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European Champion George Russell moves on for 2013

Photo 09-01-2013 15 25 05

Written By Mike Hayden

After an outstanding 2012 season of kart racing, the UK served up a solid bunch of kart racers, showing the potential talent needed to move further up the kart and car racing ladder, as the new champions for the future.

And now with two years of International championship winning experience to add to his CV, George Russell has emerged from KF3 as one of those potential future stars.

There can be little doubt about Russell’s achievements, both in Europe and in the UK in 2011 and 2012, especially when bearing in mind his age and experience. Although he only started karting in 2006, in less than two years he had won the Kartmasters GP, which in some eyes, particularly those who remember the one-day British championships, is almost as good as a British title.

“I started karting in 2006,” George said after Christmas, “and I raced WTP Cadet until 2008. In that same year I raced a few Comer Cadet races. In those years I finished 3rrd and 2nd (respectively) in the LGM Championship, and I won the Kartmasters Grand Prix in 2008. Then in 2009, we concentrated just on Comer Cadet, racing with Ultimate Motorsport in the four major championships. We managed to finish 2nd in the Super One, and to win the Kartmasters Grand Prix again, the O Plate Championship, and the British Championship.”

Such success earns quality recognition and in 2010 Russell moved into Minimax with one of the top teams in the UK, Strawberry Racing. “We won every championship we competed in, including the Rotax Cup, Kartmasters Grand Prix (for a third time), Formula Kart Stars, and the British Championships!”

Levelling the competition in the UK left the Russell clan with little option, but to move further afield for 2011 to see just how good he was, which meant looking towards other shores, and pitching the UK’s multiple junior champion up against the best in the world.

“2011 was my first year of international karting,” George said. “This was an incredible year for me and my team, winning both the European Championships, and the SKUSA Supernationals in Las Vegas. But we also had a lot of bad luck. We were in 3rd place on the last lap of the first round of the WSK, only my second ever KF3 race and my chain snapped on the very last lap with three corners to go. In the third round of WSK at La Conca, we were very strong, winning four of the five heats, and the prefinal by over four seconds, only for the engine not to start in the Final! But overall, a very good year.” George was probably unaware of the fact, but that failure was somewhat spookily reminiscent of what had happened to Anthony Davidson (and Terry Fullerton) in 1996, when a world title had been his for the taking.

“2012 was my second year of KF3 and I raced with Forza Racing. We managed to win the Winter, and the European Championship for the second year running, which was the first time a junior driver had ever won back to back European Championships. We also finished 4th in the WSK Euro Series, and 3rd in the WSK Masters Series, as well as 2nd in the British Championships even though we won just under half the amount of races.”

Unfortunately for George, he was referring to suffering from an exclusion in one round, but also when he was then knocked off by another driver, and he was only able to fight back for a 2nd placed finish, it wrecked any hope he held of winning another British title. Russell did admit, however, that it was very hard winning a championship at an International level, as one would really expect from the highest level of competition. He was prepared to acknowledge the skill of his rivals though and said that “Alex Palou, Dorian Boccolacci, and Callum Ilott were my major competition”, during the season long 2012 campaigns.

“Every team has helped me to succeed at different stages of my motorsport career, but for 2013 I will be moving up to KF and KZ1 as part of Birel Motorsport. I have fully enjoyed my time in 2012 as part of Forza Racing, but we all decided we move on for numerous reasons, so over Christmas, Jamie Croxford (Forza Racing team manager) has helped us to complete the deal with Birel Motorsport, as he has a good relationship with Ronni Sala (the boss of Birel).

“My goal for the future is to make it to car racing, and competing for such an outstanding team is a challenge that will help me reach the top also in KF class, not to mention the excellent technical support and visibility. My first experience with Birel chassis was extremely positive, I was comfortable from the start, especially with all the technical staff.”

Ronni Sala said “I kept a close eye on George throughout the last two seasons and I deem him one of the fastest and most experienced young drivers I have seen in action in KF classes. He has it all: the attitude of a winner and substantial technical skills.”

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Double TKM Champion Joe Porter interviewed

TKM Extreme Super One Champion 2011 & 2012 Chris Walker
TKM Extreme Super One Champion 2011 & 2012
Chris Walker


One name that regularly rose to the top of the time-sheets in 2012 was Joe Porter. It was always likely to be a difficult year for his opponents, but to be a champion does not mean it is necessarily going to be an easy process.

When asking the new TKM champ how he started in karting he had this to say shortly after Christmas. “I was due to start karting when I was eight years old,” he said, “when my dad took me and my brother to Whilton Mill with a Cadet kart and a 100 National of his, but before we had the chance to go out, his kart broke down and, whilst lifting it over the fence it collapsed and he broke his arm.”

Time slowly moved on for the Porter family until one day, four years later, Porter Snr “came home one day with Henry Surtees’ Cadet kart from Simon Wright, so I finally got my licence at the age of twelve and began racing. Unfortunately though I was too heavy for Cadets at this time, so six months later we bought Anton Frost’s Super One-winning Venom chassis and started in Junior TKM. I didn’t race much until 2005 when I started Super One; in my first year I missed out on a seeded number by one point, (then) the next year we finished in 9th place, and the year after we were 5th although this wasn’t a true indication of our performance. After having so much bad luck we should have been fighting for the championship.

