The Midlands are famous for a few reasons. Cadbury’s make chocolate there. In the 60s factories in the area built rusty cars. But in more recent times, it’s become known as the heartland of British Motorsport. Centered around Silverstone in Northamptonshire there are a total of four F1 teams (Marussia, Lotus, Mercedes and Red Bull), with McLaren, Caterham and Williams not much further away. It was here, sat just off a ribbon of potholed B-roads, that students from all over the country converged for Rounds 3 & 4 of the British Universities Karting Championship 2014 at Whilton Mill.
Following the monsoon that affected the majority of the racing last time out at Buckmore Park, the teams were quietly optimistic – the BBC had predicted a significant improvement in the weather, and everyone was praying to the Gods of Motorsport that it might stay that way.
Sadly not. The first race of the day began after a brief yet heavy rain shower appeared to drench the track and dash everyone’s hopes of a pleasant dry day. At least there would be action. And lots of it. Bernie would approve!
Sam Sheehan of Coventry A, Joe Richardson of Medway A, Jono Davis of Hertfordshire B and Ollie Greenwood of Huddersfield A put on an incredible show in the first sprint race of the day, but it was Nottingham A’s Tom Seddon that came out on top as the quintet diced their way through the rest of the field in a battle that went right down to the final few laps. Tom took the chequered flag by just under a second, after the group were spread a bit thin by backmarkers in the closing stages. Sam for Coventry A finished second, with Joe Richardson for Medway holding onto third. It was a superb race to watch, and Joe summed up his reaction to it on Twitter soon afterwards.
Race 2 followed on with another close, yet controversial, finish. The start was chaotic, but after a few laps the field had settled down with Coventry A’s Luke Russell taking the early lead, although he was swiftly chased down by Jason Thatcher of Imperial A who took over first place. It wouldn’t be a BUKC race without some backmarker related controversy however, and it was the unfortunate Jason who fell victim to some devastating banditry as he was spun out from the lead of the race with just three minutes remaining. This meant that Oxford Brookes B and C inherited the top two steps of the podium going into the final stages of the race, and it would have finished that way had the Oxford Brookes B driver Zach Swannell found himself on the receiving end of a black flag, meaning that Will Walter of Brookes C took the chequered flag. The elation was short lived though with a post-race penalty for excessive kerbing (we all know how protective JV is of his karts!) meaning that the win was handed back to original leader Luke Russell of Coventry A, with Cardiff A second and Brookes C slotting into third after their penalty.
Hertfordshire B’s Dave Waters broke the trend of close finishes in the morning’s racing with a dominant Vettel-esque lights to flag victory in the third race. He crossed the line a full 16 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, with closest challenger Scott Michals from Southampton A dicing 18 places up the grid to finish second. Oxford Brookes bounced back from their nightmare in the second race with their B team taking the final step of the podium.
Race 4 featured an appearance from the BUKC’s own track guide ‘specialist’ Matt ‘Mish’ Isherwood from Cardiff A. Perhaps teams should have paid more attention to it as he steamed 22 places up the field to land himself just shy of a great win in second place. The victory was taken by the unfaltering Club 100 specialist Chris Hansen of Hertfordshire A, who finished 5 seconds clear, with Oxford B rounding out the podium.
The fifth sprint race saw newcomers UWE take their first ever win in the BUKC courtesy of their driver Sebastian Hutchinson, who successfully navigated through a huge water-induced pile up on turn 5, fighting a close battle with eventual second place finishers Southampton B. UCL rounded out the top 3 after they managed to successfully hold onto their 3rd place grid slot.
360 ‘superstar’ Will Van Es came out victorious in an intense battle for the lead during the closing stages of the final sprint race of the day, besting James Theodore from Oxford Brookes A and Coventry A’s Miles Murphy, who lost second to James in the last few turns. Did Will try a 360 to celebrate his sprint victory? Certainly did. Was it a spectacular failure once again? You bet. Don’t worry though Will, this time everybody saw it.
After the results were tallied it was Coventry A that took the spoils, breaking Oxford Brookes streak of round victories with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ensuring the win was theirs. A superb set of results (or was it the track guide?) secured Cardiff A the second step, with reigning champions Hertfordshire A rounding out the top 3.
It was time for a quick break before the Endurance races, and whilst the Club 100 staff prepped the karts, a well-timed rain shower appeared to once again wet the track and make life difficult for the drivers.
The greasy conditions ensured that lap times skyrocketed as drivers struggled to control the slick tyres on the wet surface. Some superb strategy calls for the Coventry teams saw their A and B pairs both finish on the podium after well timed pit-stops. UWTSD Swansea A managed to separate the two teams by snatching second place.
Towards the end of the first race the dry line had begun to reappear, and luckily the rain held off during the second enduro as UWE A took their second win of the day with the team of Sebastian Hutchinson and Jack Hughes, followed closely by Southampton A and organiser Will Tew with David Tan for the ‘University of Life’. Luckily for Cardiff A, the ‘University’ of Life were promptly disqualified from their third place finish for being far too old and not even remotely a university, meaning that the Welsh team inherited the final podium place.
The final race of the day saw Oxford Brookes A finally breaking their duck and winning their first race of the 2014 season; an incredible statistic considering they won both rounds at Buckmore Park and took fourth place in round 3. The Brookes team stormed 28 places through the field to take the win with a combination of well-timed pit stops and superb driving, clawing out a 12 second lead to second place Durham A after jumping them in the pits, with Hertfordshire B beating their A team and finishing in third to close out the racing for the day.
With a first and third in round 4 it was Coventry who locked out a double round in at Whilton Mill, adding another 60 points to their championship total. Cardiff A followed suit with a double second place, and Oxford Brookes bounced back from narrowly missing out on the podium in round 3 to take the final podium spot for round 4. This also meant that whilst they missed out on any round wins, Brookes’ decent set of results ensured that overall they still head the table leading into rounds 5 & 6 in two weeks time, albeit with a noticeable chink in their armour. Hertfordshire A are in close contention, just four points behind, with Coventry A after their superb double win another 4 points below respectively.
You can see a full list of the day’s results http://www.bukc.co.uk/results/2014