Alex Tagliani remembers this was the saddest time of the year when he was a youngster.
“My father was involved in karting and I started karting as a kid and when October and November came along, I knew that it was time to put my kart away for the winter,” Tagliani said over the phone Wednesday from his home north of Montreal.
Tagliani, who used go-karting as the springboard to a racing career that included being named rookie of the year at the 2009 Indianapolis 500, is involved in a project that will offer youngsters — and professional kart drivers — an opportunity to pursue their passion year-round.
The veteran driver has joined real-estate developer Groupe Mach in the construction of an indoor karting track as the centrepiece of a 65,000-square-foot family entertainment centre. The $18-million project is part of a major renovation of the Plaza Ste-Thérèse mall.
“This is a dream I’ve had for a long time and I have friends like Vince Chiara, the head of Groupe Mach, who have helped me realize that dream,” said Tagliani, who hopes to open the doors for a soft launch in April.
Most of the material for the three-level track was engineered and manufactured in Europe and is arriving in Montreal.
“This is a unique project and we had to go through immigration (officials) to get people with the expertise to oversee that part of project,” said Tagliani. “The exterior of the building is done. We created a dream team with people who have experience in restaurants, construction, business and technology.”
The facility will feature E-drenaline electric karts, manufactured by CRG. Tagliani has a long association with the Italian company whose products launched the careers of Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg. CRG has worked with Linde, a manufacturer of forklifts and other industrial equipment, to help make a more stable kart, especially when cornering.
“One problem electric karts have had in the past has been the drain on the battery and the loss of power, but our batteries deliver the same performance at one per cent of battery life as they do fully charged,” said Tagliani.
The karts are geared to give a variety of experiences from novice to professional. Tagliani noted that a professional set-up will allow a driver to go from 0-to-100 km/h in four seconds.
The karts are equipped with sensors to detect bumps and software that will cause a kart to decelerate if it is coming up on a disabled kart.
Tagliani also noted the centre will respect all COVID-19 protocols.
“Everything is brand-new, so it’s not like we have to retrofit the facility,” said Tagliani. “We have equipment to sterilize the helmets and every driver will get new gloves and a balaclava. We want to this to be a safe experience.”
The go-kart track will be one of many attractions at the complex. There will be a restaurant on the mezzanine offering a view of the track. Other diversions include a bar, six bowling lanes, laser tag, axe-throwing and an interactive movie theatre.
Tagliani is still actively involved in auto racing.
His TAG Motorsports company runs a karting team and one of Tagliani’s protégés, eight-year-old Ilie Tristan Crisan of Valleyfield, won five of six races in the Coupe de Montréal cadet series this year to earn a trip to the world championships for drivers age 8 to 11 next year in Portugal.
The 47-year-old Tagliani will also be behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Camaro competing in the Pinty’s NASCAR Canada series.
Racing Point say Lance Stroll needs 'a bit of a hug'
Andretti investing in search for next Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton wins at Imola as Mercedes clinch F1 constructors' title