Tag Archives: historic karting

BACK TO THE ‘90s

British Touring Car fans believe the best era of the sport was the Super Touring phase of the 1990s. Similarly, there is a group of kart racers and enthusiasts who believe the 1990s was the best era for karting, thanks to the F100 discipline that produced incredible racers such as Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta and many of the stars on the current Formula One grid.

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We take a look at the risinf F100 series, based on the original winning formula

Shortly after the beginning of the 21st century, the sport shifted to incorporate the KF category from CIK into major domestic competitions, then doing so at European and World level transforming the karting world forever. 100cc is now a distant memory for most in the karting world, but thanks to the racers at the country’s most popular historic kart series – Spirit of the 90s – Formula 100 lives on both in “spirit” and in competition. The championship celebrates the Formula A and Intercontinental A classes of karting with pre-2000 karts only permitted to compete using 100cc air cooled, rotary or reed valve or direct drive engines, very much in keeping with the traditions of the “Champions of the Future” races of the 1990s. Series coordinator Oliver Scullion recalls how the F100 revival began. “My reasons behind starting F100 90s were purely selfish”, he explains. “I wanted to race the karts that I drove in the 90s. I got back into karting after 11 years out, and it had all changed.

I entered a few kart classes but nothing gave me the feeling I got from 1999 ICA. So I thought, if it does not exist, invent it. The first event had 8 of us, and I thank those involved from the beginning for having the faith in it (and me). 4 races later, and the ‘O Plate’ arrived, with 18 competing. Our last round at Clay had 26 on the grid, and it will definitely be ‘B’ finals for next year.” The “Champions of the Future” era of karting is of course famous for producing 2008 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, but what really stood out about the era for many was just how open and even the classes were with the likes of Russell Parkes, Mark Fell, James Holman, Fraser Sheader and the very much missed Christian Bakkerud an open playing field to compete with Britain’s youngest ever world champion. So it is fairly easy to understand the popularity of the renaissance of F100.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect quite as much success so quickly, but the formula seems to be a winning one”, says Scullion. “Low startup cost, with reasonable race entry and tyre fees help. But I think the main draw is the karts themselves. There simply is no purer karting experience than driving a Formula A or Formula ICA in my view. I simply combined these 90s classes and F100 was born. I then made a Pre-1995 class that runs within the Pre2000 class. “The karts are light, sound like animals, look sexy and are rapid. Less is definitely more. Batteries, clutches, wiring looms and gears all get in between your right foot and the power itself, and only serve to add weight, complexity and cost.” Many of the good words said about Formula 100 classes relate to the intensity of the competition, with many of the competitors seeing Formula A and Intercontinental A as the peak of competitive karting. Before her switch to the USA, Pippa Mann found racing in the European ICA invaluable to progress her career in karts.

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“I went straight from Junior TKM to Europe in ICA because of the difference in age rules from the UK to Europe,” she recalls. “It was a BIG jump, but I loved racing ICA. I then raced Formula A in the Italian, European and World Championships, and it was just incredible. The competition at those events in those classes was simply outstanding.” But now the worlds of Formula A and Intercontinental A are KF1 and KF2 with two stroke 125cc engines, something that the Spirit of the 90s brigade feel very strongly about. Even Oliver Scullion admits that he has no interest in the modern equivalent, and how his recreation of the F100 formula has generated more than just a rekindling of a bygone era, but also a spark of interest from veterans and novices alike. “Another aspect that some people are finding enjoyable is that it is a ‘historic kart race series’”, he says. “The karts, motors, carbs are all 1999 or older.

For anyone that has seen the epic videos on YouTube of 1990’s karting, or was lucky enough to have been there in the first place, they will know what I’m talking about…. It was a special time in karting. We are reliving it all over again. There are a lot of grown men and women with child-like grins in the F100 paddock. 100cc engines tend to do that to people. Yes, they have to be rebuilt more often than their modern cousins (for less money I may add) and yes, you have to understand carburation adjustment, and push them to get them going. But they are proper! “Our grid has varying abilities, from absolute novices to very experienced 90’s champions. Our latest recruit is multiple British Champion Michael Spencer, and our next meeting is at Fulbeck on the 18th October.”

The motto for our current generation in society appears to be “retro is the new cool” in various areas of life including music, film, television and sport. In motorsport it’s the same, with teams such as Lotus and Brabham and manufacturers returning to front-line competition such as Bentley, MG and Chevron reemerging in recent times. In karting too, the F100 category has proven to be one of the fastest growing championships in the UK with the Australians and Americans running a similar format of their own. With ever-increasing costs spiralling out of control in the modern formulae, it is refreshing and pleasing to see how the F100 grid is not only growing in stature and size but also regularly beaming from ear to ear. The racing is as close as it always was, the costs are manageable and the racing is very much on the terms of the individual. Perhaps the national championships should be taking note, as the “good ol’ days” of the sport don’t seem like such a bad idea…

Historic Kart: RetroRacer rule changes bring Formula A into line with F100 series

Recent rule changes by Historic Kart race series promoters RetroRacer’s have brought their flagship Formula A class into line with the similar F100 Spirit of the 90’s series.

In future competitors in the RetroRacer formula A series will be able to use either the current Mojo D2 / Vega W5 rubber or with immediate effect Komet K1H and  Komet K1w tyres.

Further to this the weight limit of the RetroRacer pre 95 class will fall into line with F100 at 148kg. The weight of the 2 series pre-2000 classes already being the same.

A spokesman for RetroRacer said “We want to give everybody the chance to compete whenever and wherever suits them. It seemed a no brainer to make it easier to cross between the two series which had very similar regulations anyway. It would be great for F100 competitors to experience the atmosphere of an all historic kart meeting such as we organise and we felt that it was necessary to facilitate this.

