Go-kart tracks have always been a popular part of many an amusement and theme park and today, of course, are also attractions in their own right at dedicated karting centres. In the first of a two part series, Simon Heap of the Fastline Group, which specialises in track design, installation, operation, equipment and the karts themselves, takes a look at some of the areas operators should consider when planning a go-kart track installation.

There are obviously many aspects to take into account when planning a go-kart track/facility. The following are five key areas to consider:

1) Type of market you are trying to attract

This will have an impact on design and equipment selection. Are you after the family market, junior market (under 16), teenage market, corporate entertainment market or a more motorsports orientation?

The selection will impact the choice of karts. For example, family orientation karts will probably be slower and have a lot of twin-seaters where dad and the kids can ride together, whereas motorsport orientation karts will be more powerful and may include a premium range which are faster again.

Customers need to earn the right to drive these by doing their time in slower karts and showing they have the driving skills to progress to the premium karts.

This will also impact on track design. Junior tracks will be smaller and easier to negotiate; family tracks will be similar but wider to allow the twin karts room to manoeuvre. Finally, it will also impact the amenities you need to incorporate – corporate will require more catering and function rooms, while motorsports and juniors will require briefing rooms.

2) Will it be a paid attraction or a free ride within a park with a one-time entry fee?

This can have a big impact on the popularity of the attraction. In theme parks which have an all inclusive ticket price, the go-kart attraction can generate significant interest and the operator needs to make some decisions about throughput levels.

Do they want maximum throughput or will they tolerate larger queue lines and let the queue dictate the popularity? If they want maximum throughput then this impacts on kart and equipment levels, operational efficiencies and customer flow through the attraction.

To maximise throughput you would restrict ride times to five minutes or less, have twice as many karts as the track can sustain (then a few spares), have a wider track to accommodate more karts and have a greater number of helmets, etc, so there are no delays in loading customers.

3) The space you have to utilise

The available space impacts on the type of market you can attract and also the design of the track and available facilities. Smaller areas are better suited for junior and family markets, larger areas for teenagers and motorsports.

However, smaller sized areas can still be utilised to create larger tracks by incorporating flyovers, underpasses and bridges. A good track designer can also maximise the best use of space. At the end of the day, track size is relative to the stage of the go-kart market in the country and the offerings of the competitors nearby.

If you have no competitors then smaller tracks are still going to be the biggest track in the area! Other considerations include a café, F&B area, merchandise sales area, viewing area, etc.

4) Customer flow through the attraction

It is crucial in the planning stages to take account of how customers will progress through your venue; mistakes here can create bottlenecks which can create operational nightmares for staff. This is often an area that is overlooked when establishing a track and we have been contacted by many clients after the building has been completed to assist with the set-up and solve these flow bottlenecks.

A typical flow is waiver signing, ticket purchase, changing rooms to suit up, briefing room for a track briefing, helmet selection and fitting, pit lane for loading into karts, YOUR RACE!

Afterwards, the flow would be pits for unloading, helmet return, changing rooms to de-suit and return, (usually) pick up your lap time report and then check out times compared to others on the display screens. This is a typical flow, though it is affected by the type of operation and market the operator is trying to cater for.

5) Safety, safety and safety

This is naturally a critical area. There must be the right equipment, staff need adequate training and the operator must be ever vigilant that safety levels are upheld.

Safety is more than having helmets and ensuring they are correctly fitted. The track needs to be designed with safety in mind and karts should be fitted with kart speed controls so it can be ensured customers slow down or stop when there are incidents on the track.

However, more importantly the operations need to be safe, including no smoking when refuelling karts (I’ve witnessed many people refuelling karts with a cigarette in their mouth!)