By Mia Ping-Chieh Chen
BU News Service
WRENTHAM – If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming the next Formula One world champion or Dom Toretto of the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, here’s a chance to discover your potential. Or like me, learn your limits.
Wrentham, a town located in southern Massachusetts, is home to the world’s largest indoor go-kart facility. Supercharged Entertainment, which opened in June, features two multilevel tracks. When combined, they become an 80,000-square-foot and a quarter-mile long single track with five elevation changes. All vehicles are electric and zero emission for people who enjoy the thrill of speeding while reducing their carbon footprint.
There are two speed settings you can choose from – Pro and Semi Pro. You must be at least four feet and 10 inches tall for the Semi Pro. And for the Pro, besides the height requirement, you need to be 15 or older. The prices are the same, from $25 for a single race to $150 for a 10 race bundle.
For my first time driving a go-kart, I chose Pro without hesitation, as I’m in my late 20s. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so confident.
“The general assumption is that if you’re able to drive on the highway, you should be able to handle the go-karts,” COO Cody Browning said. He explained the Semi Pro level is designed to accommodate people who have limited driving abilities or less experience, while people who go with Pro ideally would have more experience with motorsports or driving.
Every rider is required to sign an injury waiver, wear helmets, closed-toe shoes and long hair must be tied back. A staff member will give a safety briefing before everyone gets into their go-karts. As racers drive down the straightaways, two independently controlled nine horsepower motors with different speed levels combine to create the ultimate thrill of high torque needed to climb the track’s inclines.
It was my turn. The staff asked me to drive forward and follow the two go-karts ahead of me. I pressed the green pedal on the right and drove out of the waiting line, but couldn’t see anyone on the track after I climbed the slope. The two karts in front of me were gone. For a brief moment, I thought the entire race track was exclusively for me.
Until every go-kart was released, everyone remained at the same low speed. The staff increased everyone’s speed in small increments – that’s when I felt short bursts of speed. On the panel of the steering wheel, there’s another green boost button for racers to experience an additional three-second speed up, which is like “hitting a mushroom” to break from the pack and speed in the video game “Mario Kart.”
In seven minutes, you can get a taste of being an open-wheeled auto racer.
Various go-karts drove past me and were out of my sight in seconds. I tried to catch up with one of my friends by speeding up, but I couldn’t control the wheel and made quick turns to steer clear from the walls. Left, left, climb and turn right, I said to myself. But after a few rounds, I still needed to slow down or stop at every turn to avoid hitting the wall.
My friend drove past me, again. Now everyone else was a lap ahead of me. Turns out, I’m not great at driving as I thought I was.
I even got a blue flag which meant I needed to move over to the right lane and let the racers behind me passed me by.
“It means you are holding up traffic!” Browning said laughing. “I always tell people in a joking way that the blue flag is our nicest way of telling you: you’re probably not as a good driver as you think you are.”
It’s all about speed and excitement but the rules are clear. No bumping or slamming into go-karts or barriers is permitted. The staff uses different flag colors to notify racers. If you see an employee waving a green flag while you are racing, they are telling you to continue driving at the speed you’re comfortable at. A yellow flag means caution, mostly indicates the obstacles on the track. Red flag requires all karts to stop and a black flag is a penalty. The black flag shows up when the driver either has ignored the instructions for a while or breaks a rule. Three to 13 staff members supervise the race, depending on the rate of occupancy.
“I felt like I was [in the] Formula One championship,” Bobby Wu from Dedham said. He was thrilled with the low chassis of his go-kart. Every bump brought from the short distance between his buttocks and the ground excited him.
However, not everything is fun and games at Supercharged Entertainment. Boston 25 News reported back in August that emergency responders have been called eight times for injuries to Supercharged since June. In response to these injuries, Browning said that safety has always been the priority of the company.
“Every member of our team has been through extensive safety training. Our karts are equipped with state-of-the-art safety control systems that allow us to stop all kart function in an emergency situation,” he said.
Every Tuesday, you can experience “Supertrack,” which combines the two tracks into a half-mile-long track. You can race through the entire course at the same price.
So how fast can the go-kart go? The staff wouldn’t reveal it. The fastest lap time in my group was 41 seconds – not by me, of course.
Any tips? Drive on the outside line and cut in through every turn. Drifting is fun but it will slow you down. Clustering with your group during a race hurts your chances of getting the fastest lap, so spread out and speed up!