Now competitors can cross between the two series without even having to do as much as move a block of lead.”

The remaining Dates for RetroRacer 2015 are:

  • Hooton Park May 2nd 3rd
  • Global cup Glan y Gors June 6th 7th
  • Llandow July 25th 26th
  • Red Lodge August 22nd 23rd
  • Rowrah September 19th 20th
  • Tattershall October24th 25th

Round The Bend – No more heroes

Has our changed relationship with karting killed off the titans of the sport?

2009 CIK-FIA WORLD KARTING CHAMPS FOR DRIVERS & ASIA-PACIFIC KF3 CHAMPIONSHIP  COLOANE-MACAU
Adam’s hero Terry Fullerton (right) in a pensive mood

In September 1977 David Bowie released one of the most inspiring and romantic songs ever recorded, Heroes. Paradoxically, punk intellectuals The Stranglers had a hit with No More Heroes in the same month.

A year later, I was given my first copy of Karting magazine and from there on was hooked on what for me then, and largely still is, the most exciting thing ever. In the September 1978 issue, Terry Fullerton’s victory in the RAC British championships started what was to become my deep and abiding hero worship of the moustachioed genius.

Ayrton Senna da Silva’s exploits in the Le Mans World Championships added his name to a growing list of admired drivers; that also included Mickey Allen, Jackie Brown and Martin Smart. When he won the 135cc world title at Parma, Mike Wilson completed my personal ‘Holy Trinity’ that already featured Fullerton and Senna.

Oddly, I never saw any of them race. My fandom was wholly inspired by what I read in Karting and its rival, Kart & Superkart. Such were the reports that, in some ways, I didn’t need to because their exploits were so brilliantly captured by the writers of the time. Consequently, my first racing kart was a Zip/Dap – because that’s what Terry raced – before I bought a Wilson Premier, made by Mike’s legendary father Brian.

Hearing that his son was one of my biggest heroes, Brian once rather playfully told my dad that the Premier was based on Mike’s works Birel chassis. On rock hard Carlisle tyres it certainly didn’t handle like it but I didn’t care. If it was an English Birel, that was good enough for me. It even took me to the 1983 MBKC Junior Britain title.

During my youth I never met any of them, not Mike, Terry, Ayrton or even Mickey. However, I did finally meet six-time World Champion Wilson in 2006 and after introducing myself in a rather mumbley, awkward fashion, he invited me to join him for a pint. Those couple of hours, spent chatting over several beers were a delight and he revealed himself to be as brilliant in company as he was on the track.

With Senna no longer with us, that left Fullerton as my last hero to meet. I had heard that he is a notoriously spiky individual who does not suffer fools gladly. As a result, I had often seen Terry in the paddocks throughout Britain and Europe but never quite felt brave enough to do the shaky-hand thing.

At the Wackersdorf U18 World Championship opener, I spotted him on the dummy grid and decided to man up and press the flesh. I struck up a conversation and found an amiable, articulate and fascinating character. On the journey home I had the pleasure of spending a little more time with him and whilst I can see why he has a flinty reputation, nothing could dislodge the ‘hero’ tag I had applied over thirty years ago.

Like Stirling Moss had in F1, Fullerton invented the concept of being a professional kart racer and to this day, the leading factories employ supremely talented individuals to represent them at the highest level – but I wonder if they have anywhere near the status yesteryear’s heroes?

Perhaps not. Sadly there are far fewer manufacturers now and consequently there is a greatly reduced demand for professional drivers. Moreover, kids’ relationship with the sport has changed. In the Seventies and Eighties, karting was often rather sniffily referred to as the ‘poor man’s motorsport’ – and of course many young, talented drivers would, like Senna, graduate from karts to cars. For those who did, far more remained in karting for karting’s sake. If you look at some of the names in back issues of Karting, you’ll regularly see names cropping up across several years, if not decades. Nowadays, youngsters come into the sport because they see it as a means to an end. It is simply the first part of the journey on the way to F1 and as a result we are often privileged to see, but then deprived of some epic talents; Button, Davidson and Hamilton, to name but three.

What is it that propels them out of karting? During the summer I attended a round of the British Touring Car Championship and the Formula Renault races were tortuous. The drivers and their families were openly bored and several admitted that they missed karting. So why risk possible career failure and penury by leaving the sport that made you? Some drivers recognise this and stay. Ben Cooper is a recent graduate to the professional karting ranks and for me is emerging as a future hero. He’s quick, at Kosmic on merit and a terrific bloke to boot. Ben Hanley –ranked five years ago as the ‘World’s best karter’ – has had the balls to return to his roots with Maranello and with the likes of Convers, Ardigo, Thonon, Cesetti and my fellow columnist, Gary Catt, we are far from spoilt for choice – but I wonder if, compared to Fullerton, Wilson and Francois Goldstein they are equal in stature to the colossuses of yesteryear? With the increased media coverage, today’s professionals should be bigger stars than their predecessors and if not, why not?

Shortly before he died, Senna was asked who he thought was the best driver in the world. ‘Mike Wilson,’ he replied. The mystified Grand Prix reporter said ‘Who is Mike Wilson?’ ‘The best kart racer I ever saw’

Even F1 heroes had karting heroes. We all still should.

