PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – For the last five years the kickoff to the Firestone Grand Prix season has started with a media karting competition. This year was no different as anchors, reporters and photographers came from all over Florida to race against one another in supped up go-karts at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto.
I was part of the News Channel 8 team which was stacked with professional drivers who have already competed in Grand Prix Races in St. Petersburg.
“Grand Prix of St. Pete is a killer race event. So much fun. Incredible racing action on track and of all the races you could go too. This is one of the best ones for sure,” my teammate Guy Cusmo said. Cusmo gets paid to compete for M1GT Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge and Audi R8 LMS RaceCar.
“I got to tell you it’s one of the toughest tracks I have driven on, cars bouncing off one another and bouncing off the walls. It’s really tight and it can get really hairy,” said 18-year-old Ernie Francis Jr. who competes for Breathless Pro Racing.
My two teammates were not short on advice when it came to how I should handle a go-kart. “Let me tell you, all or wall. That is what you have to remember when in doubt flat out,” Cusmo said. he’s been racing go-karts since he was 11 years old.
“There is never a time when you are going to lift off that gas peddle. I know the one on the left (brake peddle) looks appealing but never touch that brake peddle,” he added while helping me get into a motorized go-kart for the first in my life.
“I think you need to stay on the gas and don’t lift off like Guy was saying. Don’t go slow at all,” Francis Jr. said.
The single seat go-karts top out at just under 50 MPH, but my teammates say the best part about racing them is you can wreck them and walk away.
“Rental karts are always fun because one they are not yours and you don’t have to pay if you break it. So we can beat on each other and that’s what we are trying to get you to do,” Francis Jr. said.
“This is an absolute blast. There is no responsibility for me. We get to drive and have a good time,” Cusmo said.
In the end our team finished in the top three which wasn’t bad for my first time in a motorized go-kart.