Paul Lee-Davis was an avid karter and a general motorsport fanatic who competed in karting at varying levels for many years. Known for his fun-loving, larger than life character Paul was always someone who enjoyed his racing. He was a big personality and character and brought a smile to the faces of many of his competitors turned friends. Such is the cruelty of life at times, Paul was diagnosed with T-PLL is a very rare leukemia, primarily affecting adults over the age of 30. It represents 2% of all small lymphocytic leukemia in adults and it had a tragic effect on his life.
After an 18-month battle with leukemia Paul very sadly passed away in 2011 at the age of 37 years old. It not only left a huge dent in the lives of those that loved him, but also in the Club100 paddock. After a few months, one of his close friends and fellow Club100 racers, Dan Underhill, decided it would be a good idea to do something in Paul’s name to raise money for the Institute of Cancer Research. Where others may do a sponsored run or bike ride there could only be one thing to do in Paul’s memory, a charity kart race!
Introducing the annual PLD (Paul Lee-Davis) Karting Event which runs once a year to raise money for the Institute of Cancer Research. Now in it’s sixth year I wanted to go and see what the PLD event was all about as well as raising money for a good cause.
The first thing I noticed about the PLD event before I arrived was how popular it was. Over the years some great drivers from all forms of motorsport have come along including former GP3 driver Jake Dennis. For this year over 60 drivers were booked in to race in a packed grid at Whilton Mill for this year.
Arriving at a cold and wet Whilton Mill I walked into a packed reception with what probably contained around 100 people. The atmosphere was buzzing, everyone seemed to be in great spirits as we all prepared for a fun days racing. Before any on track action got underway though it was time for a raffle to raise some money where very generous drivers managed to raise a generous £651.25 (inc gift aid) between them.
Using Whilton Mill’s Sodi Karts the format of the day was pretty straight forward. Each driver would take part in a practice session before taking part in three heats each with grids drawn at random. Points from the heats would be collated which would form the grids for the A, B and C Finals. Winning the C Final would win you a place into the B Final and likewise winning the B Final would see you qualify through to the A.
As well as some great racing ahead there was also some great prizes to be won. Thanks to lots of generosity from various companies PLD had a very attractive prize list. The prize list contained:
1st JDR X30 full day test
Stu Stretton Canvas
Karting Mag Driver review
2nd Whilton Mill Activity Voucher (the prize also went up for auction on Facebook and raised £81.25)
Stu Stretton Canvas
3rd Lego Kart
Stu Stretton Canvas
B Final Winner
Force India goodie bag.
All finalists won ICR t-shirts
Bandit of the day
Kart Bandit hat, will go to driver with most penalties (winner Jon Maycock, went off in every race)
Club100 wooden spoon went to the lowest place Club100 driver. The ‘Winner’ Martin Joyce, was presented with his prize at the Club100 first round.
For anyone who wasn’t prepared to face the cold and watch trackside then watching from home was arguably better. Whilton Mill’s NKL (Northampton Kart League) Team provided a livestream on Facebook throughout the day with commentary from Chris Dawes. The coverage itself was great and attracted thousands of viewers throughout the day.
As for the racing, well I can’t say it wasn’t affected by the weather, but it was certainly competitive! Lots of big names from karting, especially the arrive and drive scene, were present. My main aim was to try and qualify A Final and I was thankfully able to do just that…, just!
Going out in the third practice session gave me lots of time to watch the on track action and try and pick up some tips, but it also allowed the weather to get worse to the point where it was almost snowing! However, in practice I was 4th and I followed that up with a 9th in heat one from p16.
Heat two didn’t start so well as I took a spin on the opening lap, but I managed to recover to 9th. Finally, in the last heat I managed to finish 7th which saw me sneak into the A Final. That race almost went very well, I was on the fringes of the top ten from 20th on the grid, but recovering drivers and the fact I was generally down the order saw me fall to 17th in the second half of the race.
It made me realise just how competitive PLD was and how quick the drivers at the front were. I was almost three seconds slower than winner Sam Massey in the torrid conditions which is quite astonishing considering I raced at Whilton Mill for five years. That said I was having some great battles and was constantly reminding myself of why I was there, I highly doubt I was alone on that front!
Meeting the parents
After racing had finished I was able to meet some of Paul’s family and friends for a chat. Although being at Whilton brought back some memories of Paul, I could see how proud they were of Paul. It’s his personality that drove his friends to put on this event which has forever been a success. Although some drivers there that day may not have known him there’s no doubt they would have overheard stories which may have made them smile, even if their race didn’t go so well and that’s a fantastic thing.
I’ve been to a few charity events in my time, but this one did have something special about it. The Club100 connection meant you were never too far from a group of drivers sharing memories about Paul and it was clear many were there to support him. Dan Underhill has done an amazing job in making this all happen and raise a total of £2,770.00 + £545.00 Gift Aid!
It’s made Paul’s parents proud of their son and although I imagine they must realised how popular he was, I never imagine they expected this response. Karting was a big part of Paul’s life and he simply did it for fun, now karters are continuing that in his name.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of Stu Stretton