THE IRONMAN AT 100 -- MPH, THAT IS... "Ironman" triathlon events have become a recognized, respected form of athletic competition in recent years, and next week a totally unique kind of Ironman event will be held at a similarly unique place and...
THE IRONMAN AT 100 -- MPH, THAT IS...
"Ironman" triathlon events have become a recognized, respected form of athletic competition in recent years, and next week a totally unique kind of Ironman event will be held at a similarly unique place and time -- December 27-30 at the Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California.
Rather than the usual running, swimming and bicycling, the first annual "Castrol and the Willow Springs Kart Classic Present -- The Ironman" will feature hundreds of the finest racing drivers from around the country competing in a first-of-its-kind three-day karting event that will test the limits of a driver's physical conditioning as thoroughly as running a trio of marathons back-to-back.
One of the featured drivers in the event, and a prime candidate to take the overall Ironman victory, is Lynx Racing driver Memo Gidley, 29, of Novato, California. Gidley, a national karting champion and factory driver for TrackMagic Karts, won the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic support race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach earlier this year and is in discussions with several teams about moving up to CART or the IRL in 1999.
"Almost every top racing driver today got their start in karting, and many of them still use karting as a way to keep their physical conditioning and reflexes sharp in between races and during the off-season," says Gidley. "People don't tend to think of racing drivers as athletes, but driving a car at 200 mph for several hours requires the strength and coordination of an Olympic athlete. And racing a kart is in many ways even more physically demanding."
In addition to Gidley competing in the Ironman event, CART FedEx drivers Alex Barron and Richie Hearn (both former Lynx Racing drivers) will be racing in the "Castrol Celebrity Challenge", a celebrity kart race featuring entertainment notables such as Sean Patrick Flannery, Alfonso Ribiero and Grant Show.
The Hollywood stars will be joined on track by racing drivers such as drag racing champions John Force and Tony Pedregon, motorcycle legend Eddie Lawson and famed driver/racing school owner Bob Bondurant.
The Castrol Celebrity Challenge will be a 25-lap race beginning at 11:00 a.m. Sunday, January 27. All the celebrities will be driving Margay karts identically prepared by Mike Manning Karting and powered by 100 cc, 18-hp Horstman engines capable of propelling the karts at speeds up to 70 mph.
The Ironman event is comprised of four classes of karts competing in three separate races, each on a different track, on successive days from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The first event, featuring four 25-lap races (one race for each class of kart), will be held on the 'Sprint' track on Sunday, December 27. The second race, four 30-minute events held on the big 'Enduro' track, will be on Monday, December 28. The final Ironman event, four 30-minute races on the "Streets of Willow" track, will be on December 29.
The results will be decided by totaling up the points scored by each driver in each event, with the overall winner being the driver with the largest total. Of the four classes of kart eligible for the Ironman event, the 125cc 'shifter' class, with speeds in excess of 100 mph, is the fastest and most spectacular. This is the class in which Memo Gidley competes, and will run from 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day.
The Ironman is a major part of what is expected to be one of the biggest events in kart racing. In addition to the Ironman, all four tracks at Willow Springs Raceway will be in use all day every day as more than 1,000 karters compete in more than a dozen different classes.
Willow Springs Raceway is located 10 miles north of Lancaster on Hwy. 14. Take the Rosamond exit and turn left at the light.
Meanwhile, Gidley's 1998 Lynx Racing teammate, Buddy Rice, 21, of Phoenix, Arizona, will represent the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series at the World Karting Association trade show in Hickory, North Carolina on January 29-31.
"Future generations of Lynx drivers are racing karts today, and the team has made a commitment to get involved and help promote karting at every opportunity," says Rice. "All of us Lynx drivers are still actively involved in karting, both for our own benefit and because one of the obligations we take on in signing with Lynx is to reach out and help those younger drivers for whom an encouraging word or a piece of timely advice might make all the difference."