“In 2008 we took a huge step up and did KF2 instead of staying in Junior TKM and more than likely winning the title. We ran ourselves but I was straight on the pace, the highlight of the year was qualifying 2nd to Michael Simpson at Rowrah but unfortunately ended up backwards going across the line in the Final which was the nature of the brutal 45-kart grid with the country’s best drivers. Even after the crashes and missing a round we ended up 15th which for our family team of me, mum and dad we were more than happy with.”

Bolstered by the knowledge they were good enough to challenge at the front, Porter once again set his sights on another season in the hard fought KF2 class for the following year.

“We did KF2 again with the aim of a top five in the series. The first round was at PFi and up until the Final everything had gone wrong, but then we ‘lit up’ and I was flying through the grid up to 5th place when my airbox overtook me going into the first hairpin! So that was the day over. Onto the second round at Shenington, we were late to the grid so I had to start from the back. I was coming through when I had a collision going into Cafe and barrel-rolled, which wrote me and the kart off. I raced the next day, but decided to stop racing that year except for the TKM Festival where I finished 3rd.”

Joe was back to full fitness for 2010, but the expense of racing in KF2 was too prohibitive, which meant he went back to his trusty BT82 and the Senior TKM class, but with a new chassis in the shape of Tonykart EVXX. It was a good move.

“We came out of the first round leading the championship and it stayed that way for most of the year. We won the TKM Festival in August, which was fantastic, and everything was going well until the fifth round when I was kicked out of the meeting. Consequently it ruined our championship chances,” which was a mild way to put it.

“In 2011 we came back for another crack to claim what should have been ours the previous year. Now on a Tal-Ko with Alan Turney we dominated the first round at PFi where we were fastest all weekend. I won both heats and both Finals, even after ending up in the barriers in the first Final and racing with a bent kart and axle; it was a very memorable day. We then got to the next round at Shenington, but struggled with power after doing so well at the first round. We weren’t allowed to rent the engines we were using, so it forced our hands and we had to move back on the Tonykart for Glan Y Gors, where we blew everyone away in Qualifying, setting pole position by 0.3s and dominating the rest of the meeting. We then won the TKM Festival for the second year in a row.”

By this stage in the season Porter was so quick and consistent he knew that “all I had to do was be consistent and the championship was mine. At the last round we were at my home track, Whilton Mill, and we were very fast, but unfortunately I seized in the same race as our main competition. In the fight to be number one he also crashed out. In the Finals it was a race to the front – we charged from 14th to 2nd with the fastest lap, and Josh (Waring) finished
8th so all I had to do in the second Final was finish 14th even if Josh won. We had strong pace and led the first half of the race and pulled the three behind me clear of the field, when I then found they wanted to make a race of it.”

Using a wise head though Joe “let them go and settled for 4th place, but the championship was ours, at the track I started my karting career on. It was an emotional day for me and my family after working so hard over the years, and after all the bad luck it had finally paid off.”

Moving into the new season last year as the reigning champion, Porter’s plans for
2012 were initially a little unclear, until a late deal with Benjy Russell from Intrepid UK became available which would allow the champion “to develop a TKM chassis and promote it. We didn’t have the best motors,” he said, “but we were up the front at every meeting.

We won a Final at Whilton Mill, and at the fifth round we switched back to Tonykart with Dave Litchfield, to once again have quick engines available to us.

“We won at Rowrah in the wet so it was a welcome return, then a 2nd place at Clay Pigeon put us in the driving seat for the title once more going into the last round at Shenington, which is my bogey circuit, so obviously the nerves were flowing. In practice we were 0.3s under the lap record, so it looked promising until I crashed in the last practice session, bending the kart. We were still on form in the heats, taking a
3rd and 1st, and all we had to do in the first Final was beat Josh Waring once again by one position and the championship was ours.”

Experience again counted, and still with that wise head on his shoulders, Porter drove a sensible race. “Just like Whilton the previous year I led the race and dragged the four behind me away from the pack, only to see Josh wasn’t one of them so I settled for 5th place and the championship. In the last final (of the series) we went out for fun and bagged a podium after a 10-kart scrap for 3rd place. It was brilliant doing the double (Super One championship), which only two other drivers have ever done.”

With two mainstream karting titles behind him, and it could certainly have been more, the Porter team re-assessed their position. And with hindsight it was a well calculated and intelligent move by Joe’s dad.
“In November my dad decided I should go and race a Formula Ford at the Walter Hayes Trophy, in the biggest Formula Ford race in the world,” even though he had never sat in a race car, apart from two slow laps the day before he earned his race licence two years earlier.

“We were jumping in at the deep end,” Joe explained with a touch of understatement. “On the Wednesday the day before testing began, we managed to find a car that we could use, not the best or most powerful, but still it was a car that was available.

“On Thursday morning I hopped into the car, and from the moment I left the pits I had the biggest grin on my face. Throughout testing we were turning heads as they couldn’t believe it was my first time in a race car. In Qualifying I finished 9th, which naturally I was disappointed with, but it impressed everyone else. Then in my first race I flew off the line and came round the first lap in 2nd place only for the race to be red flagged. On the restart I did the same again making it to 3rd on the first lap, before finishing 2nd. My family, friends and people in the paddock couldn’t believe it. I was overwhelmed. I then made it into the next race where I came from the back of the grid to qualify for the semi-finals. In the semi I was making my way through the pack, but unfortunately the race was cut short and I didn’t have time to make it into the final, but nevertheless I had a great time and did far better than expected.”

