Sunday, April 01, 2007

A weekend on the lash...

'twas good.
'twas very good.
Our weekend in Newcastle on the lash.

Newcastle has changed a lot since I first stepped out of my company van in 1977 wondering why the hell I'd agreed to go work for our office branch up there and nowhere is that more evident than on the quayside.

Like many cities with a maritime history Newcastles quayside was forgotten and neglected in 1977, a collection of fine victorian shipping merchants offices and huge storge warehouses all of which had fallen into disrepair and dereliction, in fact the quayside was a dangerous place to visit back then - its totally different now, millions if not billions of pounds worth of money has been invested into the area and its now well worth a visit, especially on a stag weekend as the nightlife on the quayside is especially famous.

But to that later.

We started our weekend at the F1K karting arena in Gateshead, and indoor track of 500metres or so including an elevated section, eight of us and another stag party of seven Belfast lads who were lighter than us to the tune of several stones each - why should that matter you think - because weight is important on a small lightweight racing cart - thats our excuse anyway and we're sticking to it.

So we're split into seven pairs and told to take a ten minute practice session and straight away my partner jumps in the kart and zooms off and despite holding up our team number board to him every time he whizzed past the pits he declined to return and give me a go.

The circuit closes after the practice sessions with three of us not yet had go, so clad in racing overalls helmet and gloves I drag my partner off the kart and slap him on the head, which actually did no good at all as he still had his helmet on, and I take my place on the grid for the Le Mans start of a one hour endurance race.

Its good fun.
Correct that, its bloody good fun.

By the time I'd sat on the bloody thing and got comfortable the Belfast lads were a thing of distant memory in a cloud of petrol fumes, I managed to get out off the grid in sixth place out of seven then instantly lost that slender advantage at the first corner to someone who had practised earlier and knew that you didn't need to brake for the 180 degree turn at the end of the first straight.

Had twenty minutes in that first session and bloody enjoyed myself, average lap times were 30 seconds at top speeds of 62kph according to the printouts that were available in the pits - 62kph feels record-breakingly fast when you're sat one inch off the floor and its Star Trek Warp Speed fast when you're taking 90 and 180 degree turns without braking - only two laps seperated all of us when I handed over the kart to my partner.

I think he was feeling guilty at having knicked the practice session because when I held up the board for him after ten minutes he came in and then gave me a second session of another twenty - this one was much faster and I actually managed to overtake people this time, including one of the Belfast lads who were all significantly faster than us, ok I admit that he overtook me and then I shadowed him inches from his bumper for two laps until he made a mistake on a turn, I swerved to avoid him, stamped on the accelerator instead of the brake and by some miracle not of my making zipped past on the inside with millimetres to spare - laughed my face off for seconds after that until he got me on the next bend.

What a wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon, certainly several hundred percentage points better than working and even though our four teams finished far behind the Belfast teams we consoled ourselves with that great English sporting motto "its the taking part that matters" - instead of winning a trophy we bought one instead to present to the stag of our party later.

Horse racing to be mentioned tomorrow.

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