Quiet karts set to electrify Downtown

Casey Obalek is getting ready to race electric go-karts through the streets of Downtown New West at the end June. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Casey Obalek is getting ready to race electric go-karts through the streets of Downtown New West at the end June.

It may not have the glitz and power of the Molson Indy that used to roar through the streets of Vancouver. But it also won't have the noise.

And that's what Maddison McKitrick, of the Downtown BIA, hopes will soothe residents and attract racing fans from around Metro Vancouver when the G-Zero electric go-karts inaugurates its championship racing series in New Westminster June 28 and 29.

Organizers of the series were at Network Hub in the River Market on Thursday to show off one of their unique karts and introduce residents and businesses to its eco-friendly style of racing.

Casey Obalek, the manager of teams and marketing for G-Zero, said the karts' electric engines can generate 35 horsepower. That's enough to send the lightweight 260-pound open wheel racers humming down the straight on Columbia Street at up to 105 km/h.

The low ground clearance and lack of suspension will also make the Downtown's hills a challenge for the 40 teams that are expected to participate on race weekend, said Obalek.

"It's all about the drivers," said Obalek of the course that will climb Mackenzie Street, turn left on Clarkson, then down the block to Begbie where it will plummet back down to Columbia before heading right to a hairpin at Eighth Street.

It's those hills and some of the Downtown's historic and new architecture that McKitrick hopes will enthral race fans with exciting action and bring them back to visit the city on its own merits. It may even attract new events.

"Downtown New West can be a venue for a lot of different things," said McKitrick, who'd like to see events like obstacle course runs, a colour run where runners are bombed with brightly-coloured powders, even a walk-in outdoor theatre join established events like the annual Show and Shine and the StrEat food truck festival. "We've got so may cool areas."

McKitrick said the city's changing demographic with younger families and professionals discovering New West makes the time right to diversify the kinds of events being held Downtown.

Obalek said she expects up to 10,000 people to take in the races, which will run in 15-minute heats through Saturday and Sunday.

That's a lot of potential customers for Downtown businesses, said McKitrick, who will be working with them to take advantage of all those visitors.

"We encourage businesses to stay open, be inviting and welcoming," said McKitrick. "Even if someone goes into your store just to cool off, it opens their eyes to what we have Downtown."

To complete the mini-Indy vibe, Obalek said they'll also be setting up special areas for children and VIP's, and the pits will be open so spectators can learn about the electric kart technology and meet the drivers, who range in age from 16-70. Admission will be free, as the series is supported by sponsorships and drivers' fees.

"We're excited about bringing something new to New West," said Obalek.


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