One year older and with that extra experience in his back pocket, Sudbury go-kart driver Kyle Guba, 12, is back on the asphalt track to improve his record over last season.
Guba had a great rookie year in 2000, finishing in second place in the points standings. He also earned Rookie of the Year and Most Dedicated awards.
Racing in a Junior Honda 4-cycle at the Sudbury Go-Kart track, his first race this year ended with a disappointing third-place finish.
But after making adjustments to his vehicle with his father, Jay, the head mechanic, it proved to be all the difference in the world, with young Kyle taking first place in all three events.
The big test came Saturday, June 16 at the Sturgeon Falls Grand Prix, with cars entered from Blind River, Toronto, Owen Sound, North York, and Sudbury. It was a different story, not knowing the other drivers’ performance record and machine reaction.
On the Friday evening, drivers were given the chance to test the quarter-mile long and very smooth track, which was set up in the parking lot adjacent to the sports complex.
The karts can reach speeds up to 70 m.p.h. in some stretches.
Then it was race day on Saturday featuring junior (aged seven to 17) and senior (17 and over) divisions. There were three heats in all divisions, and the times were averaged in the first two heats for placings in the third heat, which is the final.
All karts qualify for the finals in each division.
Prior to the races, drivers received instructions, held draws for positions, then it was back to getting their machines in running order.
The first heat with seven cars was a disaster for Guba right from the start. In a tight race, he could not gain on the front runners, running in fourth position, until he tangled with the straw bales on one corner, pushing him to the last place.
But a distraught Guba would do much better in the second heat. Positioned in second spot on the inside, all seven cars jumped out fast, with #14 having that extra zip.
Guba (#6) held to his position, not giving up, with both cars overlapping slower ones several times. But #14 prevailed, capturing the checkered flag by a car length.
Guba had excellent position to start in the 35-lap final but he could not overcome the four cars ahead of him until the 31st lap, when the advantage came to pass one in front of the grandstand for a third-place finish.
“I did not have the power to pass other drivers when the opportunity arose,” he said. “I needed that extra sprocket [gear] for this, which was the difference.”
Despite the speeds and close quarters, one organizer said this is a particularly safe sport. “The karts may touch wheels but nothing serious develops.”
But it can prove costly for the season, running about $1,500, and so some of the drivers secure sponsorships to help defray costs.
If a driver is thinking about getting into the sport, you’re looking at a machine in the vicinity of $30,000 unless you can purchase a used one for about half that.