Generally speaking few drivers seem willing to discuss how much racing costs them, although the multiple TKM kart champion was prepared to be quite open and had this to say. “We ran as a family team for the majority of my karting career. The biggest reason was to keep costs down. For example in 2012 it cost us around £8,000 to win the British championship, and, having never had any financial help, we have to work for every penny we spend (mostly dad’s money!) So that means not much testing, unlike most others in the sport, which makes it quite difficult turning up to tracks having not been there for a year, but most of the time I get straight on the pace. I would have liked to have raced in Europe when I was younger, but the budget never allowed us to do so. We have always raced in Super One as it is the pinnacle of British karting and a great championship.”

Despite the speed shown in Formula Ford, Porter intends to stay with karting in 2013 and so this year he has decided to have a title bid in KGP, as well as staying with plans for more Formula Ford racing, depending on the financial situation. “Hopefully now, after my performance in my first race, we should be able to find some sponsorship. It would be great to take the pressure off me and my dad to find the money to go racing. I’ll never be able to thank my dad and mum enough for everything they have done for me.”

One final word, and up-and-coming karters might do well to listen and learn. “My only advice to anyone getting into the sport would be not to think you need to run with a big flash team to get anywhere. Just spend your money wisely on the right equipment and naturally you will progress.”

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The Wooder Brothers come to play!

Written By Olly Smith

PFI Club November 2010
It’s the last round of the BPKC Summer Championship and there are two new faces in this paddock, although I doubt they’ll go unrecognised.

They belong to David and Luke Wooder, two youngsters in the form of their lives, coming off the back of a terrific year in motorsport. I catch up with them as they spend their Saturday morning test running the karts for next season.

Also joining us at Buckmore Park on this cold December morning is Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford. She came down today to get a taste of the atmosphere at a Buckmore race day, after thoroughly enjoying her introduction to karting here a month ago at the Henry Surtees Event. It also gave her the chance to formally get to know some of the stars of the future.

“You must have no fear!” Tracey exclaimed as she shook hands with 13 year-old David Wooder, who was fresh off the racetrack, “that must be why it’s great being young.” Indeed it was for David, the older of the two brothers, who had been proving his talent up and down the country, more significantly this year when he became the Kartmasters GP Vice Champion in only his fifth year in racing. He was only eight years old when he began karting at his local tracks; Buckmore Park and Bayford Meadows. Encouraged by his father, Dave, David competed in the Super One National Championships in 2009, finishing 8th overall in a season they described as doing ‘with the initial intention of gaining some experience’. In the same year, David entered and won the F6 Honda Cadet Championship, with the aim of winning many more. He showed us this particular trophy, which was stacked alongside many others, ranging in all different shapes, sizes, colours and prestige. The number of trophies was astonishing, as David himself didn’t even know how many they’d brought along with them. I almost fainted when Dave Snr told me that this was ‘barely a handful’ of what they had back at home.

At the point I had begun trying not to imagine how pale my own trophy collection would look alongside this army, I discovered there was another contributor to the large amount of silverware standing tall in front of me. The trophies were standing tall that is. The contributor, in fact, was about half the size of the average award he’d won – and there’d been a lot of them. Quieter, more modest and more reserved than you could ever imagine, multiple Champion Luke Wooder only started racing two years ago and was immediately ‘thrown in at the deep end’ when his brother was already preparing for national racing. Despite wearing novice plates, he made a quick start to the season and would go on to take victory in his first race at Bayford Meadows and winning the Bayford Clubman Championship in the same year. He took 2011 by storm, ending his season in Super One in 3rd after a streak of bad luck cost him dearly on two occasions. He also won the MBKC (Manchester and Buxton) Gold Cup in that year too. Luke quietly pointed out this trophy, standing out amongst the rest, just as he had done to earn it.

“It’s the perfect breeding ground” stated Dave Snr as he watched his youngest son out on track, overtaking one kart after another, “People normally spend at least a year before they’re even midfield. For us, within the first three months, we were upfront.” It was clear from the start of practice that Luke was very good. He showed no signs of fighting with the kart as he steered his way through traffic and slippery conditions. “We’ve done some testing up at PF and we’re on the pace of the fastest. Maybe three or four tenths off in the wet, but in the dry we’re right up there. We’re just hoping he’s going to be on the pace come March, April, in time for the new season.” From what I saw today, I wouldn’t worry too much.

For both drivers, the day had gone well and been very productive in terms of setup and basically finding out more about the karts, especially for Luke, who would be entering Minimax next year and his first time in that age category. It also got them some wet running and practice on a track that they hadn’t visited in a while. Luke’s mechanic spoke about him, “We started OK, the changes we made between sessions made little or no difference, now we’re just a couple of tenths off since we made a change to the front end. We’re now mainly working on driver performance – hoping to pick up bits, like different driving styles, what and which drivers to look out for. The main change has been the way he drove. It’s still only been 10 days in the new kart! It’s very different, very fast compared to what he was driving last year, so it’s encouraging that he’s now as fast as anyone here.”

I learnt about the change to a new team after several years with Project One, “We are Dan Holland Racing, which is based in Northampton. David’s in his second year with us after a solid run last year. He came 6th in the Minimax S1 last year. He’s only going to get better. Luke is new to us; we’ve got somewhere to start. Being smaller means it’s harder to drive the kart, but the more time he gets in it and the more experience he gets with us, the better. In the dry, he’s extremely fast – straight on the pace, at PFi, of the lowest seeded guy. In the wet, he’ll only be a few tenths off but that’s something we’re already working on. The winter conditions are always tricky, although they do give us a good understanding of kart control. We take the setups from the last race to each track and hopefully find it easy to develop from there on, but Luke just really needs to do laps. The drivers have the best jobs!”