The very first edition of Karting Magazine

Roof Rack
Back in the early days, karts were transported on roof racks

It was the best idea I never had. Reprinting the very first edition of Karting magazine was undoubtedly a masterstroke and I only wish that I’d thought of it first. Alas, the credit belongs to my old sparring partner Wyatt Stanley. I’m not sure how much it cost Mark Burgess to implement this one, but Wyatt’s ideas never come cheap. The reproduced first copy also demonstrated how far printing technology has advanced in 50 years. Maybe Rupert Murdoch did have a point after all, (but just like most self respecting Liverpudlians, I still refuse to buy any of his newspapers). A full colour front cover didn’t arrive until the end of 1979, so for more than 19 years we had to put up with black and white photographs. If my own experiences were anything to go by, then Karting magazine’s contributors used very basic equipment also. Instead of sitting in front of a word processor, with the ability to make instant corrections, my first articles were all hand written. The waste paper basket was full of discarded attempts before a reasonable copy finally emerged, albeit slightly smudged in places. Several years later, I did invest in an old heavyweight Imperial typewriter and proudly sent off my first typewritten piece. I thought the editor might be relieved at not having to decipher my handwriting, but a reply came back “Please buy a new typewriter ribbon!” I remember covering the 1980 Kart Grand Prix when Karting magazine was due out a few days later. Alan Burgess met me at Silverstone on Sunday evening and I scribbled out my closing paragraph using the bonnet of his Matra.

For last month’s issue, Mark managed to dig out a photograph of his father appearing live on “Barry Bucknell’s Do It Yourself” programme that I think would be screened towards the end of 1960. The kart was a twin JLO powered Progress Cub, built in London by Frank Coltman and John Teychenne who were also heavily involved in manufacturing Colin Chapman’s Lotus racing cars. Because of their F1 connections, they could attract such notable motor racing stars as Graham Hill and Les Leston, which made their karts much sought after in those early days. The show’s presenter, Barry Bucknell, had a motoring background himself, having served his apprenticeship at Daimler. He then began work at his father’s building and electrical firm before joining the BBC as a presenter in 1956. His DIY programme attracted seven million viewers before it went off the air. In 1962, Barry returned to our screens, this time renovating a house in Ealing which the BBC had bought for around £2,000. It was valued 18 months ago at £800,000, some 400 times the original price.

Returning to the photograph, many readers may have wondered what a ready manufactured kart was doing on Bucknell’s DIY programme when building one of his own might have seemed more appropriate. The answer is that all karts in those days came in kit form and often required a skilled mechanic to assemble them properly. I’m guessing that this particular show would be attempting to show amateur owners how to do the job using fairly basic tools. Selling karts in kit form was due to a quirk in our tax laws rather than laziness on the manufacturer’s part.  Anyone studying Karting magazine’s first issue will have noticed the word (basic) against each kart’s advertised selling price, indicating that this didn’t include purchaser tax. Only two of the 40 manufacturers listed quoted prices that included tax. By purchasing the kart as a kit, you avoided paying tax and so almost everyone followed this particular route, particularly as it resulted in a saving of more than 30%. As editor of Karting magazine, Alan Burgess was involved in an epic battle with the Inland Revenue over what constituted a passenger vehicle (thereby one that attracted tax). Somewhat perversely they decreed that the driver was actually a passenger, although curiously this definition didn’t extend to racing cars generally. The dispute was only resolved in 1970 when VAT replaced Purchase Tax and applied to all vehicles whether carrying passengers or sold in kit form.

The price of karts back in 1960 may well have drawn some wistful sighs from current readers.  £62 for a Progress/Clinton A400 might seem ridiculously cheap today but closer examination reveals a slightly different story. For one thing, the Clinton motor was already badly outclassed and a more competitive JLO could set you back another £25. Prices of most commodities are at least 30 times higher than they were 50 years ago and so that brings the cost up to more than £2600 When the costs of painting and assembly are included, this price just about matches the £3,000 that a Rotax powered Storm will set you back. The difference is that in 1960 you’d be lucky to get 7bhp out of your JLO whilst the Rotax produces three times that figure. There’s no doubt in my mind that a modern kart and engine offer better value for money than did their predecessors of 50 years ago. What makes today’s sport so expensive is the actual running cost, together with a load of peripherals that have come to be regarded as essentials

Back in 1960 karts were transported on roof racks or, if you were very posh, perhaps the occasional van. Awnings were unheard of and the nearest thing you could get to any form of shelter was a large umbrella. Real sophistication amounted to possessing a Smith’s stop-watch and maybe one or two different sized sprockets.  Race entries cost around ten shillings (50p), made possible because clubs were run entirely by unpaid volunteers. Saturday practice didn’t exist at any meeting so no-one had to fork out for accommodation. You used the same set of tyres for wet or dry meetings, only renewing them after several years had elapsed and the canvas was starting to show through. There were plenty of people prepared to act as unpaid mechanics purely for the thrill of getting involved in real life motor-sport. The only time anyone ran in teams was during inter club matches or, for elite drivers, at international events. As the delectable Mary Hopkins one put it so melodiously “Those Were the Days, My Friend”.

It takes a fair sized budget to succeed at national level today and this is true no matter what the class. However, in CIK classes like KF1 and KF2 the costs are spiralling at an alarming rate. Open rules regarding exhausts are likely to increase costs even further and this is one area where you could see large differences in performance. I know of at least one team owner who is predicting an end to KF racing in this country within two years and he’s already made plans for a switch to Rotax by 2011. It’s rather ironic because, just two years earlier, there were some pundits predicting that KF classes would have all but killed off Rotax by now. In other circles, there is much talk of none MSA meetings taking over from the official brand. Rumours of this nature appear to crop up every ten or twenty years and they’ve never amounted to anything concrete. If I was sitting at Motor Sports House right now, though, I’d be trying to find out what’s wrong with the existing product and fow it might be improved. In fairness, that’s exactly what George Robinson’s survey is attempting to achieve and his report is awaited with great interest. I only hope that the MSA will demonstrate some urgency in implementing his recommendations.

