May 30, 2013 at 3:17 am

Doug Guthrie

Detroit News writer finds speed is harder than it looks

Belle Isle -- I got smoked. Beaten by two Australians and a local television reporter in the first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Beaten by a TV guy! Ugh.

The Media Go Kart Challenge was held Wednesday on a tiny temporary track inside the real 2.36 mile, 13-turn race course where the real racers will compete in IndyCar and Grand Am sports car events Saturday and Sunday.

However, a few of the real drivers provided advice to 17 members of the international motoring and local press as we took solo timed laps on a tight, two-turn, semi-oval that will be available to spectators to try throughout the weekend's races. Cost? An at will donation.

"Some of you looked good. Some looked real bad," said Ed Carpenter, the driver who started from pole position in last weekend's Indianapolis 500. He finished 10th.

"Sometimes things that look simple, aren't," Carpenter said. "After winning the pole at Indy a guy asked me if the cars were easy to drive because it looked like we could put them anywhere we wanted on the track. I just sort of stared at him until he went away.

"I thought, You know, we really need to make this look as hard as it is."

And to prove the point, Carpenter and the other professionals sent to coach us, all turned faster times than any of us media-types on the same track in the same go karts.

Carpenter, appropriately, set the fastest lap at 9.66 seconds.

When my turn to drive arrived, I tried to follow the advice of IndyCar driver Joseph Newgarden and the Frisselle brothers, Burt and Brian, who will wheel the No. 9 Chevrolet Corvette prototype in the Grand Am Rolex Series race Saturday.

They suggested trail braking into the ultra sharp turns. That's where you hit the brakes very late in the turn and get back on the gas at the apex, before you finish the braking. That helps rotate the rear of the kart around the turn. Then, you hop up and down a little in the kart to help the weak little engine build rpm for the dash down the straightaway.

I didn't execute as well as the Frisselles did when they turned their laps. I slid rear end out too much, robbing my kart of speed for the next straightaway.

Mike Brudenell, the Detroit Free Press motor sports writer, won it all with a very smooth 10.35 second lap. Second place was taken by Mark Fogerty, a writer for Melbourne, Australia's newspaper, The Age. And the final step on the podium was snatched away from me by WXYZ Channel 7 news reporter Tom Leyden. He beat me by 4/10ths of a second.

Carpenter told me that after leading the Indy 500 last Sunday for many laps, he slipped back into the pack to pace himself. The plan was to play it safe for most of the race and pour on the speed at the end.

"I slipped too far back and the aerodynamics of the car in traffic changed everything," Carpenter said. "If I had it to do over, I'd do it differently. There's always the next race or next year at Indy."

Good advice from a guy who knows. I'm already waiting for next year on Belle Isle.

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Detroit News auto critic Doug Guthrie leads his go kart around the miniature track on Belle Isle. / Steve Perez/Detroit News
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