Do you feel the need for speed? Reckon you could be a future F1 star? Then take to the track at Gulf Speed One
Time Out Bahrain staff
While it seemed the entire kingdom of Bahrain was swept up with F1 fever recently, I have to admit that I idly watched it come and go without feeling any compulsion to get my backside trackside. Something about the noise, petrol fumes and confusion over who is winning the race had always turned me off motorsport, so needless to say I never really bothered to try its baby brother: go-karting.
The idea of whizzing around a track in what is essentially a souped up lawn-mower didn’t seem like it could be that much fun for an adult. But maybe slightly revved up by the hype of the F1, which infiltrated every corner of Bahrain, a few friends and I headed down to Gulf Speed One go-kart track in the Seef District to get a taste of what it’s all about.
I discovered that I shouldn’t have let the pint-sized appearance of the go-kart fool me. When you’re behind the wheel you actually feel like a race car driver – it’s fast, exhilarating and competitive.The first thing you do after arriving at the track is choose your kart size. There are two options for the kids, the baby kart and the junior kart, and two for adults, the single engine and the twin engine.
If you’re a first timer or not the most confident driver, then the first option is probably the best way to go. The 6hp engine gives the kart a top speed of around 40kmph, which means they’re still zippy enough to have a good time, but not powerful enough to really lose control. Airing on the side of caution we chose to start off with 15 minutes in the single engines, which was a good way to get used to the handling, but a lack of acceleration made it difficult to overtake and there wasn’t much need for the brake. It was time to graduate to the twin engines.
For the petrol heads out there, the twin engine karts are where the real thrills, and often spills, are at. With 11hp, they’ve got a top speed of 60kmph, and the increased power requires a little more skill at the corners. With the twin engines behind us, our race had all the action of an F1 final – cunning overtaking, big collisions and spectacular crashes. After another 15 minutes our time, unfortunately, was up.
Away from the track it was unanimously agreed that go-karting will definitely become a regular event on the social calendar. The only complaint was that there were no lap times provided, so we had no accurate idea of who was the fastest and whether we were improving.
Speaking with Gulf Speed One’s owner Ali Almadeh a few days later, he says they do have the technology for recording the lap times, but only in the new karts which are used for group bookings. ‘If 10 or more people make a booking, then we’ll close the track to the public, give them new karts with timing transmitters and provide trophies to the winners,’ he says. ‘We turn it into a bit of an event and it’s a lot of fun. It costs between BD400-500 for an hour.’
I tell Ali about how much fun we had, and how you get a sensation of speed unlike a normal car, even though you aren’t driving quite as fast. ‘Many people don’t realise that,’ he responds. ‘How many people die speeding in cars on the road? I always tell them to come down and race on the track if they like speed and don’t want to die. It’s like F1, only smaller.’ Gulf Speed One, Seef, near Citibank (39 444 137). Open 4pm-11pm daily. From BD7 for 15 mins in a single-engine kart to BD25 for one hour; BD13 to BD45 for a twin-engine.