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Louis Wall tells us why Superkarts should be televised, what he really thinks of his rivals, and why Nigel Mansell was the greatest F1 driver ever
I tend not be completely open with people about what I do. It’s hard to explain it and they don’t quite understand. They see it as fun kart racing. There are a few close mates that know how seriously I take it and they come to the races, and that’s really helpful to me. Now of course I have made great friends in racing, and when we hang out racing is all we talk about!
Last year there was talk of people designing their own engines, and making their own. Viper, DEA and THR are the main three making EVO engines, because the Honda engines are getting to the point where they are not as reliable, and they’re running out of parts. These new engines are an alternative to the Hondas. That should be very exciting this year. With DEA’s history in twin engines, I’ll bet that’s going to be very quick.
In the winter, I strip the kart completely down to the chassis. After each meeting we give the kart a bit of a cleanup, but in the winter we’re checking for cracks, replacing the bearings and rose joints, anything that might be wear and tear. It’s a massive job, effectively we’re rebuilding the kart from the chassis up. I’ve just finished setting the tracking, the weights, the brakes, everything. I’d rather do it now than halfway through the season. You know you’re doing a proper job that way.
Cadwell last year was fun! First race was me and Paul Platt fighting for the lead, and then I pulled a gap of about 7 seconds. On the last lap, my rear left wheel fell off and I went from there to the start line on the disc, and still finished second!! It scared the life out of me! Every time I touched the throttle, I was wheelspinning on the disc and snaking down the hill! I got nicknamed “Three Wheel Wall” for that one. I was gutted to lose but it was fun anyway.
I always want to win. I’m never truly happy unless I win. I don’t even enter unless I know I can win, so I’m always very dedicated to make that happen. But so long as it’s a good race and I get a kick out of it, it is a small consolation. I like a good dice!
My biggest accident was at Donington. I was in Jason Dredge’s kart, I clipped a backmarker at the Old Hairpin and flipped it at about 115 mph. I was knocked out. I think the scariest thing about it was waking up on the track. I could hear engines still buzzing around and I could see the tarmac beneath me. My first thought was to get off the circuit and on to the grass, but I physically couldn’t move. I was put on a stretcher and in a headblock. They said the trauma of it all was the worst element of it, and I was sent into shock by the crash. On the way home from the hospital, my first decision was to call Anderson about a new chassis because the kart was destroyed!
Everyone knows there’s a danger but you try not to think about it. It’s always the last thing on my mind. If you thought like that, you’d never do anything. I tend to try to forget it and move on. The danger gives it all an added rush. You’re exposed to the elements and your neck takes quite a lot of punishment because of the wind and the weight of the helmet itself.
The drivers have so much respect for each other that they’d never do anything that could harm anyone. You don’t go for a move you don’t know you can pull off. There’s no pushing, no bumping, as everybody knows how dangerous it is. I’d like to think no driver out there would deliberately put me or anybody else in a dangerous position on purpose. You do get close, but there’s so much respect between us all.
Personally, I think the MSA rule about the white lines is logical. The white line is there for a reason, and I don’t see why you should need to cross it because that is the racetrack. Between the white lines is where you’re meant to be! I don’t think it makes much difference to us, because we’re so low to the ground that we try to stay off the kerbs. The abuse our body gets from them is so brutal, and it could easily break the nosecone or crack the chassis, so we don’t stray from the white lines anyway. I don’t think it’ll be a problem for us. For touring cars, maybe it will be. They like to push things, don’t they…
I could list half a dozen Superkart racers who’d be winners in BTCC. Some of the best drivers in the country are in Superkarts, and it’s such an injustice that they all get overlooked. Nobody gets picked up from here, I can’t understand why. I believe it’s the perfect transition from karting to Formula Renault for example. We deal with aerodynamics, the speed, the G-forces, and our bodies are already tuned to cope with that.
We can get three or four abreast into Church at Thruxton. That’s quite commonplace. On the first left up the hill beyond the startline at Cadwell Park, we regularly run two wide on lap one and throughout the race. Being so low to the ground just adds to the experience. It’s truly incredible.
