Last week I was invited to the fourth round of the Club73 karting championship. For those who aren’t familiar, Club73 is a 10 round series that travels to circuits in the south east and midlands. It is organised by current senior race director at Buckmore park Clinton Bell and is designed to give fun, competitive racing on a budget. Coincidentally Clinton was the first person who taught me how to drive a kart almost 12 years ago.
Round 4 of the championship took take place at the awesome Ellough Park circuit in deepest Suffolk, a really fun circuit that has previously hosted the Formula Kart Stars series.
The format of the series is unique, each race is 30 minutes long and each driver will compete in one of the A, B, or C races. The grid for each final is set by championship order, then each race’s grid is reversed e.g. 1st in the championship will start at the back of the A final. This poses a unique scenario where you will always be placed near your series rivals, however to win you will need both speed and race craft to pick your way through the drivers starting ahead of you. Drivers score championship points based on their ‘class’ (Super-pro, Pro, and Clubman) which is decided by the series organisers based on previous karting experience and ability. Drivers also have the opportunity to race for the team championship by joining one or two other drivers meaning there are even more chances to win a trophy.
Arriving on the day I could immediately tell I was going to have a great time, I was welcomed and many introduced themselves as they had heard I was coming, I even spoke to some people I haven’t seen for years who are now racing in the series, it was great to chat to everyone about their experiences of Club73. The atmosphere was very informal and everyone was ready for an enjoyable race, and the pre-race banter was flying. It felt more like a friendly social gathering than a race meeting, this is one of the main reasons this series has become so popular with on average over 60 drivers at each round.
Down to business, the race. As a new driver you are allocated a class, Super-pro for me, and then you’re placed at the back of the appropriate final. Starting last in the A final I would be mixing with the leaders of the series.
After the manic start in the very equal Sodi karts supplied by Ellough park, the race settled down with recent Dayton 24 hour race winner Jack Goldsmith, current championship leader Danny Hurlock (someone I used to race against when I was 9 years old), and I fighting for the lead. We found ourselves together from the second lap, and swapped positions frequently as we fought our way through the 17 other karts. The further through the field we got the closer the racing became, with the order between us never remaining for more than a few corners. During the final 15 minutes of the race we managed to break free from the pack and had one of the best races I have ever been a part of.
Considering the full wrap around bumpers of Ellough’s Sodi rental karts, the racing was squeeky clean, changes of position came with no more than a kiss of side pods. Ellough park’s layout lent its self to the awesome racing with almost as many overtaking opportunities as corners. With our fastest laps separated by just a tenth or so it was impossible to break away, thus a tactical race ensued. If any of us gained even a couple of kart lengths it would be disappear in a matter of corners.
After half an hour of hard racing Danny managed to pull a gap at the critical moment of about half a second with a lap to go, just enough to maintain his lead. I managed to narrowly hold off Jack Goldsmith for second place in a race for the line coming down to less than a tenth of a second.
I loved my first taste of the Club73 championship, this is potentially the friendliest championship around, ideal for any fairly new kart racers looking for a slightly more competitive series, or those who haven’t got a large budget.
The series is welcoming, visits 7 great circuits, is great value for money and will provide great competition whatever your ability, what more could you want. The banter doesn’t stop at the circuit though, their Facebook group is full of information and good spirited banter.
I would highly recommend Club73 to anyone especially those who are getting into their first race series, you can tell everyone loves the series and all that goes with it.
Thanks must go to Clinton Bell, the series organiser, Ellough Park, and Andy from Sprocket Photography for the images.
Written by Piers Prior
Photos courtesy of Andy – Sprocket Photography