“I’ve never known another driver who has quite the same desire to win as he does. I think we’ve seen instances when he’s wanted it too much and been guilty of overdriving. Maybe if he’d taken a more relaxed attitude on those occasions we’d have had rather more to show by way of championship titles. As it is, he’s won the cadet “O” Plate this year and finished 4th in the British Championships so we certainly haven’t had a wasted season.” The words belonged to Lars Sexton, a former British Open Champion in Formula “A” who has been acting as Max McGuire’s mechanic. “Actually, it’s my brother Piers who has done most of the hard work with Max and I’ve only filled in when he hasn’t been available,” Lars points out. “I’m always very happy to do so because Max is such a great kid to work with and his entire family are exceptionally nice people. However, I do believe that continuity is very important and, unfortunately, Max hasn’t had that benefit up to now.”
Piers Sexton is equally glowing in his tributes. “Max has come a long way in a short space of time,” he emphasises. “His commitment is second to none and only first place is ever acceptable to him. This means that he’s always extremely focussed. I’m looking forward to working with him as he moves up to the next stage as his driving style and controlled aggression will be ideally suited to more powerful karts. Max is one of the most talented drivers I’ve seen for a while and the entire McGuire family’s passion for the sport is such that it makes them a pleasure to work with.”
The admiration is clearly mutual as Max points out, “Lars and Piers have helped me a lot and I hope they’ll both be there for me next year,” he insists. “I’d like to have moved up into JICA by then but if not then I’ll be looking at Mini-Max. The problem is my weight. At the moment, I’m around 32 kilos without my helmet. Under next year’s rules I’ll need to gain a couple of kilos body weight. I can’t eat junk food at school anymore and that’s a nuisance really as it’s the only way I can put on weight. At the start of this season, everyone said that the age limit for cadets was going to be increased by 12 months but then we had a very long delay before it was actually confirmed. In any case, I don’t want to do another year of cadets because there’s no real point. It wouldn’t improve me as a driver and I don’t believe the motors are appropriate for 13 year olds. Also, if I finish runner up in this year’s championships then anything less than a win next season will be a disappointment. I admire Sam (Jenkins) for placing his title on the line this year. It’s paid off for him and he’s the only cadet to win two British championships but he still took a big risk.”
It all began for Max on the day of his 8th birthday in February 2002 when he celebrated with a trip to Manchester’s Daytona indoor kart circuit. “Actually, my 11 year old sister, Kelly, was quicker than me on that occasion,” he recalls. “Ever since the age of 4, I’d watched F1 on TV. My Dad was a very keen fan and Mum shared his enthusiasm. I started going to indoor karting events quite regularly from October onwards. Here I met an older boy called Eric Hayes who gave me a video about the sport. It was called “This Is karting” and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found out that my nearest circuit was at Three Sisters near Wigan and went along to check things out. Dad bought me a Comer powered kart and I took my ARKS test at the circuit. Nick Abbot from Head to Head ran me in the early days. I completed one novice race at Rowrah and did the rest at Three Sisters before moving onto yellow plates. Then I spent 6 months alternating between this track and Glan Y Gors. After this period, I was racing on a variety of tracks gaining as much experience as possible. In my first season I was carrying 22 kilos of lead on the kart.”
During this period, Max got quite a bit of help and advice from Joe Boullen and his father Paul. By the end of 2004, Stars of Tomorrow and S1 were starting to look increasingly attractive. His mother, Andrea, had decided at this point to publish a Yearbook covering her son’s chosen sport. She was assisted in this task by Steve McCormack, a business associate of her husband, John. The end product was a very attractive and extremely informative book. “I’d actually do it quite a bit differently if given the opportunity again,” she claims. “I think it was a bit too dry and could have benefited from more colour and larger print. However, it filled a need at that particular time. As raw beginners ourselves, we were constantly seeking information about other clubs and circuits. We were amazed that there was nothing to provide a link between indoor and outdoor karting. Had someone taken the time to build up such links then I don’t think the sport would be in decline today. If nothing else, we were able to provide new starters with a few contact numbers and hopefully a bit of useful information also.”
