My sister was the one who got me into Formula One.
She had gotten a job selling merchandise at a grand prix that was near her university, and had gotten hooked on the pure noise that the older V8 or V10 engines made.
She was the one that got me watching the races, watching the end of Michael Schumacher’s reign, watching Takumi Sato bumbling around the track, and the amazing run of Jenson Button and the Brawn F1 team.
We went to my first F1 race, the one in Singapore, in 2013.
Together, we watched Sebastian Vettel lap the opposition with ease in the shadow of the Singapore Flyer.
But the thing is, our obsession with F1 and racing in general was limited to the races we followed, and we never really got to try anything close to racing for real.
So when I was offered the chance to go try out the KF1 Karting Circuit at EXPO, my first thought was to get her to come along.
My sister always says I drive like a grandmother, and I’ll admit it.
On the streets, or on roadtrips, I like to find a middle lane, a comfortable speed, and just sit there, letting anyone in a hurry overtake me.
She’s more assertive, she actually likes to drive, and while she’s a very safe driver, she’s not content to be as passive as I am.
I thought it would be a good chance for her to prove her point… or for me to spring a surprise.
A sleepy spot but not for much longer
It had been a while since I went to EXPO, and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it is now an interchange for the East-West and Downtown Lines.
The last time I went there was for a consumer technology show many years before the pandemic, and I must admit, it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me back then.
There wasn’t much by way of food or entertainment, and it had not occurred to me to think of EXPO as a destination in and of itself.
But on returning, it was nice to see that the venue had been kept well, even refreshed.
With Singapore coming out of the pandemic, EXPO’s buzz was back with the event space holding a diverse range of events.
From large international events such as Food & Hotel Asia recent return as a physical event in September; spanning six of EXPO’s halls and occupying 60,000 sqm, and attracting over 47,000 trade visitors.
PetExpo will follow this, being held from Nov. 25 -27, and the Singapore Food Expo after that from Dec. 8 to 11.
EXPO will be holding its Be@EXPO World Cup Screenings from Dec. 2 to 18.
It will also host one of the world’s largest Electronic Dance Music Festivals, Don’t Let Daddy Know, on New Year’s Eve.
I was surprised to learn that the EXPO does not just have facilities for large events – I was told that up to 80,000 people a day could be comfortably accommodated.
It also had space for much smaller events, such as company retreats, or even board meetings.
In addition to it being a flexible meeting space for eight to 80,000, it also has interesting food and beverage options, and even a Go-Kart track to boot.
EXPO’s parking space converted to Go-Kart track
The Go-Kart circuit, located at the furthest block of parking lots – converted from part of the abundant parking space – is run by KF1, who run Singapore’s largest karting circuit at Kranji.
The track was a tight 750m course with 16 tight turns, providing what was a very challenging and exciting course with barely any wasted space.
It’s also a really nice spot for a company event or a gathering with friends, as the ready area has a really nice rooftop space that overlooks the track.
This means that while your friends slog it out on the race track, you can watch all the action.
After a quick safety video that clearly and carefully laid out the procedure for using the karts and how to safely use the pit lane, a few friendly staff gave us hair nets and helmets as we waited briefly for them to set up the karts.
My sister and I are both experienced drivers – albeit woefully inexperienced racers – so we got to race the larger karts that went up to 50 km/h.
They were surprisingly comfortable, with a solid harness to strap you safely into the kart.
For those without a driver's licence, there are also smaller karts that only go up to 30 km/h.
It was heartening to see that the entire course was surrounded by Tec-Pro barriers, which is the same type of barrier they use in F1 races to limit the impact of the crashes.
I took off on a practice lap, and within seven corners, tested the safety of the barriers as I underestimated the turn and smacked into the barrier.
Although unintentional, it was good to see that the barriers only moved a little bit, and between it and the kart bumper, I had nothing to show for the collision but some wounded pride.
There is almost no similarity between racing and driving.
Unlike driving, where I pay a lot more attention to safety, I found myself accelerating much faster when racing, braking far harder and also making more sudden, sharp turns.
This was no Sunday drive.
Before I knew it, I was right behind my sister, and realised that I finally had a chance to gain some bragging rights I would never have again.
Being right behind her meant that I could overtake her, but only if I figured out how to.
There is a brief moment after turn six on the far side of the track which provides the longest straight.
I quickly worked out that if I took the turn aggressively, I would be able to cut inside my sister’s kart and accelerate past her.
With my heart in my mouth, I hit the brakes, hauled on the steering wheel, and then felt the moment of lightness as I let the break go, before getting forced back as I lay on the accelerator and pushed past her.
She wasn’t going to live down being overtaken by “grandma”.
I was ecstatic, and she must have been in shock because she forgot to swat me for being so smug for the rest of the day.
Drinks and dinner
As we pulled into the pitlane, and made our way back to the ready room, we realised just how physical the experience was.
There’s no power steering, and the drive is far more visceral than any other drive I’ve had in recent memory.
We retreated past a happy group of riders from a corporate booking waiting for their turn on the karts at the nearby Timbre+ Eastside @EXPO.
A bright, colourful addition to the area, with a central children’s playground and a wide variety of outlets, selling everything from Mookata to “Korean pizza”.
There even was a fairly extensive collection of beers available.
One of my family’s bugbears as pet owners is the limited number of restaurants or places we can comfortably go with our pooch.
So what caught our eye was a wide concourse with a pet friendly gastrobar called TAG Restaurant and Bar.
Had we not already had dinner plans, we would have stayed on to listen to the live music, but we had to hurry off after grabbing a rather unique sugar cane juice made with green lemon.
A day well spent.
But best of all, my sister now has to concede that I’m a better racer.
And that’s a win I’ll take.
This sponsored article is brought to you by Singapore EXPO, where you will probably find the author again relishing in the wide, open spaces and adrenaline-filled races.
Top image via Mothership