David had progressed much further than Luke and spoke to me about his preparation for next season, as he came off from the last of the day’s Junior Max practices. “We’re definitely getting better, quicker. All day, we’ve been changing it [the setup] and the best we’ve come is 0.2s off the pace. But that last time out, it’s the best it’s felt all day. So the improvements are good and I’m happy.” He did look good out there, I’ll admit, although I felt the terrifying animal painted onto the back of his helmet may have keeping his rivals distanced. His talent was apparent – he hadn’t won the summer 2010 Championship at Buckmore Park for no reason. In that year, he and his family had toured up and down the country, competing in all main events and testing where it was possible, eventually finishing runner-up in both the Super One series and in the O Plate.
According to his father, it was after these successes when they decided it was time to move David out of the Cadets and up to the next level, the Minimax. This was a big step for him, as David was ‘quite small in stature’ and the class catered mainly for 11-16 year olds. However, these minor disadvantages have not played out to his rivals. He’s been in the series for two seasons now and has finished 6th in the National Championships. One of his best achievements came more recently, when he earned 2nd place in the Kartmasters GP Championship.

Tracey Crouch had enjoyed herself just being a spectator today, but watching the practice stirred memories of her own racing adventures from past and recent times. “When I had a go, I absolutely loved it!” she recalled from her time in a hire kart a month ago at the Henry Surtees Event in October. Tracey also remembered a tale about confusion between her and some Formula One legends. “I drove an E-type Jaguar around Silverstone on an experience day a while ago and I told John [Surtees] about that when I met him. A few weeks later, a colleague of mine came up to me and asked me if I owned an E-type Jag! To which I said ‘no!’ It turned out that Stirling Moss had been talking to them and, like in a game of Chinese Whispers, the wrong information had got passed down!”

Luke also wanted to thank Gerard at Project One for all of his help since they’d started and said that he had been disappointed to leave the team, but was equally looking forward to what lay ahead for him in the future.

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The world’s biggest manufacturer: Gildas Merian of Sodi

Written By Graham Smith

Rotax. BRP Max Challenge Grand Finals 2011

Sodi is the largest kart manufacturer in the world, and have had great success in racing not least with British driver Henry Easthope’s 2012 victory in the CIK-FIA U18 World Championship.

President Gildas Mérian kindly made some time for us at the Rotax Max Challenge World Finals.

May I start by asking about your own CV, were you a racing driver?
I raced from 1979, only in national races in France in 100cc then I started Sodi kart in 1981. When I created Sodi kart I began by importing Dino kart, then created our own brand in 1988. Now it is a 50/50 split between rental and racing, there are more rental karts in terms of chassis but the total business of racing is higher because with racing you have the tyres, the engine and so approximately 50%.

When did the association with Rotax start?
We are a Rotax importer. We began with Rotax in 1988 with 100cc and we were a champion with the Rotax engine in 1993 at Laval in Formula A with David Terrien.

Are you able to say how much is the turnover of the company, or is it wholly a private company?
No, it is totally a private company, the results are not published.

And you have done well in the U18.
Yes, we won the World Championship this year and we were very pleased to win the race with an English driver. We are also very happy to win with a Max driver. It proves the level of the Rotax class is very high. Because in U18 the driver can race from any category, you have KF Junior driver, you have Max driver, and with the Max driver winning in front of the Junior driver, we are very pleased with that.

What are your best successes?
We have won two World Championships and been 2nd twice. We have also a lot of European championship success.

Did you make a special kart for the U18?
No, we used the standard Sodi Celesta, we have developed this model for Rotax, it is very good on the medium tyres that are used in Rotax racing. It is exactly the same kart as we are using at the Rotax Grand Finals and it is a new model for 2012. We developed this model especially for Rotax.

So you have a different model of kart for KF?
You can use this model (Celesta) in KF, but we also have the Sigma and the Futura. The Futura is a very special conception which allows adjustment of caster and camber angle independently. It is the same conception that we used in 1993 with David Terrien, it is very special.

What do you think of the KF philosophy? It has not quite worked out as the CIK probably hoped, has it?
I am not OK with the direction taken by the CIK. For me, the best thing the CIK has done in my view is the U18, it is the same philosophy as the Rotax, with limited expense. But they decide to stop! For me it was the best thing, the difference is in the chassis and the driver. All the drivers can race and the cost is limited, not a lot of expense. The difference is maybe in the chassis, and everybody can choose their chassis. And of course the driver. It is a good way.

So what went wrong with KF?
KF is just too expensive, if you want to race at a high level, if you don’t pay €15000 you have no chance, it is impossible, it is only reserved for the driver who has a lot of money and you cannot develop go-karting like that. The programme for the engine is more and more complicated. If you want to have a chance to win, if you buy an engine then perhaps you can be competitive one race, then a race later you must buy another engine because you have always evolution. Or if you want to be competitive you must go in a team and rent and it is very high price. It is too complicated for the national federations, too much money and no market behind it and not enough people to race in it. In the end it is only really for the international races. For me we must come back with a simple engine, and less possibility of evolution.

Do you think the chassis have become too heavy so they need more engine power?
It is not a question of power, just a more simple engine, more user-friendly. The chassis and front brakes are not the problem. It is only the engine.

