600 Issues: Personalities pick their favourite covers

1Karting magazine is now 600 issues old. This historic milestone has been reached six months ahead of the sport’s 50th anniversary due to readers receiving a double dose between July 1966 and June 1970 when the magazine came out twice a month. 46 years ago when Alan Burgess produced the world’s first magazine aimed exclusively at karters, I don’t suppose many people could have predicted that it would still be going strong 599 editions later. I’ve been an avid reader since issue number 40, although I’m a mere newcomer compared to Paul Fletcher and John Mills among others who have been assiduously collecting copies ever since Day 1. To mark this auspicious occasion, I asked 5 individual readers to recall an edition that particularly stands out in their memory. For good measure, I’ve also thrown in my own nomination.

CHRIS MERLIN
Issue No. 152
Early July 1969

Merlin tuned Villiers  engines were very popular  amongst Class 4  competitors in my day. The  wizard behind these motors  was a young engineering  graduate called Chris Merlin who established  a very successful relationship with Leigh  “Buster” Clarke from 2Motor Karts of  Surbiton. Buster manufactured the famous  Super Shrike chassis which Chris  campaigned very successfully, winning many  major events at home and abroad. Most  notable amongst these was his victory at RAF  Debden in 1965 when he became the outright  British Champion. Only seven other drivers in  karting history have been honoured with  such a title. He was also a class champion on  two further occasions in 1966 and 1971. In  1966, Chris produced his own 200cc rotary  valve motor to take on the Spanish Bultacos  and Montesas which were dominant at that  time. Partnered by Irving Jacobs, Chris used  this motor to win the famous Snetterton 9  Hours event on two occasions and they remain the only pair to have achieved this distinction. 20 years after his British Championship success at RAF Debden he made national headlines by taking out a High Court action against the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant for filling his house with radioactive dust. Today, Chris has opted for the good life up on the Isle of Harris. As if working his own smallholding isn’t exhausting enough, he still produces tuned exhausts for both the kart trade and a small group of individual gearbox drivers. His eldest son Sam will be coordinating Martini’s sponsorship of Ferrari this year with a special responsibility for looking after clients at Grand Prix events. It sounds like the sort of arduous job his old man might relish.

3“I became interested in karting within a few months of its introduction to Britain back in 1959. My interest was fired up after browsing round a shop at Charing Cross called Motor Books & Accessories. I spotted one particular book about American karting with a marvellous action photo of Duffy Livingstone on its front cover. The shopkeeper, Buster Clarke, had already developing an interest in this new sport himself and persuaded me to attend a demonstration event at Silverstone. After seeing the photo of Livingstone in a four wheel power slide, I didn’t need too much persuading. I remember at least two editions of Karting magazine that could have had the same impact. One of these was a shot of Roger Keele on two wheels at Fulbeck during the British Championships. In the end, though, I went for the early July 1969 issue which showed Graham Liddle cresting the hill at Morecambe with both front wheels totally airborne. Inside, there was an excellent report about the World Cup event won by Graham. I’ve always believed that karting sells itself short when it comes to creating a public image. This particular photograph was an excellent advert for the sport, however. Anyone who spotted this magazine in a library or newsagents couldn’t help but be impressed, just as I’d been by the shot of Duffy Livingstone some ten years earlier.”

JAMIE LITTLE
Issue No. 572
November 2003
Jamie went down to Lydd last October with a mathematical chance of becoming the new National Champion in Minimax. Realistically, however, his prospects looked slim. He confounded us all by pulling off a brilliant victory and Devon Modell’s 5th dddddplace gave Jamie the title by one point. He’d started karting four years earlier as a member of Rowrah’s Racing for Buttons scheme and soon made his presence felt on circuits throughout the North. Jamie is a quietly spoken 13 year old who puts a lot of thought into his racing. He’s moved out of Minimax and will contest Junior Rotax in 2006.

“I bought my first copy of Karting magazine in April 2001 just a week after I started racing. On the front cover was a photograph of Jackie Stewart standing with Henry Surtees’ kart. Inside there was a report of Jackie Stewart’s speech that he made at a launch day for the Stars of Tomorrow series where he said some very nice things about karting. There was also a photo of Martin Brundle’s son Alex. David Tremayne who my dad remembered as a former editor of Motorsport News, had a column called ‘From Karting to F1’ and there was a report about the March event at Rowrah that I was especially interested in reading.

eeeeeThe one I’ve chosen as my favourite showed Jason and Justin Edgar on the front cover after they’d both won the S1 Championships for Formula ICA and 100 National. This was the November issue in 2003. It was a very good photo and an excellent achievement for two brothers to win British titles in the same year. They’ve both given me a lot of help since I started karting and so I was pleased to see them succeed. Inside there was a very interesting report about the final round at P.F. where Mitchell Bayer-Goldman, Riki Christodoulou and Gary Catt joined the Edgar brothers as champions. There was a round of the European Championships for Formula A won by Ben Hanley and I enjoyed reading the report of this race. I’ve kept this copy in mint condition and it’s got pride of place in my collection along with the December 2005 issue that reported on my own S1 championship success.”

