THE TERM New York driver evokes a Travis Bickle--like figure fueled on rage and mired in traffic, one hand on the horn, the other in a less-than-helpful gesture to fellow motorists. But with the opening of Grand Prix New York, a 120,000-square-foot indoor go-kart facility not far outside Manhattan, that image might soon be supplanted by something more sporty.
Located in a former warehouse in Mount Kisco, 40 miles north of Times Square, GPNY is a state-of-the-kart installation featuring two quarter-mile asphalt tracks with elevation changes and corner sequences modeled on the world's most famous race courses. The Sodi RX7 karts reach 40 mph and can generate 2g's in the turns. With on-board computer telemetry, drivers see lap times on the steering wheel as they slide around the track, and full-face helmets and racing suits are required. This is a far cry from the shorts-and-sandals world of amusement park rides. "We set out to make it fun, but also competitive at the highest level," says GPNY president Yury Lyalko, an international kart racing champ.
While corporate outings (golf is so slow!) and arrive-and-drive sessions (at a cost of $25 for a 16-lap race, plus a $10 license fee) figure to make up the bulk of the business, GPNY also hosts adult racing leagues and schools for junior drivers, ages eight through 17. Plans are in the works for a series of summer camps that will draw young racers from all over the East Coast. In an era in which most of the world's top drivers (including Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick) launched their careers in the karting ranks, GPNY might help rev up a new generation of American drivers—and maybe teach New Yorkers to keep both hands on the wheel.