Do you as a company make any other products then those related to karts?
No, we work only in the go-kart business.

How do you see the future of the 2-stroke engine, will electric take over?
We have an electric kart, you have seen it at Bercy with the Formula One drivers. We can have the same speed as the internal combustion engine, but for racing it is not possible to have a kart like this for everybody. I am not sure the market is ready for this, the problem is energy. You cannot drive a long time, or if you do, you must charge the battery for a long time. You need a lot of (electric) power, it can be an alternative but not in the near future. You really need a lot of advance (in the technology) before you can go racing electric but we work always in Sodi Kart in this direction.

What about four-stroke engines then?
Four-stroke engines are not a solution either. I think karting needs to stay with 2-strokes and remain simple.

Do you get involved in lobbying the EU on their development of legislation?
No, but we must work on the noise and pollution, we must find solutions to reduce emissions. I am not a specialist on engines to say what is the solution.

Do you have your own test track, or how do you develop the karts?
We develop a lot with Anthony Abbasse and we have a small 1000m track near the factory.

What do you think about the British drivers?
The level of the British drivers is very, very fast. The development of the Rotax in the UK is at a very high level. In many countries the Rotax is not nearly as such a high level. The engine is the same equipment for everyone.

The Sodi kart is not very much used in the UK at the moment, do you have any plans for a greater market penetration?
I hope the fact that we won the U18 with an English driver will help and the good will it brings. We also do well in the X30 Challenge. Also the U18 showed that we can win with a standard chassis, no special chassis for particular drivers or special spare parts. Our chassis that you can buy is very fast. We have not yet got a definite plan on what we need to do for the UK, we must sit down and decide how to explore the UK market.

Have you been to see our racing?
No, not myself but my team has been, I think I will go and watch the Super One Series next year.

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Interview with Rotax star Sean Babington

Written By Graham Smith

Rotax, Senior Max, Shenington, Sean Babington, Edgar's Hyundai, DHR, Rotax, Senior Max, Shenington, Sean Babington, DHR

Sean Babington has won both the Senior Max Super One and Euromax this year but it wasn’t always as easy as it looked.

The DHR driver told Graham Smith about 2012 and the story of his career so far.

Sean, you have had a fantastically successful year, but first let’s go back to your roots.
I was thinking about starting motocross but we lived two minutes from Buckmore Park and my Dad used to race 250 National and Superkarts on long circuit, then he went into Formula Ford for a while. He stopped racing when I started. I did six months testing in Honda Cadet when I was ten, then did a first year in F6, finishing 2nd. We went down the four-stroke route because we were in with that crowd, and did Super One in Junior TKM Four-stroke. It didn’t have the entries but I was 6th then won it, the GP three times, the O Plate and the Festival.

And what came next?
So we had to move on and my Dad and I went into Junior Max with no experience and struggled a bit, I had a few crashes. Then I had a test with Dan Holland, it went really well, I was fast, and got 3rd won Kartmasters and then we did the last Euromax round in Seniors at Genk. I adjusted to the front brakes really well, we finished 3rd in the Prefinal and won the Final racing against the likes of Ed Brand. So that led onto the Winter Cup where I got 2nd and that paid for some of the Euromax season. We had two crashes so I dropped to 6th, it should have been 3rd. And we had 2nd in the Super One in our first year of Seniors.

So that led onto this year (2012)?
It was just getting better and better. We did a lot of testing both with and without front
brakes and Steve Ogden was a massive help. We knew we were going to be strong, everyone was doing a fantastic job.

You have a reputation for getting away on the first lap, how come?
It’s my background in TKM, they used to use very hard slippery tyres for slicks and wets. Going into Rotax with stickier tyres, when they are cold it’s like the TKM tyre. Ben Cooper is the same, really good at the start.

So back to your winning year?
We won both Finals at GYG, Whilton was rained off, and that was a big confidence boost, and I qualified pole at Genk, was 2nd there in the Prefinal. It’s amazing close racing and I managed to win the second Final and led both championships. I won again at Rowrah and a few more wins. But at Three Sisters I had a coming together in a heat and fell back, started 5th then got a puncture. So we started the second Final from last but still came up to 4th. Then Charlie (Eastwood) made the switch to Strawberry and they are very consistent and the others were helping him. But it rained at PFi, I won the first race and pulled away in the rain. At the last round because Charlie had a crash I won at the beginning of the day, just great.

And the Euromax?
We had a throttle cable snap [at the first round], then it was sticking and I dropped to 17th. When we went up to Sweden we had more problems in Qualifying and I started dead last but luckily it rained and I won the first heat, had solid results and got grid 3. In the Prefinal I got into the lead with a gap and then it rained for the second Final and I won by 10s, so everything was perfect. And in the next round I was 3rd but ahead of my rivals. The last round was at Salbris, I had three heat wins and I won the first Final and just had to be behind Harrison Scott, but I got a gap again, and won the series.

But Kartmasters didn’t go to plan, did it?
No, that was a low point. I showed excellent pace, I think the others thought I would get a gap, and I got pushed wide over the bridge so I was coming down the first hairpin. Jack Barlow squeezed me and we touched and it bent the axle. No win there.

Certain quarters have been starting rumours about your speed, how does it affect you?
It doesn’t worry me at all what the others think. All the kit is just perfect from DHR, it just helps my confidence so much.