JIM COULTHARD
Issue No. 109
Mid September 1967

I first set eyes on Jim back in 1967 when we were camped near each other at Little Rissington. Along with fellow Northumbrian members Jack Angus and John Laws, Jim has retained a fantastic enthusiasm for karting. His memory of events spanning a 40 6year period is second to none. He has a superb collection of classic and vintage karts, most of which are over 30 years old. Jim runs a very interesting and informative web site called, appropriately enough, “Classic Karts of Northumbria.” In September last year he organised an extremely successful classic kart weekend at Rowrah with another one planned for 2006.

“I can think of three editions that are etched firmly in my memory. First of all there was the early October 1966 issue that showed Mickey Allen receiving his British Championship trophies from a beauty queen after the final round at Brands Hatch. It wasn’t the first time he’d been caught embracing a pretty girl! The reason I remember this one so well was because Mickey had been involved in a tremendous battle with Paul Fletcher all year long. We thought that Paul had the race and the title won but he caught up with a backmarker on the last lap and Mickey seized his chance to come through. Another ‘special’ in my eyes was the one from mid September 1969 that had British Champion Stephen South on the front cover. He’d won the championships at Fulbeck by beating Nigel Mansell, Roy Mortara and Terry Edgar. The best one for me, though, has to be Mid September 1967. This one covered the British Championships at Little Rissington when 16 year old Dave Ferris became outright champion. The front cover showed Les Sheppard winning Class 4 Standard at this meeting, but it was Roy Mortara’s performance in Class 1 Modified that stands out in my mind. Early on in one of his heats a wheel came off Roy’s kart but he still kept going. We couldn’t believe that a three wheeled kart could actually go so quickly.

7There was a fantastic atmosphere at race meetings in those days. I regarded drivers like Allen, Ferris, South and Fletcher as real heroes and the annual British Championships represented a rare opportunity to see them all in action together. Even though I was actively involved throughout the seventies and eighties, it’s the sixties that hold special memories for me.”

ANDREA McGUIRE
(AND MAX)
Issue No. 586
January 2005

When this year’s Super 1 and Stars of Tomorrow championships are eventually decided, I’m expecting the name of Max McGuire to feature prominently. Max has two very dedicated parents who approach his racing in a mature and responsible way. Along with 8Stephen McCormack, Andrea McGuire produced the excellent Karting Yearbook in 2005, a project which sadly won’t be repeated this time around. I knew that she would bring a refreshingly modern outlook to the task of selecting an outstanding edition.

“As someone who only has just over 3 years karting experience, my choices are much more limited than your other contributors. However, when asked to choose a favourite issue of Karting magazine, the Ben Hanley interview published last January sprung immediately to mind. It was a source of inspiration for quite some time, especially during the first half of 2005 when nothing appeared to be going our way. It served as a reminder that even the very best don’t always have a smooth ride. Ben’s philosophical approach to missing out on the world title was remarkable. Something about this article certainly hit home, especially with Max, and I’m convinced that reading about Ben’s trials and tribulations was responsible in some small way for us persevering with the sport. The Ben Hanley profile wasn’t the only article in this issue to catch our eye.

There was an article about Scotland’s Martyn Lyell plus a helpful guide to the Autosport Show which proved very useful to us on our visit. Max was also very interested in the interview with Darren Manning and Daniel Wheldon as he’s become quite a fan of Indycar racing. He thinks that these drivers must be especially brave to risk hitting the wall at over 230mph. He also had a smile to himself at the early photo of Dan in front of Jenson Button as their karts seemed so strange in those days. Mike Hayden had an informative piece about Formula BMW, dispelling some of the negative views about this particular concept. There was also comprehensive coverage of the London Cup at Rye House, ROK Cup (South Garda), and Rotax MAX Euro Challenge (Braga). I enjoyed reading Mary-Ann Horley’s account of the inaugural Champion’s Cup in Rome, especially as it involved a race for disabled drivers. Max thought that the circuit looked really exciting and it reminded him of Monaco. Any event that raises the profile of karting like this has to be good.

James Brown wrote a very good piece about the BRDC Single Seater Scholarship involving six Junior Max drivers. Craig Copeland and Richard Singleton emerged as scholarship winners. Ian Berry came up with a double page spread about his experiences in the Uniroyal Team Endurance Challenge racing VW Beetles and we had the usual WTP, TKM, Two Stroke and Rotax MAX columns. As regulars at P.F. we also enjoyed the Off Track piece dedicated to ten years racing at this circuit. Chris Walker produced a collection of stunning photographs taken over the previous 12 months which brilliantly captured the triumphs and disappointments of international karting. I’m always impressed by the photos Chris manages to produce and I think he’s right there at the top of motorsport photographers. In all, it really was a bumper issue and one that I feel will be hard to match in future years.”

