Karting with hand controls!

Since my life took a change in 2011 I have tried to take and create opportunities to continue to live my life, not just exist in my life but to LIVE it. A tandem skydive, skiing in Bavaria, seeing how close to the top of Snowdon I could get, gliding and even microlighting are all things that I have taken part in and tried. The reason, because life is too short NOT to try different things. Granted I am fortunate that I can do a lot of these things due to opportunities offered by military charities but I, like so many others, chose to put on the uniform and do our bit. The fact that things are offered by these charities because we did that are not going to be overlooked or ignored and so I grab the opportunities whenever I can. To do some of them I need assistance and today, (Thursday 8th), was no exception, and whilst I had been fortunate enough to have a few people offer to go with me it was my Brother who called me to say that he was taking the day off to help me. So this morning at 07.00 I collected him from his house and we drove to Reading.

KARTFORCE had offered for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans to have a try at Karting with a view to recruit people for the new seasons team. The last time that I had taken part in Karting was when I was with 3 Rifles in Edinburgh. We had returned from our exercise in Kenya and so went out for a “Company activity”, I will just put in here that I was the winner! (chuffed I was, the old man against the young lads!). I really enjoyed it when I did go Karting, it was adrenaline fuelled fun and was always a real treat when I did get to do it as it was not a regular occurrence. The offer therefore of Karting today was never going to be overlooked. I knew that I would struggle with transferring from chair to Kart but would hopefully be something that I could get better at but the Kart to chair was my major concern. I find it almost impossible to carry out split level transfers and since I gave up running I may have added a few pounds, kilogrammes, stone….tonnes. Suffice is to say that I have never been a large bloke and whilst I hate the way I am, I just can’t seem to lose the weight. Clearly with my weak wrists, having the extra weight is a problem. That is why I asked for someone to go with me today.

Getting in to the Kart was not as easy as I had hoped for. As soon as I moved to the edge of my wheelchair my legs wanted to fight me. I worked through it as quickly as I could and with help from my Brother, we moved my legs in to the Kart. I transferred by dropping down on to the edge of the Kart but was perched on the edge of the seat also. Effectively the edge of the seat was sitting in the crack of my arse, not the best place for it to be as it can cause bruising and sores but with my Brother moving my legs I quickly dropped down in to the seat properly. Then it was a quick fight through the spasms again to put my feet where the pedals would normally be (they are disconnected for hand controls). I was ready to race.

We had 15 minutes to race around the track and try to get a feel for the corners, the response of the Kart and the track in general. Also we were tested to check that we understood the different flashing lights that are visible around the track. I didn’t go all out initially as it was the first time that I had tried hand controls with a Kart and of course I had no idea of the speed that you could travel around corners. The track was quite hard work with some very tight turns and a steep slope up and down. The up slope you simply had to go “balls out” and you could maintain the momentum round the corner at the top and also on the down slope. At the bottom of the slope though was a hard left which took you back on yourself. This corner took me a while to get right, well not right but to a point that I could go round it without sliding in to the barrier or losing too much momentum, and it wasn’t on the practice that I was happy with it. With all of us successfully having had our 15 minutes of practice time, we were put in to 7 teams of 3 for an “endurance team race”. We would each race for 20 minutes. At the end of each 20 minute period the chequered flag would show and it would be a driver change. This made it more competitive for the paraplegic and wheelchair dependant racers, which our team of three had…three. The order that the Karts came in to the pits was the order that they left pits.

Our team was not last, but not in the top three, and to be honest I wasn’t really concerned. The fact was that the three of us had held our own on the track. I had really struggled with the transfers and that is in my mind now. I can’t think of the best way to carry out the transfer but with more practice I hope that it will become easier. The feeling when gliding and microlighting was brilliant. Skiing felt brilliant but in a different way. When I have been driven around a race track in fast cars it was different again but this, Karting, was whole different feeling. The adrenaline, the competitive streak, the thrill of the race and the chase. I was trying to think of words that I could use to describe and portray how the day made me feel, but I can’t. It wasn’t just a day of racing, it was a day of me doing another thing that I thought I had lost. So “Thank you” Dave, the founder and head of KARTFORCE. I had such an amazing time, and can honestly say that I really felt alive.

Here are a couple of very short videos.

Thanks for reading.

Good afternoon all.

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