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OFF TRACK – “Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!”

img019“Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!” (Diane Wakoski – American poet)

They were, without doubt, the cream of British karting. Some of them, such as Stephen South, Johnny Herbert, Allan McNish and Ralph Firman chose to broaden their horizons and eventually became F1 stars. Others, most notably Bruno Ferrari, Mickey Allen, Terry Fullerton and Mark Litchfield opted to remain in the sport where they became legendary figures. All of them proved their merit by winning British titles in karting’s premier category. It was known, initially, as Class 1 Super, then 100 International, Formula A and more recently KF1. Despite the different names, one thing remained constant. To become a champion in this class required truly exceptional talent.

Apart from the aforementioned it’s worth listing all those other distinguished champions who could claim to have scaled British karting’s highest peak. They were John Brise, Bobby Alderdyce, Bobby Day, Chris Hales, Paul Burgess, Alan Gates, Andy Buchan, Piers Hunnisett, Richard Weatherley, Steve Brogan, Darrell Beasley, Jeremy Cotterill, Andrew O’Hara, Gary Moynihan, Michael Simpson, Matt Davies, Bobby Game, Robert Jenkinson, Michael Spencer, Mike Conway, Chris Rogers, Mark Rochford, Gary Catt and Robert Foster-Jones. Sadly, Mark Litchfield’s name on this elite list may turn out to be the last.

As predicted, the KF classes have now managed to price themselves out of existence leaving a huge void at the top of British karting. Despite Paul Fletcher’s efforts to sustain sufficient interest in KF1, support for this category completely evaporated last year. That left KF2 as the obvious alternative but it became clear very early in 2011 that there wouldn’t be sufficient numbers to make this class viable, either. An attempt will be made to restore the KF2 British Championship title by staging a one off meeting at PF later this year. Somehow, this prospect doesn’t quite make the taste buds tingle in anticipation.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea of deciding a British title in one single meeting. Indeed, that used to be the accepted method for many years and I actually prefer it to the much costlier multi round packages offered by Super 1 or Formula Kart Stars. However, we’re talking here about resurrecting a class that hasn’t been run anywhere else in Britain this year. Despite the offer of huge incentives, KF2 wasn’t able to attract more than half a dozen potential participants when entries for Super One closed.

The timing of this event in October might make it an attractive proposition for Rotax, TKM or KGP competitors whose championship aspirations in their chosen classes haven’t quite been fulfilled. We could finish up with a remarkably high entry, although in that case I’m not quite sure where all the motors will come from. Buying expensive engines for a championship series spread over six rounds is one thing, but it doesn’t make particularly good financial sense when they’re to be used at a one off event. I don’t doubt that whoever becomes the 2011 KF2 British Champion will be an extremely talented individual, but I’ll always regard the title as a bit synthetic. The cream has already turned sour and no amount of sugar can sweeten it.

Many readers will have been impressed by the photograph of Peter Brinkworth’s pristine 1963 Fox/McCulloch in last month’s issue. Peter bought the kart eight years ago, paying $1200 for it plus shipping costs. It required extensive restoration work which Peter described as a labour of love. In his earlier competitive days, he’d always wanted to own a Fox-kart but couldn’t afford one. Back in 1963, they were priced at £120 without an engine, equivalent of around £4,000 today. Driven by George Bloom, Bobby Day and Roger Keele these karts won three out of four classes in the 1963 British Championships. It all turned sour for Fox-kart owners within a few very short months when their prized possessions were rendered obsolete by the Tecno Kaimano and its imitators. It was possible for karters to get their fingers badly burned even in those days.

Roger Mills was the driver who appeared in April’s poser. This month’s photograph shows Chris Merlin, Irving Jacobs and Tony Palmer immediately after this trio had won the 2nd Snetterton 9hr event. It was the year of Flower Power when Scott McKenzie went to “San Francisco”. The Beatles produced their Sergeant Pepper album and the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, took a fatal overdose. Israel emerged triumphant from the Six Day War and Che Guevara was shot dead in Bolivia. Glasgow Celtic became Britain’s first winners of the European Champions Cup and barefooted Sandie Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest. New Zealander Denny Hulme was the F1 world champion, while Eduardo Rossi claimed karting’s equivalent. At Little Rissington Dave Ferris was crowned as the outright British karting champion and Thailand’s Nu Punjashthiti partnered Canadian driver Buck Jones to win the Shenington 6hrs. If you can name the year please send an e-mail to dave.bewley@talktalk.net or telephone 01946 861355