Scott Parker informs me that he’s received more than 200 enquiries about the Bambino register and currently has 70 names on his books. 19 competitors recently turned up at the ELK track in Newark and Scott was expecting this figure to be beaten for the March meeting at Priory Park, Tamworth. Bambino events are now starting to appear throughout the country, but unfortunately most of them are happening at non MSA venues. One reason for this could be that the MSA was over prescriptive in its requirements with regard to circuit size. How many MSA circuits, apart from Buckmore Park, fall within the maximum length of 500 meters? How much would it cost clubs to make appropriate alterations for what must be a low return?  I’ve never understood the argument that a small circuit will automatically reduce speeds. What it does do, of course, is make absolutely certain that the numbers Scott Parker talks about won’t ever materialise at an MSA event. Imagine trying to set off 20 karts at intervals of 4 seconds on a track where lap times are well within a minute.

Restricting the size of circuits might mean that you require less marshals, but they’re likely to be kept far busier attempting to restart an errant kart before the rest come around. This will be particularly true in wet weather when everyone is compelled to go out on slicks. The stock answer seems to be that you don’t run Bambinos when it’s raining. This argument might hold water if all your drivers are locally based. If, however, they’ve travelled distances of 100 miles or more, with perhaps an overnight stay involved, then any decision to abandon proceedings after a shower of rain won’t be well received especially by six year old kids. I’m all for keeping down costs, but I wonder at the reasoning behind banning wet tyres whilst allowing a free choice of slicks at the same time. All these rules are pushing Bambinos in the direction of non MSA circuits. My concern is that they may decide to remain there long after having moved up into cadets or juniors.

Last month’s photo showed Roy Mortara and Chris Hampshire in action during the 1967 British Team Selection Meeting at Fulbeck. It attracted some interesting responses from various people who knew Roy and Chris. Alan Churchill was chairman of Camberley Kart Club at the time of Roy’s tragic death in a road accident. He organised the annual Roy Mortara Memorial Meeting at Blackbushe which has been running ever since. Alan’s son, Ken, who now runs in the Dadson Series, e-mailed me to say that he remembers when Roy worked for Jack Barlow. “He was a great driver, lovely person and a big loss to the sport,” wrote Ken. “He used to set up my kart when I was a junior and became a good friend of my father. “ Chris Hampshire used to run a Domestic Appliance shop at Liphook in the County of his surname. Adam Keens still lives in Liphook and remains a close friend. He pointed out that, apart from counting Nigel Mansell amongst his close friends, Chris used to employ George Robinson in the shop. I always wondered where George got all his sales patter from.

Paul Brighton remembered acting as a marshal at the Fulbeck event which was also a selection meeting for the British Class 1V Team. Several weeks later, Paul travelled to Milan as Tom Purnell’s mechanic for a match with the Italian 125cc team. “I think the British squad for that trip was John Morrell, Les Sheppard, Jack Barlow, Ken Norton, Graham Liddle, Tom Purnell, Ron O’Nions and John Littler,” says Paul. “We had a pretty torrid time getting there, having tried to go through the newly opened Mont Blanc Pass. The customs officer wouldn’t let us cross the border into Italy without paying duty in cash for our karts. After a few hours of arguing, we were allowed through without the karts and stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. We expected a different official to be there next morning but unfortunately it was the same one.  No-one wanted to pay this duty so we doubled back and entered Italy via the St Bernard’s Pass. We weren’t in a very good mood upon arriving in Milan. The circuit had been laid out with straw bales in a market place and was very twisty. The Italians with their 125cc karts were much quicker and they beat us hands down, unfortunately.”

Apart from Paul, Adam and Ken, Jenny Philpotts, Jim Coulthard, Richard Brett, Brian Malin, Tim Baker and Gerry Philpotts also sent in correct answers I wonder if they’ll be able to recognise this photo of Reg Gange Junior who is pictured here after winning the World Cup at Morecambe. He was only the third winner of this prestigious competition. That same year, Jackie Stewart retired from motor racing after collecting his third world crown ahead of two former karters Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson. At Nivelles, Terry Fullerton beat Francois Goldstein to become Britain’s first world karting champion and Alain Prost won the Junior World Cup. The war in Vietnam came to an end just as President Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal. Princess Anne and Mark Philips tied the knot but there was no good news for British industry as we all went on a three day working week to conserve energy.  Dawn topped the charts with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” and Wizard had similar success singing “See my Baby Jive.” If you can name the year, then please send an e-mail to dave.bewley@talktalk.net. Alternatively, you can telephone 01946 861355.

OFF TRACK – “Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!”

img019“Sour Milk, You can’t make it turn sweet again!” (Diane Wakoski – American poet)

They were, without doubt, the cream of British karting. Some of them, such as Stephen South, Johnny Herbert, Allan McNish and Ralph Firman chose to broaden their horizons and eventually became F1 stars. Others, most notably Bruno Ferrari, Mickey Allen, Terry Fullerton and Mark Litchfield opted to remain in the sport where they became legendary figures. All of them proved their merit by winning British titles in karting’s premier category. It was known, initially, as Class 1 Super, then 100 International, Formula A and more recently KF1. Despite the different names, one thing remained constant. To become a champion in this class required truly exceptional talent.

