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Off Track – Mike Wilson

Rowrah Rotax April 2010

Mike Wilson (right) visited Rowrah for the Super One 34 years since he last raced there

Thirty-four years after last racing at Rowrah, the six-time world champion Mike Wilson made a return visit for the Super One Rotax round in April. He was joined on Sunday by his mum Eilleen and sister Adele. They noticed that quite a few changes to the circuit had been made since their previous visit. “Believe it or not, the last time we were here there was a man standing trackside timing his son with a huge kitchen clock,” recalled Eilleen with a laugh. “Now the times for every single driver are coming up on television screens.”

Mike also commented on a few alterations. “The track was a good bit smaller back
in 1976, about half its present length,” he remembered. “Rowrah always had lots of character and I’m pleased to see that none

of it has been lost in the alterations. I really think it’s an awesome circuit, certainly one of the best I’ve been to.”

It was especially pleasing to see Mike looking so fit and well after surviving a severe heart attack last September whilst
out in Quebec. But for some excellent medical attention promptly delivered the consequences would have been fatal. He was over in Canada to assist 11 year-old Minimax Lance Stroll whose father Lawrence currently owns the Tommy Hilfiger company amongst various other business interests. Mike was recommended to Lawrence Stroll by none other than Michael Schumacher who he’d known since the German legend’s karting days as a junior competitor. Under

Mike’s expert guidance, Lance has become a leading contender in both Canada and the USA. He won the Florida Winter Tour in two different categories, Minimax and Mini Rok.

In order to broaden Lance’s experience,
a decision was made to contest the Super One Rotax Championships, hence their
visit to Rowrah. The intention is for him to move into European KF3 next year. “This
is a whole new experience for him and he’s finding the competition much harder than back at home,” acknowledged Mike. “Over in Canada, aggressive driving is discouraged with time penalties, whereas in England it’s an accepted part of racing. Lance is having to make quite a lot of adjustments to his driving style, but I’m quite happy with our progress so far and believe that he’ll develop into an excellent driver, especially with a season’s racing in S1 behind him. ”

Mike has had lots of experience looking after other drivers and was responsible for Fernando Alonso’s rapid development in karting. “I’ve probably had more personal satisfaction in this particular field than I got through racing myself and winning six world titles,” he insisted. “I’d also say that it’s much harder standing on the sidelines because you’re not actually in control of the situation. It’s relatively easy for teams to coach drivers how to go quickly, but teaching them actual race-craft is a different proposition.”

“In many respects karting was more difficult when I first started out. The tyres provided much less grip and balancing your kar t as you drifted round bends was quite an art form. Sticky tyres changed all of that and it became simply a case of braking sharply, pointing your kart and then squirting through the corner. I’m quite pleased that we’ve moved away from the ultra-sticky compounds and are reverting back to normality”

There was a huge grin on Mike’s face when he examined the photograph of Britain’s 1973 junior team published in last month’s issue of Karting magazine. He was able to identify every driver, adding little anecdotes about each one. “We had some great races 2in those days,” he recalled. “The top category was Class 100 International with Mickey Allen and Terry Fullerton winning most of the big meetings. You’d have A and B or sometimes even C Finals

in this class and it’s sad to see entries in the modern equivalent, SKF, struggling to reach double figures.

I’ve become a big fan of Rotax which really has been a shot in the arm for karting. It’s great to see so many turning out at a meeting like this and I’d agree that Britain must now lead the world in Rotax racing.”

Wyatt Stanley, George Robinson, Gary Prior, Eilleen Wilson, Adele Levitt, Jim Coulthard, Richard Brett, Gerry Philpotts, Jenny Philpotts and Arend Jan Kleijn from Holland successfully identified Terry Fullerton as the driver photographed in last month’s issue.

Fullerton was succeeded as world champion by a 20-year-old Italian who
had finished 9th in 1973. This individual would make his F1 debut within less than three years of his world championship
win at Estoril. He had spells with Shadow, Arrows, Brabham, Alfa Romeo, Williams and Benetton, competing in 256 GPs before retiring in 1993. If you can name the driver, send me an e-mail to dave.bewley@talktalk. net or telephone 01946 861355.