Tag Archives: british karting

Ken’s Komments – British karting

This month reflects on one of the best days ever in British karting – the day we had 2 British drivers crowned World Champions at Essay in Normandy, France… not to mention a transsexual karting commentator.

It is obviously a major achievement to become a world champion in any sport. But Britain’s Enaam Ahmed was special even by the highest standards. To become World Champion by going through the Event unbeaten from Qualifying Practice to the Final, and this just 3 weeks after being crowned European Champion, proved beyond doubt who was the best KF Junior kart racer in the world in 2014. As Lando Norris led Jehan Daravula in the late stages of the KF Final, it looked like karting’s equivalent of Hamilton and Rosberg for Mercedes in F1, but without the nastiness. British team Ricky Flynn Motorsport tracked both British World Champions and also conjured India’s Daravula on to the KF podium. The CIK World Championships have not always been truly representative of the whole wide world. But they definitely were here.

There were 161 drivers from 33 countries on all 6 racing continents. 2 continents were represented on both the KF and KF Junior podium, and drivers from 3 continents finished in the top 4 in the Junior Class. Romain Didier raced karts (and cars) as a young man including here in Britain. However in recent years, Romane as she is now, has lived her life as a woman. She is a very good bi-lingual kart commentator and it was a pleasure to share the commentary booth with her. I enquired of Callum Ilott if he has a Scottish ancestry in view of his Scottish sounding name. He assured me the family are definitely all English. Fair enough – until his mum told me later that Callum’s grandfather played the bagpipes and that they have a house on the Isle of Skye. So shall we say he’s English but with definite Scottish connections!

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Marcus Armstrong from Christchurch, NZ was the furthest travelled driver

There have been 3 drivers from famous families racing incognito this season. I continue to maintain confidentiality in all that I say and write, but how long will the situation last? One of those concerned is now a Vice-Champion of the World. It’s already the worst kept ‘secret’ in karting and what would have happened if he had become a World Champion? What a fabulous effort by 13 years old Alex Quinn from Boscastle in Cornwall in only his second international event in KF Junior. With CRG factory driver Jordan Lennox-Lamb as his mentor, he earned a 4th row start in the World Final. Even a DNF in the Final couldn’t totally spoil the fairy tale. Lady Luck. Sweden’s Jessica Backman didn’t make the KF Top 28 Cut and then missed out on a qualifying place in the Second Chance Heat. But two drivers in the top 6 in the Last Chance Saloon picked up penalties. So there was a reprieve for her. In her KF Junior pre-final, Julia Pankiewicz finished 18th – one place short of qualifying for the Final.

But again one of the guys who finished in front of her was assessed a penalty, and she found herself in the Final. Lando Norris and Nikita Mazepin both confirmed that this was their last kart race. However world number 3 Jehan Daravula said that he would stay in karting and race KZ in 2015. Essay is only a tiny village but as well as the kart track there is also an impressive Rallycross Circuit in the village. The kart track was the 4th to be constructed in France and the biggest at that time (1960). So it was an appropriate venue for the supporting Historic Karts Super Cup. This attracted 35 drivers in karts dating from 1956 – 1984. CIK Vice President Kees van der Grint was one of the entrants. Essay is about an hour’s drive from the Normandy Landing beaches. When we drove off the Portsmouth – Caen ferry, there was an unexpected banner: Welcome to our Liberators of 70 years ago.

Cadet Champion York joins Strawberry Racing

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Strawberry Racing boss Paul Spencer believes Dean MacDonald will help steer Oliver York to success in this season’s British MiniMax class after the reigning MSA British Cadet champion joined the team. York, 12, switched to the Coles Racing outfit for a MiniMax assault this season alongside European competition in Junior Max. His plans changed though when extra financial backers steered York towards the Strawberry team. MacDonald, the 2012 MSA British Cadet champion also recently joined Strawberry, before claiming the Trent Valley Kart Club Winter Series title in the MiniMax class. “Dean has incredible pace and for the pair to team up will be perfect for Oliver,” Spencer said. “Dean is a level above in everything he does and I can see them both egging each other on. When we get two strong drivers such as this, it’s good for both as they’ll feed off each other. Both have the capability to take the top two positions in MiniMax this season, who takes the top spot is up to them.” York’s dad Garry said: “Strawberry is the main British factory outfit for TonyKart which is a major draw but Dean’s year of MiniMax experience will help Oliver. Oliver’s mechanic Roddy Taylor gets the best out of Oliver and has huge motivation to win.”

