When I was a boy, before I picked up a guitar and set my sights on rock and roll stardom, I dreamed of becoming a race car driver.
It was the age of muscle cars: Plymouth Road Runners, Pontiac GTOs, and fire-breathing Ford Mustangs like the one Steve McQueen used to tear up the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.
Nothing sounded so sweet to my young ears as the roar of a 426 hemi and the clickity-click of a Hurst shifter. And there was nothing so appealing to my ten-year-old amygdala as driving a fast car and bagging Jacqueline Bisset in the process. It all seemed a reasonable career path.
It won’t come as a surprise that racing glory, rock and roll stardom, and Jacqueline Bisset all eluded me.
My racing fantasy had lain largely dormant until Wednesday. That’s when I donned a helmet and strapped myself into an OTL Italian electric kart at RPM Raceway. I was going to race.
I had come to check out RPM’s new “Mega-Track.” The company created its new circuit by stitching together two regular tracks. The resulting course, which measures over 2,200 feet and takes 72 seconds to lap, makes it the world’s longest. If sliding around corners and screaming down hills at what feels like 90 miles an hour is your idea of fun, this just might be your ticket.
About eight of us, including some youngsters who work at RPM, were lined up in our karts at a makeshift starting line. I was a little nervous. Would I be bathed in champagne when the race was over, or would I be embarrassed by the young RPM whipper snappers?
The race started slowly. In pairs, we descended the first hill. I did my best to stay even with the kid next to me, demonstrating the gas-pedal skills I had mastered in my Datsun 510. I could almost hear the roar from the grandstand as we waited for the starting flag.
We rounded the first corner slowly. Then, we received the green light to race. But one of the karts ahead of me stopped in the middle of the hill and started rolling backwards. It was Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh, apparently drawn out of his jurisdiction by this pressing council business. “I’m too heavy,” he shouted. Saleh is, indeed, big. Very big.
Finally, I was able to scoot around the hapless councilman and put the pedal to the metal. I came up behind a pair of Gen Zers. They were really moving. But I stuck right with them, drifting around the hairpins like Max Verstappen on Lipitor.
As it turned out, Saleh’s problem wasn’t his weight or size but a technical glitch that was quickly resolved.
Meantime, I hung with the youngsters and sated my need for speed. They eventually gave up, or that’s what I like to tell myself. And sadly, there was no checkered flag. No roaring crowd.
But as I pulled into the pit, I could feel the adrenalin coursing through my rickety old veins. Maybe my childhood dreams of racing glory hadn’t been delusional. Maybe Jacqueline Bisset wasn’t such a stretch after all.
For information on visiting RPM go here.
To see a video of a kart on the Mega-Track, go here.