If you are reading this, then the odds are that you have had the itch to go racing yourself. Many of you scratch the itch so repeatedly that if it weren't for your well-groomed countenance, you might be mistaken for a heroin junkie seeking their next fix. Others have heeded the advice of your mother, “scratching only makes it worse.” With all your reason and will, you've fought not to not give into it's temptation. But, here's an event that just might have you give in.
Known as “The Machismo,” now in its eighth edition, the race is the brainchild of Rob Niles, the founder and president of Karting Ventures,Inc. Niles runs the CalSpeed kart track at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and is one of the most successful promoters of “arrive and drive” racing in the country. This edition of The Machismo, like last year, took place on a temporary road course setup using part of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway “Bullring” and surrounding area.
"The original Machismo was the source of inspiration for what we do today," says Niles. "It started in 2001 with a group of Skip Barber instructors versus up-and-coming drivers in an eight-hour kart race for bragging rights. I dubbed it the 'Race for the Machismo Cup' and following the first event, I knew we were on to something."
Machismo teams comprise three to six members, competing using a pool of identically prepared karts to ensure parity. At each fuel stop, about every hour and a half, drivers pit to hop out of their kart in exchange for a freshly fueled kart. The format ensures that no one gets a performance advantage by drawing a stronger kart. The field is made up of guys who lead ‘regular lives' and traveled to Las Vegas from as far away as North Carolina for a chance to claim the Machismo crown.
One such guy is Billy Tallichet, 49. This morning Tallichet is bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm. He gushes freely about how much he enjoys the Machismo and karting in general. Most days he travels all across the country helping to run some 23 restaurants as part of his family business. The restaurant business is a grueling and hyper-competitive one, and Billy was advised to find an outlet for his stress. Naturally, he found it in the grueling and competitive world of arrive and drive karting. He takes any opportunity he gets to jump in a kart, including when he travels for business where he seeks out the nearest indoor kart center to steal away some laps when he has an hour to spare.
He gleefully acknowledges that he's not the best karter here. What's important to him is progress, getting faster or just driving better each time he gets behind the wheel. He also acknowledges that the friendships and social nature of karting is a big part of the experience – and beating his friends makes it all the sweeter.
On another team, Bill Myers, 55, found karting as a way to rekindle the competitive fire. Myers, a flooring contractor by trade, raced motocross until his thirties when he suffered a bad accident resulting in a broken back and shattered ankle. A certified speed-junkie, he resorted to spending time restoring Corvettes and other muscle cars. Then one day, he was persuaded to hop behind the wheel of go-kart. The initial trepidation quickly turned into a new found passion. Like Tallichet, Myers karts as often as he can, which isn't often enough, but he's grateful for any chance he gets.
“It's not as much about winning as the competition,” says Myers. “Just being behind the wheel of a kart takes me back to being 18 years old on my motocross bike.”
Mike Lewis is yet another competition junkie. Unmarried, 34, and a property manager, Lewis readily admits that the most he ever sits still is while at work. The rest of the time he is playing hockey, lacrosse, biking or karting. While Tallichet and Myers freely state that camaraderie is a big part of the karting experience, it takes Lewis a bit longer to concede the same, as if somehow it belies the fact that he is here to do one thing – win.
“I've been working hard on my fitness leading up to this,” says Lewis who dropped weight and worked on his conditioning to peak for this edition of The Machismo.
The notion of hard, but fair and friendly competition is reenforced by Niles during the pre-race driver briefing, and everyone appears to take it to heart.
Niles has spent his whole life around racing, first as a competitive karter and then as an instructor at Skip Barber Racing School. He then moved on to producing automotive entertainment events in addition to being the race director for Formula BMW USA and the Jim Russell Race Series. In the intervening time, Niles along with a partner founded Karting Ventures with the aim of raising the bar and promoting unique arrive and drive karting events. Twelve Saturdays per year, anywhere from 80 to 100 guys –and a few gals– who lead regular lives, compete in the Super Series at CalSpeed, a sprint format event that puts wheel-to-wheel karting within reach of most anyone willing to take the plunge. Along with the Machismo, the Super Series form the cornerstones of Karting Ventures business model.
Next page: Going racing.