University Challenge

BUKC2014_Whilton_main (74)The British Universities Karting Championship is starting up for its 2014/15 season. The popular series will again host big grids and competitive racing. Words by Joel Fothergill. The British Universities Karting Championship, commonly known as the BUKC, kicked off the 2015 season with pre-season testing in October, with the qualifiers taking place on the weekend of the 15-16 November. Nearly 700 students from almost 50 universities around the country take part each year in what
is almost certainly the most adrenaline-fuelled student sport around; regularly seeing grids of 36 karts for every race.

The series uses the arrive-and-drive two-stroke kart fleet supplied by Club100, Club100 use the Birel N35 corporate chassis, coupled with Vega RH8 slicks (in all weather!) and the fantastic TKM Extreme engine. Clutch-less running places emphasis on smooth and controlled driving, as one spin means race ruined. But what makes the BUKC so unique? Will Tew, founder and something of a legend amongst the student fraternity, reckons it’s not just the racing.

“It is difficult to sum up how awesome the BUKC is. We use the incredible fleet of Club100 karts and whilst they may not be as quick as a proper race-tuned TKM, the consistency and the equality of the fleet is second to none. We have more than 700 students racing in the championship including many ex-Super One, Stars and MSA club racers. We have huge grids at every race meeting. Our format is designed to maximise the track time and value for money for every driver. The racing is incredibly hard. But what sets it apart for me is the amazing atmosphere and banter between the teams and universities throughout the season; and especially at the annual end of season party.”

Value for money, the fantastic Club100 karts and the chance to race at some of best circuits in the UK, all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s easy to see the appeal to the students – both seasoned racers and newcomers to the sport alike. There are plenty of seasoned racers as well. The paddock is regularly filled with TonyKart, Birel, Stars, Super One and a menagerie of other kart team and competition regalia; betraying several owner-drivers that have found a new challenge amongst the ranks of the students. One such example is Super One TKM champion Will Van Es. Having raced for Durham University for the last two years, he found competing in the BUKC a unique challenge.

“The great thing about BUKC is how you’ve got a relatively small amount of time to make the most progress through the field that you can,” Will said. “It means that you learn to make an overtaking manoeuvre as soon as possible, which is one of the most important aspects of racecraft.” Even more so in less-favourable conditions. “Driving in the wet on slicks, which we do in the BUKC, is undoubtedly the best way to learn how to drive in the wet, which has meant I’ve always done very well in wet races in MSA karting.”

With over 700 students competing over the course of the season, the friendly rivalries, banter and the traditional end of season party really make the BUKC stand out amongst other karting series in the UK. The 2015 season With the championship expanding rapidly each season, new universities are a regular feature in the paddock. The University of the West of England (thankfully, known as UWE) is one such team, having entered the BUKC for the first time last season, finishing 17th and 49th with their A and B teams.

“This year we aim to build on last year’s steadily improving results by seeing a top 10 finish for our A team. Seb Hutchinson proved to be our star driver, with two wins in the sprint races. Driving alongside Jack Hughes in endurance rounds, the pair made a deadly combination, taking the top spot at Whilton Mill.” said the team’s captain. Huddersfield University, known as HKARTS, shared this optimism. “Last year we finished 10th despite missing some leading drivers.” said their Vice-President, Tom Sansbury. “This year we aim to break the top 5, we definitely think we have the drivers to do so. Our stand out driver would have to be Patryk Szczerbinski. He has experience in Porsche Supercup and GP3 testing so he’s rapid, to say the least.”

Oxford Brookes University narrowly missed out on the championship last season, their A team losing to Coventry University by just 6 points overall. They’re certainly a team to watch this year, having retained the majority of their drivers. “Coventry showed great pace towards the end and so fair play to them, but we will be making amends to that this year.” said their captain James Theodore. With a wide mix of both newcomers and seasoned veterans alike, the BUKC season 2015 is certainly one to watch. The action begins on the 11th of Feb at Buckmore Park.