It’s easy to pretend you’re a racing car driver when you get behind the wheel of one of the French SODI RT8 Go Karts on Phillip Island’s Grand Prix Circuit.
When: all year (in most weather conditions) except during the MotoGP and the Superbike World Championship. Open daily 9.30am – 5pm
Where: Grand Prix Circuit, Back Beach Road, PHILLIP ISLAND
Cost: $35 for 10 minute session (discounts available for multiple sessions). More information, click here.
Go Karting on the scale replica race track at Phillip Island Circuit is a great family activity. Children as young as 5 years old can enjoy the experience in a special tandem Kart driven by an adult (there is even the option for them to take over the steering with both driver and passenger having a steering wheel each). And children who are 12 and above (and more than 140cm in height) can drive a solo Kart.
When you arrive you purchase tickets and register your details at the GP Visitors Centre – from there you take a two-minute walk along a path to the viewing platform and waiting area. While you wait here you have a great view across the track so you can get your bearings and also check out the Karts in action. If there is anyone in your party not racing then this is where they will wait for you.
When it’s your turn you get called for your briefing inside the “pit lane”. Inside pit lane, you can access lockers if you need to store anything (note you can’t take anything onto the circuit with you, including phones, cameras or any other loose items). Note if you need a toilet they are located outside at the back of pit lane.
After you’re ticked off the list you watch a briefing video (which goes for about 5 minutes). My friend and I looked at each other with bemusement when, after going through the different flags, the presenter then launched into the meaning of various different hand signals the staff might use to communicate with you out on the track. Wait what! I was still absorbing the meanings of the different flags of which I think there were four (yellow was slow down for an incident, checkered meant last lap, black meant report to pit lane asap and I can’t remember what red was for.. stop?? Was there even a read one!?). Thankfully hand signals weren’t used during our sessions. And anyway, if things get out of hand there is a kill switch that can be activated by staff should a driver go rouge.
After the video briefing you get kitted up with a hair-net and helmet and put into a line ready to be called onto the track. You also need to be wearing closed toe shoes. The lap session goes for 10 minutes and there are five minutes allowed for the change over of drivers. Tandem Karts only race in every second race – this allows for drivers who want a faster and more aggressive session to not be mixed in with young kids and parents who might be a little more cautious. Although there were dads in the sessions I was in that were un-phased by any handicap a tandem Kart may have presented – they may have also been the dads who came prepared with their own racing helmets and gloves.
Once you get into your Go Kart staff come along and check your seatbelt and then put the steering wheel into position and adjust the position of the brake peddles. When everyone was strapped in we entered the track one by one… despite being second onto the track – I came second last (to my defence I did let Immi steer for two laps and so we took the corners very slowly so she had time to turn the wheel – it’s very heavy to turn). Depending on how fast you drive you can make somewhere between 6-10 laps in the ten minutes.
Karting at Phillip Island is super fun for adrenaline junkies of all ages. Participants can race the clock or one another and push out a series of hot laps in their quest to set the day’s fastest lap. Lap time printouts are provided for each racer. Times can even be posted to a driver’s own Facebook site, allowing any top gun to enjoy maximum bragging rights (or not, as was the case for me!).
In September 2014, a new fleet of French-made SODI RT8 karts started zipping around the circuit. SODI is the Ferrari of the karting world, each with a price tag in excess of $8000. With state of the art seats and pedals fitted, the karts can be adjusted to make it easier to custom-fit drivers.
The Go Kart track is positioned right alongside Southern Loop of the Grand Prix Circuit and overlooks the cliffs to the Bass Strait, although the day we visited it was a grey overcast day when we visited and so the ocean view isn’t that obvious in the photographs. The Go Kart track operates year round excluding the periods for MotoGP and the Superbike World Championship.
When you first arrive at the Grand Prix Circuit Visitors Centre you will discover that there is much more than just Go Karting on offer. There is a museum dedicated to all things motor racing, there is a viewing platform of the official Grand Prix Circuit, there are a number of walking tours you can take (for the pure enthusiasts who want to go behind the scenes in depth – not recommended for young children), there are the slot cars and simulators, there are hot laps and finally there are the Go Karts. Oh, there is also a cafe and a gift shop. So if you have motor heads in your midst this visit could be ticking a few boxes.
We also checked out the Adventure EcoBoat Tour to Seal Rock.
Disclaimer: Meetoo travelled to Phillip Island in September 2015 as guests of Phillip Island Nature Parks. All views are our own. All details were correct at time of publishing.