When news first came through that Formula 2 stars Liam Lawson and Marcus Armstrong would be contesting local kartsport rounds, I may have got a little excited.
I’ve become accustomed to seeing our best and brightest disappear to Europe or the States, with only the occasional glimpse on subscriber TV. So here was a perfect chance to see them in the flesh, in the very category where they first shone.
I was just heading out the door, autograph book in hand, when my missus planted her hand firmly on my chest. Somehow, I correctly surmised, I was not about to get lucky.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“I’m off to the Giltrap Group Raceway at Rosebank.”
“I don’t care if you’re personally presenting Sir Colin with a bunch of roses – you said you’d spend a weekend with the family for once. Besides, you always reckoned you hate karts.”
I was about to retort when it struck me – she was right. As a youngster, my brother and I had roamed far and wide seeking amusement. He was heavily into waterslides, while I dreamed of sampling every hot bread shop between Paihia and Pahiatua. But whenever we encountered something with wheels, all brotherly love went out the window.
You’ve no doubt heard of the Gothic novella ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (or perhaps are more familiar with the Scooby-Doo version) where an ordinary man undergoes an extraordinary transformation. Unfortunately, in our case my sibling became less Mr Hyde and more Attila the Hun.
My first inkling that bad things were going to occur was back in 1986, with the opening of Rotorua’s Skyline luge. A true test of your manhood was to complete the course without braking, but it’s a bit hard to concentrate while someone is giving you a love tap from behind (colloquially known in motor racing terms as a ‘Liberace’).
I was getting brassed off with his niggly driving, so demanded he go ahead on our final run. I was dying to see how he handled the same interference – but he had other plans. I came flying around a corner to find him stopped dead in the middle of the track, with a wicked grin across his face. I was obliged to take evasive action, clipped the front of his cart and found myself flying into the pine trees. By the time I finally emerged from the shrubbery, they’d organised a search party – but you could hear his laughter echoing all around Mt Ngongotaha.
Our next encounter was at another mountain, albeit one with far less gradient. Some enterprising soul had set up a kart track inside a warehouse near Mount Smart, Onehunga. The track was huge – in places eight karts wide, and the back straight so long that it disappeared into the gloom. Our social club had booked the venue, and you could see the obvious glee (mixed with false bravado) amongst the other competitors. But I was uneasy. I’d foolishly invited my brother along to make up the numbers, and I kept looking at the dark shadows marking the far end of the warehouse. Bad things could happen there, I thought. I was right.
He qualified on pole, so I was delighted when a better start saw me surge straight into an immediate lead. This unfortunately was part of the master plan, as he dove inside me at the hairpin and expertly flicked my kart around. There was a squealing of tyres, a bending of axles, and a shedding of blood as the rest of the field ploughed into me. And above the sound of groans and over-revving engines, you could hear the cackle of laughter receding into the distance.
I think the final straw was on a skidpan at the holiday resort of Whangamata. The track was surrounded by a low concrete wall that looked harmless enough but would prove otherwise. I was…
Hang on. I’ve just realised – I don’t hate karting at all. It’s my brother I hate. ”