But the organisers listened to the rumours maybe?
Yes, they changed bits on my engine and at Three Sisters the top four had to use a control fuel given from the organisers. But the kart wouldn’t start and it turned out there was diesel in the fuel. But the team were great, they drained it and we sorted it out really quick for the timed qualifying and got the job done.

Did any of the others have the same problem?
Apparently not.

What will the future bring, what do you want to be doing?
I would love to race KF but it’s all about money. DHR gives me lots of help here. I have had a test with Energy but whatever happens I would still love to race Rotax, it’s a great class, and we are just going to have to wait and see what happens for 2013.

Everyone hoped you could finish the season with a world title, but it didn’t work out?
No, we had an awful day on the Thursday at Portimao, I think I only did half a racing lap. A ring stuck in the engine and we got a new cylinder but it was still slow. Rotax will only change one thing at a time. If it was in the Super One we would just change everything. But Rotax tried their best, helped us to change a few more things and we changed the coil after Friday warm up and I got a 7th in the wet heat. But that put me right at the back of the Repechage, I got a good start, 15th on the first lap, then up to 9th and picked them off to get 5th on the last lap and through to the finals we thought. Then they found the wrong jet in the carburettor, we had heard an announcement that you could use a 160 but it turned out that was only for Juniors. Even so the scrutineers were using pin gauges because someone had been cheating earlier, making them smaller, and it measured 162 so we appealed and raced in the finals under appeal. Our mechanic was pushing the kart and suddenly the brake stuck on, so we thought that must have been what was wrong, so Sodi gave us a new brake. But I had no luck in the Finals at all. I got up to 19th in the Prefinal but then got a really bad misfire and only got 24th in the main Final. Not so good!

The full report on the Rotax Max Grand Finals will appear next month.

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Face to face with Martin Hines

 Cadet driver Sam Kirkpatrick  Chris Walker

Cadet driver Sam Kirkpatrick
Chris Walker

By Sam Kirkpatrick (with help from Dave Bewley!)

Less than 12 months after entering the sport, 10-year-old Sam is competing in Super One. His father, Bill, is currently involved in the historic car racing scene, driving a Cooper T53 as raced by John Surtees 50 years ago.

What do you rate as your greatest achievements?

Probably my greatest achievement, and certainly the most important one from my point of view, is staying alive. I underwent a Whipples operation 20 years ago to remove a tumour from my bile duct. It’s a very complex operation and only one person in a thousand survives for more than five years after having it done. I always believed I’d win through and this characterised my entire approach to racing. Defeatism isn’t in my vocabulary. Once you allow negative thoughts to enter your head, the race is as good as lost.

I’m also immensely proud of building up a Company which is recognised throughout the entire karting world. My father emerged from World War 2 with barely a penny to his name. He started delivering groceries on one of those specially adapted push-bikes and then accumulated enough money to open up a small shop. He was soon making bicycles and selling Honda mopeds. He instilled in me the work ethic which I’ve never lost. Although we began trading as Marts Karts, it was my father who started off the firm and I’ve developed it. Zip karts have been my passion but I like to think that by promoting them I’ve also helped to raise public awareness of the sport itself.

In racing terms, my most memorable achievement was winning the first CIK world championship for Superkarts in 1983. That doesn’t mean that my other two world championship wins were any less enjoyable. Including an unofficial title in 1969, I’ve also been the European champion in each of five decades and I don’t believe that record will ever be beaten. I came out of retirement to collect my last one in 2002 and that win was especially sweet.

Who were the best drivers you’ve ever known?

That’s a difficult one. In Superkarts Sweden’s Lennart Bohlin was the driver I most admired, along with Ian Shaw. There was a Belgian driver called Francois Goldstein who greatly impressed me when we raced together in the late sixties. That was during my Class 1 days. Francois was quite a big guy and so he started with a disadvantage over the smaller drivers. It didn’t stop him from winning the world championships five times. I only raced against Terry Fullerton on a couple of occasions in 1969 which was my last year as a Class 1 driver. Prior to that point, he’d been in the Junior Class. Observing him later on, though, I could tell that he was exceptionally talented. Mike Wilson, too, had real talent as you’d expect from someone who won six world titles. Although I never had any personal dealings with Fernando Alonso, it was clear to me that he was a bit special.

I’ve been associated with so many really talented young drivers that it’s almost impossible to choose between them. Obviously Hamilton was very special along with Coulthard. I’d place Gary Paffett at least on a par with these two for sheer talent. Anthony Davidson and Oliver Rowland could make your spine tingle at times. I also think we’ll be hearing a lot more from the likes of Jake Dennis, Roy Johnson and Ben Barnicoat in the future.

Will you ever race a kart again yourself?

Oh yes! I’ve taken part in various charity events and will continue to do so. I’ve also rebuilt my 1980 Grand Prix winning Zip Bandit with a 250cc twin Yamaha engine. I’ll be racing it at several Historic Karting events this year. I’m also taking it to demonstrate at one or two Historic Car meetings, so perhaps I’ll bump into your father at some of them.

Is there going to be a Comer Cadet class in future?

Yes, definitely! Next year the MSA will be re-evaluating its choice of motor for the British Championships. It could be a Comer or something else entirely different, but whatever they decide, there’s still going to be lots of W60 engines around so the class will survive at club level. We’d also organise our own Championship Series to make sure that interest is maintained. Promoting the Comer Cadet class and working with young drivers who have emerged from it has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job.