Everybody wants to win the Grand Prix. If it’s being run at Cadwell, we want to win it even more. It’s a real driver’s circuit and the toughest challenge. To win, the kart has to be perfect. Your engine has to be on its best performance, as a driver you have to be totally on the ball, you have to concentrate on how long the tyres will last. “If you burn them in the first couple of laps, will they last the distance?” If you win the Grand Prix at Cadwell, that’s a true achievement. Hopefully I’ll win that this year.
Because the 125cc engines are slightly slower, they don’t run a rear wing. Basically that’s because it slows them down more than is needed. They seem to pick up top speed quicker as a result, but they corner a little slower because of the reduced grip levels. They rely on towing each other in the slipstream which makes the racing so intense. It’s incredible racing to watch. Every corner there’s a lead change practically. It makes me want to get involved one day because the quality of the racing is so good.
The calibre of famous drivers to have a play in these shows how high up the ladder it should be. We’ve had Valentino Rossi, David Coulthard and Rob Huff do tests in a Superkart in recent years. The fact that they’re impressed by it is quite an achievement. It shows we should be classed as an elite class, amongst the best. We need more credit than we’re getting.
I think Superkart racing is in a vicious circle. There are no opportunities for sponsorship because there’s nobody wanting to televise it, and so with no TV nobody sees the point in sponsoring it. If we can get some good publicity and show people that it is an incredible sport and it is worth televising, maybe we can change that. People thinking it’s all just older drivers, or it’s not much fun probably doesn’t help. Me and Sam Moss are 25, the Davis boys are younger, and we’re all winners. The grid’s full of many ages, which just demonstrates that you can join in from the age of 17 and race for decades.
If money was endless I’d love to race a twin, just to say that I’d done it. I want to win the 250 Championship, and then the twins. Then I’d progress on to Formula Renault. Formula Ford would seem too slow for me! We rely on aerodynamics and we’re right on the edge of driving. Formula Renault would suit me, and it looks great fun.
It’s humbling to think Nigel Mansell and Martin Hines did this. There are so many that started here. They’ve raced round the circuits I race around. When I started on the short circuits at venues like Rissington or Shenington, it’s cool to think they did that once. Superkart racing isn’t associated with the real elite.
I don’t think karting is truly appreciated for how much it does for motorsport. You’re always learning with karting. At every track, there’s a different setup, different aerodynamics. It’s something you always take with you wherever you go in your career. The basics are always the same, whether you’re in Formula One or the BTCC or Superkarts. It should be of greater value to motorsport as a whole. It makes the world champions who they are as drivers.
Superkarts is a sort of art form. You have to make everything work at the same time. You have to get the whole package setup perfectly, the nose cone, the understeer, the wings, the width, everything. I love how technical it is, how it all plays its own part.
My father and I were big fans of Nigel Mansell. He was racing at the same time Nigel was in karts. Back in the day, we’d dig through the VHS collection and watch all Nigel’s biggest wins. The sheer aggression, the balls on the guy, it was so impressive. Not once did he think he couldn’t do it. It’s something I try and emulate when I’m on the dummy grid.
I’d love to have a go round Monaco. It’d just be incredible, slightly dangerous of course because the walls are so close. Just to embrace the crowds up against the walls, the speed, the noise, the barriers, the buildings. It must feel so quick. That’d be the ultimate dream. Might be a bit dangerous in a Superkart, but it’d be great fun while you were doing it.
Cadwell Park is the best track in the UK. The Mountain, being flat in fifth on the Gooseneck, dropping a gear and keeping it flat through the woodlands, there’s no better! You need supreme confidence to trust it and to trust yourself on it.
Indoor karting is both good fun and frustrating. It’s still competitive so it’s good to win, but it’s nice and refreshing to compare yourself against your friends, maybe even to teach them how to get better and help them get faster. The speed is a bit pathetic compared to what we’re used to. You sometimes feel you could get out and walk quicker!