Apart from the aforementioned it’s worth listing all those other distinguished champions who could claim to have scaled British karting’s highest peak. They were John Brise, Bobby Alderdyce, Bobby Day, Chris Hales, Paul Burgess, Alan Gates, Andy Buchan, Piers Hunnisett, Richard Weatherley, Steve Brogan, Darrell Beasley, Jeremy Cotterill, Andrew O’Hara, Gary Moynihan, Michael Simpson, Matt Davies, Bobby Game, Robert Jenkinson, Michael Spencer, Mike Conway, Chris Rogers, Mark Rochford, Gary Catt and Robert Foster-Jones. Sadly, Mark Litchfield’s name on this elite list may turn out to be the last.

As predicted, the KF classes have now managed to price themselves out of existence leaving a huge void at the top of British karting. Despite Paul Fletcher’s efforts to sustain sufficient interest in KF1, support for this category completely evaporated last year. That left KF2 as the obvious alternative but it became clear very early in 2011 that there wouldn’t be sufficient numbers to make this class viable, either. An attempt will be made to restore the KF2 British Championship title by staging a one off meeting at PF later this year. Somehow, this prospect doesn’t quite make the taste buds tingle in anticipation.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea of deciding a British title in one single meeting. Indeed, that used to be the accepted method for many years and I actually prefer it to the much costlier multi round packages offered by Super 1 or Formula Kart Stars. However, we’re talking here about resurrecting a class that hasn’t been run anywhere else in Britain this year. Despite the offer of huge incentives, KF2 wasn’t able to attract more than half a dozen potential participants when entries for Super One closed.

The timing of this event in October might make it an attractive proposition for Rotax, TKM or KGP competitors whose championship aspirations in their chosen classes haven’t quite been fulfilled. We could finish up with a remarkably high entry, although in that case I’m not quite sure where all the motors will come from. Buying expensive engines for a championship series spread over six rounds is one thing, but it doesn’t make particularly good financial sense when they’re to be used at a one off event. I don’t doubt that whoever becomes the 2011 KF2 British Champion will be an extremely talented individual, but I’ll always regard the title as a bit synthetic. The cream has already turned sour and no amount of sugar can sweeten it.

Many readers will have been impressed by the photograph of Peter Brinkworth’s pristine 1963 Fox/McCulloch in last month’s issue. Peter bought the kart eight years ago, paying $1200 for it plus shipping costs. It required extensive restoration work which Peter described as a labour of love. In his earlier competitive days, he’d always wanted to own a Fox-kart but couldn’t afford one. Back in 1963, they were priced at £120 without an engine, equivalent of around £4,000 today. Driven by George Bloom, Bobby Day and Roger Keele these karts won three out of four classes in the 1963 British Championships. It all turned sour for Fox-kart owners within a few very short months when their prized possessions were rendered obsolete by the Tecno Kaimano and its imitators. It was possible for karters to get their fingers badly burned even in those days.

Roger Mills was the driver who appeared in April’s poser. This month’s photograph shows Chris Merlin, Irving Jacobs and Tony Palmer immediately after this trio had won the 2nd Snetterton 9hr event. It was the year of Flower Power when Scott McKenzie went to “San Francisco”. The Beatles produced their Sergeant Pepper album and the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, took a fatal overdose. Israel emerged triumphant from the Six Day War and Che Guevara was shot dead in Bolivia. Glasgow Celtic became Britain’s first winners of the European Champions Cup and barefooted Sandie Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest. New Zealander Denny Hulme was the F1 world champion, while Eduardo Rossi claimed karting’s equivalent. At Little Rissington Dave Ferris was crowned as the outright British karting champion and Thailand’s Nu Punjashthiti partnered Canadian driver Buck Jones to win the Shenington 6hrs. If you can name the year please send an e-mail to dave.bewley@talktalk.net or telephone 01946 861355

 

The Champions!

EMERSON FITTIPALDI (1972 & 1974)

Named after the famous American author Ralph Waldo Emmerson, he began competing on motorcycles at the age of 14 before switching to karts. Helped by his older brother Christian, Emerson manufactured and marketed the Mini-kart, on which he became Brazilian champion. He came to Britain in 1969 and made an immediate impression in Formula Ford races, quickly moving up into F3 before joining Colin Chapman’s F2 team. Chapman entered him for the 1970 British Grand Prix in a third Lotus, use for champions part 1 - Buttonintending that this should serve as a gradual introduction into F1. However, Jochen Rindt was killed at Monza that year and his death persuaded the second Lotus driver John Miles into retirement. At a stroke, Fittipaldi was promoted from junior member into the new team leader. He rose to the challenge magnificently by winning the US Grand Prix four weeks later. After capturing the title in 1972 he had a poor season as his team-mate Ronnie Peterson proved to be much quicker. A switch to McLaren gave him another F1 crown but his next move to the Copersucar Fittipaldi team was less successful. He retired from F1 in 1980 but has since won CART and Indianapolis 500 titles.

JODY SCHECKTER (1979)

Soon after arriving here in 1970, the South African became known as a “spinner or a winner”. Before then, he’d raced karts in his home country, but freely admits that the standards were much lower than in Europe. After a short spell in saloon cars he won the South African Formula Ford Championships and with it a scholarship of £300 to race in Europe. Two years in Formula Ford and F3 gave him his first F1 drive at the 1972 US Grand Prix where he finished 9th. McLaren then signed him up as their third driver for 1973. A spin at the British Grand Prix was responsible for causing the biggest crash in F1 history, eliminating 10 cars. Despite calls by the GPDA for Scheckter to be banned, Ken Tyrell signed him up as Jackie Stewart’s replacement in 1974. He scored two wins at Anderstorp and Silverstone to finish 3rd in the championships and won his home Grand Prix in 1975. He drove the famous six wheeled Tyrell throughout ’76 and then had a fairly successful season with Wolf before signing for Ferrari. Three GP wins in 1979 were sufficient to make him Ferrari’s last world champion until Michael Schumacher’s success 21 years later. Jody retired in 1980 and now runs an organic farm in Suffolk. His sons, Toby and Tomas, both came through karting before moving up the motor-sport ladder.

