We joined the local kart club at Sandown Park, and I started competing in the arrive and drive Inkart club there, and before long I had won my first race. People we met there talked about joining the F6 South East championship, run by the late Roger Sheffield. I was living with my mum in a council house after my parents split and we did not have enough money for motorsport, however my dad managed to buy me my first kart when I was 12 and then we began the journey of dad and lad kart racing. Fast forward to 2007, I was the reigning Super One National champion. I still have the trophy sitting above me as I write this, with my name spelt wrong of course!
My favourite story of all time came at a very wet Buckmore Park. Super 1, the British championship and I am leading the points. I was having a terrible weekend. I just could not find pace which was a surprise to me, I couldn’t remember the last time I was so slow! I always knew that I would be mighty competitive in the rain and it used to always give me that belief that the weekend would be mine for the taking. Heat 3, it had not rained for a few hours. As I always joke my father’s great and only ability in a Kart meeting was to go and tell me what the weather was doing!
I send him on his way, however all I can hear over the paddock announcements was that I was late to the grid. I put two wets on, two dry tyres on whilst raging with anxiety and anger as my dad is nowhere to be seen. I put my cheap £130 helmet on, and run to the circuit. I look at one piece of tarmac and its dry. I opted to go for slicks. I then push the kart up the hill, the race director going nuts as they state, two minutes until the grid closes! Nothing more gets the heart racing, my engine is stone cold and I am raging, absolutely raging. I slam the kart onto the floor, fire up and I realise I am the only one on slicks. Oh ****!
This decision and this heat made the karting paper, double page spread “Vernon’s Slick Gamble” and it saved my weekend and ultimately was a decision that won me my second British Championship. I was the only driver to use dry tyres the whole weekend and I won the heat by a mile. I knew I had nailed it, but as that joy of winning the heat and knowing I had put myself back into contention to win the final I jump out, accept all of the congratulations, feeling like a hero and I think to myself, where the **** is Keith! Yes, when I say Keith that means he’s in deep trouble. At the end of the race this is normally the part where the dads or mechanics bring the trolley over from the grid, head back to our awning that has probably fallen down again and get ready for the final. But he is nowhere to be seen… STILL. I walk out of Parc Ferme to get the trolley, and there he is his, smashing a cup of tea chatting up the bird at the burger van! I went onto win the final after realising the batch of wets we had were shite and put some older ones on, much better thank you very much!
Stories like this, whilst the most stressful moments of my life are part of that intense mode of competition and achievement is what motorsport and especially karting is all about. Today times are different, but still to this day I know without that karting background, I would not have had enjoyed the amount of success in motorsport. Today I enjoy life now as an industry professional as a coach and mentor for race drivers, a job that I am very proud of.
Karting offers not only a platform to begin in the grass roots of motorsport, but to also build and develop as an individual. When people ask me what my favourite category to race in was, I could say Porsche Carrera cup, I could say Formula cars, but it was undoubtedly Karting so my advice is do not avoid it! As I look back this story at Buckmore Park in 2007 was one of those special days.