…well, maybe not every time.
But it did Saturday.
The Toronto Karting Club has changed its main venue from the Goodwood Kartways facility east of The Big Smoke, to the Centennial Park Mini-Indy track near the garbage hill in Etobicoke, off Eglinton just west of Renforth.
To celebrate and spread the word, they ran a little media race on Saturday, using a batch of new ‘arrive-and-drive’ karts.
They gave us five laps of practice to get a feel for the track, and slipped transponders into our pockets to time each lap. At my suggestion, they decided to invert the grid, putting the faster guys at the back to make it more entertaining.
Little did I know that it meant I’d start dead last.
Given this was the Honda Indy weekend, not all of the Usual Suspects were able to make it, so I didn’t know most of my competition.
But I got the feeling that some of them might have never actually taken a standing start at a race before. So I left myself lots of room behind the kart ahead of me, figuring I might make up some ground right off the hop.
I did. When that flag flew, I turned left, shot up the inside, and was in first place before I got to Turn One.
Because the other quick guys had to work their way past the slower guys, I thought I had it made.
But after - oh, I dunno; who was counting? - ten laps or so, I could sense that one of the young bucks was right on my tail. He even nudged me a couple of times but not hard enough to spin me out.
I found out later the guy behind me was Nick Jameson, an associate producer for the CFL broadcasts on TSN. Nick had about thirty-five years and maybe as many pounds on his side.
Every time I went past the start/finish line, I waved furiously at the starter, imploring him to throw the chequered flag.
“Come on! I’m leading! I’m old! How long can I keep this up?!?”
He held up nine fingers.
Nine more laps?
I was managing to keep Nick at bay, but for how long?
On what I guess must have been the second-last lap, we came up to lap a slower guy. I somehow got hung up on him and Nick managed to slip past.
The white flag was out as I crossed the line. Last lap. On the first set of turns - a long sweeping up-hill left-hander, followed by a open right and a harder left, I had done pretty well all race, almost flat throughout. I picked up a couple of kart lengths on Nick.
The next left-hand hairpin is the sort of corner where you can’t win but you can lose, so I just made sure I didn’t screw it up too badly, to keep my revs up for the following uphill right, over the bridge.
The next corner was a decreasing-radius left-hander, where the proper approach is to start wide and cut it tight. Nick set it up just right, but that gave me my chance.
I dove inside, and when Nick tried to drive to the apex, there I was.
Sure, it’s the slow way through a corner. But in karts you don’t have much power, and once I got ahead there was no way Nick was going to re-pass.
All I had to do was keep it in the township for the final left-hand corner and sprint to the finish.
Thanks to the Toronto Karting Club for a fun afternoon - and a lovely trophy!
I've waited most of my life to do a chequered flag lap. OK, so it's only in a kart - I'll take it.