Home / Around DB Articles / Fast and Furious: At Full Throttle!

Fast and Furious: At Full Throttle!

Posted in : Around DB Articles, Community on by : Around DB , , Comments: 0

Ahead of the eighth edition of the HLG Kart Race on November 25, Ray Robertson sits down with founder Jean-François Harvey to get the lowdown on the event and some advice for the thrill-seeking young competitors [PHOTOS COURTESY OF Harvey Law Group]

Conceived by Jean-François Harvey of Harvey Law Group, the HLG Kart Race has quickly grown from a small community event into one of the most anticipated races in Discovery’s Bay’s packed racing calendar. The first race in October 2015 attracted over 20 competitors. The most recent race in October 2022, saw 52 children, aged 7 to 12, vying for trophies. Last year, 156 trials and qualifying races were held over the course of the day (220 one-on-one races in total) and Jean-Francois is hoping for an even stronger turnout in November.

So how did the first race in October 2015 come about? “We were looking for a way to give back to the community at large,” Jean-François explains. “I finally hit upon the idea of a kart race because there is something about kart racing that’s so familiar, so simple. So many of us have good memories of it. Also, it’s not typical, so people are interested.”

Community 400x400 (2)


There’s no doubt that Montreal-born Jean-François’ passion has struck a chord in DB, and after a strong start in 2015, interest called for two events in 2016. That same year, an improved brake system, devised by the event’s main sponsor Milwaukee, allowed Jean-François to lower the participant age to seven years old from the previous edition’s eight. In 2022, he took things a step fur ther by doing away with the handbrake and fitting all karts with a pedal brake instead.

“In previous years, kids were having problems using the handbrake, particularly at corners when they didn’t want to take one hand off the wheel to slow down,” Jean François explains. “Now we have a pedal brake system that should solve this problem, meaning more competitors will make it to the finish.”

For Jean-François, himself a dad, kids’ enjoyment is the driving factor. “I wanted to find something where every single child would have the same chance of winning,” he says. “In this event, kids are equal whether they are athletic or not. It’s open to everyone but it’s still a real competition. There’s a trophy for the winners but no participation medals.”

In order to level the playing field, the race is divided into age-group categories, so the kids race against their peers. An eight-foot-high ramp, almost 16-foot long and 8-foot wide, is set up along Discovery Bay Road cycle lane, and the track covers approximately 150 metres. Competitors are required to wear properly fitted bike helmets, closed-toe shoes (trainers) and race shirts; they are advised to wear long trousers and gloves.

For each age group, each racer competes in two timed qualifying races. The eight racers in each age group with the best time qualify for the quarter finals.

If the age group has fewer than eight racers, the kids participate in a quarter final, and the four with the best time qualify for the semi-final. The two fastest racers then go head-to-head in the final.

While standard karts are provided, kids also have the opportunity to compete in their own “freestyle” custom-made karts. “Some will go for style, some for speed, so there are performance and design prizes,” Jean-François says.

The spec for freestyle karts is brief but precise. They must be capable of being steered, they need to have a braking system and they are limited to gravity power (no propelling mechanisms). The maximum width of each freestyle kart is 91 centimetres, and the minimum distance between the front and rear axle is 72 centimetres.

Importantly, each kart is checked and serviced throughout the race. “Our karts have been built with custom-made parts thanks to our sponsor Milwaukee,” Jean-François says. “The karts will be used many times on the day of the race so you can imagine we need to spend some time fixing them. Bumpers get broken, each kart will break down two or three times during a race so we have mechanics on the spot.”

While race officials are on hand to help, no outside support is allowed between the start and finish lines of a race. Parents are asked not to push a racer along any part of the track.

Community 400x400 (1)


So how about race days tips for enthusiastic young racers? Looking at the big picture, Jean-François says there aren’t any complex race-strategy or karthandling tips to share with competitors. “All our carts are the same; they all have the same wheels, the same steering system,” he explains. “As long as the kids know how to drive left and right, they will be fine.

“Competitors should keep in mind that the race is all about speed, so they need to steer their karts to the finish in a straight line, as much as possible,” Jean- François adds. “Every time they make a turn, they lose speed, so the key is to keep to a straight line.”

Since 2018, all HLG kar ts have been fitted with double bearing wheels, which Jean-François says makes them very fast. “If you are building your own kart, be sure to choose wheels that roll very well,” he advises. “Avoid lawnmower wheels. Bicycle wheels could be a very good choice.

“Staying calm and steady is very important,” Jean François adds. “It’s quite something for kids to go down that eight-foot ramp. Then the track goes down quite fast all the way to Seabee Lane. Some courage is necessary, especially in the first heat. Self-confidence is key.”

Karts like these don’t have engines but they come off that ramp at high speed – they have to, in order to make it to the finish line without losing impetus. For this reason, competitors are advised to keep their foot off the brake as much as they dare. “Unless their opponent swerves across their path or they find themselves approaching a corner too fast, competitors should brake only after crossing the finish line,” Jean-François confirms.

While the logistics are fairly simple, participant safety is paramount and Harvey is quick to acknowledge the support of the HLG Kart Race officials, and of Hong Kong Resort Company Ltd and City Management.

Parents make up the bulk of the race committee, and Harvey himself is also determinedly hands on. The global managing partner of Harvey Law Group doesn’t look like a speed freak or a mechanic but appearances can, as they say, be deceiving. “I like to build things,” he says. “Come race day I’m the pit stop. I’m the repairman. That’s what I do all day long. I sit there with my tools. I put on my hat and hide under the trees… with cuts all over my hands.”

So here’s hoping for a strong turnout next month (registration is open at www.hlgkar trace.com). As Harvey concludes, “The most satisfying part is to hear from parents after the event. We had a parent write to us about how his daughter’s friends came over for two or three days to see her trophy. When you hear things like that, you know you did something right.”

Oct 2023 (1)
Tags: , ,

Add New Comment


× Thank you for your comment. Your feedback has been submitted to an administrator for approval.