Hakone Karting Track: A Comprehensive Review


Hakone Karting Track: A Comprehensive Review

Published by Nachiketat June 24, 2007 in Mumbai. 0 Comments 


Things aren’t going too well. We made a poor attempt to get some women in white to a water park. However, they were on to us and named us family. That’s when we went over to the other red-blooded vice – cars… fast ones. But then again, god, in his avataar for the moment, decided to lay a large brick on us in the form of a fine and a confiscated license. Thoroughly humiliated, we decided to be a bit safe and decided to Go Karting

The Path To Nirvana Is Twisty
Go Karting is pure redemption. Redemption from the

evils we faced, the piss-poor Japanese cars we drive and the glory of our luck in general. Karting makes spanking good sense if you believe that cars are more than a means to go from point A to B. Like they say – the path to Nirvana is littered with S-curves and hammerheads. However, if you happen to be one of those inbred retards that believe Go Karting is for kids, you should be taken off the gene pool for starters; but, just this once I’ll listen to my therapist and try not to stab you in the face. 

Pop quiz: What do Forumla 1 drivers do when they aren’t racing? They spend hours Go

Karting. Why? Because, F1 drivers regularly have to practice real driving with Go Karts to prevent atrophy of racing skills by numerous computer assists. In short: Formula 1 Bullshit = Go Karting.

Go Karts on the other hand, are considered as a benchmark for handling due to a complete lack of suspension that makes them theoretically perfect in the handling department. Steering wheels too don’t get any better due to an absolutely zero final drive ratio rendering them just as predictable as an India vs. Australia cricket match. Then there’s the low Centre of Gravity and a power-to-weight ratio that’s just as crazy as Kate Moss duct taped to a Ramjet engine (If you can figure out what that meant, click here to contribute to Bad Directions!).

Now that we have established how much Go Karting rules, we’ll move onto the venue. Going by its reputation of being one of the better karting tracks around and the fact that I’m a karting virgin, we decided to trail-brake our way across Hakone at Hiranandani Gardens, Powai. With the modern nature of Go Karting, Hakone comes off as an anachronism in the midst of the Greco-Roman architecture populating the neighbourhood. That combined with its weird name, makes you wonder what manner of a bastard child it must be with a Chinese name and a European heritage in a Mediterranean architectural setting. Phew! Getting there is easy; well, at least half of it, because once you’re in Powai, everybody and their uncle knows about Hiranandani. Even though the Hakone track is visible from almost everywhere, it reminds me of the architectural anarchy from the Tomb Raider games, but you have to figure out a way to get there. Try clicking the Map link at the end of this article… it’s there for a reason.

Where’s The Sick Bag?!
Racing in the hot Powai sun is dehydrating. If that didn’t sound bad enough, the sadists at Hakone touch new heights (pun intended) of schadenfreude with their refreshment shack cum ticket counter placed excruciatingly high above the track. It isn’t amusing when you combine the ridiculous height with an abject lack of a proper stairway to the shack. Just looking up at the damn thing makes you wish you’d simply grabbed a bottle from the car instead. To add insult to injury, the the world’s highest pit stop pretty much explains why their karts suck Lance Armstrong’s only surviving ball. This is because, just like my kart, their soda dispenser too decided to choke after 1.5 glasses of Fanta, forcing us to settle for the scam that is bottled water. It’s surprising how they’ve completely managed to overlook the idea of whoring Red Bull on their shelves. A serious oversight when you have a target demographic that spends 200 bucks for six odd laps and certainly won’t mind a few Red Bulls for better lap times.

We dropped the idea of trying anything outside the Tetra Pack, when we saw the shambling attendant wiping a muck slathered bottle of Aquafina that he’d plucked straight off the floor. Thank you, but I could do without the extra helping of minerals on my Aquafina… asshole. With all the snootiness that Hiranandani entails, there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to treat Hakone with the same yardstick as a roadside joint. In a nutshell, you’d be better off with a pit bull humping your leg than enduring this pit stop (If you can figure out what that meant, click here to contribute to Bad Directions!). Forget the racing track; this pit stop leads straight to the lavatory.

Let’s Burn Rubber!
Lap Times PrintoutThe track isn’t as big as I’d expected. Even with that scale, the lack of any signage is enough to piss off a newcomer. For your convenience, remember to get your tickets from the nondescript structure right next to the rock climbing tower that looks like a boner showing through tight clothing. Don’t worry; the refreshment cum booking centre doesn’t have any windows overlooking the phallic tower. And this is where you get your racing times as well, don’t forget to request for a printout of the same.

If you’re planning to pull a Grand Theft Auto by driving a kart all the way home through the flimsy tyre barriers, you’d do well to know that the officials can remotely stop the Karts. Uncannily, that happened to me several times for no reason at all. Also, I was utterly disappointed when I realised that the track had a concrete surface. Anyone who’s braked or cornered on concrete will vouch for its notoriety for being the motoring equivalent of a skating rink. And two measly layers of tyres separating the racers from the wall isn’t comforting either. No wonder I wandered off on a tangent pondering on whether Powai had any decent trauma centres.

However, all the worries dissipated the moment I got into one of those babies. The Go Karts at Hakone look like lawn mowers, sound like lawn mowers, and unfortunately go just as fast as lawn mowers. With the speeds that they’re capable of, you have to be monumentally stupid to hurt yourself. Despite a clean exit, you can stand on the accelerator and wait till Christmas until you reach 40 odd kmph on the longest straight of the track. As we waited by the track for our turns, we couldn’t help but snigger at the losers who slid all around the track to show off. Bloody poseurs. Any self respecting driver will tell you that drifting or powersliding over hard surfaces with good traction is an utter waste of time. Let me quote Borat’s philosophy on correct racing lines – A racing line is like woman vagine. Very tight, is nice!”. Okay, Borat didn’t exactly say that, but you get the idea, don’t you?!

Unfortunately, as I went round the first couple of bends I realised that whatever chance the karts had of any serious racing potential was smashed by the utter lack of feel or modulation from the brakes. You can forget fiddling around with advanced manoeuvres like trail-braking that call for a certain degree of brake modulation. These Karts have toggle switches instead of brake pedals. Then again, why do you need brakes when you can slide all over the track? Yep, that’s when I realised that the kids weren’t to blame for sliding around like hooligans.

If you aren’t a sucker for a traditional Go Karting experience and are simply looking for a little sideways fun along with your friends, you’ll love it at Hakone. However, the poor quality of the karts prevent it from being an authentic racing experience. Enquire about their weekend workshops on Go Karting. They make a great learning experience for little money, especially if you’re into motorsport. The best time to visit is on Tuesdays when they throw in a free lap for every two paid ones. By the way, make it a point to stay away from Kart #9. Don’t ask; I couldn’t feel my hands for a day.