Posts tagged ‘driving’

January 23, 2014

Learning Challenge #3: Speeding without a ticket

I have my drivers’ license over ten years now and I have always driven like I am a lady of over 75 years old who is afraid to drive over an ant on the highway. I do not speed and usually drives at least ten kilometers an hour slower than the maximum speed and hardly drive faster than 110 kilometers an hour, and I only hit that speed when I am very, very late. In other words: I am a careful driver. I have always had a fascination for Formula 1 races though, especially the crashes. I know. People get hurt. But still I have this fascination… I also always was curious about go-kart driving, but I also always have been too scared to actually go out and try it out.. until Gordon invited me for what became learning experience #3: Electrical go-kart driving.

220120143252A few days in advance Gordon sent me some information that came in handy with the preparation to this learning challenge: Some technical information about the track and the turns, the different flag signals and not unimportant, the dress code: “Don’t go in high heels and short skirt, but I’ll tell you that story later on.”

It’s time!
This morning when my alarm clock went off, I realized there was no way out of this learning challenge anymore. I had to face one of my fears for the unknown today. I always like to face these fears, since facing the unknown make me grow as a person, and have the side effect of having more respect for others.

After lunch I could not stop thinking about it and I think I told a lot of my colleagues what I was going to do in a bouncy, excited kind of way that people who know me might associate with my reaction to sugar combined with a little bit too little sleep. Adrenaline was already kicking in and all I wanted was to go home and take a rain check on this experience. But that is not my style. Luckily. I managed to relax a bit while working, talking about work processes, project methodologies and company goals with my co-workers while stuffing myself with vegetables and tea.

Skirts and heels
I met Gordon at De Uithof in The Hague, a place where I had never been before. Waling in, the first thing I saw was the climbing wall, boosting my adrenaline with my memories of being on higher grounds… As we sat at a table next to the track, Gordon explained how the go-karts work and told me about the tactics of driving (on this track). From our table we had a clear view on one part of the track and I slowly got accustomed to the idea that I was actually going to be on that track, in a kart, trying to speed…

But first! Gordon, what about that girl in high heels and a skirt? “Well, one time I went go-kart racing and there were some girls who thought it was a great idea to wear high heels and short skirts on the track. One of them got her heel stuck behind the pedal, causing her to be unable to brake or stop. She had to hit the boarding to stop. Obviously she was scared and screamed a lot. Then two of the crew had to pull her out of the kart with force, which did not look very elegant with that short skirt… “

There weren’t that many people and right before we went on the track, finally I saw the first kart driving. I paid careful attention of the way this driver choose his path and tried to remember that path, since it looked quite professional.

It’s getting hot in here
heat 29On to the explanation of the crew and the getting dressed. Gordon had taken gloves and a balaclava for me, De Uithof provided me with a helmet and a protective collar, and a go-kart of course. Sitting in that kart, waiting for the moment to start driving, I was going over all the information in my head, trying to avoid my main thought: “I want out!” And then it started. The first rounds I was careful, trying to memorize the turns, getting used to the feeling, trying the brake and going full speed. There were only three of us on the track so I had a good chance to experiment. After a few rounds I told myself to stop behaving like a scared kitten and go for it. “Now you are at it, you might as well go for it all the way”, and so I did.

It is weird to giggle and know you are the only one hearing it. It was awesome to experience oversteer and understeer for the first time in my life. It was weird to actually put my strength to use while steering. It was thrilling to see that towards the end of that first heat, my time was slowly improving and I can’t start to describe the adrenaline rush I felt in the banked corner.

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Rookies and champions
And all of the sudden, the heat was over and it was time to park my kart. There was still a heat to go, but we decided to take a little bit of time for me to recover from all the chemicals that were rushing through my body. During that little break we found out that the other guy on the track, Bottak, was actually a 13 year old boy with two years of experience on the track, who was also competing and winning in Dutch and European championships. His father told us, without bragging, that his son was the best go-kart driver in the Netherlands, but that the most important thing about it all was not being the best, but having fun.

heat 31During the break, Gordon also explained the difference between electrical go-karts and go-karts that use fuel. Besides the obvious health benefits for the crew on the track, the karts also sound different, which gives you the opportunity to hear it when your wheels are slipping. Also, the track is cleaner and therefore your cloths and face will stay cleaner during the driving. Electrical go-karts can be tuned more precisely which prevents a gap between the efficiency of the individual karts. The transition of power is different, not necessarily better, that is a matter of taste.

