Cheap speed

The bitumen slipping beneath you as you’re pressed back in the seat; sensations of exhilaration, freedom and performance… Some people have a need for speed. But is there a safe, cost-wise alternative to buying a fast car? According to Ian Williams of the Australian Karting Association, the answer is “absolutely, yes”.

Despite the police’s best efforts to slow us down on the roads, constant reminders of the allure of speed surround us. From movies to motor racing, the notion of man and machine testing the laws of physics is glorified and celebrated. The realities of speeding, however, are much less romantic. Every year, around 1,500 people are killed on Australian roads and countless more seriously injured. Young people continue to make up the majority of fatalities, although the numbers have been falling. Men—most of them young men—represent nearly three-quarters of all road deaths in Australia.

It’s no coincidence that men are also more likely than women to be interested in cars and motor racing. Put it down to social conditioning or genetic coding, men are more likely to own fast cars than women. Car sale statistics demonstrate that female drivers prefer to buy cars that are affordable, practical and safe. Men, on the other hand, lean toward luxury and high-performance. The cars they prefer tend to have twice as much horsepower as cars preferred by women.

Fast cars are also usually more expensive than their run-about equivalents. In addition to the initial outlay, there’s fuel to think about, tyres, registration, high insurance costs (especially for young folks) and the cost of modifications. Add in the potential expense of speeding tickets and defect notices, and a fast car quickly becomes a fast track to money problems. So, at MyBudget we asked the question “how can you satisfy a need for speed without breaking the bank or breaking the law?”

The answer is karting. Ian Williams is president and publicity officer of the Australian Karting Association in South Australia. According to Ian, entry into the sport ranges from $3,000 for a used kart up to about $8,000 for a new one. Those numbers also include personal safety equipment, some tools, club membership and license fees. In terms of running costs, hobbyists who are content to practice only once or twice a month will spend as little as $500 to $1,000 a year. Junior drivers will spend around $1,500 a year to race at 15 to 20 local events, and a senior about $2,000. Ian adds, “As you get more competitive, your running costs increase with extra practice days and more spare parts for the kart.”

Nick Hughes is a speed enthusiastic who started karting when he was 12 years old. Now in his mid-thirties, he still owns a kart and practices when his busy work schedule allows. “We had a kart track near my house when I was growing up,” says Nick. “Somehow I convinced dad to get me a kart and he ended up getting one for himself, too. We had lots of fun together.” When asked how karting compares with other types of motor racing, Nick replies, “If you’ve never driven a kart, you probably can’t understand how fast and exciting it is. When you’re driving at over a hundred kilometres an hour with your bum inches from the ground and the world whizzing by, it feels like you’re going at 200.”

Nick admits that he’s had a couple of bingles in his kart, but he’s never had an injury. Ian comments on the excellent safety record in karting: “Karting is one of the safest sports anywhere. We joke about it being safer than driving on the road because everyone’s at least trying to go in the same direction! The race tracks are all inspected annually and kept up to very high international standards with safety features like sand traps and contoured run-off areas. The karts are also surrounded by crushable plastic bodywork that protects the driver if karts bump into each other. The drivers are all required to wear driving suits, gloves and driving shoes, as well as approved helmets. The karts are also regularly inspected to comply with safety standards.”

To find out more about karting, visit the Australian Karting Association website at www.karting.net.au. Click on the ‘links’ menu for contact information in your state.

Written by Kylie Hughes for MyBudget, Australia

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