As I made my way to Kimbolton for my first ever experience of the TKM Festival I couldn’t think of a good enough reason as to why I had never been to one before. It’s one of the biggest meetings in UK Karting and surely one of the biggest in TKM around the World!
Pulling into the circuit the first thing I noticed was the different look to the paddock. When I go to Super One events you’ll be greeted by big trucks and huge awnings with sliding doors, which are often shut. Mechanics will all be on radios and the paddock itself will seem quiet with everyone either tucked away in the awning or on circuit.
However, the Kimbolton paddock that day felt as if I had gone back in time. There were some big awnings there in the shape of TWM, Flex, Precision, Litchfield and some more, but largely there were pop awnings with the back of the van open. There were more Privateers then I had ever come across in one meeting and you felt you could walk into any awning and be greeted. It felt as if everyone was there to just enjoy the weekend more than anything else.
I was even told the atmosphere on the dummy grids were very laid back. People were having a laugh with each other despite it being the ‘biggest meeting of the year in TKM’.
It’s no secret that TKM is a cheaper class than Rotax and X30 and that probably played a big part in that, but I think the TKM drivers really try to embrace the fact they are alone for one weekend of the year.
The thing I was of course looking forward to seeing the most was the racing after watching some brilliant races over the years. In terms of lead changes, it certainly wasn’t the best races I have seen, but what it lacked in substance it certainly made up for in drama! Both the Elite and ‘O’ plate final in Junior TKM were decided at the last lap, last corner. A first corner incident broke up the lead group in the TKM Extreme Elite Final, but the ‘O’ plate final was a different story with a great battle for the lead all the way through. TKM Clubman was a two horse race with a driver having to settle for 2nd for a second year running.
Perhaps I had put too much pressure on the races themselves, but there were some great drivers, huge drama and seven very happy winners at the end.
The organisation seemed to run very smoothly on Sunday. There was only one incident that required medical attention and no real major exclusions. However, qualifying on Saturday certainly had a few people cross. With 75 drivers in TKM Extreme and 51 in Junior TKM there were three groups for TKM Extreme and two for the Juniors.
All drivers contesting in the ‘O’ plate in both classes were sent out together in the first groups to give them time to prepare for their ‘O’ plate qualifying. It made sense to me to do it that way, but it unfortunately led to some problems. Those groups carried most of the predicted front runners and inevitably went quicker than other groups. In the rules it states ‘if the fastest time achieved in the slower group is more than 101% of the fastest time achieved in the faster group: 1st place goes to the fastest time of the first group (fastest time overall), 2nd place to the fastest time of the second group’ and so on. This a rule that was made to cover off changing conditions between sessions, but despite the same conditions it happened in both classes.
As a result, it really mixed up the standings which really hurt some drivers, but hugely profited others!
In Junior TKM, Theo Hesketh was 0.56 seconds off pole man Bradley White but classified 2nd overall. In TKM Extreme a big loser was Ryan Edwards, 0.41 off pole he qualified 46th with the driver in 45th 1.19 off pole.
As much as it frustrated some competitors it is not the first time this has happened in racing and it certainly won’t be the last! Three heats and two finals left people with time to recover from it and by the end the order seemed fairly predictable bar one or two shockers.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the TKM Festival as did Ben Eden. A former team mate of mine was racing at the event and in TKM for the first time. He enjoyed the event so much that he’s now looking at doing the remaining Super One rounds. He’s A former racer in the Rotax Max Euro Challenge and said the racing was “seriously tough and the costs are a lot cheaper.”
If you haven’t visited or raced in the TKM Festival I hugely advise you do so in 2017. It’s one of the most competitive events in the UK and also one of the most fun weekends you’ll have in the sport. If you happen to just pop up for a watch, I can almost guarantee you’ll find yourself entering it a year later. I for one will be entering at some point in the future to go racing and more importantly, have fun.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of Bethanie Lawson