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John Surtees considers expansion of Buckmore Park

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Buckmore_Park_Aerial_ViewJohn Surtees says becoming the outright owner of Buckmore Park will allow him to consider an expansion of the circuit and to develop it to become a feeder facility to the future of British motorsport.

Surtees purchased the freehold title of the Kent circuit as well as 90-acres of surrounding woodland two years ago following a 10-year struggle with the previous landlord. The 1964 Formula 1 world champion purchased the leasehold title last month from former managing director Bill Sisley, who will remain as a consultant.

Surtees will look to expand the activities of the Henry Surtees Foundation at Buckmore Park, including introducing the next generation of young talent into motorsport.

“I want to take Buckmore forward as it’s a fairly special place,” Surtees said. “It’s a challenge, but I want to make it even better. I felt that Bill [Sisley] was threatened two years ago, and so took the opportunity to take hold of the freehold. It’s something I’d outlined when I first got involved with the building of the Buckmore clubhouse, and it took on a little more importance with Henry.

The business will importantly carry on but alongside it, I’d like to do more activities for the Foundation.

“There are a bunch of things on a wishlist that I’d like to do, depending on what can be financed, as the Foundation itself cannot finance it, but we can support it. We are in discussions with a number of colleges and intend to use the emotion created by motorsport to help get youngsters on to a career path within the sport. I’d like to use Buckmore as a feeder to British motorsport.”

Surtees added that the use of the additional 90 acres will be explored: “I’d like to look at the possibility of extending the circuit and there could also be a self-contained area for road safety training which can also be used by the colleges for the next motorsport generation. We will be in a position to decide which aspects we will be able to develop by the end of this year.”

Sisley said that he and Surtees had been speaking privately about the idea of Surtees becoming the circuit’s outright owner for the past 12 years.

“This agreement couldn’t have happened until John had possession of the complete freehold,” Sisley added. “I cannot take the company further, whereas John will do, and this is a positive outcome for everybody. It’s a natural progression, I needed a new challenge too, and it allows John to fulfil his dream.”

Focus On Buckmore Park

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We take a look at Buckmore Park one of the UK’s best known and most popular karting circuits

50 years ago the army were given a training exercise to create a 400m go-kart track on Bluebell Hill, little did they realise it would become a breeding ground for future Formula One stars

Fast-forward to now and the track celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and has helped to develop the talents of F1 star Johnny Herbert and the most recent British F1 champions, Jenson Bu  on and Lewis Hamilton over years gone by.The track itself has three configurations: Club, National and the 1.2km International variations. The la  er takes almost a minute to complete, and is an MSA-approved outdoor track, which is constantly being updated with developments in the pipeline. It can also run day and night 7 days a week due to the floodlighting. The circuit fell into disrepair during the early 1980s, but with new owners coming on board in 1985, it saw new life being breathed into Buckmore. The facility was revamped and the track further extended in 1999, with a £1.23m clubhouse being opened in 2003. I spoke with Buckmore Park’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Pullman, who joined the venue as the kart club’s manager under club founders Ken Webb and Carol Baines, who are still there to this day. He explained how he got involved with the track on a day-to-day basis: “I was racing Formula Ford at the time, but was made redundant from my main job, which were also my main sponsor. So I decided to look for work in motorsport. “Luckily enough, the club was looking for a manager. Being a racing instructor at Brands Hatch, I decided to go self- employed there and give the job at Buckmore a go. I’ve been there for the last 24 years.” He also likes being the “right-hand man,” doing all the donkeywork, but credits the long-standing team that helps doing the great work year in, year out. But the work doesn’t just take place there: “We come up with ideas, which are put into an operational context as to how it is going to work. “We also built the temporary circuit in the Brands Hatch paddock this year, as well as having an exhibition stand at the recent South of England and Biggin Air Shows. It all takes planning and budgeting to make it happen.”

