In the autumn of 2011, a motorsport mad 37 year-old man from Staffordshire lost an 18 month battle with a rare form of Leukaemia. That man was Paul Lee-Davis. For every year since, Dan Underhill has organised a charity kart event to raise money for Leukaemia based charities. Whilton Mill has hosted each of these successful events which, before the 2016 event, had raised just shy of £16,000.
Paul is remembered by all he met for being a fun-loving character who was in his element while on track. Having rekindled his childhood passion for karting, Paul competed in the Club100 Arrive and Drive series between 2008 and 2010.
This season’s event would be raising money for the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), for their research and work in T-cell prolymphocytic leukaemia, the rare form that claimed Paul’s life. 63 drivers arrived at the Northamptonshire circuit for this year’s event, all vying to take the title whilst the others were trying to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon, which is handed out to the lowest placed Club100 regular. The circuit started damp but soon dried as the sun shone through, even if the wind kept conditions chilly to say the least.
The day started with 9 heats of 7 laps each. The competitiveness of the field was shown throughout these heats as they featured 9 different winners: Tyler Mays, Niki and Joe Richardson, Jay Elliot-Purdy, Dan Underhill, Rhianna Purcocks, Sam Massey, Pedre Neto and Dan Milner.
A short break for refuelling and kart checks allowed each driver to discuss and reflect on how their heats went but as always with this event format, the heats only decide the grids for the all-important Finals.
First up was the C Final, which featured a late three way battle for the lead. Abhishek Gautam claimed the lead early on and looked on course for victory until midway through the 15-lap Final, where front row starter Neil Fisher closed in and made his move for victory. The hard charging David Thomas closed down a five second gap with a number of fastest laps and joined the leading two late on but this ended up making life easier for Fisher as Gautam and Thomas battled on the final lap for second. Howard Kayman and Andrew Cowell were shock C finalists and both fell back from 1st and 4th on the grid respectively. Cowell received the Kart Bandit award whilst Ben Bennyworth claimed the Club100 wooden spoon.
The B Final grid had quality from the front row of Stephanie Walters and Dan Milner to the back row with Club100 Premier Race winner Jonny Goddard. As the race begun, it was Dante Dhillon who claimed an early lead from third on the grid. The youngster extended his lead up to Christmas corner on the first lap and continued to pull away to qualify for the A Final by 16 seconds, the biggest winning margin of the day. Behind Dhillon, there was a titanic fight for second. Jay Elliot-Purdy recaptured his form from his heat win earlier in the day to carve through from seventh on the grid to score the runner-up position ahead of the front row pairing of Milner and Walters, who had been fighting for the entire race distance. Fifth went to Tim Hill whilst David Longman and Jonny Goddard gained the most positions during the race, moving up ten positions each to 7th and 12th respectively.
The A Final lived up to expectations for a mutli-kart battle throughout the race for the top positions. Rhianna Purcocks had qualified on the front row alongside Niki Richardson and got the jump off the line to lead early on but Richardson had other ideas and claimed the top spot back as they entered the Boot. Tyler Mays made the best start of the race moving up from ninth to fourth on the first lap whilst Dan Underhill became sideways under the start gantry thanks to contact with Stevie Adams. Lucky for Underhill, Luke Austin was alongside and stopped the sideways moment becoming a trip into the scenery. Dan Healey, from third on the grid, became involved in an early battle for second with Purcocks, Mays and Ian Blake but this fight meant they started to close on Richardson’s early lead. As the midway point of the A Final approached, the group had caught up with Richardson and Purcocks made the first move, forcing her way into the lead for a second time. Tyler Mays followed suit and took the lead two laps later into Christmas corner but it would not last as Healey finally hit the front on lap ten on the brakes into Ashby and this was a lead he would never relinquish. The battle for second was decided soon after as Richardson carved past Mays and attempted to close down the ever expanding lead of Healey. Purcocks and Mays both were eliminated from the lead battle at Christmas corner with two laps to go and they rejoined to finish 11th and 21st respectively leaving 2012 winner Stevie Adams, Rich Ward, Ian Blake and Sam Massey to fight it out for the final step on the podium, a fight that was won by the former winner Adams.
As the 15th lap was complete, Dan Healey claimed the PLD title by 3.3 seconds ahead of Niki Richardson and Stevie Adams. Ian Blake just missed out on the podium with fourth but could commiserate himself with a bottle of champagne for picking Healey out as the winner in the morning raffle.
Healey joins Jake Dennis, Jonny Goddard, Stevie Adams and Jack Dex as a winner of the much loved charity event, which ended with a total raised of over £4,200 with possibly more donations to come.
Special thanks has to go to Dan Underhill and the Whilton Mill circuit for the organisation and smooth running of the popular event and to all those who have taken part and donated to the cause.
A big thank you must also go to the podium prize contributors: Jack Dex Racing, Club100, Whilton Mill, SWB Motorsport, Force India F1 and to Stu Stretton Media for capturing the event.
Report written by David Whitehouse and Photos by Stu Stretton