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SPORT REPORT : Go Speed Racer, Go-o-o-o

July 11, 1993|Judy Raphael

YIKES! Is this somebody's idea of a joke? I'm the world's worst driver! I stop for paper bags! Yet here I am, wedged into a racing kart at the Jim Hall Kart Racing School in Ventura, trying to find comfort in the fact that Hall is the 1987 Grand National Kart Champion (and the son of racing legend Jim Hall).

I am here because this is the oldest and, they say, best kart racing school in the country, with graduates such as David Letterman, Bruce Jenner and Motley Crue. I am here because kart racing's becoming the hot sport, cheaper and safer than Indy and Formula One racing. Safer? Instructor Matt Fowler just told us these babies can go from 0-60 m.p.h. in seven seconds, with a top speed of 85 m.p.h.

But what's this? No gears? Only a left-foot brake and a right-foot throttle? "These karts only know two things," warns Fowler. "To stop or to go. Mix your pedals and it gets confused and spins!"

Get me outta here!

Too late; we're at the starting gate, me and my companions in self-slaughter--a daredevil firefighter, an aerospace worker and his teen-age son, and a tiny 12-year-old girl. She's the only class member more aquiver than I am. Maybe.

It's outta the gate, pedal to the metal, squealin' off the apex of the first curve, lap one, lap two--whoops, there goes the firefighter into the hay bales--lap eight, ridin' the inside track at full throttle, burnin' rubber! And into the pit, second to last, but thrilled. Can I come back next week?

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