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SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, winner of last year s San Jose Grand Prix, pulls into the pits during the Champ Car qualifying race on Saturday at the 2007 San Jose Grand Prix in San Jose. Harrison Fawcett, 5, of Burlingame, gets behind the wheel of a Lemans Kartin racing go-kart at their booth in the San Jose Convention Center during the race. ANDA CHU/Staff photos
SAN JOSE — The LeMans Karting Center booth at the San Jose Grand Prix has sentimental value for Jennifer Grossman — it's where she met her fiance.

Grossman was working at the LeMans booth during the inaugural Grand Prix and was given the task of accompanying driver Andy Chitman to get his picture taken with models next to a car.

While that may not be the most common place to find a mate, now, two years later, Grossman and Chitman are engaged, and both were volunteering with the LeMans Karting booth again Saturday.

LeMans, a Fremont indoor go-kart racetrack, was one of many racing-oriented businesses taking advantage of the San Jose Grand Prix Champ Car race this weekend. LeMans sponsors Chitman and Grossman as drivers, and the pair worked with LeMans employees and volunteers the track enlisted to pass out fliers, give away T-shirts and talk about go-kart racing.

"The reason why we're here is this is all about racing," LeMans owner Rick Gaan said. "We like to convert spectators toness.

"A lot of people aren't aware a race track is within 15 minutes from where they live," said Gaan.

Grossman said she started racing go-carts three years ago through a corporate event. After the first race, she was hooked.

Now, Grossman races go-carts and her Honda S2000 with the Sports Car Club of America. While she hasn't raced in anything as fast as a Champ Car, she and other LeMans drivers said racing Champ Cars is surprisingly similar to racing go-carts.


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"It's pretty close — it's all the same fundamentals," said David Bixler, who works and races at LeMans. "The only thing that's different is the speed and size. You still have competition, and that's the biggest thing."

Go-carts at LeMans can reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour, considerably slower than the Champ Cars whizzing through downtown San Jose streets this weekend. Still, all the LeMans drivers said they'd jump at the chance to hop into a Champ Car.

"I think just being in it, feeling all that horse power, it'd be amazing," Bixler said.

Chitman hasn't driven a Champ Car, but he did drive the San Jose Grand Prix track during the inaugural race. He races part-time with the United States Touring Car Championship, which isn't at the Grand Prix this year but held a race in 2005.

"It was really just so much fun," Chitman said. "To be able to hit 120 miles per hour on Almaden with San Jose police cheering me on, it was great."

On Saturday, Chitman wasn't racing, but he was talking to spectators about the two go-carts that LeMans had at its booth in the San Jose Convention Center.

Kierstin Gee was also working with LeMans at Saturday's race, passing out fliers along the track. The 16-year-old doesn't have a driver's license, but she's one of the fastest drivers at LeMans, said Gaan.

"It's really fun — I love everything about racing," Gee said.

Gee races go-carts competitively at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County, as well as at LeMans. Chitman said many of the professional racers start with go-carts as kids, where they hone their skills.

"It's sort of a matter of scale," Chitman said. "The basic race craft you learn right here (racing carts)."

Gee doesn't know if she'll become a professional driver, but on Saturday she enjoyed seeing what lies beyond go-carting.

"It's overwhelming, there's so many things going on," Gee said of the race festivities. "It's fun just walking around seeing cars zoom by."

The San Jose Grand Prix concludes today with the Atlantic series race at 11 a.m. and the Champ Car race at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are available for $45.