Taking the track by storm
AMHERST - Tearing up the track would be the best way to describe Alex VanSnick's second year on the kart racing circuit.
Last weekend, he picked up his fifth race with a close, bumper to bumper win over another Amherst native, Ryan Mackintosh.
The win gives VanSnick five wins in five starts and there's no telling when, or if, his streak will end.
What's his secret?
"You have to drive smooth," the 12-year-old said.
"You also need to practice and you need to have a good mechanic," the young Vansnick said with a laugh as his mechanic, and father, Rick VanSnick looks on.
Now in his second year of racing, VanSnick drives on two circuits, the CKRA (Championship Kart Racing Association) and the AKRS (Atlantic Kart Racing Series).
With his 5.5-horsepower Honda engine generating speeds up to 70 km/h, VanSnick has won three CKRA races and two AKRS races.
The winning streak is just the icing on the cake. What matters most is working and playing together as a family.
Father and son like working on the engine together.
"It's a great family sport," Rick says. "It's fairly inexpensive and it's safer compared to motocross. You don't get the broken bones."
The machine VanSnick is driving was bought second-hand two years ago. The kart was about four-years-old when he bought it.
"You can buy a good second hand kart for about $1,000," Rick said.
And thanks to the friendly competition attitude you don't have to be mechanically inclined to participate in the sport."
"It's a very friendly atmosphere," Rick added. "You don't need to be a mechanic to participate in kart racing. Everyone helps each other in the setup of the kart."
All the drivers run on the same Honda engine, plus VanSnick's novice division uses a restrictor plate that kicks in at about 70 km/h.
"It makes it a level playing field for everybody," Rick said. "That way the race has more to do with driving skills and how the car is set up."
Major modifications to the engine are against the rule, which also helps to keep the cost of racing down.
Next year VanSnick will step up to the junior division and will be driving without the restrictor plate. It will allow him to achieve speeds closer to 90 kilometres an hour.
Whether it's the novice class or the junior class, one thing is for sure; VanSnick will do everything he can to satisfy his need for speed.
"My favourite parts about driving is the feeling of passing someone and finishing first and seeing the checkered flag."
If the past is the sign of things to come, VanSnick has a lot of checkered flags in his future.