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Berkeley man outlines plans for go-kart track

January 26, 2000

Mickey RitterBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. - If you have a need for speed but are not old enough to drive a car, Mickey Ritter has the perfect solution.

Ritter, who lives just shy of the Virginia border in Bunker Hill, plans to build a go-kart racetrack this spring off Tablers Station Road, about 2 1/2 miles south of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Ritter, who fell in love with go-kart racing as a teenager growing up in Virginia, said he sold his interest in the Winchester Kart and Speedway in Bunker Hill because he wanted to create his own facility.


He said go-kart racing is a great activity for children.

"It builds their confidence in life. It teaches them responsibility. It teaches them rules," he said.

"There's a lot of kids out there, they can't play football. They're not a baseball player. They're not a soccer player."

Not everyone is excited, however. Eula Walters, who lives near the 46 acres of farmland that Ritter and a partner purchased last Thursday, said she is concerned about the noise and traffic a go-kart track would generate.

Walters conceded vacant land in high-octane Berkeley County is unlikely to remain empty forever, but she does not want a high-impact commercial enterprise in her back yard.

"We certainly didn't envision something like this," she said.

The Berkeley County Commission plans to hear from concerned neighbors at tonight's meeting.

Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said he told Ritter that the Planning Commission probably would approve the project. But he warned that a lawsuit from neighbors is always a possibility.

Ritter said he has taken great pains to allay neighbors' concerns. A go-kart is quieter than a riding lawnmower, he said. He also said he plans to assume the bulk of the cost for improving a small dirt road that leads into the property.

"As long as we do everything by what Berkeley County wants, a lawsuit is far from my mind," he said.

The track, which Ritter estimates will cost between $300,000 and $400,000, is slated to open in April or May.

It will be a tri-oval, about 3/16 of a mile, making it slightly larger than the track in Bunker Hill. It will have an asphalt surface on the outside and a dirt surface on the inside, allowing for two different kinds of racing, Ritter said.

Ritter plans eight different divisions, for participants ranging from age 5 to adult. The appeal is the same as auto racing - speed. The top speed of a go-kart is up to 60 mph, Ritter said.

"Everything in go-karting is just about like NASCAR," he said.

Ritter said he plans to charge a $20 membership fee to belong to the track, which will be called Mountaineer Raceway.

It will cost $20 to enter a race and $8 to $10 for a pass to the pit area.

"For $28, you can come down and have a blast for five or six hours, which is pretty cheap when you think about some of the other things you can be doing," he said.

Ritter, 40, said he was 13 when began racing go-karts. A friend owned a go-kart, and it was not long before he and a few other boys were hooked.

"It was three or four of us and we went out and bought a car. Just one car," he said. "All four of us worked on it all the time.

"When (other) kids were hanging around on Friday and Saturday nights, we were playing with go-karts."

His interest grew from there. For eight years, he was a factory test driver for Margay Racing Products, touring the country racing the St. Louis company's prototype go-karts. Ritter said he has built go-karts for the last six years.

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