The track has seen action such as the Sodi World Series, where Buckmore host the regional and southern finals, as well as Little Green Man racing there just the other weekend. Corners include Damon Hill, Symes Sweep and Sisley Straight, which do test the drivers when it comes to racing and defending around a very fast track in its own right.To get an idea from a driver’s perspective, I spoke with both Ecurie Ecosse GT racer Alexander Sims and Status GP3 driver Nick Yelloly, who gave their views on how to combat the track. Sims, who still currently holds the JICA National lap record of 38.28 seconds, was quick to point out that for the type of track it is, there are a fair share of challenges: “For me, it’s about all the differences on the corners themselves, especially when you have several hairpins in a row. The chamber changes need a different approach to be used when you tackle them head-on. You can use a lot of kerb there, which I don’t remember doing at any of the other tracks that I’ve raced at.”Nick said that his first race at Buckmore was during Junior TKM Super One nationals, where the Brit was quite literally thrown into the deep end: “It wasn’t a particularly good one for me, being only my first event after a few months of karting to national level. I was selected by random to start on pole and survived the first lap, ending up just outside the top five. I was pretty happy, despite my lack of experience.”

I asked Yelloly on what advice he would give any young karters heading to the Kent circuit for the first time: “It pays to stay smooth and try not to scrub speed by sliding through most of the corners. You can lose momentum very easily and pay for those mistakes through lap time. “Coming out of the hairpins at turns 3 and 4, it’s all about getting the best possible exit. The undulations require any exit to be paramount to staying fast and consistent. But in saying that, you can use a lot of kerbs to gain time, which can also allow for the corner radius to be opened up, increasing your speed.”In October, the track also hosts the annual Henry Surtees Foundation Challenge, which gives the stars of tomorrow to compete for some great prizes over a hard-fought day’s racing. This includes donations from teams that are in Formula One, providing experiences that will help drivers towards a brighter future.

The track also caters for the general public, corporate guests, as well as owners and drivers, providing a wide range of activities on top of karting, which includes off-roading and laser warfare. This means that the facility is growing in popularity and will continue to see its numbers swell of the next few years, providing a sound foundation for a great future. But does working at Buckmore Park give Chris Pullman the chance to go at full speed around the track? “Its like working in a sweet shop when it comes to going round the track, but I don’t really have time to go round the track. I’m so busy.”

 

Buckmore ‘o’ Plate

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19th October, Buckmore Park

With over 50 drivers competing for the Super One place, the Historic Kart Club also came down today to show off karts from the past in 5 laps.

The first final of the day was the Junior Max, which was led from start to finish by Jonathan Wilkes (55), increasing his lead with every lap. Wilkes dominated the race, taking the fastest lap as well. Lucy Fulton (54) and Luke Ide (99) battled for second place throughout the race, but Ide took the position on lap eleven and held it for the remaining lap to secure second. Fulton had to settle for third.

The Rotax class final was won by the pole sitter. Tom Prior (71) On the fourth lap, Elliot Rice (74) came through the field from third to take top spot, pushing Prior back further. The next lap however, Reade slipped fifth, allowing Prior back to one away. He managed to regain his grid position on the ninth lap and go on to win the race. Lewis Brown (35) finished in second with a great drive after qualifying sixth, overtaking Rice on lap 10, who closed off the podium.

Rory Hudson (11) won his Mini Max final with an excellent drive from fourth after qualifying. Jamie Rodgers (59) started on pole, but was quickly overtaken on the next lap by Charlie Bennett (42). Bennett held first until lap 7 where he was passed by both Hudson and Rodgers around the second hairpin. Hudson built a lead and could not be caught by lap 10, but Bennett and Rodgers were neck and neck for the rest of the race, with Rodgers just about taking second, followed by Bennett.

Qualifiers from the Repecharge for the ‘0’ Plate were Alex Eades (28), Kieron Jermey (11), Axel LaFlamme (59), Josh King (89) and Louie Short (30). All of the top 4 drivers kept their positions at the start of the Honda Cadet ‘0’ Plate final. The 15 lap race was being contested by 30 drivers, with Zak Rodgers (10) starting on pole and Kiern Jewiss (2) on the front row with him; behind them was Alex Lloyd (9) and Thomas Pegram (7) in third and fourth respectively.

On lap 4, Rodgers was forced to give up his lead as he slipped to third around the second hairpin; a corner which saw a lot of overtakes over the course of the day. Pegram was now in top spot, followed by Jewiss. Rodgers didn’t give up however, halving the position he lost earlier in the lap by grabbing second off of Jewiss towards the back end of the circuit.

