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Karting tips from champ Tom Joyner
Tom Joyner was a hugely popular winner of the Northern Qualifier at PFi last month doubly so beecause only does a few races a year. It wasn’t entirely unprecedented though as he had come 4th in last year’s European KF2 Finals at Genk and has been a frontrunner on the national scene for the last half decade.
Tom is now 19 and was headed off to Nottingham University last autumn to study Product Design and Engineering, but he decided to take a gap year and have one last shot at international success. He’s already reconsidering that and is thinking about combining university with racing next season, or even another gap year if someone comes through with a big opportunity. He races with Ash Todd’s AMT Racing and ideally would like to pick up some sponsorship and stay with the same team. He would like to do the British Championship at PFi and thinks it will be a really good event but he’s due to go off to Uni the day after.
At PFi he had recently switched to a Tonykart and the test the week before the Qualifier was his first time out on the kart.
“I found an extra tenth that I perhaps lacked at Genk and carried that through to the next week. In Qualifying everyone said the track was getting slower but it was OK and being at the front then helped in the heats.
“Klinkby-Silver and Rossel were much closer to the pace in the Final and could have been a threat if they had started further up.
“I liked the new layout of the weekend, as everyone knew they were through. I also liked the long final, although I got out and couldn’t move my hands! The tyres were surprising as I’ve always seen Vegas destroy themselves but they were just as fast in the fourth heat as in the first. With the Dunlops from last year you couldn’t be as smooth.”
He isn’t changing anything for the Final at Zuera but thinks there is more to come from the TM engine. “It’ll be a lot closer there as more people know the track,” he says, himself never having been there before.
Last year at Genk he says “it was a weird weekend, I was testing on old tyres thec week before then put on the new tyre, I qualified 9th but didn’t have the pace to win and had an accident in the last heat so started 15th for Final 1. I came through to 5th but I had taken a lot out of the fronts with the front brakes and dropped to 10th. In the Final I came up to 4th, the grippy track suited my driving style and I surprised a lot of people.”
I asked Tom what he thought could make things better for drivers like him. He said “there needs to be less classes and less races in the British Championship. We have the most rounds out of any country, I think in the Belgian Championship there’s only four rounds.”
“With so many races you often have to go testing, then go to a Super One for example, and then go back and race at the track you tested at and it’s not ideal. It’s also important that people in this country can do their own championship.”
He thinks this year’s one-off British Championship will be a good thing as anyone could win it. “Also with a new track it should be interesting, hopefully Mark Litchfield won’t drive it for a week before everyone else!” Tom is more of a fan of PFi than a lot of people, he says it looks like a worse track to drive than it actually is, and says there’s good viewing with the bowl effect.
From what he told me I’ve picked out seven points that help Tom succeed in a class that is infamous for excessive expense.
Embrace what’s difficult
Tom doesn’t shy away from things that might faze other drivers. For example at PFi “for the final we set up the kart to come on really late and I really struggled at the start, dropping back seven places. The tyre pressures were so low I didn’t know if I could get round the first corner.”
He says his favourite track is Braga as “it’s really old and bumpy, which makes it really interesting, and you struggle with the same lines on each lap, and the kerbs show up your mistakes. I like that about PFi as well.” In the UK his favourite track is Rowrah, for the same reason with the kerbs and also the inclines.
Pick a good team and stick with them
Tom has been with AMT since 2007 when he was racing in JICA and thinks they are a huge reason why he can be successful. “I go over everything with Ash and go over the data and have learned not to just go out and change everything and to think about it more.
“We get on well and believe in each other, there’s no doubts anywhere. Lots of people change teams quite a lot, but you’re going to have good and bad days so it’s better to build relationships.”
“At PFi we didn’t think we’d be that far at the sharp end but it gave us a bit more confidence and everyone worked extra hard.” A few years ago Tom thinks he might have fluffed it at PFi being in the position he was in but now is in a really good frame of mind for it. He also says not to make rash decision when in reality you’re not far off the pace.
Tom does admit he would be at a disadvantage from his limited track time if he was younger and less experienced. But you can mitigate this by taking in everything you can whenever you can.
Don’t listen to paddock rumours
“People are put off by what they hear about the costs but Rotax can be just as bad. A works team will charge a lot of money but if you go with a good national team it costs much the same as other classes. With the engines there’s quite a lot you can change if it’s not good enough whereas in Rotax you often have to pay a lot for a good one and can only change the carb.
“Going abroad costs more but it’s the same for Euromax. In the European Championship tyres are free, in WSK the tyres cost but I haven’t done that.”
“I can’t stay kart-fit, but I ride my bike to work and I’m cycling for four or five hours at work as well,” said Tom, who works as a postman during the week.
“Every time I stop for a while I want to get back racing, not because I want to get into F1 or anything, just because it’s a good feeling and I enjoy myself.”