If you work in Jessup and you open your office window, you just might hear the signature whine of tires going 50 miles per hour (mph) on an indoor racing track; if so, that’s because the $1.75 million Autobahn Indoor Speedway opened its doors May 3.
Already, businesses are booking group packages that range from $50 to $85, depending on how often drivers want to negotiate their Italian-designed electric “Pro-Kart” around the two tracks.
There’s also room for people off the street who want to “arrive and drive” for $19.99 per race (or less when they purchase multiple race packages).
Businesses and individuals are already flocking to race at the high-end tracks in cars that are more than go-carts — they’re called “Pro-Karts,” said Bill Harris, general manager. “They go from zero to 50 [mph] like a rocket.”
During a race, drivers circle one of the facility’s two tracks — the Le Mans or the Monaco — 14 times. Each track is about 700 feet, and a good driver can make it around the Le Mans track in about 20 seconds, while the same driver might take a little longer to zip around the Monaco track since it has more hairpin turns, said Harris.
$10K Racing Machines
Jordan Wallace, the Autobahn’s competition director, will tell you so much about the Pro-Karts that you’ll be tempted to buy one for yourself. A semi-professional cart racer himself, Wallace describes the cars as “$10,000 racing machines.”
They feature the gas pedal on the right and brake pedal on the left, but don’t expect power steering, Wallace said, because these high-end cars are about driver performance, something the Autobahn Speedway tallies in real time.
“The tracks are wide enough to pass everywhere,” he Wallace, “and all the carts are equipped with a timing mechanism.”
A ranking system is built into the speedway’s computer network so drivers can not only watch their lap time while they’re on the track, but they can also see where they rank among every driver who visits the Autobahn.
If a 10-minute race sounds short, get a helmet provided by Autobahn Speedway and try it, Wallace said, and know that racing takes a lot of physical and mental stamina. “Your gravitational pull, side-to-side, becomes twice your weight,” he said.
It’s an adventurous, unique experience, and so is running the business, said Harris, who is proud to say that the Autobahn Speedway is not a franchise or even a copy of the competition. “This is our first and only location,” he said.
Revving Up for Corporations
David Larson is the managing partner who first conceived the idea of an indoor speedway; all told, there are fewer than 100 such speedways across the country.
The business community will be an important customer base, said Larson. “Half of our business is going to be corporate events,” he said. “We already have very large events scheduled for the second half of May, including one for the Howard County Economic Development Authority.”
It’s a fine alternative for a golf outing, Larson said. “Plus, you don’t have to wear a hot racing suit like you do for the gas-powered carts. The environment is just a lot cleaner.”
The bottom line is that clients don’t have to be a professional racer to enjoy the track, he added, “but you get the rush of being one.”
Corporate participants will also enjoy a “pit crew challenge,” during which they conduct a “pit stop” for a real Formula One racing car, said Larson. “You change the tires and do all the other things a crew does on a pit stop. The team with the shortest time [in the pit] is the winner.”
In the first few weeks of operation, Larson and his team plan to fine-tune the experience. Partners Larson and Harris have been in business together for many years, and have opened hotels together in the past.
‘My Dream Job’
The Autobahn Speedway will employ about 25 people. For competition director Wallace, “it’s my dream job.” He has been racing semi-professionally for five years and is looking forward to directing racing league competitions at Autobahn. “We’ll have four race league nights a week here,” he said, including amateur and semi-pro leagues.
Starting in June, Wallace also plans on offering summer camps for kids, who must be 48 inches tall to ride the junior Pro-Karts. “We will have a morning camp that’s very focused on teaching kids how to be good, safe race car drivers,” he said.
Wallace also will represent the Autobahn Speedway at his own races across the country.
“I’d been looking for a company that believes in me,” he said. “When it comes to racing, there are a lot of really good drivers out there. I’ve been racing in Virginia and West Virginia for four years, [but] I’d been looking for something on this side of the beltway. This place is a Godsend.”