Ed Arnold's Karting Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania may not be nirvana, but surely for the race fan it is manna from heaven. Located thirty miles northwest from downtown Philadelphia off of Route 422 in a former tire processing building the 1/3 mile track has everything that you would find in a real-life race. Ed Arnold has taken the racing experience and reduced it but at the same time has kept all of the thrills, chills and yes, spills of racing action. Ed Arnold comes from an engineering background. Combined with a keen sense toward business and marketing he has built the benchmark that other in-door facilities will be challenged to exceed.
Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical when I was told that the go-karts were electric powered. How could a kart be electric and fun at the same time? Well Arnold has found the answer. General Manager Tom Bobst gave TACH a private tour of the facility. Before you go anywhere near the karts you must first watch an instructional video. The information is a valuable lesson not only for novice driver's but serves as a reminder for seasoned racers.
Entering the race track area, the first thing you notice is the lack of noise. Remember, these are electric carts. All you hear is the whirring of drive-trains on the karts and the occasional whoops and hollers of sheer pleasure from someone who has executed a perfect pass on a friend or perfect stranger. Proceeding to the control tower, Bobst demonstrated the computer control center. The state of the art computer system along with the tire-walled barriers demonstrated Ed Arnold's concern for safety. The track marshall can control the speed of the race. If a group looks like they can behave themselves and utilize good common sense then they will be given a higher torque range and performance level. The marshall can bring the race to a complete halt, with a kill-switch, if a serious situation arises.
Strapping into the 7 and 1/2 horsepower kart was easy enough. Pressing on the accelerator I found a joyous throttle response level similar to that of a Formula Vee. Bobst advised me to "scrub" in the tires on the first couple of laps just to put some at in them. After the first two laps I was ready to let it rip. Accelerating down the front straight into a blind double right hander was absolutely thrilling. Emerging from those two turns into a short straight into a hairpin left-hander reminded me of key-word phrases from Formula Ford racing school. "To be fast, be smooth. Carry your speed. Balance." From that point on I tried to be, not too hard on the brake and not too hard on the accelerator. Riding about two inches above the ground at 30 mph may not look like much to a spectator. From the driver's seat it felt like a 100 mph.
After the seven-minute session is over each driver can look up their statistics. How many laps, fastest lap, race finishing position. Everything that you would find at a real-race. The cost for this fun is $6.00 for 7 minutes. Arnold's has organized groups that meet weekly to do battle. The facility is quietly becoming a gathering place for corporations to conduct business seminars as well as motivational meetings. During the TACH's private tour a group of 30 German businessmen were gathering for an evening of fun. While I did not stick around to find out the results of their evening I doubt anyone left unhappy.
So if you are in the Philadelphia area anytime give the place a call to find out how to get to Arnold's it is worth the trip. The phone number is 610-666-0600.
David Treffer -- The Auto Channel