If go-karts make you think of rickety homemade racers with at least one wobbly wheel, stop by Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Jessup on a Tuesday night to witness just how far the sport has come.
"Our go-karts feature European-built chassis with racing slick tires, and they can go 50 mph," said Jordan Wallace, competition director at Autobahn. "We're an arrive-and-drive facility. We provide everything — the track, the go-karts and the helmets. Just walk in, sign a waiver, pay a fee and we put you on the track."
The average Joe can pay $19.99 per race (discounts and daily specials are available), and even join a weekly league to race for points and bragging rights. But on Tuesday nights this summer, an invitation-only league of area racers will take over and push the go-karts to their limits. Although the roster isn't formalized yet, past participants have included stock car and formula racers and even a few who participated in the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Every Tuesday the drivers compete in two heats to earn points toward a grid spot for the final. Spectators are always welcome and admission is free to Autobahn's 70,000-square-foot facility, which contains two tracks, each about one-eighth of a mile long. And because all the vehicles are electric, the noise level is kept to a minimum and there are no emissions.
Garrett Walker of Elkridge participated in last summer's elite league and ended the season ranked fifth out of more than 40 drivers
"You're so focused, you almost get tunnel vision," he said of his time on the track. "You get in this zone where it's all about the driving and you just take every race corner by corner."
Walker enjoys racing so much that he took a job at Autobahn last year as a full-time race marshal — even though that now excludes him from participating in a league.
The action begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting the last week of June. Other recreational leagues are forming now. Autobahn also hosts parties and corporate events, and junior go-karts — which reach speeds up to 25 mph — are available for children ages 8 to 12 who are at least 4 feet tall.
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Autobahn Indoor Speedway
8251 Preston Court, Jessup