Pegram had a small standing at the front of the pack on lap 7, but could only hold it for a lap; Jewiss taking back first on lap 8. Pegram slipped back to third on that lap, allowing Apps to climb even closer to first place. First through to seventh were all in one big group. If it were Formula One, seventh would be able to use his DRS on first, that is how close they were; they weren’t even in a line! Some parts of the group were three karts abreast!

At Damon Hill on lap 9, Apps finally managed to climb to first, pushing Jewiss to second and newcomer to the front of the pack, Harry Thompson (5), was in third. Unfortunately for Apps, he slipped to fourth around the hairpins on the next lap; letting Jewiss back to the top and Pegram into second. The eventful hairpins threw up yet another incident in which two karts mounted each other; Lloyd, who was climbing back up the field, spun and fell to last; and Jewiss ran wide, slipping to fourth.

The top three going into the last couple of laps were Pegram, Thompson and Apps. The rest of the drivers were too far to contend for the win now; one of these three would win the ‘0’ Plate. On lap 13 Pegram and Thompson built a slight gap over Apps, but the two drivers lost time around Garda corner when Thompson made a successful move on Pegram to take first position. Into the last lap, Thompson was first, Pegram second and Apps third. Thompson defended brilliantly in the hairpins, a spot where overtakes had continually occurred over the course of the day.

As the three drove towards Garda and the Senna Chicane, Apps made a last ditch move round the outside, catching his fellow drivers out. Pegram went wide and lost three places. Thompson made a lunge for the line, but to no use. Myles Apps won a consecutive Honda Cadet ‘0’ Plate. Harry Thompson finished second and Kiern Jewiss third.

SURTEES PRAISES KART CHALLENGE DRIVERS

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Former Formula One champion John Surtees has praised the competitiveness of the drivers who took part in October’s Henry 1Surtees Challenge at Buckmore Park despite poor weather conditions. Torrential rain hampered practice and qualifying sessions at the event, before conditions improved for the afternoon’s finals. In previous years, some drivers have been penalised and excluded from the event for poor driving standards, but no incidents were recorded in this year’s A Final. “British motorsport is in safe hands with the amount of talent we saw this year,” Surtees said. “It was a joy to watch and the way the drivers coped with the tough conditions was excellent. You only have to look at the timesheets to see how competitive the A Final was, with fastest lap being set by 15th place. It was some of the best racing I’ve seen. Some of the top single-seater drivers came back and raced in the karts so well. Despite the Racing Steps Foundation drivers not opting to take prizes, they were still very competitive.”

BMKC Championship – Round 4

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2014 Summer Championship, Round 4, 22nd June

The fourth round of the BMKC Championships coincided with the hottest day of the year and the high temperatures may have accounted for the few frayed tempers that were witnessed.

The circuit was very fast with no less than six new class records being set during the morning Pre Finals when the ambient conditions were favourable to fast laps. Charlie Humphreys topped the Bambino timesheets after the two six-lap runs. Jacob Baldry, driving for the last time in Bambino before switching to Cadets, was runner-up. The fight for the third place was very close with Josh Irfan just edging out Nathan Clifford. Ciaran Bouffe continues to improve and set the fifth quickest time.

The Honda Cadet grand final was another classic with the outcome in doubt until the final run to the chequered flag. Zak Rogers took the spoils on this occasion with Harrison Blake and new lap record holder Oliver Bearman in third place. Matthew Watters was fourth, Ben Fayers fifth and Alfie Glenie rounded off the top six. Sam Shaw claimed the IAME winner’s trophy in the closing laps after long time leader Rashan Chigorimbo was slightly delayed whilst lapping a back marker.

An outstandingly well timed drive by Owen Tolley saw him take a narrow victory over Oliver Bennett in the Honda Clubman class, which was the largest grid of the meeting. Sam Heading continues to impress, taking third place on this occasion. Aston Millar is creeping closer to the front and his efforts were rewarded with fourth place this month. Dylan Cooper claimed the fifth spot just ahead of the top novice driver Tom Lebbon.

