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Last month I had a flutter on the Grand National. It wasn’t much to write home about, just a couple of quid in the annual sweepstake at work. If the local bookmaker was relying on my custom, he’d have gone bankrupt a long time ago.
Unfortunately, I drew a rank outsider and lost my £2 but, in karting today, you can find many parents who are staking obscene amounts of cash on what will remain, for the vast majority, nothing more than a pipedream. It isn’t just money that they stand to lose, either. In some cases they’re gambling with their children’s self confidence and future happiness. Just as the aristocracy once purchased parliamentary seats for favoured sons, these people are attempting to buy their way into F1.
40 years ago, after winning his first British title at senior level, Terry Fullerton let it slip that his ultimate aim was to become the world champion. We believed it to be a rather precocious ambition, but Terry proved us wrong, Now we have many kids as young as six or seven expressing the same desire, except that they aren’t referring to karting’s world crown, but rather Formula One’s top prize.
Whereas Fullerton achieved his stated goal within two years, today’s Bambinos with exceptional talent, enormous amounts of cash and extraordinary good fortune must wait ten times as long before they’ll be setting the Formula One world alight. It’s entirely natural that young drivers want to emulate the top stars in motor racing, but they shouldn’t be taught by over ambitious parents that F1 success is of supreme importance. Ex F1 driver and current TV presenter Tiff Needell advises, “If you’re racing a kart, enjoy it, because you may never get any further.”
Operating under such intense pressure, it’s difficult to see how anyone can actually be enjoying the experience.
Because Button, Hamilton, Di Resta and almost every other top F1 star were cadet champions, making an immediate impact upon the karting scene has assumed paramount importance. There’s no time to learn the sport properly by doing a couple of seasons in club racing. Everything must be done at record breaking pace and the absolute priority is to get into a top team that can produce race winning performances almost straight away. Operating under such intense pressure, it’s difficult to see how anyone can actually be enjoying the experience and that applies especially to mum and dad.
Carolynn Hoy suggests that Formula Kart Stars entrants should have experienced racing at club level for one or two seasons. That’s sound advice from someone who has enjoyed a very successful association with motor racing for almost 35 years. Recently I attended the opening FKS rounds at Rowrah where there was no shortage of ambition or money. The huge transporters, luxurious motor-homes and expansive awnings have now become integral parts of every major championship event. They certainly make an impressive picture, although whether potential new starters are encouraged or positively deterred by such opulence is a matter for debate.
There was certainly no sign of any FKS competitors turning up at Rowrah with their karts on roof-racks, although I remember Aidan Charity competing in Little Green Man rounds with all his equipment jammed inside a tiny Ford Fiesta. Since moving into TKM, Aidan sold his WTP motors to Walker Racing and they’ve now been acquired by Daniel Milner, a twelve year old novice driver who astounded everyone at the PFI Little Green Man meeting by taking 6th spot. It perhaps shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise that Daniel and his dad Dave arrived with their kart in a Peugeot 405 estate car.
“It’s a bit inconvenient because, even though she’d love to come with us, we haven’t got room for Mandy, Daniel’s mum,” admitted Dave. “Daniel has been obsessed with karting and 18 months ago we bought him an old 1996 Kosmic chassis with a Comer S60 motor. We switched to a second-hand BRM/W60 shortly afterwards and did some non MSA races at Tattershall. Daniel was attracted to the idea of competing in a national championship but I quickly realised that Super 1 and Stars would be beyond our budget and we decided upon the Little Green Man instead”.
To maximise Daniel’s chances of success, a new Arrow chassis was purchased from Neil Walker, along withy the ex Aidan Charity motors. “The opening Little Green Man round at PFI was Daniel’s first race at an MSA meeting,” Dave revealed. “I’ll be the first to admit that he was lucky to finish 6th after a few top drivers dropped out. Even so, I was surprised at how well he performed and we were both delighted with the result.”
Dave has an engineering background and currently restores classic cars. He’s been quick to pick up on the nuances of karting and intends to continue running Daniel by himself. “No doubt Daniel will single out certain drivers as role models, but the person I’d like to emulate is Dave Charity,” he insists. “He didn’t have large amounts of cash to throw around but devoted lots of time and patience instead. Aidan eventually became one of the top drivers in WTP and I’d love to see Daniel achieve the same success.”
Neil Walker remains very optimistic about Daniel’s prospects. “I wasn’t able to attend the PFI meeting but gave Dave some basic settings for the Arrow. He’s very methodical in preparing the kart and his efforts were repaid by a very impressive result. I’m very pleased for both father and son. Daniel is a capable young driver who will quickly develop the necessary race-craft to succeed.”
The Milner household isn’t getting carried away by this result. “I know that 2011 will be very much a learning year for him, but our target is a top 15 spot which might just be achievable” Dave speculates. “His friend Harry Whittaker achieved 15th place in last year’s championships and so Daniel has his eyes fixed firmly on that particular target. I’m hoping that the WTP class can survive for another year afterwards and we’ll set our sights on a few podium finishes in 2012.”