It was a World Championship to remember from a British perspective with an all British podium in the Junior final. It’s the first time a nation has locked out a World Championship podium since 2001 where Italians Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sauro Casetti and Davide Fore finished in the top three in the Formula A class. In fact the Italians have been the only nation to own a World Championship podium, but Great Britain can now also have that memory thanks to Dexter Patterson, Chris Lulham and Harry Thompson.
Things got off to a great start on Friday with Thompson taking pole position from Lulham with Francesco Raffaele Pizzi a somewhat surprising 3rd out of a bumper 93 kart grid which included 14 British drivers.
Of course with no Pre-Final the five heats for all drivers was crucial. To qualify for that all important final you had to be inside the top 34 positions. Mistakes in the heats could not only hurt your chances of winning the event but also qualifying for final.
For Harry Thompson, Chris Lulham and Dexter Patterson there was no such problems as they qualified for the final in the top three positions in that order. Other Brits to qualify for the final were Alex Simmonds (12th), Luca Griggs (13th), Angus Moulsdale (19th), Jonny Edgar (26th) and Alex Eades (27th). Unfortunately Zak O’Sullivan, Klaas Kooiker, Jamie Day, Joseph Taylor, Samuel Harrison and Josh Dufek they would watch from the sidelines.
Behind the top three Zane Maloney had made history by simply qualifying as he became the first driver from Barbados to appear in a World Championship final but the Ricky Flynn Motorsports driver would also pose a strong threat to the top three. Aleksey Brizhan would start 5th which came as a surprise considering he was down in 26th in this year’s European Championship. Gabriel Borteloto and Jack Doohan looked possible winners in 6th and 7th, starting 8th would be Belgium’s Antoine Potty and in 9th was this year’s Junior ROK Florida Winter Tour Champion Tyler Gonzales. Rounding out the top ten was Sweden’s Dino Beganovic.
With the cameras rolling and the PFI circuit full of spectators, among those Fernando Alonso, the Junior final got underway with two big changes on the opening lap. Maloney wasted no time in getting through to 3rd as the pack filtered over the Litchfield Bridge for the first time whilst Patterson took the lead from Thompson at hairpin two. However, Thompson would quickly fight back over the bridge on lap two with his RFM teammate Maloney following him through to take 2nd.
The lead change, along with some battling behind, had given the two teammates a break out front and Maloney tucked in behind for what looked could be a successful break away. However, behind lay the Forza Racing teammates of Patterson and Lulham and it wasn’t long before they had caught the leaders once again. Seeing this Maloney passed Thompson for the lead on lap four, but lost it to Patterson as they made their way into hairpin one. An unsuccessful attempt to re-take the lead from Maloney at hairpin two then gave the Scot a break with Maloney having to fend off a queue of five drivers behind.
Included in that queue was Alex Simmonds, representing Great Britain in this year’s CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy, the Piers Sexton Racing driver had driven a brilliant fifth lap to get himself into 5th place. However on lap six his attempt to pass Thompson unfortunately saw his race end after he made contact with Maloney which saw him spin. It looked to be an unfortunate incident which was devastating for Simmonds who looked on for a potential podium.
That incident saw Patterson, Lulham and Thompson over two seconds clear from the rest of the pack although they were 1.6 seconds apart themselves with twelve laps now remaining. The question now was could Patterson be caught? On home soil, he looked in a very comfortable position but a determined Lulham started to put in some impressive lap times to chase his teammate down with the chase complete by the end of lap twelve.
Over the next few laps Lulham was presented with opportunities to take the lead from Patterson, one coming on lap 17 (of 19) where a mistake from Patterson at hairpin one left him vulnerable but Lulham remained patient clearly waiting for the last lap. It’s not an unusual tactic of course, but with Thompson nearly four seconds back in 3rd I’m surprised he didn’t make his move then. On the penultimate lap heading down to the first hairpin once again Lulham had the run on Patterson but chose to push the Scot, it forced Patterson to defend at hairpin two but it confirmed a last lap attack was coming. It’s a risky strategy, but one that would look very impressive if it paid off. And if didn’t Lulham would become Vice World Champion. Win, win situation?
As the pair headed on to the last lap the crowd were watching with anticipation with Jamie Croxford (Forza Racing Team Manager) probably finding it hard to watch. Lulham was piling on the pressure but Patterson was defending remarkably well. It was surprising how calm the young Scot was given what was at stake, but you also felt Lulham wasn’t prepared to take any unnecessary risks.
Patterson led the pair out of the last corner for the final time to be greeted with a British crowd going wild! He had done it, his first year racing in OKJ, his first year racing in the World Championships and he would become just the tenth brit to become World Champion in over 50 years of CIK-FIA racing! It was a sterling drive and Dexter had made history and will always be remembered for that 19 laps of racing around PFI.
Lulham drove a very calm and collected race to crown himself the Vice World Champion, whilst Thompson didn’t look quite as happy with 3rd, but I’m sure on reflection will be satisfied with a World Championship podium on what is also his first year racing in the CIK-FIA World Championship. The first half of the race was exciting, the second tense but for the British fans a results that couldn’t get any better. An all British affair on the podium with the Senior race yet to come.
Dexter Patterson joins the likes of Terry Fullerton, Mike Wilson, Colin Brown, Lando Norris and Enaam Ahmed among others as a World Champion and Forza Racing will struggle to keep hold of him. However, Forza Racing are now European and World Champions with Patterson and Edgar so at this current time they rule Junior Karting.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of KSP/CIK-FIA