Top Ten Brits

How do you select the top ten all time British Greats?

The answer is “with very great difficulty.” I’ve approached the task by choosing one outstanding personality from each of the five previous decades and then adding five others who have shown unique talents. Other pundits will no doubt have different ideas, but I’d be surprised if there aren’t three or four names common to all of the lists. Here is my own version.

British Champion 1965, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’72, ’76, ’77 & ’79; World Vice Champion; World Vice Champion 1969 & ’77; 3rd place World Champs; 1968 & ’71; European Champion (Team); 1972 & ‘78

This decade produced many outstanding figures. At 56 years of age George Bloom captured the outright British title in 1963, winning all eight rounds. A week later, Paul Fletcher took 2nd place in the European Championships and was considered unlucky not to actually win. Bruno Ferrari still remains the only person to win three British titles in one day following a remarkable performance at Shenington in 1964. Britain’s first Junior Champion Terry Fullerton was successful on three consecutive occasions from 1966 to 1968 and John Morrell notched up a hat trick of wins in Class 1V Super over the same period.

Ultimately, the choice was quite straightforward. Mickey Allen started karting in 1963 and burst onto the national scene during a British Team Selection Meeting at Shenington. In all major British events for the next four or five five years it was simply taken for granted that he’d emerge on the winners rostrum. He collected British titles in four consecutive years from 1965 to 1968. Mickey missed out on the 1969 event due to illness, but made amends in that year’s world championship by taking 2nd place behind Belgium’s Francois Goldstein. A year earlier he’d finished 2rd behind Thomas Nilsson (Sweden) and Guilio Pernigotti (Italy).

British Champion 1966, ’67, ’68 (all junior titles),’71, ’73, ’75, ’78 & ’80; World Champion 1973; European Champion (Team) 1972, ’73, ’78 & ’81) 1970’s Terry Fullerton 100CC

At Rissington Chris Hales shocked onlookers by beating Mickey for the 1970 Briish title. There was another surprise awaiting Mickey the following year when young Terry Fullerton got his British licence back. Terry had excluded himself from all domestic competition by taking out an Irish licence in 1969 so that he could race for Eire in the 1969 World Championships. Back in the fold once again he coasted to a comfortable victory in the 1971 British championships at Rye House. Mickey picked up his fifth British title at Wombwell but it was Terry’s turn to win again at Rye House 12 months later. Several weeks afterwards there was that remarkable weekend at Nivelles when Terry defeated Goldstein on his home circuit to become Britain’s first World Champion.

Throughout the 70’s Allen and Fullerton shared eight British titles, with only Hales and Paul Burgess (Shenington 1974) able to interrupt their total domination. A few years ago I asked Paul Deavin to name the best British driver he’d ever seen. Paul was responsible for running Mickey over a twelve year period and, for one season in 1976, actually took charge of Terry, too. His answer came instantaneously. “Fullerton, without any doubt, was the best of all time,” said Paul. “Both drivers possessed immense natural talent, but whereas Mickey was interested purely in getting out onto the circuit, Terry put lots of thought and effort into making sure his equipment was fully sorted beforehand.”

World Champion; 1981, ’82, ’83, ’85, ’88 & ’89; European Champion (Individual); 1982, ’83 & ‘84

The 1980’s produced a wealth of British talent with names like Alan Gates, Johnny Herbert, Allan McNish, David Coulthard, Gary Moynihan, Jeremy Cotterill, Steve Brogan, Piers Hunnisett and Richard Weatherley springing to prominence. Mike Wilson stood out from all the rest by virtue of his six world championship wins, creating a record that is unlikely ever to be equalled. Remarkably, the one prize that evaded this Barnsley born lad was a British title, although he tried on numerous occasions.

His interest in the sport was sparked by a camping holiday at Prestatyn when aged 11. Although his father, Brian, had been karting for some time, Mike himself showed no enthusiasm, preferring to play soccer instead. Once having tried the rental karts at Prestatyn, though, he couldn’t keep away from them and had to ring home asking for more pocket money. Brian responded by buying him a second-hand Blow Gnat/ Komet K77. “On my first run I was going so slowly that the plug kept oiling up,” recalls Mike. “Dad told me to put my foot down and I finished up crashing into the tyres a few corners later.”