ALAN JONES (1980)

Alan’s name wasn’t included on my original list due to a dim and distant memory of an interview he’d given not long after winning the world title. I seem to recall him saying that he’d driven karts a few times but hadn’t actually raced them in serious competition. However, further research has shown that he was actually the Australian kart champion in 1963. He’d grown up around racing cars and his father, Stan, was well known on the Australian circuits. At the age of 17, he swapped his kart for a racing Mini but soon began to show interest in his dad’s old F3 Cooper. Lack of funds restricted his racing activities in Australia but Alan spotted an opportunity on the European scene. His first trip over here in 1967 was unsuccessful, but he came back again the following year. In 1973, racing a GRD, he produced some good results in F3 and attracted the attention of Harry Stiller, who provided sufficient cash to fund a Formula Atlantic programme for 1974. Jones won three races and Stiller bought a Hesketh car for him to race in F1 the following season. Unfortunately, Stiller decided to disband the team after just four Grand Prix events had been completed.

A brief spell as Rolf Stommelen’s replacement in Graham Hill’s Embassy team brought him his first world championship points when he finished 5th behind Tom Pryce at the Nurburgring. Graham’s death later that year left Jones without a drive, but John Surtees came to his rescue and he scored 7 points for the Durex-Surtees team. He moved to Shadow following the death of Tom Pryce in 1977 and won his first GP in Austria. This victory persuaded Frank Williams to sign him for his fledgling team in 1978. Patrick Head’s FW07 introduced in 1979 provided Jones with his first truly competitive car, delivering wins in Austria, Holland and Canada. Five wins in 1980 were sufficient to secure the title. After a tempestuous relationship with his new team-mate Carlos Reutemann throughout the 1981 seasonhe decided to retire However he did make a return at Long Beach two years later, racing for Arrows. He ended his motor racing career on the Australian Touring car scene.

NELSON PIQUET (1981, 83 & 87)

Parental opposition led to Nelson Souto Maier adopting his mother’s maiden name of Piquet when he first went kart racing. At the age of 19, he won his first national karting title and repeated this success the following year. A move into Super Vee resulted in another national title and he was persuaded by Emerson Fittipaldi to try his luck over in Europe. A year after settling in Britain, he won the 1978 F3 Championships, breaking Jackie Stewart’s long standing record of most wins at this level. Bernie Ecclestone signed him up for his F1 Brabham team in 1979. He went on to claim 13 GP wins for Brabham and two world titles before joining Williams in 1986. This move produced a fierce rivalry with Nigel Mansell that allowed Prost to snatch the title. His 1987 success means that he is now one of only eight drivers with three or more F1 crowns. A move to Lotus in 1988 proved to be disastrous but signing for Benetton in 1990 gave his career a boost as he recorded two Grand Prix wins. In 1991 he defeated his old rival Mansell to notch up another win at Montreal and on that happy note announced his retirement.

KEKE ROSBERG (1982)

Keijo Erik Rosberg (nicknamed Keke) was one of Finland’s early karting pioneers who imported Tecnokarts. He competed in the 1966 world championships, finishing 15th and remained in karting until 1976.  After two seasons in Formula Vee and Atlantic, he had his first Grand Prix outing at the 1978 Dutch GP, racing an ATS. Some months earlier, though, he’d scored a sensational F1 victory for Theodore in the non championship BRDC International Trophy event at Silverstone. After two relatively strong seasons with Wolf and Fittipaldi, he joined the Williams team as a replacement for Alan Jones in 1982. Despite winning just one GP in Switzerland, his consistency earned him the world title by a margin of five points over Didier Pironi and John Watson. He scored five GP victories throughout his career, all of them with Williams. He moved to McLaren in 1986 but the car wasn’t competitive. That year Elio de Angelis, his friend from the karting days, was involved in a fatal crash and it persuaded Keke to retire.

ALAIN PROST (1985, 86, 89 & 93)

Alain began racing karts as a 14 year old and won the 1973 Junior World Cup held at Oldenzal in Holland. Moving up to seniors that year, he took part in the World Championships at Nivelles, finishing 14th. The following year, he became a full time professional driver, financing his career by selling karts and tuning motors. By winning the 1975 French karting championships he earned a scholarship into Formula Renault, claiming national titles in 1976 and 1977. His move into F3 was equally successful as he captured the 1978 French title followed by the European crown 12 months later. In 1980 Prost signed for McLaren with whom he scored 5 world championship points. Lack of reliability prompted him to look elsewhere and for 1981 he chose the fledgling Renault team. Prost completed three seasons with Renault, winning nine races that earned him 5th, 4th and 2nd in the world championship rankings. He returned to McLaren in 1984 and remained there for six seasons, winning an astonishing 30 races with three world titles to show for it all. After open warfare had broken out with Senna, he transferred his allegiance to Ferrari in 1990 recording five race wins that year. After a bad season in 1991, he fell out with the Ferrari hierarchy and took a year off. He returned to the sport with Williams and easily defeated Senna to win his 4th world crown. He retired from the sport having won 51 GPs setting a record that only Michael Schumacher has been able to beat. He spent several years as a TV commentator and McLaren test driver before buying out the Ligier team in 1997 and renaming it Prost. However, this venture proved to be unsuccessful and he closed the team down in 2001.

