x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Travelling with Kids: sate their need for speed at Yas karting track

What's the best thing to do on an overcast, windy day? Take your bored child to the kart zone on Yas Island.

It was an overcast, windy afternoon in Abu Dhabi and we were at the Yas Kart Zone, trying to make the best of a gloomy day and to lift the spirits of our bored 10-year-old. It was only after we signed the waiver forms that I began to have serious misgivings about the whole deal: Calvin was about to tear around a racetrack in a kart with five other kids at speeds of up to 30km per hour. What's the big deal about that, you ask?

The thing is, as much as Calvin loves anything that runs on an engine, he seems unable to work them smoothly. At the "bumping cars" ride at the children's fun zone, he is the only kid rotating on the spot while the others tear around like manic Schumachers.

Last year, at Ferrari World, he got into a child-sized Ferrari, flashed the thumbs-up sign and then got stuck not two metres from the starting point. In the end, to the mirth of the other kids, the attendant pulled out a red flag and pushed him off the course.

Later, Calvin told us what happened: "I couldn't press on the accelerator and steer at the same time." I was baffled. This is the same child who, at the age of six, got onto a bike sans training wheels and rode away as though he'd been doing it all his life.

At the karting circuit on Yas Island, Calvin looked supremely confident. He listened attentively to the instructions on kart controls and track rules, then disappeared into a cabin to put on his racing gear (jumpsuit, balaclava and helmet rental is included in the price).

"I'm going to go faster than Captain Slow here," he said, indicating his dad, who's named after James May, one of the presenters on the motoring show Top Gear, for his reluctance to step on the accelerator.

The kids were strapped into the kart by the fastidious attendant, and the karts got into position. Calvin put his helmet on and held up his fingers in the victory sign. Then they were off.

My heart constricted; I didn't want him to be jeered again. But I had no reason to worry. He didn't stop once, although he did set a record for the fewest laps - he managed only two while the others did four to eight. There he was, calmly trundling round the course, looking for all the world like a senior citizen enjoying a leisurely drive in the country.

"How slow can you go?" said my husband, as Calvin came in a full two minutes after everyone else.

Afterwards, as my husband prepared to join the adults on the track, Calvin wandered over to watch. "He really is Captain Slow," he commented, checking the TV screen behind us for lap times as his dad drove past and waved at us. "Terrible! It must make him so mad that my middle name is 'Speed'."

Karting at the Yas Kart Zone costs Dh100 per child (eight to 12 years) and Dh120 for adults. Visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com.