Soon, though, he was winning races throughout Britain and got his big break in 1977 when Martin Hines offered him a place on the Zip kart team. That year he also received support from Angelo Parrilla’s DAP factory to race in European events. Bruno Grana was quick to spot Mike’s potential and, in 1978, he signed him up as a full-time driver for IAME. Still aged 17, Mike moved swapped his Barnsley home for a new one in Milan and has lived there ever since.

1990’s – Martin Hines (250cc Gearbox)

The 1990’s heralded a sea change in karting as the focus shifted to young drivers. This was an era when cadets such as Jenson Button, Tom Sisley, Luke Hines, Michael Spencer, Lewis Hamilton, Danny Wheldon, Anthony Davidson, Chris Rogers, Niki Richardson, Adam King and Paul di Resta were starting to make their mark. One driver in particular, though, managed to prove that older stars could still shine brightly. Martin Hines was 46 years old when he collected his 3rd World Championship title in 1992. He would win his 4th European Championships an incredible ten years afterwards.

He’d started off by racing pigeons as a youngster but soon expressed ambitions to become a Speedway rider. Recognising the dangers inherent in this daredevil activity, his mother persuaded him to buy a kart instead. Initially Martin concentrated on 100cc racing and gained a place in the highly successful 1969 British 4 man team. However, it was gearbox karting that brought him the most success. He won the 1976 British Championships and captured his first European title 12 months later. During the 1977 Motorcycle GP at Silverstone he kept 100,000 spectators entertained by demonstrating his 150mph Superkart. That persuaded the circuit owners to stage a GP specifically for gearbox karts some 12 months later. A karting demonstration at the 1979 F1 GP followed and, some four years later Ernest Buser was persuaded into allowing a CIK World Championship for Superkarts. Fittingly, it was Martin who became the first holder of this title.

During an astonishing career that spanned four decades Martin established himself as the king of Superkarts, creating records that none of his contemporaries could ever match. His flair for publicity occasionally irritated rivals, but was definitely good for karting and I have no hesitation in placing him up there with the all time greats.

S1 Junior Champion 1998; British Champ; 2004, ’05, ’06, ’08 & 10; S1 KGP Champ 2013.

The Noughtie’s – Mark Litchfield

Ben Hanley, Gary Catt, Jamie Green, Oliver Oakes, Robert Foster-Jones, Michael Simpson, Benjy Russell and a host of others made their mark in this particular decade, but none visited the winner’s rostrum quite so often as Mark Litchfield. An absolute master in wet conditions, he was also pretty difficult to beat even on dry sunny days. At the age of 31 you could argue that his best days are behind him, although those who took part in last year’s S1 Championships for KGP might have a different tale to tell. Mark’s five British titles are testament to his natural talent and he could have so easily added a world championship crown to his collection. At Braga eight years ago he looked to have this elusive prize within reach when a mechanical failure ruined his chances.

Instead, it was another Brit Oliver Oakes, who emerged victorious, with fellow Brit Jon Lancaster taking 2nd place.

Mark was born and bred in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, just a stone’s throw away from the Darley Moor circuit that, at one time, used to regularly host karting events. His father, Dave, is a former saloon car racer who most TKM competitors will know as the boss of Litchfield Motorsport. After his spirited performance in the 2000 World Champs at Braga, where he recorded a top ten finish, Mark was taken under Paul Fletcher’s wing and has remained with him since. He is one of the few British drivers lucky enough to have made karting a full time occupation and the vast experience is now being passed down to younger competitors.

Five other unique talents

Long before Art Ingels built the world’s first kart John Brise was well known in motor racing circles. A successful F3 competitor, he switched to stock car racing soon after it arrived in Britain and became a three times world champion. It was at a stock car race that he first met Bernie Turney who introduced him to the world of karting. In 1961 at Brands Hatch John became the first 100cc British Champion. Some weeks earlier he’d stunned his American rivals by winning the GPKA “world championship” round at Shenington. Thereafter he made a successful transition into the gearbox classes. John’s eldest son Tony eventually graduated into F1 but was tragically killed in an aircraft accident along with his team boss Graham Hill.