John McGuire knows a little bit about what it takes to become a top racing driver. He once enrolled in the JimRussellSchool and did a full season of Formula Fords so motor racing is in his blood. However, John doesn’t claim to be the family’s most enthusiastic karting fan. “Andrea has become totally immersed in the sport and does at least as much of the mechanical work as I do,” he says proudly. “She certainly doesn’t play the role of bystander and can put tyres on their rims quicker than me. Everyone is amazed at just how much work she actually gets through on race weekends. Our 15 year old daughter Kelly also makes sure that she gets involved. Meeting different people every weekend at race meetings has certainly helped to develop her social skills. I think the way every member of the family can get involved in karting makes it such a great sport. Max is also fortunate in having the support of his headmaster Mr Gartside and the staff at AltringhamGrammar School. They always show tremendous interest in his results and don’t seem to mind him going missing on Fridays.”
Andrea’s father was a fairly successful sports car competitor who once raced in the famous Mille Miglia. At one time her sister, Angela Longo, was the All Africa tennis champion whilst still just a teenager. She played at Wimbledon and became the youngest ever US PTR coach to graduate from Hilton Head Island in America. This family heritage perhaps accounts for the strong competitive streak in Max. “It’s true that I want to win every race,” he confesses. “I don’t see the point in going to an event and aiming to finish 2nd or 3rd. My parents have spent a lot of money on my karting and they’re working very hard to get me to the top. Piers and Lars also put in lots of effort for me, so if I have a bad result and it’s due to my driving then I’m letting them down. There have been lots of times when I’ve not performed to my best and it’s made me feel bad. Whenever I’ve won though, even if it’s just at an ordinary club meeting, the feeling is just incredible.”
This season, as Max readily admits, has been full of highs and lows. “I got a really big high by winning the opening S1 round at Wigan” he recalls. “It was followed almost immediately by a massive low when the officials docked me a place because they believed that I’d impeded Sam Jenkins. I thought that was really unfair and unfortunately I allowed it to affect my next few races. Probably the lowest point came at PF during the Kart Masters GP when I just couldn’t seem to get any speed up at all. Winning the “O” Plate at Rye House obviously gave me a big boost even though this event suffered from poor entries. However, I like to think that most of the important cadets turned up and so it was still an important one to win. I also got quite a kick out of winning my first WTP Little Green Man round and setting the joint fastest time with Brad Fairhurst. It was only a couple of hundredths outside the overall cadet lap record at Shenington.”
Perhaps the biggest high occurred in August when Max went over to Genk for a Stars of Tomorrow round. His motors had looked rather flat in two or three race meetings leading up to this event and so he used up a fair amount of track time sorting through the equipment. “We combined a holiday with this race so that I could get in some testing the weekend beforehand,” he points out. “Some of the practice sessions were held with cadets and seniors all mixed together. In one of them I was fired off the circuit by an ICC driver. The organisation during race weekend, though, was very professional. I think holding one round abroad is a good idea. It involves more expense, of course, and that’s always a downside. It was an entirely new experience for me and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Of course, finishing 1st and 2nd over both days obviously helped as well.”
I asked him if Genk now ranked as one of his favourite circuits. “To be honest, I don’t really have any particular favourites,” was his reply. “They all have straights and corners and you have to get round them in the shortest possible time. I think some are a bit more challenging than others and Genk was certainly interesting. I’m a club member at Shenington, PF and Three Sisters and so I’ve done a lot of my racing on these tracks. I’m not a fan of any particular driver although there are some that I respect quite a lot. In cadets Sam is certainly one of them and Alexander Albon is another. I also respect Abigail Gerry, not only because she’s a girl taking on the boys but also because of her attitude towards racing. Depending on the outcome of an Appeal, she’s probably finished runner up in this year’s S1 and that’s something I was hoping to achieve myself. In JICA I think that Oliver Rowlands is a very special driver and I also like watching James Godbehere and Jack Harvey. Max Goff has had a very good year in Mini-max and deserves to win races. I don’t usually watch any of the other classes so I can’t comment about them.”
