CHAMPCAR/CART: Memo Gidley Karting clinic set

Gidley Awaits More Fun in the Sun Hawaii stages 3rd Annual Memo Gidley Karting Clinic January 5-6 INDIANAPOLIS, November 15: On the heels of a successful half-season behind the wheel of the ...

Gidley Awaits More Fun in the Sun
Hawaii stages 3rd Annual Memo Gidley Karting Clinic January 5-6

INDIANAPOLIS, November 15: On the heels of a successful half-season behind the wheel of the #12 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Reynard, American driver Memo Gidley will return to Hawaii in January for the third installment of the Memo Gidley Karting Clinic. After two well-received years at private facilities in Leeward Oahu, organizers succeeded in finding a very public venue on the opposite side, securing use of a sizeable parking lot at Windward Mall in Kaneohe (Windward Oahu's largest shopping complex) for the weekend of January 5-6.

The Clinic serves as the marquee event for the Pacific Karting Club, a 41-year-old organization which held its 2000 season races on one of Ford Island's historic runways. But with the US Navy beginning its extensive redevelopment of the island, the club wound up spending much of 2001 - like Gidley - searching for a new place to race. The club sees this year's Clinic as the latest step in its ongoing public campaign to secure a permanent facility for 2002 and beyond. Meanwhile, Gidley continues his campaign for a full-time CART seat for next season, buoyed by his recent streak of podium results.

For the inaugural Clinic at Hawaii Raceway Park in December 1999, Gidley brought over the 125cc TrackMagic shifter kart with which he won the S1 class of the SKUSA Super Nationals in Las Vegas the previous month. He performed two days of driving demonstrations and conversed at length with the children in attendance and their parents, many of whom had never before met a professional racing driver who used karting as a direct means of advancing his career. The following year, the Clinic moved to Ford Island and introduced audience participation by engaging local kids and adults in on-track test sessions behind the wheels of their own go-karts.

The club features six divisions of racing karts for members ages 8 and up, and while many participants compete on a strictly recreational basis, it also nurtures homegrown talent capable of establishing careers as professional racing drivers. 80cc and 125cc club shifter kart champion Ryan Gouveia began his apprenticeship in karts at age 9 and now is a factory driver for leading kart manufacturer Birel. Last year in Las Vegas, he made the S2 class feature in the SKUSA SuperNationals (the country's premier shifter kart event) by finishing third in the "B Main" qualifying race, then came home a respectable 21st despite minimal track time in an unfamiliar machine against his vastly more experienced mainland competition.

Gidley, who drives his kart 3-4 times a week as part of his training regimen, routinely gives back to the karting community which helped start his career and eagerly anticipates his next visit to the 50th state. "I've made a lot of friends over there, and if we can get some more new people out to the track, that would be great. I want to continue to build on the friendships I have and to give some of the kids and adults a few more things to work on as far as driving. Basically, I want to have some fun and just enjoy the days we have there."

As far as specific objectives go, Gidley's mind flashes back to last year's on-track sessions, during which a number of overexuberant students drove too closely to the marker cones. Gidley, standing sentinel in the corners while pointing towards the proper line he wanted the karts to follow, found himself jumping out of the way on more than one occasion so he would not get flung into the air like a rag doll. "Not to get run over again for another year - that would be my first goal!"

As in 2000, the Clinic schedule calls for one-on-one tutorials, track time, and classroom sessions for non-shifters on Saturday and shifters on Sunday. The curriculum may fluctuate based on the percentage of new participants versus Clinic veterans and on how much the latter may have retained knowledge imparted in previous years. "It depends - probably some of the older drivers have forgotten what I've told them! Probably the kids are still remembering what I taught them last year. Everybody's at a different level, and basically I'll try to see where they're at. Some people have learned, some people have learned bad habits, and some haven't driven for a long time. So I'll just try to see where they're at and go from there - I'll try to teach them a couple of things and try to have some fun."

Gidley is not concerned about club members being rusty after their extended layoff, during which most have enjoyed little or no quality seat time in their karts. "I don't think so. A go-kart is pretty forgiving to drive. I'm sure some people will have forgotten a few things, but I think everybody will get back into the swing of things pretty quickly."

Organizers expect an unprecedented turnout of spectators, given the prominent location of this year's Clinic. In one of its few 2001 public appearances, the club staged demonstration laps at Windward Mall in August, attracting the attention of many enthusiasts passing by - a good number of whom did not know the club even existed. "Getting it in front of more people is definitely going to bring more awareness to karting and to racing in Hawaii in general," says Gidley in anticipation. "I think it will probably work out very well."

Gidley will also make a number of public appearances around town in the days leading up to the Clinic, including his annual autograph session at All Star Hawaii in Waikiki, where his DirecTV uniform from the 2000 CART season sits on display amid a plethora of non-racing sports memorabilia. On Monday following the Clinic, he will head to Oahu's North Shore and visit the Strong Current surf shop, Gidley's benefactor in his very first board excursion last year. During CART's annual trip to Surfer's Paradise, Australia in October, Gidley hit the waves again, amazing the locals who could not believe it marked only his second time hanging ten. "Well, last time it was great to be able go surfing," he recalls. "So I'll probably go surfing again, enjoy the warm water and just relax a little bit."

With Hawaii's vital tourist economy hammered in recent weeks as visitors from the mainland US and abroad stayed away in droves, the Clinic aims in its own small way at reversing that trend. In much the same way the inaugural Clinic in 1999 helped bring the state's motorsports fanatics out of their doldrums following the last-minute cancellation of CART's Hawaiian Super Prix, local businesses can expect financial benefits from their involvement the third time around - not only as sponsors but also as stores, restaurants and hotels earning their share of Gidley's 2001 prize money.

And with Gidley's star clearly on the rise, organizers hope some of that stardust will rub off and make the 2002 Clinic the most successful yet, with its students catapulting to greatness in Hawaii and across the Pacific.

Sponsors for the 2002 Memo Gidley Karting Clinic include Windward Mall, Meta Engineering, All-Star Hawaii, Soccer Locker, Kailua Electric Service, Strong Current and Punish'Um Motorsports TV.

NOTE: Contrary to published reports, Memo Gidley will not be participating in the 2002 Supercross Crossover Challenge at Anaheim's Edison International Field on January 4. He will instead be on Oahu preparing for the kickoff of the 2002 Clinic the following morning.

-MGR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Kart
Drivers Memo Gidley , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing