How a supposedly fun night in a Go-Kart almost ended my life.
If I were to ask you what was the first thing that came to mind when you heard the words Go-Karting, I know exactly what you’d picture. Little cars. Big people. Simple tracks. Joyous smiles. Intense and overly competitive glares. Children playing adults. Adults acting like children. And so on. I doubt you’d picture the harrowing ordeal I went through, but harrowing it was.
Al Forsan International Sports resort is a new and exciting facility here in Abu Dhabi that entertains your every whim. Paintball compounds, equestrian tracks, gun and sharpshooting ranges, they have it all. They even have a motor sports arena, which is where my story begins.
Me and a few lads from my Gaelic Football team, about 20, arrived Thursday evening at about seven o’clock. Walking in to the guest services area, men, women, and children of all ages and sizes greeted us. They were wearing red jumpsuits and carrying heavy-duty helmets. The cover your skull and everything close to it kind of helmets. Before I could receive my fashionable outfit and headgear I had to enter my information as a first time guest. And so I did.
- Name: Dylan McShain
- Age: 27
- Name: Dylan Hunter McShain?
- Terms and Agreements (paraphrased): During any and all racetrack activities, Al Forsan is not responsible for any loss of property, bodily damages, injuries, or loss of bodily fluids (last part added).
- Do you accept: Is there a maybe button?
- No there is not. Yes or No: Yes.
That machine was glitched, confusing, AND rude.
We suited up, neck to ankle, in our red outfits and then walked to our de-briefing session. A kind gentleman gave us information on the flags and instructed us on basic kart maneuvers. The kart stood about 3 inches off the ground and had the capabilities to reach upwards of 70 km/h (44 mph). This thing could move. Karting was not a suitable word for what we were about to do. We were about to embark on an adventure of Go-Krashing if we didn’t handle this machine delicately.
Out on the track, we waited for our “Karts” to arrive. While waiting we saw that all of the names of the racers had been posted. When I scrolled past the awesome racing names that the others had chosen – like Eat My Dust, Road Warrior, and Flowers for Algernon – I saw my own “racing” name: Dylan Hunter McShain. Dang It!!! That second name wasn’t a glitch in the system. It was supposed to be fearsome nom de plume. Terrible racing name. And my jumpsuit was bunching in the nether regions. Not a good start!!!
I entered my “Kart” and strapped in only to find my tire flat. The attendant took me to another kart at the front, which moved me from 5th place to 1st place in the starting block. I would not stay there for long. Moments after the warm-up driver got out of the starting lane to let us pass, karts were flying past me on the left and right – literally flying.
I had looked out on the course while waiting. The turns seemed manageable. They were not. My first turn came and I spun out, my vehicle stopping completely. As a fellow racer T-boned me into the rumble strips, I felt the marrow rattle in my wee bones. Uggh!!! We done yet? Checkered flag please! However, I continued on, now a little less assured in my driving abilities. After the 4th spin out I had successfully lost all confidence that I would finish the race in one piece. It was only the 2nd lap. We weren’t even technically competing yet. That came at the fourth lap. We were still in the qualifiers. My fingers hurt.
Nonetheless, I pushed through despite my decrepit digits.
Sharp turn left. Got it. Sharp turn right. Done! U-turn, glide into acceleration, then blow past the starting gate. Bam!! Now I’m getting it. I was even passing a few people. I had gone the entire 3rd lap without one skid, stop, or crash… on FIRE!!! I rounded the bend with a need for speed –
I came up over the small hill to find two karts locked up and congested right in the middle of the road. There was no time to turn or slow down. I was going to hit them dead on at 50 km per hour. Images flashed through my mind of devastating NASCAR crashes. Flimsy pieces of scrap metal, that used to be a car, soaring through the air. Tens of on-looking fans clenching their Bud Light cans as the debris rained fire on top of their heads. Screaming tires and burning grass as the pit crews ran out with extinguishers in hand. Looks of despair spread across their hopeless faces.
It was a good thing I didn’t have a pit crew to witness such carnage. And it was a good thing there were no fans with cans watching the destruction. It was also a good thing that the cars were so low to the ground. The only thing that happened in that moment, as I rammed the side of my fellow footballers Kart, was, what I later saw to be, one of the gnarliest thigh bruises I’d ever seen. Seconds later he drove off rattled as I once again put together my senses.
My joints were aching something awful. I was whiplashed. My shoulders had officially usurped my neck and seized completely into my chin. I… was… done.
I spent the next 6 laps joyriding at a smooth leisurely 25 kilometers per hour. I finished those last laps with 0 crashes, 0 collisions, 0 bruises, and in last place. The racer Dylan Hunter McShain took a measly 20thplace, but he remained intact and alive.
In all honesty, there wasn’t really a time I feared for my life. The karts were safe. The track was safe. Al Forsan had taken all necessary precautions to affirm an enjoyable time. However, it is a big difference driving down the road in a secure metal box than feeling the wind whip against your next when you’re pushing 60 kph. Perceptively, it felt more dangerous.
I’ll probably go back for more sooner or later. But next time, my racer name is going to be ‘Meals on Wheels: Serving up wins since ‘Nam”. Because if you can’t win the race, you might as well win their hearts, even if it does include excruciating joint pain the next day.