Had we been served the main course, or was this wholly hors doeuvres from the Priest? That was a question I asked myself after watching Sam Priest capture the 2010 Little Green Man title with considerable panache.
Throughout the Series, Sam had displayed supreme confidence, suggesting that this was merely an appetiser for bigger things to come. His thoroughly relaxed style belied a steely determination and any rival who believed that he could be easily flustered into making errors was quickly re-educated. Even before arriving at PF for the seventh and final round, hed done enough to establish himself as the new champion. In doing so, hed seen off a determined onslaught from Cory Stevens, Alex Stott and Sean Gee, all of whom carried the aura of potential champions. Hed achieved this goal, moreover, without the benefit of team support, relying on his dads mechanical skills to see him through.
After passing the half-way point it became clear that the title was his to lose I honestly expected the opening round at Fulbeck would provide Sam with his best result, remarked his dad, Nigel. It was Sams home circuit, after all, and he always goes particularly well there. He finished 2nd behind Cory, but it could just as easily have been 4th as he was under tremendous pressure from Alex Stott and Jordan Falding on the last lap. I was concerned that he might be at a power disadvantage on other, less familiar circuits At that point I was thinking a top three place in the championship table would be good, but we raised our sights once the race wins started to materialise. After passing the half way point it became clear that the title was his to lose.
Sam suffered a minor set back at Kimbolton when he dropped down to 16th in his 2nd Heat after starting from pole. He recovered well from this, though, and actually won the final with an additional bonus point for setting fastest lap. The round at Three Sisters saw him eat further into Corys lead, even though he was narrowly beaten by Alex in a thrilling final. At Ellough Park he demonstrated total supremacy, earning pole position and setting fastest lap on his way to winning the final. Cory had an off day here and Sam was able to build up a clear points lead. Another win at Buckmore extended his lead even further and he went to Shenington knowing that a good result here could win the title for him.
Not even Sam could live with Shayne Harrisons pace at Shenington, but it didnt really matter. He remained ahead of the chasing pack and, as Cory struggled back in 5th place, Sam had done enough to win the title with another round still remaining. His 2nd place turned into a race victory when Mark Weyers protest against Harrisons motor was eventually upheld. He didnt need to race at PF but nevertheless chose to do so. Sundays wet conditions didnt quite suit him although he still managed a front row slot for the final alongside Jordan Falding. After shadowing Falding in the early part of this race he found himself unceremoniously dumped off the circuit. It wasnt quite the ending hed hoped for but Sam could reflect with some pride on an excellent championship campaign.
It had all begun back in 2006 when Sam attended the opening Little Green Man round at Wombwell as a spectator. Almost immediately afterwards he acquired a second-hand B1 powered Swiss Hutless. Previously hed been content to drive a grass-track kart around the fields outside his farmhouse in Cawthorne near Barnsley. His first five races as a novice were completed at Wombwell and brought him four trophies. Nigel was impressed with the WTP class, particularly liking its relative simplicity and low running costs. A brand new BRM chassis was purchased complete with a B5 motor. Sam began competing at other venues especially Fulbeck where he became a regular visitor. His results were encouraging and a decision was made to enter the 2007 Little Green Man Championships.
Like many other parents we blamed our motors but, with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise it was Sams inexperience that cost him places.
Sennan Fielding emerged as the champion that year but there was fierce competition for the minor places. Sam finished the season in 19th spot and considered that hed done quite a good job. Expectations for 2008 were high, but he missed out on a top 15 place. By coincidence it was Alex Stott, his closest rival in 2010, who edged him out. Like many other parents we blamed the motors but, with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise it was Sams inexperience that cost him places, says Nigel. Sam raced in 2010 with the same three engines hed used two years earlier. They looked so much quicker in a straight line because he was pulling out of corners better. It shouldnt have surprised me. All other things being equal, I think youd expect a twelve year old to be that bit sharper than someone whos only nine or ten.
Nigel runs his own garage employing ten others. The economic downturn persuaded him to concentrate on club racing in 2009. Missing out on the Little Green Man meant that funds could be diverted into purchasing a new Zip chassis. I found that the Zip was better suited to my driving style, Sam acknowledges. I was obviously disappointed not to be taking part in the championships that year, but it probably turned out to be a good move. It meant that I started the 2010 season ranked 4 or 5 with Cory a clear favourite. I think that took some of the pressure off me. Ive always enjoyed the Little Green Man but obviously this last one has been something really special for me personally. I wouldnt want to alter the format. Some people think that you should award points for Heats and Finals but I actually prefer the present system. The only thing Id probably change is to have two finals at each round rather than just one.
Sams mum Jayne works alongside Nigel in the family business. It can get a bit hectic at times, especially last year when Sam was racing virtually every weekend, she acknowledges. Nigel and Sam spend most evenings working on the kart and its surprising how many things they can find that need altering. Karting has certainly improved Sams technical knowledge and its also done wonders for our social life. I attend all of the race meetings along with our daughter Stephanie. Sams grandfather likes coming to most of the Wombwell events and we also have a number of friends who travel around the country supporting Sam. We booked a table for ten at the awards presentation so that half a dozen of these friends could see Sam picking up his awards. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Of course, its easier to smile when youre actually winning, but weve always impressed upon him the importance of remaining upbeat even when things arent going his way.
Jayne confirms an opinion expressed earlier by Mike Mills that these championships have regained the friendly atmosphere for which they were once renowned. I always enjoy the weekends when we meet many different people and this is especially true of Little Green Man rounds where everyone is so friendly. Its always nice to see young drivers coming off the circuit wearing a smile and Im pleased to say that Sam had a big grin on his face at the end of every race last year. Of course, its easier to smile when youre actually winning, she adds, but weve always impressed upon him the importance of remaining upbeat even when things arent going his way.
Karting is my passion, Sam insists. I keep fit by attending the gym regularly and Ive found that has improved my stamina. My favourite circuits are Rowrah and Buckmore as they both have hills that give them lots of character. I also like my local circuits Fulbeck and Wombwell obviously. My best race of all time was at PF last year when I won Kartmasters. Winning the Little Green Man Championships meant a lot to me because we had some really good drivers taking part. At the start of the year I believed that Cory Stevens, Sean Gee, Alex Stott and Max Stilp would all do very well so there were no real surprises when they all finished in the top seven. Thomas Turner came on very well during the season and I think hell do especially well this year. I also think that Thomas Day will be a strong favourite in 2011.
Rather than moving into Mini-max or KF3, Sam has opted for Super Cadet this year and has already had some impressive outings. Hes also decided that joining a team will enhance his future prospects. Ive taken a look at the way Prima Motorsport is being run and Im very impressed, he acknowledges. Sam Brough, Billy Monger, Sean Gee, Gaby Weyer and James Kellet are all team members. We get on very well together and thats quite important. Im looking forward to working with Jamie Croxford who has so much karting knowledge. We did a WSK round at the year end and that was certainly an experience. We plan to do a few more of these in 2011. I like the Tonykart which seems quite easy to set up. Obviously, the Lenso motor produces much more power than Ive previously been used to and it requires a different driving style.
It was good to watch Sam Priest in action last season. This year hell be attracting a wider European audience. I believe that his performances at home and abroad will be no less impressive.