It could be a Comer or something else entirely different, but whatever they decide, there’s still going to be lots of W60 engines around so the class will survive at club level.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Cadets are the life blood of karting. When we began this class 24 years ago there was just a handful of Junior competitors in Britain, whereas at many events today Cadets can make up almost half of the entire entry. Bruno Ferrari was originally the Comer importer. However, to make production viable, the factory wanted a minimum order of 100 engines and Bruno was reluctant to make such a commitment. That’s when I stepped in and we’ve been associated with the Topkart-Comer factory ever since.

What about the Bambino class? Do you think it will continue to grow?

Most definitely! I think the class has a fantastic future and I’ve no doubt we’ll see proper races being staged very soon. I’m not altogether sure that’s a good thing because at six years old it’s more important to just have a bit of fun. As I discovered myself very many years ago, once you’ve sat in a kart, the urge to race just takes over. I suppose that’s true however young or old you happen to be.

What advice would you give a young driver who wants to succeed in the sport?.

I’d say that you have to set a goal and never settle for anything less. The first time I saw Lewis Hamilton on a kart there was one thing about him that impressed me even more than his obvious natural talent. Even though Lewis was just eight years old and had never raced before, he was incredibly focused with a burning desire to win. He wanted to understand everything there was to know about the sport and remained supremely dedicated. The hunger for success was what always drove me in my own karting career and it’s what separates champions from other competitors. Another of my drivers, Gary Paffett, had amazing talent and in my opinion was good enough to get into Formula One. The plain truth is that Lewis wanted it above all else, whereas Gary didn’t.

Lewis wanted to understand everything there was to know about the sport and remained supremely dedicated.

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Photo Apr 24, 11 57 18 AMMatt Parry’s graduation to Formula Ford in 2011 comes with no small degree of expectation but, as he has proven through his karting career, that should only serve to drive him on.

The past couple of seasons saw the 17-year old establish himself at the very front of the British scene, flourishing in the Paul Carr Racing environment after first tasting national competition as a privateer in 2007. He could have been a contender in 2008, only for his Minimax season with Ultimate Motorsport to unravel through no fault of his own, but proved that his front-running performances, in a campaign which still yielded third overall, were no fluke as he gelled immediately with PCR’s Kosmic chassis in 2009.

That season saw Matt move up to Junior Rotax and start strongly in both Formula Kart Stars and Super 1, as well as establish himself as a winner in the RGMMC Euromax series. Despite an S1 win at Shenington, and crushing the Euromax field at Sosnova, however, he had to settle for second and fourth in those competitions, but, such was the instant rapport with PCR, was able to top the Stars standings from round one.

Victory doubles at Rowrah and PF International provided a platform from which he clinched the crown with a round to go and that success, along with a stunning second in the Rotax World Finals in Egypt, gave Matt access to single-seaters. However, despite testing with Formula Renault team Antel Motorsport early in 2010, there were more pressing concerns to be addressed, with GCSEs looming large on the horizon. Unwilling to give up his racing altogether, the decision was made to concentrate on ‘the one that got away’, with a Super 1 campaign the focus for what would prove to be his final year in karting.

“I enjoyed my time in Formula Kart Stars, and winning it was brilliant, but the commitment to school and my GCSE year prevented me from doing it again,” Matt confirms, admitting that he was always optimistic that he could combine the most important year of his education with another strong run on-track, “Of course, coming second in the World Finals was going to be a massive confidence boost and I always felt like I had a very good chance of winning Super 1.”

Confidence doesn’t appear to be something Matt Parry lacks, whether it is approaching a season-long assault on a national title or carving his way through a competitive Max field – an ability he proved with regularity during his 2008 and ’09 campaigns – and he insists that being saddled with the pre-season favourite tag simply played into his hands.

“Obviously, there was a little bit of pressure to win and succeed when everyone said I should, but it made me more confident, if anything, knowing that everyone thought I was favourite to win,” he claims.

Remaining with PCR provided a familiarity that removed another potential obstacle to success, and Matt’s experience was obvious as the team worked with him on set-up. The combination could hardly have got off to a better start to 2010, winning at the opening round and peppering further wins in with podium finishes to keep his name at the head of the standings through the first half of the season. Looking back, the flying start provided not only a solid platform, but also a useful cushion, as the year went on.

“Yeah, it was good, and proved that I was the favourite to win Super 1 but, obviously, I had a bit of a setback through the middle of the season,” Matt confirms, referring to a disastrous weekend at Larkhall that not only saw his championship advantage reduced, but also resulted in points on his licence and led to suggestions that his desire to succeed was causing him to ‘overdrive’. For a young man noted for his courteous persona, and for whom sportsmanship is of high importance, the sudden physical side to his racing was unusual.

“Definitely, at Larkhall, I made a mistake when I was in third and close behind the leaders, and the ‘overdriving’ did kick in,” he concedes, “I made something of an ambitious move which didn’t pay off, but I stand by what I did – it was racing, and just a racing incident in my mind – and I’m not really sorry for that.”

The pressure to raise his game may have told on lesser drivers, but Matt reacted positively to the challenge, something father Simon says was no mean feat.

“To go to Shenington after that, knowing that there were one or two people quite aggressively disposed towards him, was really quite an apprehensive time,” he admits, “But he handled it very, very well – and drove superbly.”

Despite Larkhall, and leading both races for some time, Matt settled for third and fourth places at Shenington, and headed to the final round at Three Sisters with destiny in his own hands, not having to win either race to secure a second national title in as many years.

