BUKC: Buckmore Park – Race Report

Three test days, two intense days of qualifying, and a whole lot of waiting. But no more. Entering its 15th year (and now a moody teenager), the 2016 British Universities Karting Championship season kicked off on the 3rd February at Buckmore Park Kart Circuit in Kent.

Three test days, two intense days of qualifying, and a whole lot of waiting. But no more. Entering its 15th year (and now a moody teenager), the 2016 British Universities Karting Championship season kicked off on the 3rd February at Buckmore Park Kart Circuit in Kent.

The early morning start is never agreeable with the Students, but that smell of 2-stroke is enough to awaken even the heaviest sleeper; that and a large mug of coffee from the Buckmore cafe anyway.

BUKC2016_BuckmorePark_ssp-19 edit

With the weather, amazingly enough, looking favourable for the day’s racing, after the drivers briefing it was time. The karts were ready, the drivers set, and with the voice of the BUKC (our commentator for this season, ex-Birmingham driver Andrew Mather) talking us through proceedings…the 2016 season starts now!

Round 1 consists of Sprint racing – six straight 25 minute races from flag to flag. Teams compete in four of the sprints (one per driver) with the lowest race finish dropped.

Race 1 begun with Leeds A’s Matt Hirst capitalising on his high grid slot to take the lead early on, and then proceed to drive away from the rest of the field – with only UCL A managing to stay in touch throughout. After some scary moments navigating the maze of back-markers, Matt managed to hold onto his lead and with the sun beginning to shine across the circuit, crossed the line 6.3s ahead of 2nd placed UCL A, who finished a further 6s ahead of Coventry A’s Joe Charlton.

BUKC2016_BuckmorePark_ssp-114 edit

York A’s James Ludlum managed to hold onto his pole position as they crossed the line to start Race 2, but it was Kingston’s Rogan Lungley that managed to come from 5th place to lead the race as they approached the chequered flag; to be denied on the final corner of the last lap by Bath A who stole victory by just 0.4s. York A held onto the 3rd place to pick up some valuable points and hold off a charging James Lambton who had climbed 15 places up the grid to be denied a podium.

Race 3 saw a BUKC first – and it was a long time coming. Cambridge A led the field from pole but a first corner pileup saw a big shakeup in the order – and after some fantastic racing it was a two-way battle between reigning champions Huddersfield A and Scottish university Heriot-Watt A for the win. We may have spoilt the ending a little bit, but with 10 mins to go and Heriot-Watt A’s Scott Beattie in the lead and holding off Huddersfield, it was looking good. There were some nervy Scots in the stands as the chequered flag came out and it was Scott that took it, to give Heriot Watt their first EVER win in the BUKC – and the first ever win for a Scottish University in the main championship as well!

First ever scottish win in the BUKC for Herriot Watt A Scott Beattie
First ever scottish win in the BUKC for Herriot Watt A Scott Beattie

Loughborough A and Newcastle A’s James DeHavillande put on a show in Race 4, both climbing from low grid slots (12th and more impressively, 26th respectively) to steal the top two spots from Hertfordshire A’s Sam Spinnael as commentators curse struck and the almost-inevitable rain began to fall at Buckmore Park. Birmingham A’s Club100 veteran Rhianna Purcocks looked set to take the win but an unfortunate black flag robbed her of victory, paving the way for Loughborough A to cross the line first with Newcastle A 2nd, and pole-man Sam from Hertfordshire A finishing 3rd.

To avoid any confusion, this year Oxford’s C team were assigned the coveted #69 plate. So, naturally, their A team decided to run under the guise of the C team for maximum, er, effect. The motivation was clearly working for their captain Callum Hughes though, as he started 18th on the grid for Race 5 and took the chequered flag after practically driving through and then away from the rest of the field, with the fastest lap by two tenths in the process. He finished 8.4s ahead of Scots UWS A, with Coventry A’s Colin Fox finishing a further 2s back, immediately ahead of their B team.

Close racing edit

The final sprint race of Round 1 began with a terribly unlucky start for Leeds Beckett’s BTCC driver Max Coates, who was taken out at the first hairpin during a scrappy start in the slippery conditions. A great start for Swansea A meant they lead the race and the halfway point, but they could do nothing to hold off an unbelievably impressive Shaun Arnold from Huddersfield A, who had stormed through the field from 23rd place, and was lighting up the timing screens with fast lap after fast lap as he caught the leaders up by half a second a lap. With just one lap left and up into 2nd place, could he take victory? This time, sadly not – but with a 0.044s margin between him and Brunel A’s Cam Walton (roughly half a kart length?) it couldn’t really have been much closer! Absolutely fantastic racing.

