agenda. Fortunately, one company has seen fit to take matters into their own hands.

Just outside of Brighton and within spitting distance of the A23 is where Q Leisure are starting their revolution. Their outdoor karting facility has been providing cost-effective corporate entertainment for an age now, alongside paintball, archery and various other outdoor activities on the Q Leisure roster.

Recently Q Leisure began its Junior Karting Club. The aim was -and still is- to get kids into motorsport without mum or dad having to break the bank. The club was successful, evolving into a junior championship. The kids got older and needed to make way for the next generation of karters. A senior championship was created to compliment the juniors and accommodate the older drivers.

Now those original karters are older still, requiring Q Leisure to open a further championship. With Junior and Senior already catered for, the staff at Q Leisure are running out of words. “Senior Citizen Championship” and “Old Gits Championship” have been bandied about. “The Bus-pass Cup” has also been suggested.

Whatever name they decide on, Q Leisure bringing their organising expertise to the world of arrive-and-drive karting has been a good thing for the sport.

The family run business operates out of the village of Albourne, about six miles from the sunny seaside town of Brighton and Hove. The track is 800 meters long and has several characteristics that make it a unique driving experience.

The start-line points you towards a right-hand hairpin that goes by the intimidating name of Gurkha’s Revenge. The corner is tight but, surprisingly, provides very few first lap incidents from kamikaze last row starters. The exit lines you up for a left-hand hairpin, the slightly less intimidating Carl’s Bend. Who Carl is, or why he decided that the name Carl’s Bend is a suitable follow up to Gurkha’s Revenge remains a mystery. What we do know is that the two corners are so close together, they can be treated as an “S” bend using one line to link the two apexes.

You exit Carl’s Bend into a subtle left and right, downhill into Hell’s Drop. This very fast right hander turns you slightly over ninety degrees and straight into Rattle Snake a flat out left kink that sets you up for the dodgily titled William’s Pit Entrance. This is a long 180 degree turn that exits into a tunnel.

 After the tunnel, it is uphill into a hairpin that goes by the unimaginative handle of The Hairpin. It’s unfortunate that this corner drew a short straw in the name stakes.  It is a tricky little number and worthy of a more valiant alias. It has a slippery curb on the exit and a surprisingly hard wall to catch out the unwary. Hairpin of impending doom may have been a more suitable moniker.

Should you survive the hairpin, you are treated to a fast right-hander over a bridge. Keep the throttle nailed as the track curves left around the pits into Mansell-not the moustachioed British driver who complains about everything. Mansell is actually a very fast right-hander that is enormously satisfying to drive through. 
A short straight delivers you at Sand Pit a fast left that sets you up for the suitably named Overdrive hairpin. This corner joins the fastest part of the track to the longest straight on the track- the straight you started from- so it is important not to overdrive this corner. See what they did there?

I hate using the word picturesque, but when you arrive at Q Leisure, it is a bit like walking into one of those beautifully photoshopped holiday postcards. Through the big iron gates you are greeted by the main building, which is a quite stunning converted barn. The barn houses a function room, restaurant area and a licensed bar. The barn, with its oak beams and wood floors, gives the feel of an old English pub restaurant. This would actually be a nice place to come, even if you were not racing.

The barn sets a standard for all the facilities at Q Leisure. Outside there is a neat fishpond complete with a waterfall and a convincing rubber herring. There is computerised signing on, electronic timing, a briefing room, toilets and a viewing gantry all above the standard you would expect of an NKA affiliated track.

The karts used in the Q Leisure Championships are from their fleet of arrive-and-drive Biz Pro-Karts. Each is armed with one Honda GX200 engine and has adjustable pedals and seat inserts to fit drivers of all sizes.

So there you have it. One company singlehandedly changing both the face of British motor sport and the way our country is run. Ok, so they are not actually doing that, but they are offering the chance to race in a cheap, well organised, competitive championship in the beautiful Sussex countryside.
If you find yourself near Brighton, pop in and give them your support.

As Mr Cameron himself says, we are all in this together.

***All the crap you see written here is Kelvin's opinion and not that of his associates, race team or marketing partners.***

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