We were a racing family, my Dad raced hovercraft and my Mum a nurse, who had recently started working at Silverstone, we only lived a few miles from the circuit, I could see the Stowe grandstands from my bedroom window and my Birthday was often the same weekend as the British GP. So with all the Helicopters and red arrows flying over the house to celebrate my birthday, together with the incredible noise from the proper motors back then it was only a matter of time before I worked out they weren’t for my birthday after all, but something much bigger, that would ultimately become my work.
After a year or so of the Silverstone kids karting club “whizz kidz” we started racing clubbies at Kimbolton in Jnr TKM, had to wait a bit longer than I wanted as I was a tall kid, towering over the cadets and my dad didn’t want to buy a cadet setup only to have to switch months later. It was all for fun to start with, we didn’t even have wets for majority of the first year we couldn’t afford them, which was turns out a big part of my learning curve which helps me to this day!
My first chassis was a 1994 Wright 02P we bought it well used from Oli Brown a multiple Kimbolton club champ, it was what it was, all for fun right? We stuck with that chassis for the first year and were having a good time, encouraged by the odd good result normally if it rained during the race but after we got a set of wets the odd win too.
Shenington became my local club after that first year and as we met more people had a few better results we started looking for better kit, we tried a Daytona – which was awful but then a Venom Ultima which Paul Carr gave us, it was an effort to tempt us to run with him in S1, it was great chassis and straight away we were constant front runners at club level in all conditions. Looking back now we should have run with PC, his “deal” was pretty bloody good knowing what I do now but at the time we couldn’t afford it.
We kept the relationship with Paul and used his motors and chassis until we switched classes to the new and very exciting Jnr Rotax Max. We entered Stars of Tomorrow which for first half of the year was alright we ran well, won a race or two but then it all started falling apart, the championship was meant to be 8 rounds with a race at Brooklands but after a test down there and subsequent cancelation of the round no further rounds took place, it all got a bit messy which was a shame.
Now things were getting serious we realised we could do alright on our own but needed that last bit, so we bit the bullet and ran with a team for Snr Max at S1, we went back to Wright karts and ran with Simon and SWRD but the year was a cluster, the grids were huge with D finals at most rounds, it was basically bumper karts never had so much crash damage before or since! We decided we’d abandon the Rotax crash fest and after a few tests in 100cc stuff again we’d do ICA.
AMAZING what machines they were, it was probably the peak of era, the racing was top class the karts were amazing to drive and the circuits over in Europe were divine. We dipped a tow in the water at the Super Libre winter series rounds at Shenington, where in the cold and wet we ran well which encouraged us for the year to come.
We entered S1 still with SWRD whose engines in ICA were really strong I had Gary Moynihan as my mechanic a legend of the sport and a spent alot of time in Europe racing too.
My team mate in S1 was Jason Gardner multi British champion top guy and seriously quick, we pushed each other all year and I think if I hadn’t slightly OD’ on Ibruprofen at the Clay pigeon round, after of course the place destroyed my ribs, and I ended up driving flat out through the wall at the hairpin after the chicane therefore missing both finals I’d have beaten him in the championship which was decent turn out.
At the same time we entered the European championship at Salbris in France, that was a big step up it really was F1 but with karts we’d done some races on the continent but this was something else. We took 20 engines to test a few weeks before, narrowed it down to 6 which then in pre race testing we narrowed to 3. It was a weeklong event, sponsored by Bridgestone, testing started on the Tuesday and everytime the kart hit the floor it had fresh tyres, I remember Bridgestone had 6 artics full the roof of kart tyres, amazing!
It was probably the most physically demanding racing I’ve ever done, the circuits in Europe are big, fast and the tyres unbelievably sticky, rolling laps were flat out or you’d bog down, karts were covered in WD40 underneath to stop rubber building up and in parc ferme there’d be abandoned boots stuck to the floor or entire wheels welded to the tarmac, add in too it was 47c this weekend and the races 30mins long, much longer than in the UK, it was tough.
We had a little pit box with fans in and we came back from one session to find Paul Carr with both fans basically on him as close as he could get them, sweating like no tomorrow with a choc-ice, Paul was a big guy then, he was suffering. Most the Brits ended up with heat stroke.
We came away from that meeting having qualified for the world ICA cup which was cool as a single kart team we’d done OK like 25th or something but we realised to break that last bit A) it was going to cost ALOT more and B) being 6ft 2” it didn’t matter how much money we threw at it, it wasn’t going to happen, James Calado drafted past me as if I was barn door on the back straight. With that we decided this was my last year karting and we’d move to cars.
The year finished off and my last big kart race was the race of champions at Buckmore park an Ica round there really focussed the mind, I think I was 6th.
That was it I didn’t step in a proper kart for about 4 years after that, when I look back I now realise those were actually the best years of racing I did, and If I could go back, I’d certainly do things differently, like stay in TKM with PC, ignore the Rotax fad, it wasn’t cheaper fairer racing, and moved to the 100cc classes sooner, had 4 years of that rather than 2 and abit, but hindsight is always 20/20 and pressures on my poor Dad at the time meant we choose the route we did.
Of course I enjoyed it, I did some really cool things, raced some cool names and writing this made realise again how good karting is. Since stepping away from karting, in recent years I’ve gone back to racing at Shenington in TKM and theres alot of former karters who went car racing now back in a kart, the racing is good, its cheap and nothing , nothing beats a 100cc kart!
I’m now a professional driver and coach, working with Juniors and Gentleman drivers in a huge verity of cars along with filming for Top gear, The Grand tour and various films and adverts, so it didn’t work out badly.
As a last note to any yougnsters reading this, don’t wish your karting away to get to cars asap, take your time, learn the ropes, how to race, then hit car racing far better prepared, it’ll be worth it I promise.