With that all important race win (and a 4th and 5th place), it was Oxford C (read: A team) that came out on top with 173 points, beating reigning champions Huddersfield A by just two points. Coventry A tied on points with Huddersfield, but with the Yorkshire team securing two 2nd paces, they had to settle for 3rd place.

Newcastle A came out top of the Intermediate teams (5th overall) with a 2nd, 6th and 10th place, with Swansea A 2nd (8th overall) and Cambridge A 3rd (10th overall).

Sprint Race 1 - Leeds A Matt Hirst
Sprint Race 1 – Leeds A Matt Hirst

After a short kart-fettling/lunch break, and with the weather holding off after the earlier rain showers, it was time for Round 2 – the endurances races. Each team competes in two 1-hour endurances races, contested by 2 drivers per race. Two mandatory fuel stops add an element of strategy to the races, as teams have to time their stops within the pit windows to ensure they complete them as quickly as possible. With multiple strategy options, it takes great team work to come out on top at the chequered flag.

Enduro 1 begun with UWS leading until being black-flagged for pit-lane speeding (naughty naughty!) and with the sun shining bright it was York A that inherited the lead ahead of Loughborough A – but having not pitted yet. At the second of two mandatory pit stops, a flurry of action saw UCLan’s B team come out on top. UCLan are new to the championship this season and after an impressive showing at the qualifiers (qualifying two teams into the main championship at the first attempt!) were proving equally strong opponents during the first race day of the new season.

Loughborough A recovered to 4th late on in the race and were looking strong but a stroke of bad luck hit, as mechanical failure ended their hopes of victory. At the chequered flag it was Oxford Brookes A that won the first endurance race (and their first race of the season) with Heriot Watt A an impressive 2nd and Huddersfield A in 3rd after another superb drive by the Yorkshire team.

Round 1 podium
Round 1 podium

Oxford C’s (A’s…) strong day continued as they took victory in Enduro 2, holding off their local rivals Oxford Brookes C and UK rivals Cambridge A. Birmingham’s A team finished well, gaining 16 places to finish in 6th after some superb pitstops and solid driving by the pair.

The final race of the day begun with the sun beginning to set and a chilly track bringing a new challenge to the drivers. Brunel A capitalised on the conditions that were beginning to catch out some of the drivers, with an impressive drive from the very back of the grid to take the chequered flag by 1.7s ahead of 2nd placed Oxford Brookes A. Leeds Beckett A finished on the final step of the podium a further 2s back, an extremely tight margin after the full hour of racing!

Just like that, the day’s racing was complete! A strong team performance from Oxford Brookes A saw them take the top spot for Round 2 with the 1st and 2nd place finishes, With Coventry A finishing 2nd with a 4th and 5th place, tied on points (with identical finishes!) with UCLan B – who unfortunately had to settle for 3rd place as it was decided on fastest lap time!

Round 2 podium
Round 2 podium

Cambridge A finished on top in the Intermediate class with a 2nd and a 11th place finish (5th overall), with Leeds A in 2nd (12th overall) with a 9th and a 16th place. Heriot Watt A came 3rd after their strong 2nd place finish made up for a bad final race 26th place finish.

After Rounds 1 & 2, Coventry A are sitting at the top of the table after their strong performances in both rounds and in November’s qualifying, with last years’ runners up Oxford Brookes A in 2nd, and reigning champions Huddersfield A in 3rd. A reversal of last years 1, 2, 3 finishing positions!

Rookies round 1 podium edit

Cambridge A lead the Intermediates table (8th overall) after two equally superb performances, with Swansea A in 2nd place (15th overall) and Heriot Watt A 3rd (18th overall).

In the Rookies class the next day, Liverpool A took victory with two race wins and a 5th place, with Bristol A finishing 2nd (1st, 5th and 6th) and Cambridge B finishing 3rd (3rd, 3rd and 6th).

Missing the action already? Not to worry – we’re back on the 17th and 18th February (just under two weeks away!) for Rounds 3 & 4 and Rookies Round 2 of the #BUKC2016 from Llandow Circuit in Wales. See you then!

Like this article? Then check out all our other race reports here:

Main Race Reports page

All National Race Reports