Anyone who was privileged to watch Dave Ferris racing during the sixties would have marvelled at his skill. In contrast to Mickey Allen’s somewhat aggressive style, Dave always looked totally relaxed but this deceptive appearance masked a steely determination. Just a few inches prevented him from becoming Britain’s first world karting champion when he took 2nd place behind Francois Goldstein in the 1970 event at Thiverval, Belgium. His racing days were cut short whilst testing a Formula 3 car at Brands when he was struck in the head by a flying lump of concrete.

Gearbox competitor Dave Buttigieg was also blessed with outstanding natural talent. In 1976 he became the first European 250cc champion, winning this title again in 1978 and 1982. There were also World Cup victories in 1976 and 1979. When Martin Hines established his highly successful Zip Hermetite team Dave became a prominent member along with Carolynn Grant-Sale whom he later married. .After their divorce she went on to become Carolynn Hoy, a name that most of today’s karting fraternity will be familiar with.

Jenson Button entered karting at the age of eight, not long after his parents, John and Simone split up. He completely dominated the 1991 British championship for cadets and won the Junior TKM crown 12 months later. After competing in the 1994 Junior World Cup at Ugento in Italy he signed as a professional with Tecno. He won the Italian Championships at his first attempt and took 2nd place in the 1995 world championships for Formula A. He was crowned the 1997 European Champion in Formula Super A before switching to cars. Jenson picked up the 1998 BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award and before embarking upon a successful F3 season. Following a successful test with Williams he was signed up by the F1 team. Almost ten years elapsed before he became world champion, this time racing for Brawn.

A family holiday in Ibiza sparked Lewis Hamilton’s karting ambitions when he was only 3 years old. He obtained his first kart as a Christmas present just before reaching the age of eight. After winning all of his novice races he also claimed victory first time out on yellow plates. With support from Zipkart he picked up the first of two national cadet titles and famously approached Ron Dennis at the 1995 awards ceremony saying that he’d like to drive for McLaren in F1 eventually. Racing in Europe with McLaren support he finished as vice European Junior Champion. 12 months later he won the European senior title before moving into Formula Renault. In his first season of F1 racing, Lewis almost became world champion, but made sure of the title 12 months later.

These, then, are my top ten drivers of all time. It’s been difficult enough selecting them from many outstanding candidates. Even harder is the task of placing them in order, but I’ve finally decided on the following;

1. Terry Fullerton

2. Martin Hines

3. Mike Wilson

4. Mickey Allen

5. Dave Ferris

6. Mark Litchfield

7. Dave Buttigieg

8. Jenson Button

9. Lewis Hamilton

10. John Brise

Memories of Mickey Flynn

 One of the first, American-style, karts Note: The photos are supplied by his grand-daughter Ellie Casson but I doubt she took them! Can you put a note at the end saying "photos supplied by the Flynn and Casson families"

One of the first, American-style, karts.
Photo supplied by the Flynn and Casson families.

By Dave Bewley

The history of British karting is littered with legendary figures whose entertainment value often matched their driving talent. Chief amongst these was a man who imported the first karts into Britain 53 years ago.

I first heard the name being mentioned back in July 1963 during a race meeting held at Longtown, half-way between Carlisle and Gretna Green. Alf Dixon, himself a well known character in northern karting circles, was unloading his Fox/McCulloch kart. “You’d best keep out of my way today, lads,” he advised. “I’ve just had my motor tuned by Mickey Flynn and it’s a real flyer!”

The name was unfamiliar but when my first copy of Karting magazine arrived some weeks later, I discovered an advert for Flynn’s Karting Enterprises based in Mildenhall and run by a former officer in the United States Air Force. Apart from tuning Homelite and McCulloch engines, this firm also imported Fox karts from America.

Fox karts were the dominant force in British karting back then, although at £120, equivalent to eight or nine weeks’ wages, not everyone could afford one. George Bloom, a 56-year-old market gardener, was obviously one of those who could. George was a close friend of Mickey’s and he’d won the previous year’s British Championships in Class 1 Special using Flynn tuned Homelite engines. However it was another Flynn protégé, 16 year old Bobby Alderdice, who had claimed the 1962 outright title.

