One of the biggest sporting events of the Shanghai year is coming up, with the Formula 1 Grand Prix on April 13-15. Oh, hey, look at that -- tickets are still available here, but if you wanted a little warm-up, a little practice session to get you in the mood, then you can head out to the F1 circuit in Jiading where there’s also a karting track within the grounds -- SIC Kartingworld -- track, so you can kinda, almost, sorta race in the same place the big boys do.
The bottom line: it’s “pro” go-karting. With tops speeds of 120km/hour.
SIC Kartworld’s track is 1,234 meters long and has 18 corners. Red and white rumble strips line some of the sharper turns, which makes it feel extra authentic. And there’s a split-second timing system so you can gloat to your friends about how you’re “as fast as Michael Schumacher. Like, not even kidding bro.”
SIC has three types of go-karts: The fast kart, the dual seat and the professional kart. The fast kart is the standard issue. The top speed is about 60 km/hour, so nothing too crazy. The dual kart is pretty much the same, except with two seats. Great for a parent with a child or speed-freak couples. They go a bit slower (about 40 km/hour). The real winners, though, and the main reason to trek out all the way to Jiading, are the pro-karts, which have a top speed of 120 km/hour, (Americans, that’s about 75 mph), though there isn’t a long enough straightaway to get up quite that high. Still, it’s a knicker-wetting experience, with unforgiving cement inches away from your ass as the world skids past in a blurry green-grey mess.
To ride in the pro-karts, you need some training with coaches, and it’s advisable to practice a few times with fast karts to get adjusted to the course and how to handle the corners. We’re told crashes are fairly uncommon and injuries even less so, but you’ll still have to sign a waiver just in case you go careening off the course in a spectacular fireball. For anybody but the thrill-seeking crowd, the fast and dual karts are more than powerful enough. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump out of airplanes and snowboard the double blacks, then you’re going to want to try out one of pro-karts.
How to do it
The F1 track is in the wild hinterlands of Jiading. The easiest way to get there is to hop on Line 11 all the way to the Shanghai International Circuit stop. The line splits at the station right before the circuit, so make sure that you’re on the correct train. Once you reach the station, it’s a little difficult to find the kart track, but if you call ahead they’ll send a driver to pick you up at the Metro station. A taxi from downtown is going to be over 100rmb, and even then it just gets you to the edge of the circuit, not the actual SIC kart area inside.
The track is open seven days a week, 9am-6pm. When I went on a Wednesday afternoon I pretty much had the place all to myself but it’s busiest on the weekends and they only allow about 15 people on the track at one time, so if it’s really busy there might be a wait.
Amateurs are more than welcome, but this is definitely a place for serious karters. If you become a part of their membership program, you get benefits, like you can store your own kart in their garage, work on it there and lounge around chatting about pressing go-kart related issues.
They can also host parties and corporate team-buildings days and there’s a rooftop terrace where you can watch the karting. You can consume alcohol there but they’re pretty strict about not letting anyone drive after they have been drinking.
This is not a sport for poor. The fast cars are 150rmb for eight minutes, 180rmb for eight minutes in the dual car, and 250rmb for eight minutes in the pro-kart. So, for most folks, this is a special occasion kind of place, like a birthday party or a hot date. However, you can get cheaper tickets on Chinese Groupon clone, Lashou
Definitely. One of the more entertaining things I’ve done in Shanghai, especially driving the pro-karts. The track is challenging and it really does feel like you’re driving a on Formula 1 course, but it’s still easy enough so inexperienced drivers won’t have too much difficulty. If you’re really into go-karting, this is the Promised Land. For everyone else, it’s a great place to spend a day with a group of friends. Save up some red notes and go get your kart on.
All photos by Joshua Tinter.