If you have about Rs 1.5 lakh to spend and you love cars, you could spend that money to get yourself a really high-end in-car audio setup, a coil-over suspension kit or some really cool aftermarket wheels and tyres. Alternatively, there are two other ways you can get your kicks on four (albeit much smaller) wheels.
The RC car and the go-kart both cost around Rs 1.5 lakh each.
The hobby world is a great place for an automotive enthusiast. Apart from the regular stuff one could indulge in on a more affordable level – like hot wheels, more detailed model cars, slot racers and, of course, radio-controlled cars – things do tend to get pretty serious – and faster – as you go up the price range. Take these two you see here, for example. If you were to get a serious hobby ‘toy’ for about Rs 1.5 lakh, you could have one of the two ‘cars’ you see here. We have a high-end, nitro-powered RC car; or a race-ready, four-stroke go-kart. So which one should you choose? Let’s start, as we usually do, with the specs.
The Honda GX200 engine makes about 5.5hp.
Made by a company called KnK karts, the go-kart you see here packs in a 200cc, single-cylinder ‘GX200’ engine made by Honda. Unlike the two-stroke racing karts that we see around the world, this one is a four-stroke and makes about 5.5hp, mated to a CVT gearbox and is, of course, a rear-wheel drive. The kart runs on a simple tube-frame chassis with the throttle pedal on the right, brakes on the left and a steering wheel to control the front wheels. The kart weighs-in at about 110kg without the driver, and can hit a theoretical top speed of about 80kph if it gets a long enough road to do it on. It also comes with two seat options – one for people with a racing driver frame and one for the well-fed; and that’s about it. It is the most bare bones basic ‘race car’ you can get your hands on.
The RC’s OS Speed Spec2 engine makes 4.5hp.
Enter the RC car. While it is smaller than the kart, let me assure you that it is far more complex. Now while you can buy an RC car off the shelf, the one you see here is one of the best in the country and has been assembled using some of the best parts you can get anywhere in the world. For example, under the plastic bodyshell is Kyosho’s MP9 Inferno chassis that includes all the suspension bits, the differential, transmission and the all-wheel-drive setup. The engine comes from OS Speed and is called the Spec 2 – and here are the absolutely bonkers specs. The engine is a 3.5cc motor that revs all the way to 50,000rpm making about 4.5hp; and it weighs just 3.5 kg! Just like with a real race car, where you can adjust every single little thing in the suspension and electronics, this one also has adjustments for damping, ride-height and even the wheel camber angle. So how fast is it? Well, 0-60kph in well under 3sec depending on the tyres and road/track surface, while top speed is well over 120kph!
In the hands of professionals, both of these can do absolute wonders, but we needed a common playground where I could see which one was more fun; so we headed to our local go-kart track, Ajmera i-Land Racing, to see which one of these two put the biggest smile on my face.
Larger karters might need bigger seats to fit.
First up, the go-kart. Now the thing to remember about go-karts, especially if you are (like your scribe) a larger person, is that if you do end up buying one, you need to fit in it. Even though KnK makes two seat sizes, even the larger XL-sized one was slightly too small for me to sit in comfortably to put in some fast lap times; and if you can’t sit properly in a go-kart, you will end up feeling tired a lot sooner. That said, once you do get in, it is endless amounts of fun. Considering the fact that we are bang in the middle of the monsoons, the kart was even more fun on a wet track with the rear end stepping out at the slightest provocation. When the track did dry up, the challenge against the clock was to put down some fast times. Getting those braking points just right, ensuring you don’t put the car in a slide and getting as close as possible to the barriers on the apex is a thrill that is difficult to replicate. Of course, we did put a pro-racing driver into the kart after I had put down a good time and needless to say, he was a good 3sec faster, per lap! And on a circuit under a kilometre long, that is a huge difference. I blame my extra weight.
The RC car runs on nitro fuel.
Luckily though, weight isn’t a factor when it comes to having a blast around the track with the RC car. Once it does get going and the engine is adjusted for idle, the nitro-powered RC car is quite the sight, and it makes quite a racket, too! The trigger-based throttle on the pistol-grip controller is quite simple – pull to accelerate, push to brake. Then turn the wheel left or right, depending on the direction you want to move the car in – and boy, is it sensitive! If you have ever driven an older car with early fuel-injection or a carburettor, you would remember that instant throttle response with no delays, whatsoever. That’s exactly how quick the RC car is to respond. Now it does take some time to get used to that sensitivity. Get it right, and the car screams in the direction it is pointed, squatting at the rear, its all-wheel drive setup putting down power, even on a damp track. Getting it around a corner – especially around a tight track like this – can be slightly difficult and it did end up toppling over a few times; with literally no damage at all. In fact, these little cars are extremely tough.
Both these cars are clearly fun and have their very own unique appeal. Now, while the exercise is completely unnecessary, we did have the track to ourselves for a few hours, so we had to find out which one was better. We put the pro-driver, Saurav Bandyopadhyay (who currently races in the Volkswagen Ameo Cup) in the go-kart and Ajmal Khan (one of the best RC racers in the country) behind the controls of his RC car, which you see here – and off they went.
Sideways into a corner, albeit very differently.
In a straight line, there really is no contest, the RC car leaves the kart behind in a plume of nitro-powered smoke; but in the corners, the stability of the kart, with its wider footprint, really shows a different picture. The back and forth on the turns, where the RC car has to slow down to get it right, was like seeing a classic dogfight – straightline speed versus handling prowess. In the end, even though the RC car did manage to overtake the kart right before the finish line, I’d say it is a pretty even match.
So which one would I choose? Well, the RC car is a more usable hobby indulgence. You can drive it on the road, on an open ground and even in your house. The kart, on the other hand, is not only impossible to drive around on the road but you also have to find a place to store and transport it (not to mention regular maintenance), making it a more arduous task overall. But in the end, for me, remotely controlling a car isn’t really how I’d like my petrol thrills versus actually sitting in one. For me, then, it would be the go-kart. Just as soon as I can drop enough weight to fit in one comfortably.