MECHANIC FALLS — High-octane excitement on very little wheels. Wolf Run Raceway, a go-kart course on Route 121, has just opened for its first full season. The new track — it was purchased and moved from Houlton in July of last year — is a fifth-mile of straightaways and tight curves, offering racers the exhilarating experience of the Grand Prix, albeit on a smaller scale.

Last week, I traveled to Wolf Run Raceway to try my hand at formula, er, point-five racing. After meeting the owners, Colleen and Chuck Starbird and Bill Mason, I was led to the track, where I picked out my ride, a sleek, green stallion with a pull start. I was racing against Mason, his son, and three other staff members, all experienced drivers. We drove a pace lap, during which the side-by-side pairs of drivers chatted and then, as soon as the green flag waved, the competition began.

For six harrowing laps I jostled with my fellow drivers. As we all began the second real lap, the two front karts collided, spinning out to opposite sides of the narrow track. Seeing our opportunity, the rest of us swerved past as the crashed drivers frantically tried to get back in the race. The competition intensified, and I became more comfortable, and aggressive, as I sought the lead position. Unfortunately for me, my competitors were just as aggressive and much more comfortable. What followed were four laps of nudging, bumping, yelling and, sadly, very little passing. I learned to speed through the straightaways and hug the corners. With every lap, I felt a little less like Max Mogensen and little more like Jeff Gordon.

Nonetheless, when we hit the checkered flag, my position was unchanged. “That got a little intense there,” I said to Mason as we got out of our karts, parked again in an orderly line at the start position. “Oh that’s nothing,” he replied.

The owners are optimistic about this year’s racing season. “We get a lot of people (who also attend Oxford Plains Speedway) who race here,” said Colleen.

“We have our Friday night crew,” a group of racing enthusiasts from Oxford, Minot and Mechanic Falls. “They come down here 25 strong,” she said.

The racing can get very intense, sometimes even leading to arguments among the competitors, although after the racing ends everyone seems to be friends again, the owners said.

I asked if certain karts were faster or more responsive than others. “It’s not that they’re necessarily better,” said Colleen. “A lot of it is knowing the track. . . . When we do our Friday night races, people will say, ‘Aw, my car is slow.’ And then the next guy gets in it and wins.”

Though single riders are welcome, “it’s a lot more fun to ride with a group of people and do a race,” said Colleen. Races of six people or fewer end with the staff giving out a first-place trophy, while races of more than six have first-, second- and third-place recognitions. Unfortunately, as in my case, “there’s no fourth place,” Colleen noted.

This will be Wolf Run Raceway’s first full season, as they did not open until September of last year.

“The weather has really been against us” so far this year, said Colleen. However, the owners anticipate that with school ending for the summer, business will quickly pick up. At the tail end of last summer, the raceway was hopping. “We were doing 16-, 17-hour days,” said Colleen.

The staff is also in the process of creating a Frisbee-golf course, which they anticipate will be open by mid-July.

Wolf Run Raceway is open to single riders and groups, and hosts racing leagues composed of five-member teams that race weekly or bi-weekly. The course is open Monday through Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 10 p.m. It is located at 32 Lewiston St. (Route 121). For information on leagues, pricing and to make group reservations, visit their website at http://www.wolfrunraceway.com.

Rates: (Posted on the Wolf Run Raceway website)

15 laps for $15

25-lap race for $22

50-lap race for $35

75-lap race for $45


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