AYRTON SENNA (1988, 1990 & 1991)

John Mills telephoned me after the 1978 world karting championships at Le Mans full of enthusiasm about a hitherto unknown Brazilian. Ayrton Senna da Silva, had finished 6th immediately behind Britain’s Mickey Allen. He’d astounded most onlookers with his strong performance, yet still returned home feeling rather disappointed at not having won. Winning kart races was something that had come naturally to Ayrton ever since reaching the required age of 13 in Brazil. He’d been crowned the 1977 national champion, earning the right to represent his country at Le Mans. Determined to do better at Estoril in 1979, he secured factory support from DAP but it was his Dutch team-mate Peter Koene who lifted the title on count back. Another Dutch driver, Peter de Bruyn got the better of him at Nivelles in 1980, with Senna again finishing as runner up. In 1981 he moved to England and captured the Townsend Thoreson Formula Ford title then made another attempt to earn karting’s premier prize, this time at Parma On this occasion, though, he had to settle for 4th place behind Mike Wilson, Lars Forsman and Ruggero Melgrati. Despite easily winning the 1982 British and European FF 2000 titles, karting’s world crown still eluded him and he finished outside the top ten at Kalmar. A busy Formula 3 schedule in which he narrowly beat Martin Brundle prevented him from returning to Le Mans for the 1983 world karting championships.

Even whilst at the peak of his career, Senna was obviously proud of his karting links and lost no opportunity in publicly acknowledging their importance. In 1991, he baffled motor racing journalists by nominating karting stars Terry Fullerton and Mike Wilson as the two best drivers he’d ever competed against. This was in direct contrast to most other F1 drivers of that era who either neglected to mention their earlier karting days altogether or played down the importance of this period in their lives. Senna Use for champions part 2 - Villeneuve_1985signed for Toleman in 1984 and finished 2nd at Monaco. He also grabbed podium places at Silverstone and Estoril. Moving to Lotus in 1985, he claimed no less than seven pole positions, far more than any other driver and this marked him out as the fastest man in F1. Two more seasons with Lotus brought him 4th and 3rd places in the championship standings before he joined McLaren. Senna’s six year spell with McLaren brought him 35 race wins, three world titles, and general recognition as one of motor racing’s all time greats. He signed for Williams in 1994 with fatal consequences at the San Marino GP. Back home, the Brazilian government announced a period of mourning lasting for three days and it was estimated that more than three million people lined the streets for his funeral.

NIGEL MANSELL (1992)

Nigel began racing karts at the age of 12, joining the British Junior Team in 1968 along with Terry Fullerton, Tim Brise and Alan Turney. Despite a somewhat outdated Parilla BA13 motor, he still managed to look pretty rapid. At Fulbeck he finished 2nd behind Stephen South in the 1969 British Championships and this probably rates as his best performance on a kart. His choice of chassis was a Dale Cutlass, which no other Class 1 competitor tended to favour. The following year, he moved into gearbox karting with a 210 Villiers and notched up lots of victories, mostly at club level. Whilst competing in the 1973 World Cup at Morecambe he sustained serious injuries after a track rod snapped on his approach to the hairpin bend. Compared to other top flight karting stars of that era, Mansell was known for his determination and bravery rather than pure skill. Half way through the 1976 season he moved into Formula Ford, winning six out of the nine races entered. The following year he raced in 42 events and won 33 of them to take the championship convincingly. By then, he’d left his job as an aerospace technician to become a full time racing driver. Shortly afterwards he broke his neck during practice at Brands Hatch and doctors warned that he’d never race again.

A season in F3 left him financially destitute and he could only continue racing by re-mortgaging his house. Suddenly, his luck changed thanks to another driver’s misfortune. His old karting rival Stephen South had signed a contract with Lotus to become their test driver for 1980. However, Stephen lost part of his leg in a Canam race. Colin Chapman decided to offer this contract to Nigel who, with no funds left, grabbed the opportunity gratefully. He made his F1 debut in the 1980 Austrian GP but had to retire with a fuel leak. Five seasons with Lotus brought him five podium places but no wins. Following Chapman’s sudden death, Peter Warr took over the team and had a low regard for Mansell’s ability, claiming that he’d never win a Grand Prix. After joining Williams in 1985 he actually notched up 13 GP wins before moving to Ferrari five years later. After announcing his retirement, he was tempted back into the Williams fold in 1991, claiming a further five GP wins. He achieved his goal of becoming world champion in 1992 with a breathtaking nine victories before retiring once again from F1. After dominating the American CART Series, he made a brief return to F1 a year later and notched up his 28th GP win in Australia. Nigel was a hero to the British motor racing fans. He wasn’t always so popular with his team-mates, however. Mario Andretti was moved to say of him “If Ronnie Peterson was the best team-mate I ever had, then Mansell must have been the worst.” What no-one can deny is that he reached the top of F1 with no financial backing, just lots of guts, determination and self belief.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (1994, ’95, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03 & ’04)

Michael’s father Rolf, a bricklayer by trade, adapted his pedal car to run with a small motorcycle engine and took it to the nearby kart track at Kerpen. At four years old he was by far the youngest club member. Rolf built him a proper kart from discarded spare parts and, at the age of six, Michael used this makeshift machine to win his first club championships. To finance their son’s racing, Rolf took a second job repairing karts at the circuit whilst mum Elisabeth worked in the club’s canteen. Even so, when the time came to replace Michael’s engine with a quicker one they couldn’t find the 400 Euros required. Fortunately, by that stage, his obvious talent had been spotted by several businessmen who stepped in with the necessary cash. His kart racing was restricted to local events because otherwise a national licence would have been required. In Germany you had to be 14 years old before a licence could be issued. For two years Schumacher raced with a Luxembourg licence but couldn’t compete in his own national championships. He reached his 14th birthday in 1983 and had won the German Junior title within twelve months. Backed by Eurokart dealer Adolf Neuberg, he finished 2nd in the Junior World cup at Le Mans. This was followed by 3rd place in the 1986 European Championships for ICA (now known as KF2) and he won this title 12 months later. To further fund his racing he left school early and began working as a mechanic.