In 1963, Bloom’s Fox/McCulloch proved to be unstoppable and he won all eight championship rounds to become the outright British Champion. Roger Keele was victorious in Class 1V Special, as his Fox kart with twin Homelites proved superior to the more traditional Villiers powered machines. Bobby Day won the Class 1 Super title to complete a remarkable Fox-kart hat trick.

Regular customer Roy James was recognised as the rising new star in car racing and would claim 17 wins out of 19 starts in Formula Junior that year. Just a few months earlier this highly talented driver had been setting lap records at various circuits on one of Mickey’s karts.

Even in those days a motor racing career usually required substantial financial resources. Roy’s answer was to indulge in a life of crime. He was reputed to have been involved in a payroll heist at Heathrow airport that netted £62,000. According to popular legend, he was entered for a televised karting event at Rye House that day and coolly returned just in time to win the Final. This win provided him with a watertight alibi. Later on Roy would earn notoriety for his part in the £2.5m Great Train Robbery

One particular episode cost him a starting place in the famous 24 Hours race at Le Mans

Fox karts and McCulloch engines continued to win lots of race meetings throughout 1963 but over in Italy the Tecno Kaimano had been developed. In 1964 this chassis made American-style karts virtually obsolete. Not long afterwards, Mickey started up a much more lucrative enterprise transporting and storing household effects for US Air Force personnel which is still run by his sons.

He was christened John William but his fellow airmen gave him the nickname “Mickey”. It was a name that must have been familiar amongst Post Office sorting staff because a letter sent from America addressed “Mickey Flynn, England” actually made it to his home in Mildenhall. His interest in motor racing stretched back over many years. Like many famous drivers of that era, he’d started off by competing in 500cc F3 events using a Norton powered Kieft car.

“My dad had a reputation for being unpunctual and we always said that he’d turn up late for his own funeral,” says his daughter Kathleen Casson. “Sure enough, the hearse did arrive at church five or ten minutes behind schedule after suffering a mechanical breakdown. No doubt that little incident would have amused him, but one particular episode cost him a starting place in the famous 24 hr race at Le Mans. He didn’t find that one at all funny.”

“Dad was attending this event as a spectator when one of the team managers told him that he could replace a driver who hadn’t shown up. After dashing over to sign on, the officials told him he was three minutes late and couldn’t take part. I rather think this could have been the notorious 1955 event when over 80 spectators were killed after Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes somersaulted into the stands.”

Mickey’s interest in the new fangled karting craze was aroused by reports from California. In July 1958, he contacted Duffy Livingstone who ran the Go Kart Company and arranged to have five Clinton-powered machines flown over. These actually arrived in September and within a couple of months he was organising impromptu race meetings for US airmen at Burtonwood.

The race meetings soon spread to other US air bases around Britain. It was only a matter of time before news of these events leaked out to the civilian population. In May, 1959, Aubrey Leighton produced his famous “Yellow Peril”, reputedly the first British built kart. Several weeks later, Mickey organised a kart demonstration in front of USAF top brass and received permission from them to stage a larger event later in the year that would be open to all-comers. The Lakenheath Grand Prix, as Mickey dubbed it, would play a major role in arousing public awareness of the sport.

Before then there was a demonstration at Silverstone in August. Mickey arrived with five karts that would have almost doubled the numbers but, for some unknown reason, he was refused admission. Another demonstration took place at Brands Hatch on September 27th and this time Mickey’s karts were allowed to take part, boosting the numbers to 15. Several thousand spectators turned up, all of whom were desperate for more information about this low-cost branch of motorsport.

A tannoy announcement informed everyone present that Britain’s first official race meeting would be taking place at Lakenheath on November 8th. Mickey Flynn was the organiser, assisted by Alan Burgess who would establish the world’s first dedicated karting magazine three months later. Pat Flynn and Jan Burgess were responsible for sorting out the large number of competitors who arrived at various times throughout the day.

According to an account in Motoring News no less than 64 karts turned out for this meeting. As many were shared by up to half a dozen drivers, the number of actual competitors probably exceeded 200. To cater for everyone meant arranging lots of small races on the spot. The main event, a two hour race for 197cc Villiers powered karts, took place later that day and didn’t finish until dusk.

