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Once companies used to take their employees to Match of the Day. now they put them behind the wheel of a racing car. Sporting activities with a competitive edge are becoming a popular choice for the office outing. Games like Skirmish. in which teams are pitted against each other in fake war. armed with guns and paint bullets. are being overrun by executive types. Although these war games can be excitingand may : improve on team spirit. they also j I
have a distastefully aggressive edge. Indoor racing. the latest activity aimed at work outings and social groups. is a sport with a wider appeaL
Scotkart. the first indoor racing circuit based in Scotland. was opened last April. Set up in a disused I warehouse on the outskirts of Glasgow. the project has cost . £500.000. Brothers Stewart and Duncan Matthew were keen that it , should be as close to Grand Prix racing as possible. whilst remaining safe. Modelled on similar centres set up in England. they have come up with a 300m track complete with hairpin bends and short straights. The racing karts are based on Stratos race chassis scaled down with 150cc motors. Getting a little carried away. Stewart enthuses about his finely honed machines. ‘The chassis can go at 120mph, though the engine can only go at 4(lmph.‘ Still. the sensation ofgoing anywhere near 40mph just one inch from the ground in a confined space, is quite enough to feel like the real thing.
Scotkart'is a group activity. The idea is that you hire out the place for a morning. afternoon or evening while the Matthews set up the entertainment. The session is carefully structured to include safety talk, practice heats. semi-finals and final, with trophies and bubbly for
Women make tracks on the Scotkart circuit
like an indoor Brands Hatch. only this time it is you behind the wheel. Well that‘s the idea anyway. perhaps exaggerated. but almost guaranteed to fuel the competititive spirit. According to Stewart. the sport reaches across age and sex barriers. On first glance it appeals to the young. self-confident male. though when it comes to winning. females often take the trophy. ‘We tend to find that young men come along who think they know it all. so they don't
the winners. Every driver. kitted out with boiler suit. gloves and helmet. is j entered into several heats. Track assistants in black boiler suits operate an authentic flagging system complete with intercom and chequered ﬂag.
Once the circuit has been completed a couple of times. the air is permeated with the smell of burning rubber. Coupled with the high-pitched roar of the racing machines. the place begins to feel
take the recommended line on the track. Women. on the other hand. tend to listen to our advice. so they don‘t loose speed.‘ says Stewart. "The other interesting thing is the anonymity of the clothes. I‘ve seen men shocked when the person who has just beaten them takes offtheir helmet and turns out to be a woman.‘
The act of speeding around such a small track can get monotonous. It is the social element that will either make or break. That is why the sport has gone down so well as a substitute for office parties. Some employers might also be attracted to the activity as a means of building up confidence and competitiveness. though on the whole companies devise their own streamlined methods oftraining.
Scottish Widows. for instance. run particularly complex and carefully planned Outward Bound courses. Employees are taken to an alien outdoor environment. somewhere near Loch Eil. They are then asked to carry out certain tasks. usually as a team under an appointed leader. A typical exercise might involve getting across the loch on a home-built raft. Every activity is followed up with an important de-briefing session. in which individuals and groups are assessed. ‘If someone is constantly holding people up in a work situation. they may just be tolerated. but on the course they will be told outright that they are poor in certain areas.’ explains a spokesperson from Scottish Widows. ‘We are interested in things like communication skills and time keeping. One thing we've learned is that it‘s always important to have a representative from Scottish Widows around. so that the points raised in discussion can always be brought back to the workplace.‘ Because the activities are specifically designed to highlight potential problem areas at work. Skirmish and Scotkart are too general for such training sessions. however they would be considered a worthwile social event.
Whether Scotkart. Skirmish or survival is the game. participatory activities are a surer way to forge relationships with workmates. Whether you want to get to know your workmates better is another question all together.
Scorkart, Westburn Circuit,
86 Westburn Road, Cambuslang, Glasgow, 041641 0222. Seven days per week: prior booking essential. J
The List l4—27June 199179