Saturday, December 9, 2023

Drivers, start your engines

Le Circuit go karting track in Quyon celebrates 50th anniversary.

Nestled between the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River, just West of Quyon, resides a community unlike any other in the Pontiac. Made up of auto racing junkies devoted to the art of going fast, those within this community flock from far and wide to share in the excitement of their common interest. Steadfast in their zeal for briskness and tempo, this community has embraced the go kart as their means of racing expression. For 50 years, Le Circuit go karting track has acted as the invaluable nexus of the Pontiac’s own go kart racing subculture.
Driving through the entrance gates of Le Circuit on a race day, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the sound. Bouncing off the tracks surrounding trees and buildings, the howling bellows of the go kart’s engines fill the air. This characteristic clatter beckons you inward as you catch your first glimpse of the racing pit.
Parked alongside each other, trailers filled with the necessities of a portable auto garage mark the drivers area. Here, in a sort of orderly chaos, drivers clad in their brightly coloured racing suits prepare for their upcoming bout. Torque wrenches click and crackle in anticipation whilst classic rock blares over portable shop radios. Drivers and their friends, families and loved-ones move about eagerly, hard at work making last minute kart adjustments.
With race time having arrived, drivers make their way to the start line. Donning their helmets and starting their engines, the mood is one of anticipation and excitement. With the wave of the green flag, the engines roar to life and the race is on. Dashing along the tracks straightaways and dipping amongst its tight corners, the drivers push their go karts to the limit.
Navigating with precision and fearlessness, they muscle for rank until the waving checkered flag signifies the race’s end. While the competitors are undoubtedly a zealous crowd – competitive and eager to win – hearty laughter and gracious congratulations are shared amongst racers at the finish line as their friends, families and loved-ones look on from the adjacent bleachers pridefully.
Co-owner of Le Circuit, Paul Lalonde, says that it is the community, in union with a love for racing and motorsports, that makes the track so special.
“We try to keep it fun, keep it light and for people to have a good time,” said Paul. “Some people get hot headed after a race, and it’s the nature of the sport because the adrenaline is pumpin’. But things get settled down quickly and in no time everyones laughing.”
Paul and his wife and co-owner, Catherine Lalonde have owned Le Circuit since 2008. Originally built in 1973, the track has had three different owners throughout the decades. Changing hands through racing enthusiasts, each owner has left their fingerprints on the track and iterated on what had existed before. Such is the case with Paul and Catherine. After purchasing the venue, the pair extended the track with long, fast straightaways. These additions, in combination with the tight and challenging corners that had already existed, make for a track that is unique and appropriate for all skill levels.
Longtime racing enthusiast and Le Circuit regular, Jamie Bolton, said that it is the interwoven community of racing enthusiasts and the quality of the track that has kept him coming back all these years.
“Karting is all about family atmosphere and the friends you make over a lifetime,” said Bolton. “When I started here, the track was probably half this size. Different owners have added to it over the years and Paul put on the big extension. Now I think it’s great for all skill levels. With the technicality of the older part of the track and the new part that’s more flowing and speed oriented, it’s a nice combination.”
Besides the extension of the track itself, the addition of rental go karts to Le Circuit was another modification put in place by Paul and Catherine. Prior to their ownership of the business, the track was exclusively used by racing aficionados who owned their own karts. Wanting to get more people into the sport and expand their revenue source, Paul and Catherine purchased a rental kart fleet. Now, regardless of prior experience or kart ownership, anyone can enjoy the thrill of careening hastily down Le Circuit’s asphalt track.
According to Paul, it is the affordability of go karting that draws people into the competitive side of the sport. For many, especially those with families, racing cars or motorcycles is unattainable as high costs make these racing denominations inaccessible.
“It’s expensive to get into,” said Paul. “People discover go karting and its fun wheel-to-wheel racing that’s competitive and affordable.”
Whatever the reason that draws racers to the sport of go karting, Paul explained that at the end of the day it is the shared passion for autosports that drives the community forward.
“We’re all here for the same passion,” said Paul. “What I love about it is that 99.999 per cent of people walk out of here with a smile. That’s the rewarding part.”