Zooming along just centimetres from the ground, the smell of burning rubber in her nostrils from her own tires and the tires of karts jostling around and the speed.
It’s the adrenaline rush Jess Keast couldn’t get from any other sport, and this weekend she gets to put it to the test against Karters from all over the state.
About 100 racers are expected to descend on Orange for the South Pacific Titles this weekend, and Keast is going to be one of them.
The 12-year-old will have one of her first competitive races in the junior classification, three months after joining the sport.
Keast started karting to challenge herself.
“It’s a sport a lot of girls aren’t comfortable doing and it’s something that gives you lots of adrenaline,” she said.
“It was a little bit horrifying … the fact you’re that low to the ground and going pretty fast and there are all those corners, it’s pretty daunting.”
It’s really fun because he works a lot and I don’t get to see him a lot and spend much time with him, so when we’re out here it gives us really good quality time.Jess Keast on spending time with her dad while racing
Despite it being “a little bit” scary to start with, Keast has felt more than comfortable zooming around the Orange track with Mount Canobolas in the distance.
She said she’s slightly nervous heading into this weekend, but has her eyes set on two goals – taking her lap times down to 45 seconds and not getting lapped.
Other than that, she’s taken to the track like a duck to water, with not much fazing her. There’s only one thing she didn’t expect – just how much she’d fall in love with it.
“I didn’t think I’d enjoy it this much, I thought it would just be like another sport and would be a bit boring … other sports just don’t give you as much adrenaline.”
One of the reasons she’s loved it so much is that it’s giving her father-daughter time with dad Kris.
“It’s really fun because he works a lot and I don’t get to see him a lot and spend much time with him, so when we’re out here it gives us really good quality time,” she said, which is a sentiment echoed by the elder Keast – who also races and has loved it.
Alongside spending time with his daughter he said he’s always loved being around cars and bikes and motors, and had plunged headlong into the “welcoming” Orange community.
Club captain Tim Weston said it was the biggest weekend of the year for the club, which saw everyone pitch in together to do odd jobs and help out.
He also said it was great to see so many people in the club.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us, it’s my favourite weekend of the year,” he said.
He said 12 classes would be running, with $6000 prizemoney to be split among the three top categories, but it would be good to have top racers from around the state attending.
“Some meets we were getting down to five or so drivers in a race but that’s been slowly improving,” he said.
He said one of the highlights would be the Rusty Nut race, which is a speciality for race officials and timers and other roles, which Weston laughingly admits is a race that can “get a little heated, and the rules can be bent sometimes” in that one but is all in good fun and a spectacle to behold.
The South Pacific Championships run from 8am on Saturday at Orange Kart Club on Perc Griffith Way. Practice begins on Friday, with finals on Sunday.
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