Shanghai's big Formula 1 race isn't for another two months, but here is an updated version of the original article, with latest and greatest go-kart tracks in Shanghai for those of you who want to get behind a wheel yourself. These range from entertainment centers suited for corporate events or racing with your girlfriend's family, to full-on professional tracks with dangerously fast cars. Here's what we liked and what we didn’t like.
Disc Cart Indoor Karting
Hours: Daily, 2pm-2am
The Place: They claim to be the oldest go-kart track in China. We can say they're the cleanest in Shanghai. This is basically an entertainment center with a focus on go-karting. They also have a full bar, snacks and an arcade with some old-school games. Lots of friendly uncles working here.
The Track: Indoor track with some tight turns that could make for serious fun if you're racing with a few pengyous. It also feels really safe, in a good way. You could take your family here for the day and not worry about much.
The Cars: They've got three kinds of cars: the "slow car," the "fast car" and the twin car. The slow cars are 100rmb for 8 minutes, while the fast car is 120rmb. It feels just okay. Not breakneck fast or anything. You can pick up some speed around the corners.
Pros: It's clean, safe, and located pretty close to the city center. You're looking at a 30rmb cab ride from say…the Avocado Lady. Even closer if you live near Zhongshan Park or study at ECNU. Also, you can drink draft beer or liquor and drive around in a go-kart. While we definitely do not condone drinking and driving in real life, it's kind of fun in a controlled setting like this.
Cons: This place is dead during the day so we're not sure why they don't offer some discounts, especially for students since there's a university right next door. If you're really looking for high speeds, you're better off at the F1 track.
Shanghai International Circuit
Hours: Daily, 9am-5.30pm
The Place: Well this is straight up next to the F1 track. But remember - that track is huge, so definitely don't try to walk from the metro station unless you enjoy thirty-minute strolls in concrete ghost towns. Instead, give them a call and they'll pick you up in a golf kart.
The Track: Huge outdoor track. Easily the most professional in Shanghai. Lots of tight corners plus some straightaways where you'll pick up tons of speed in the fast cars. This place would be insane in the rain.
The Cars: We tried the regular, made-in-china cars at 150rmb a piece for eight minutes, and they felt sluggish. They’ve also got a faster car available, reportedly from Ferrari, for 200rmb. But this is a pro track, meant for pro cars, so we dropped 400rmb for eight minutes on the really fast karts and had a fucking rad time. That shit legitimately felt dangerous. We didn't even max out the speed but were going at least 100kph at one point. That's pretty fast in the open air sitting right on the ground. Update for 2017, though, you need a karting license now to drive those bad boys.
Pros: Although 400rmb is a lot to drop for eight minutes of speed, you won't experience anything else like this in Shanghai. If you have the money to blow, definitely get up there and race the fast cars. Also, there's a lot of racers hanging out tuning their cars up there; lots of cool shit to look at.
Cons: This is an all-day affair. It took over an hour to ride Line 11 from Jiaotong University straight to the F1 Track. Also, it's expensive. It's possibly dangerous too if you don't know what you're doing.
Ling Rui Karting Club (Pudong)
Update 2017: Sadly, Ling Rui Karting Club (Pudong) is no more. We’ll leave this entry here, as a memorial, until we figure out where it moved to.
Hours: Daily, 10am-2am
The Place: Basically an open-air parking lot tucked into the shadow of Nanpu Bridge, it’s comprised of a track, a larger space for actual cars, a couple of shipping containers that make up the “office” and a couple of garages. It’s part of a larger chain and the only one that’s located a reasonable distance from anywhere. Except for a few seats in the office, there’s no shelter from the elements, so unless you’re very enthusiastic about go-karting, go on a sunny day. They’ve got a surprisingly generous number of beers available for between 30-60rmb.
The Track: Medium-sized track made up of tire-barriers. A lap’ll maybe take you a minute, with roughly 10 turns, three being moderately tight hairpin ones. Four or five karts on the track at once might be good, any more than that and there’s danger of it starting to feel crowded.
The Cars: Top speed of 80 km/h though you’re unlikely to find a stretch long enough to hit that, and it’s one speed fits all. Feel pretty safe, a bit bumpy but with tight controls. It’s 110rmb for 8 minutes (standard fare), or you can get 5 karts for an hour for 5,000rmb (6,000rmb on the weekends).
Pros: The wide-open feel of the place, the fresh air to dissipate the benzine fumes, the direct sunshine, the majestic arc of the Nanpu Bridge, the array of beers available and the fact that there didn’t seem to be that many people around. The karts are fine. They go around. The tires squeal when you accelerate out of a curve. The track’s fun and has enough space for some ambitious inside overtaking. It’s a solid go-karting experience, best enjoyed with a group of buddies for a birthday or something where you book out the whole place.
Cons: The karts feel a little juddery on the track, they’re probably not as fast as some petrol-heads would demand, some of the gloves are threadbare and dated, and it’d suck on a cold and/or windy and/or rainy day.
Update 2017: Sadly, Stampede Karting is no more. We’ll leave this entry here, as a memorial to that dingy, sketchy track.
Hours: Daily, 11am-2am
The Place: This is like the ghetto cousin of Disc Kart. It's also an indoor track, but it's in a parking garage under a huge mall that's also pretty hood. There's graffiti everywhere, including some Batman tags. They have a full bar, KTV and pool tables too for those who don't want to drive.
The Track: Really tight indoor track with a lot of sharp turns and barriers. Feels pretty slick and just messy overall.
The Cars: Faster and tighter than those at Disc Cart. We tried the fast kart, priced at 100rmb for eight minutes. No seat belts. Kinda sketch how the exposed engine is inches away from your flesh.
Pros: Speed and danger. Feels really fast, and kinda crazy. Ice cubes in the toilet, that's a nice touch. Two tiger drafts for 45rmb? Okay.
Cons: Feels a little bit unsafe at times, like you might slide out and run into a poorly-padded concrete barrier, but that's part of the charm. Kinda feels like the The Running Man. Also, you have to sign a waiver saying that you'll pay for any damages to the car. There's a big price list of every part. We didn't have any trouble though.
2062 Energy Park
Update 2017: Sadly, 2062 Energy Park is no more. We’ll leave this entry here, as a memorial to that chilled-out tuner hangout.
The Place: It's owned by a young Shanghainese racer and located out by the Expo site, where you definitely won't find a cab if you're not rollin' with that Didi Dache. The surrounding area looks like an archeological site now. Lots of leftover Haibaos. Anyway this place is in a cluster of garages that contain any number of rare expensive cars like fully decked out Corvettes, Skylines, Rolls Royces, everything. Player's Ball. In fact, half the go-kart place is a tuning shop with a bunch of torn apart Nissans.
The Track: Wide, outdoor track. Doesn't have the tight turns like the F1 track, but with a powerful car, drifting around the corners could be really fun.
The Cars: We could only try the slower, 150rmb cars when we went, but apparently they have faster cars too. With a faster car this track would be really fun. Good handling though.
Pros: Nice people working there. If you're into cars, the shops next door are definitely cool. Big outdoor track and not too far from civilization. If the fast cars are as fast as those at the F1 track, this might be a great value.
Cons: The smaller cars feel pretty slow for 150rmb, but if you buy a card for 500rmb, you could do four races at 120rmb each. That's probably enough for kids or casual racing. They said the faster cars would be 240rmb per race, but you'll have to take a training course first. That's 200rmb but after that you're golden. You might be able to negotiate on that training course.