PAUL FLETCHER
Issue No. 47
December 1963

What can I say about Paul that isn’t known already? He retired from racing in April 1986 after more than 26 years active involvement in the sport. During that period he’d taken part in almost 700 different events, winning 35% of them. He’d represented Britain in 38 Internationals, claiming 2nd and 3rd places in the European and World Championships respectively. For various reasons, British titles eluded him, although he claimed the runners up spot on 6 different occasions. After retirement he 44started sponsoring the careers of young up and coming stars with startling success. Under his guidance, Bobby Game, Gary Catt and Mark Litchfield all managed to claim the British crown that had eluded Paul for so many years. Many onlookers at Braga last year believed that, but for a freak engine failure, Litchfield would have added the world title to Fletcher’s impressive collection. Like Chris Merlin, Paul attempted to introduce a competitive British engine onto the karting scene. After he teamed up with John Mills, the Famrel (Fletcher And Mills Racing Engines Ltd) was produced in April 1971. Although this particular project foundered, Paul realised a long term ambition in December 1994 when he opened his own circuit at Brandon near Grantham. It is still recognised as one of Britain’s premier kart circuits today.

“I suppose that my most memorable copy of Karting magazine ought to be the first one that was ever produced. Without checking through my collection though I can’t honestly tell you what was actually in it, although the front cover with Graham Hill winning at Lakenheath obviously stands out in my mind. Probably the one I remember best of all was in December 1963. The three British Champions George Bloom, Bobby Day and Roger Keele were on the front cover. It’s interesting to note that we only had four major classes in those days and Keele won two of them. George Bloom was declared the outright champion by virtue of winning all 8 rounds. George was over 50 years old back then and I don’t think that even he would profess to being the best driver around at the time. Alan Burgess added a nice little touch in his review of the championships by including pen portraits of all the front runners in each class. Most of us have a streak of vanity and we like to read about ourselves.

The reason why this issue was particularly memorable from my own viewpoint was because it covered the third and final round of the European championships at Villacoublay in France. I’d got my Bitsatube handling like a dream in the heats and was very confident of winning the final. That would have given me the European title. We were kept waiting on the grid for over an hour until a television crew turned up and it started to rain. The perfect dry set up obviously doesn’t work in the wet and I struggled in this race which was won by Bobby Day, who had come into the British team as a late replacement for John Brise. Apart from a huge cup, Bobby also received a brand new Fiat 500 car as his prize. We actually won the team prize, but it was a French driver Jacques Guillard who claimed the individual European title and I finished as runner up. It was one of those ‘what if?’ races that you shouldn’t really dwell upon too much. However, whenever I’m asked to recall my most memorable race, this particular one usually springs to mind.”

MY OWN
NOMINATION
Issue No. 596
November 2005

For those who expected me to choose something from the sixties I have a small confession to make. The December ‘63 issue was actually top of my list before Paul Fletcher rang me with his choice. I can’t really be seen to imitate a Sheffield United supporter, so I’ve made a tactical substitution. I considered nominating the issue from early October 1968. This one had a photograph of Malcolm Naylor adorning its front cover. Inside was an article about the world’s first kart built by Art Ingels. It had just been purchased by Alan Burgess from Karting magazine and took pride of place at a Press Conference to promote the World 55Championships. Also in this issue, the five wheeled Barlotti kart belonging to Les Sheppard was revealed. After careful deliberation, I’ve chosen issue number 596 from November last year which showed Oliver Oakes celebrating his world championship victory. A British success in the world’s top karting competition isn’t totally unique.

Terry Fullerton managed it in 1973 and, of course, Mike Wilson dominated the world on no less than 6 occasions. Mickey Allen had claimed a top 3 finish four times over while Fletcher, Ferris, Lane, Steeds and Hanley have each achieved a place on the podium. 2005 was special though because no less than four British drivers, Oakes, Litchfield, Lancaster and Christodoulou all proved that they were quick enough to win, something that I don’t think has happened in any previous year. Equally important for me was that Oakes achieved his title on a British built kart. As if that wasn’t enough, John Riley collected the European Superkart title as well. On what may seem a rather less patriotic note, I was pleased to read that Scotland had won the Inter Nations event. Well, the Scottish Border is only 30 miles away from home and rooting for the underdog has always been a very English trait. Six other major international events were covered in this issue as well as ten national and two regional championship meetings.

Club events at almost 40 different venues were also well reported. All six regular columnists had made contributions and there was the usual very informative review of issues from four previous decades. Richard Brunning from Zip Kart made out the case for JICA, while Adam Jones interviewed Martin Brundle. Graham Smith produced an interesting account of developments at the ABkC, there was news of the International Kart Show at Donington and Iain Blair wrote a moving tribute to Peter Todd. It took quite a bit of reading, I can tell you! All things considered, I’m pleased that Paul Fletcher deprived me of my first choice. The November 2005 issue was clearly superior in every sense and it’s bound to become a collector’s piece. I’m quite surprised that Paul didn’t think of it in the first place!