“I had an issue with how many points I had on my licence, so it was a nervous time ensuring that I didn’t make any more mistakes by taking anyone off or causing any accidents., but it was quite cool going in knowing all I needed was a top 15 finish,” he reflects, “I was quite confident that I would be able to make that and, in the end, I tucked in behind the top runners and finished with points to spare.”

The mid-season distractions, with a Senior Max debut in Austria added to his GCSEs, did not include single-seaters as the Formula Renault outings had been put on hold, but there was never any doubt that cars were on the agenda for 2011.

“t didn’t take very long to get back into karts after testing the Antel car but, towards the latter part of the season, we cut off all the single-seater testing to focus on the championship,” Matt explains, “However, we always felt that our time in karting had finished and that it was time to move on to bigger and better things and try to become a professional racing driver. Obviously, in four years of racing [karts], I enjoyed it immensely and, hopefully, I can have the same success in single-seaters.”

The surprise, perhaps, is that, despite his Formula Renault experience outweighing his track time in Formula Ford, it is the latter that Matt heads to in 2011, having signed a deal with Van Diemen works team Fluid Motorsport Developments. The key to the move was an invitation to join the expanding AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program – where he is the only British driver – and all the support, both on and off track, that that will bring.

“The main reason for the decision to go to Formula Ford was the chance to join the development scheme at Team Lotus, and their particular structure governs that we start out at what they consider to be the bottom rung of the ladder, which is Formula Ford,” Matt explains, “It is where my driving skills can be honed like no other formula, so I can see the real sense in that. However, the benefits that joining Team Lotus and AirAsia brings are more than just being told where to race, and there is a lot I am hoping to gain from this association.”

Stepping up from karts to cars brings numerous challenges, but Matt is hoping to take the racecraft honed in his formative years and use that as a basis for adapting to his new arena.

“Obviously, there are some pretty big differences between karts and cars, but the principles of racing are the same,” he reasons, “The Van Diemen is a lot bigger than anything I am used to, especially with the wheels out as far as they are, and that makes it more important to know where you are on the track, as it takes a lot less for these cars to get damaged. I’ve also had to learn about warming the tyres and making sure they’re in the right shape for the race – and then there are the standing starts, which I’d never done before my first race weekend! However, I’m confident that I can get on top of these things quickly enough to be competitive.”

Despite everything he has to learn about racing a single-seater, Matt remains committed to his formal education and, in addition to studying engineering at his local college, makes monthly trips to the renowned sporting centre at Loughborough, having been selected for the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence by the MSA.

“They’re doing all the normal sporting education bits – nutrition, fitness and media skills – and he’s managed to fit that in very well,” Simon reports, “More importantly, perhaps, when we’ve gone up to Team Lotus, it’s really gratifying to notice that what they’re doing in terms of nutrition, personal training and all the other aspects that bring an F1 driver to the track, Matt is already doing because of his work with the AASE.”

Matt is quick to acknowledge the central role his father has played in his career to date, and admits that he will still be calling on him as he moves up the ladder in coming seasons. The pair used to go ‘greenlaning’ on motocross machines when they were younger. but it was on one such trip, when Matt was ten, that they came across the Wildtracks motorsport complex in Suffolk and, spying its kart track, the youngster suggested that he ‘might like a go’.

“Dad got me my first kart and got me into racing, so it’s down to him why I’m here today – although, obviously, support from all the family has helped me too,” he adds quickly, “But Dad’s going to be the main man in terms of funding in Formula Ford, so I’ve got every reason to be grateful to him. He’s shown me that hard work is the key to everything, and taught me that, whatever the result, I should just be happy that I’m out there. I hope I can make him proud.”

Despite stepping up for his first season in cars, Matt carries a certain weight of expectation, not least because national racing magazine Motorsport News ranked him number one on its annual Fast 50 list of rising talents.

“From my perspective, I think it’s a fabulous recognition to take 50 top drivers and for Matt to come out as number one,” his father comments, “We’ve got a two-year window for Formula Ford. The Van Diemen hasn’t been very competitive against the Mygales and Rays in recent times so, if Matt can turn that around, it will truly demonstrate his real talent.”

Matt, too, is clearly aware of the learning curve facing him, but has similar ambitions as the year wears on. The opening triple-header round at Silverstone highlighted just how tough the task will be, as he faces perhaps the strongest Formula Ford field for many years, but two top ten finishes, and a couple of sixth-place starts, show that the promise is there to be worked on.

“Podiums…. and showing my realistic potential for winning the Formula Ford championship in 2012,” he says in response to the question about his hopes for 2011, “The Motorsport News result gives me a similar feeling to when I went into S1 last year. It’s definitely a confidence boost, rather than any extra pressure, to know that everyone thinks that I’m a favourite for 2011.”

As for advice for those hoping to follow in his footsteps in the coming seasons, both Matt and Simon agree on some simple rules, aware that Matt is benefiting from the support of AirAsia, Team Lotus, Fluid MD and the AASE as well as family backing.

“I’d say don’t move to cars until you’ve got the full budget to race with a recognised team,” Matt concludes, “There’s no point doing it just for the sake of saying you’re racing cars. If the budget is there, by all means try both Formula Renault and Formula Ford, but don’t decide to go down the Renault route just because it might be easier – you will develop a wider range of driving skills in Ford. And ensure that you have a fitness, nutrition and PR education programme in place too – the AASE with the MSA has been a good foundation for this.

“Above all, however, make sure that you enjoy what you’re doing. That, more than anything, should be the reason for doing it.”
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