“For people of all abilities, whether it’s somebody who has won a world championship to someone who has never jumped in a kart before, there is something for everybody at the BUKC.” – Max Coates.
Deck: The BUKC is clearly on the move as the most popular of sporting activities preferred by the UK’s universities and its students. Alex Goldschmidt takes a further look.
With the likes of racing talent including WEC’s Alex Brundle and GP2’s James Calado having graced its ranks over the years, the British Universities Karting Championship helps to bring a novel and universal approach to “ride and drive” karting that attracts student teams from our universities, and continues to thrive.
It started life as the Inter University Karting Championship back in 2000, before Will Tew, who now runs it via 3T Racing, got behind the wheel of a kart fourteen years ago. He was hooked and was looking to compete for Imperial College London, but came across stumbling blocks that prevented him from doing so, which included the use of 4-stroke karts that Imperial were not interested in.
He then contacted Club100’s John Vigor, who runs a fleet of 2-stroke TKM-engined karts in 2001, and looked to move forward to reaching a potential goal of attracting drivers and teams in a revised format. This was along with stability by having one management body running the championship from then on. Word spread about the BUKC as it started to gain momentum to what it is today, having a National and Rookie championship and around 100 teams from student bodies around the UK taking part.
Will is looking to further expand on the BUKC and took a big gamble by leaving his IT job at UBS back in 2006 to concentrate his efforts. It is set to run its inaugural 24 Hour Race this coming July, which already has attracted 40 teams so far, and took a big gamble by leaving his IT job at UBS back in 2006. This includes entries that have not yet competed in the championship. He is proud of the fact that the BUKC has done something that no other sport has done when it comes to campus popularity, when I spoke to him recently: “We are the only independent national student sport that is broadcasted around the university television networks, beating football and rugby, which is quite an achievement. Our production and broadcast team is already well established, but we look to build on that next year.”
We also spoke at great length about the progression of the drivers in the series, which Tew explained is “getting better and better,” especially with the Rookie championship helping to bolster the ranks. Tew does a great job of continuing to run BUKC alongside his freelance software developing work, and his love of the sport spurs his ambition.
The championship takes place over nine rounds, combining sprint and endurance races at Whilton Mill, Glan-Y-Gors, Buckmore Park and Clay Pigeon, with all drivers needing to complete one of the compulsory four test days the previous Autumn to be eligible to race.
Points can determine the winners of each round and race wins do not necessarily guarantee a step on the podium. Four drivers compete in each round, with each of them going for glory in the individual morning sprint races and the best three results are tallied up accordingly to determine their position.
For the afternoon endurance races, teams of two will race for an hour, with a driver change and two fuel stops being a mandatory requirement. The weather also can spice up the racing and makes it just as enjoyable, as described by Leeds Metropolitan’s Max Coates, who also has raced in the Ginetta Supercup Championship that supports the BTCC.
“The fact that we are also on slicks all the time makes it super in the wet, but it really does put the skill of the driver at the forefront. I’ve really enjoyed it. The hire karts they use are the fastest of that type that I’ve driven and are brilliant fun.”
Autosport’s Editorial Assistant, Scott Mitchell, who raced for the University of Medway for two yeas before graduating, talked about how the championship brings the teams together on and off-track. This was as well as his thoughts on the differences of not being in control of changing the set-up on the kart: “There’s a lot of camaraderie involved; we had a budget camping trip in Wales and a massively underwhelming night out in Darlington, for example. But you bond with your teammates – and rivals, to be fair – and it’s a good laugh.
“It’s totally different to what I was used to – being totally in control of setting up the kart, making changes to suit my driving style and racing wheel-to-wheel with guys and girls who are more less the same level. But I spent two years racing in the BUKC and found it really enjoyable.”
The karts used in the championship are run on the Birel N35 chassis, mated to a direct-drive TKM “Extreme” BT82 118cc engine, which breathes in through its Tillotson HL334b carburettor. The power plant reaches its peak of 18bhp at 15,000rpm and reaches the national speed limit in just four and a half seconds, giving meaning to the “seat of the pants” experience that students are looking for.
The Vega RH8 slick tyres are used along with the Freeline Auto R hydraulic brake system, which is maintained by the Club100 mechanics that are on site to help the students race at full throttle whatever the weather. The harmonious work that Will and John have done has also helped to maintain a minimal increase in costs by under 5 percent since the championship’s inception, which is an achievement in itself.
Ensuring growth through the sustained efforts of what the BUKC has so far achieved is very impressive, especially with what the future holds. The championship has been promoted effectively and marketed online through social media networks, which has helped further that growth that it continues to enjoy with more taking notice. Students around the country can enjoy that adrenaline buzz whilst making new friendships and having fun, and on those points, the BUKC truly delivers.
Karting Magazine would like to thank 3T Racing’s Will Tew, Max Coates and Autosport’s Scott Mitchell for speaking to us and thank them for their time.