Graham Hill spent the night before this race sharing a bed with my elder brother. You couldn’t imagine any of today’s F1 stars putting up with such an arrangement.

Several years earlier, Liverpudlian singer Lita Roza had asked “How much is that doggie in the window?” and she sailed straight to the top of Britain’s Hit Parade as a result. On this occasion, according to informed reports, she was amongst the many celebrities in attendance who wanted to know how much the karts on display actually cost. Prices for a complete outfit ranged from £60 to £125, depending upon how fast you wanted to go.

Although Motoring News makes no mention of Lita Roza, it does list another international pop star, Denis Lotis, as having raced that day. Included on the list of famous motor racing personalities were Les Leston and Jim Russell. Also present, of course, was Lotus F1 star Graham Hill and the photograph of him leading at Lakenheath has now become an important part of karting history.

“One thing about Graham that won’t be generally known is that he spent the night before this race sharing a bed with my elder brother, Bill,” Kathleen points out. “After inviting him to take part, dad promised Graham that he could stay at our house in Mildenhall. Billy remembers that the house was full of guests with various caravans and tents parked in our garden, so poor Graham finished up sleeping with a two year old kid. You couldn’t imagine any of today’s F1 drivers putting up with such an arrangement but things were very different in those days.”

Kathleen believes that her mum would have played a more active role in proceedings at Lakenheath, apart from simply taking entries. “I know that she used to do quite a bit of karting herself and actually won a race whilst she was still carrying one of my younger brothers. The organisers declared this victory invalid because of her pregnancy. Mum was having none of it and the officials finally relented. However, shortly afterwards a rule was brought in to exclude anyone who was obviously pregnant.”

Kathleen recently bought a copy of the book by Fabrice Connan and Jacky Foulatier called “50 Years of Karting”. She was delighted to see a photo of her dad on page 50 with a caption describing him as the man who organised Europe’s first kart meeting. There was another surprise awaiting her on page 17 which showed two unknown ladies carrying a kart. “The front one was undoubtedly my mum,” declares Kathleen, “but I’m still trying to find out who the other one may have been.”

Kathleen remembers her father as a great talker who could immediately start up a conversation with anyone he met. “This ability earned him lots of friends and quite a few valuable business contacts. Bobby Alderdice and his father were obviously close friends although they returned to America shortly after he became British champion.”

Some years ago, whilst in La Manga Club, Spain, Kathleen’s children, Tim and Ellie, met someone from the karting community who still remembered their grandfather. “That person turned out to be Martin Hines and I believe he mentions the incident in his autobiography called Every Split Second Counts,” Kathleen remarks. “We’ve got to know Martin quite well since then and my husband actually assisted in marketing his Zip trolleys to golf resorts in Spain. It’s a small world, after all!”

“Mickey Flynn provided the early impetus and encouraged many of us to see karting as a genuine alternative to racing cars,” says John Mills, one of the sport’s earliest pioneers.” I’d been racing MG sports cars but my forthcoming marriage meant that I needed something that would take up far less money. It was Mickey Flynn’s initiative that inspired me to build my own kart and I’m sure many others were similarly motivated”

Peter Brinkworth is now the proud owner of an immaculate Fox-kart with twin McCulloch engines that he has painstakingly restored. “My brother Tony and I first started messing around with karts back in 1964 when Mickey Flynn was something of a legend,” Peter recalls. “I only met him on one occasion when we were trying to buy some spares for our motors. Talking with him was an experience in itself. I got the impression that he’d be able somehow to lay his hands on any item we requested, whether it was connected with karting or not.”

Chris Merlin had taken up karting just after the Lakenheath event and remembers Mickey very well indeed. Chris recalls Lakenheath as being a very smooth circuit that rewarded a precise driving style. “It was there that I came to recognise the supreme talents of Mickey Allen, Bobby Day and Roy James all of whom were on Fox-karts supplied by Flynn’s Karting Enterprises.”

It would be wrong to suggest that Mickey was solely responsible for the sport arriving and thriving in Europe. There’s a long list of people who could all claim to have played influential roles in karting’s early development. First amongst them, though, was an American airman whose entrepreneurial instincts ensured that karting in Britain got off to a flying start.