One person who isn’t particularly happy about the way Max is progressing in karting is his music teacher who believes that he could become a world class pianist without the distractions of racing to contend with. However, Max has very clear ideas about where he wants to go in future years. “I always wanted to be in F1 but it all seems a bit boring to me now,” he claims. “I’m much more interested in Indy Cars and that’s what I’d really love to do.” John and Andrea have mixed feelings. “We both are aware of the pitfalls associated with a full time career in sport,” says John. “The logical part of me would like to see Max become a Doctor, Lawyer or perhaps an Accountant. However, there’s another, more irresponsible, side of me that wants for Max the things that appealed to me in my younger days. We’ve tried to steer him away from the idea of F1 because I know just how improbable such a dream really is. Chas Cole is an acquaintance of mine who runs Dan Clarke in Indy Cars, a type of racing that’s always appealed to Max. Chas has taken a big interest in our karting activities and took Max to a few F3 events where he met Bruno Senna, Ayrton’s nephew. Sitting in Senna’s car was a powerful experience for him.”
On Sunday, November 15th, Max had his first outing in Minimax. James Mills had brought a brand new BRM chassis down to Shenington for him to try on Saturday and he was setting quick times almost immediately. On Sunday, amongst a field of 20 talented contenders, he set fastest time in each of his three heats and won the final. “I had to defend a bit towards the end of this race and missed out on setting the fastest lap. It was a lot different to racing in cadets. Apart from the difference in speed, I found it a bit strange having to feed in the power very gradually instead of planting my foot hard on the throttle coming out of corners. It’s also a bit weird taking your foot off the throttle and finding that you’re actually going quicker. It was still a great feeling winning my first race out in this class, though. I’ll be doing a lot of club meetings in Minimax but my main target for 2007 is JICA”
Max is a very small young lad with some pretty big ideas. He’s also got the talent to match these ambitions and I suspect that we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from him in years to come.
Additional statement by Dan Hazlewood, team manager Fusion Motorsport.
On paper Max has certainly been the most improved driver from 2005 -2006. Before he joined Fusion, half way through last year he was struggling to get results at both club and national level, although his pace and potential were obvious to me. It took a couple of intensive months of one to one coaching but Max started to turn his speed into results, scoring a 5th at the Kartmasters GP and a top 6 at the last two British Championship rounds, eventually just missing out on becoming a seeded driver.
With his new found confidence he transformed over the winter period, scoring a number of club victories against some really tough opposition, including British Champion Sam Jenkins. Unfortunately for Max he was a victim of his own success and his meteoric rise to the front of the grid marked him as one of the favourites, putting added pressure on a boy that was only about to enter his second season of National racing!
Despite this Max entered the season with confidence and drove exceptionally at the first round of Super One, winning the final with a clever move on the last lap on Sam Jenkins. Unfortunately the officials decided the move wasn’t clean enough and reversed the positions. Taking away a win at National level is tough on any driver, but when its your first, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
I’m sure this was a factor in knocking Max’s confidence, as over the next few meetings he’d lost the spring in his step and that sparkle we’d seen over the winter. Awesome overtaking moves were replaced by less committed attempts, as he was conscious of not receiving further penalties.
Nevertheless Max soldiered on and scored consistent points to keep himself in the title hunt, but it wasn’t until the 2nd round of the British Championship that we started to see Max get back to himself. Two podiums at Shennington saw him firmly back on the map.
Despite some engine problems mid season, Max always scored well at every meeting, putting him in the battle for the S1 Championship right until the final round. He took his maiden British Championship victory at the SOT round at Genk in Belgium, an emotional occasion for me, his mechanic Piers and the whole McGuire family/fan club! When he backed this success up with victory at the British Open Championship he proved just how far he has come in just 12 months.
Max is a complicated young man, who does put himself under immense pressure. He is also the only 12 year old I know that you can talk to as if he were an adult and sometimes I wonder whether he is just a bit too grown up for his age. But now he is starting to think positively and believe in himself as much as we all do, he is coupling his intelligence with confidence and I for one predict a very bright future for him.