Now, the second heat was very much different from the first one. I was more confident, there were a total of four karts going on the track, the champion took a little break, and I had to slow down for the other karts a few times in order to keep it safe. I also managed to pass one of the karts while driving! And! I managed to improve my time enough to end up in the top 10 of the day, where Bottak took the first place, obviously, and Gordon ended up on the sixth place. Awesome!

So, what did I learn today?
Driving go-karts is not scary, neither is it easy. Both ratio and feeling are important while driving. Using the brake should definitely be controlled by ratio instead of feeling, at least, for me. Electrical go-karts are different from go-karts that run on gas in many aspects, and definitely better for the health of the drivers and the crew on the track. The crew on the track is very passionate about the sports and very involved in the health and safety on the track. Becoming good at driving go-karts takes a lot of dedication, practice, and if you want to become a world champion, a supportive and realistic parent (or so) who will support you, but most importantly, cares about if you are having fun. I learned that strength, weight, technique, focus and guts are all equally important in driving a go-kart efficiently. I also learned that this sport is a great way to vent stress and have fun.

Did you enjoy reading this blog? Do you feel you have something to teach me? It is time to select the upcoming learning experiences and challenges! If you have a challenge for me, let me know! You can send me an e-mail or post a comment to this blog.

May 24, 2013

The car people

And there it was. That morning we all hope for. With we, I refer to the people who get up in the morning to go to their work, by car. And what are we all hoping for? Well, it is a combination of things. On the one hand, we want to be at our work quickly, so we can go home early – in general the car-people don’t really like to be in their car all that much. As it is morning, the car-people (yes, we!) are easily irritated: It’s morning. So getting there fast isn’t the only thing the car-people are hoping for. We also want to get there without having to think and do too much. We want it to be a flow in which we can slightly dream away without causing major accidents that will cause other car-people to get more irritated and late.

So when I got in my car the other day, and got stuck behind a bicycle even before I was on the highway, I was not expecting it to be that morning I hope for every morning. It took me well over five minutes to get on the main road in my village, but up from there, it was heaven. Car-people heaven.

I had some trouble getting on the right lane, but a gentle trucker slowed down slightly, so I would not be forced to drive over the emergency lane. The edge was taken off by a simple drop of speed by an unknown truck-person. Thank you! With a slightly improved mood, I drove on, to notice there wasn’t that much traffic at all. It was as though it was 5:30, but it really was 8:30. At 8:30 normally the traffic jams are at their peaks. At 8:30 it is hard to even change lanes to pass a car, on any given day, but not that day.

So, gentle truck-person, little car-people and okay, I admit, damn good music on the radio. Last week a friend gave me a CD he thought was a little bit too loud and heavy. Well, for me it was the perfect music to wake up with. So with Korn in my ears and Coffee in my hand I drove on. Not going too fast and passing other cars now and then. And then it happened. I got stuck behind a vehicle that was just a little bit too slow. I could not go around it as there were other cars approaching on the other lane and I had to drop my speed. Or so I thought. The cars coming up behind me made room so I could change lanes and did not have to take my foot of the pedal.

So, little traffic, gentle car and truck people so far. This must be the perfect day on the road. I did not expect this little joy to last the entire trip, but after I got stuck behind a slow car again, and again, and again, I started to notice a pattern. The car-people stayed gentle, kept making room for me to pass. I did not go faster than a hundred kilometers per hour and still managed to get to work within 35 minutes (opposed to the usual 45-60 around this hour). Thank you, car-people! Thank you, truck-people! Let’s do this more often!

Now, back to work.