Having not been seen at Bayford Meadows for a number of months, William Stacey made a triumphant return heading home the Junior Rotax field. William could not relax at any point during the final as new lap record holder Jonathan Wilkes was snapping at his heels for the duration of the race. A few seconds behind the leading duo at the flag, Liam Carter secured his best finish of the summer championship with third place. Harrison Paice took a solid fourth ahead of Charlie Oliver in the fifth spot.

Jake Paice used all his experience to get the better of novice plate driver Nathan Jeffrey in Junior Subaru. Nathan had been quick all day but when it came to the grand final, Jake’s race craft paid dividends. A return to form for Sam Kelly netted him a podium spot in third place. Antonio Sagona put in a typically determined drive for fourth just ahead of championship leader Chandler Horsefield. Josh Young received a Novice award.

Tyler Sullivan and Charlie Bennett starred in the Pre Finals for the MiniMax class, and we were expecting a close race in the Grand Final, but Tyler seemed to have found a slight edge over his rival during the early laps opening up a small gap that he maintained for the duration of the race. Patrick Kibble had the improving Sean Berry on his tail throughout the race as they fought over the third place spot. Sean did make a lunge on the final lap but Patrick was not to be denied and shut the door firmly to secure the spot. Callum Hawkins-Row claimed the Novice driver award.

For the second meeting running, Cameron Clarke got the better of Bayford ‘legend’ Steve Bull in Senior Rotax, the two drivers were evenly matched as they lapped consistently within a tenth of one another without the slightest hint of a mistake. Steve Crow had a relatively lonely run to third ahead of ex-Junior Rotax club champion Stephen Cutts in fourth. Henry Jarvis put in his normal all action drive securing the 177kg trophy and a new class record.

BPKC RACE REVIEW

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Buckmore Park Kart Winter Championship Round 3, 16th March
A warm summer-like day saw practice for the Super One Series in two months’ time causing a jam-packed programme at Buckmore Park.

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A close race for the front runners in the Honda Cadet Clubman class saw Nicholas Reeve just pip Oliver Bearman as the top spot changed hands twice on the last lap, with Reeve using the popular turn 10, Garda, as the spot to take the lead. Both the boys had quite an advantage over the rest of the pack, so the podium was already sorted with Reeve taking 1st, Bearman settling for 2nd, and a comfortable 3rd for Luke Whitehead. The Minimax class gave a lifeline to Samuel Gerrard, Adam Smalley, Tom Bayley and Taylor Bellini who all qualified for the final through the Repechage.

An incident at Conways involving Harry McQuillan meant the race was postponed for 15 minutes, giving the drivers’ time to have a word with the stewards and relax. Once restarted, Dean Macdonald took advantage of his pole position to hold the lead for the majority of the race, conceding 1st place for a split second on lap 6 to eventual 3rd placed driver Lucas Vaus. Unfortunately for Macdonald, he was overtaken on lap 10 by Luke Wooder who made it stick. Sam McKenzie, Rory Smith, Alex McRoberts, and Taylor Harding drove an important race in their Junior Max B Final to win the final four spots on the grid for the A Final. The race ended in a comfortable win for Gus Lawrence who started on pole and led throughout to earn his highly deserved 1st place trophy.

Podium finishers Dave Wooder and Omar Ismail managed to overtake 4th place finisher, Leonard Hoodenboom early, giving them time to create a gap and secure their positions. There was controversy in the Senior Rotax final as an incident at Senna Chicane on lap 4 saw Savannah Courtenay hit the tyre wall, causing a delay. Fortunately, she was fine, but had to retire from the race. The restart saw the lead held by three different drivers throughout the race. Pole sitter Brett Ward couldn’t hold on to his lead, surrendering it to John Stewart soon after the race resumed. He too, was unable to hold it, being overtaken by eventual winner, Sam Marsh. Marsh entered the top spot with five laps to go, and fully deserved the win after managing to hold off competition from the likes of Stewart.

A clean and professional Honda Cadet race was controlled by first place qualifier Harry Thompson seeing through the win with style, leading from start to finish. Praise is also due to Keaton Samra, who also managed to keep his starting position and earn a solid 2nd place. The overtakes of the race were performed by Oliver Clarke. A not so good starting position did not faze Clarke, who achieved a podium finish with a late overtake on lap 10, after successfully climbing four places during the race.