Michael moved into single seater racing cars in 1988 and promptly won the German Formula Koenig Series. Willi Weber became his manager and masterminded a successful assault on the German F3 title in 1990. That led to a place in the Mercedes Junior Racing programme contesting the World Sports Prototype Championships. He made his F1 debut with Jordan at the 1991 Belgian GP, qualifying 7th despite never having previously driven at Spa. Eddie Jordan thought that he had Schumacher under contract, but Benetton moved in swiftly to snap up the young German ace. He justified their faith immediately by finishing 5th in the Italian GP, appreciably quicker than his team-mate, Nelson Piquet. By the end of his relationship with Benetton in 1995, Schumacher had racked up no less than 19 GP victories and claimed two world titles. Leaving this winning team for Ferrari may have seemed at first sight a rather strange choice but it eventually brought him another 72 Grand Prix victories and five more world titles.

Statistically, he remains the best F1 driver of all time. There were a couple of stains on his record, however. He was disqualified from the 1997 championships after attempting to run Jacques Villeneuve off the road. This followed another dubious episode in 1994 when he won his first world title after crashing into Damon Hill, some say quite deliberately. There was another incident during qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Schumacher was provisionally holding pole position when he spun at Rascasse Corner and left his car positioned in such a way as to prevent anyone else from completing the lap. The race stewards subsequently placed him at the back of the grid. These and several other controversial incidents prevented him from being accorded the status of all time great in some people’s eyes. Despite retiring from F1 in 2006, he still retains close links with Ferrari as an advisor, mentor and occasional test driver.

JACQUES VILLENEUVE (1997)

A Canadian by birth, but raised in Monaco, Jacques was the son of Ferrari F1 star Gilles Villeneuve. He is actually named after his uncle, another motor racing driver, who in 1985 became the first Canadian to win an American CART race. In 1982 Gilles was involved in a fatal accident during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. Just two years after his father’s death, Jacques decided that he wanted to go motor racing. His mother Joann was finally talked into buying him a 100cc kart and he competed in one or two Italian kart meetings before switching to a135cc Birel/Komet. Shortly afterwards, his uncle enrolled him at the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School in Mont Tremblant, Quebec and he made an immediate impression. For several seasons, he competed in Italian and Japanese F3 events without too much success. During 1993 he raced in the North American Toyota Atlantic Series, posting seven poles and five race victories. The next two years were spent in the American CART Series, with Villeneuve scoring a resounding victory at Indianapolis in 1995. This brought him to the attention of Frank Williams who promptly signed him up for his 1996 F1 team, partnering Damon Hill.

He finished runner up to his team-mate Hill in the 1996 championships, but went one better 12 months later. Williams had to compete without Renault factory support in 1998 and Jacques was well off the pace. He joined the newly formed BAR team in 1999 for an annual salary of £15m and remained with them throughout four largely disappointing seasons. After taking a sabbatical in 2004, he joined up with Sauber-BMW, remaining with them for his final two F1 seasons. His last two years have been spent racing sports cars and competing in the NASCAR Series. Apart from his motor racing career, Jacques is famous for being engaged to Danni Minogue at one time. He also attempted to become a pop star himself, releasing an album called “Private Paradise” in 2007.

MIKA HAKKINEN (1998 &’99)

Like many other top flight racing drivers, Mika had his first taste of karting as a 5 year old. A crash on his very first outing failed to deter him and he was soon taking part in local events with a kart that had previously belonged to Finland’s rally ace Henri Toivonen. He eventually won five national karting championships before ex world champion Keke Rosberg took him under his wing, arranging sponsorship that allowed Mika to move into single seater cars.  By 1989, he’d collected three Scandinavian titles plus the British F3 Championships and had attracted interest from several F1 teams. After a rousing performance in the 1990 Macau GP, Mika signed for Lotus where he remained for two full seasons. In 1993 he joined the McLaren team, initially as a test driver but was drafted into their mainstream line up after Michael Andretti left half way through the season. He remained a McLaren driver for nine years before taking what was claimed to be a sabbatical in 2002. In between times, he’d won 20 GP races and finished as world champion on two occasions. His record would doubtless have been more impressive were it not for a certain Michael Schumacher who admitted that Hakkinen was the rival he feared the most. Mika never returned to F1 as originally intended but raced for three seasons in DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters). For 2007 there was much talk of him returning to McLaren’s F1 team before the Woking outfit finally decided on Lewis Hamilton.

FERNANDO ALONSO (2005 & 2006)

Jose Luis Alonso was a factory worker who had been moderately successful in Spanish kart racing. In 1985, as Mike Wilson was busy collecting his fourth world championship title, Jose decided to build a kart for his eight year old daughter Lorena. Unfortunately for him, she showed no interest in the sport but her three year old brother Fernando became immediately smitten. Jose had to make many alterations before Fernando could reach the pedals, but he was soon whizzing around a circuit near his home in Oviedo. Fernando’s mother worked in a Department Store and the family had limited resources to support his karting activities. However, it was obvious that he had lots of talent and sponsorship was soon forthcoming. He won the Spanish Junior title on four consecutive occasions from 1993 until 1996. Before entering senior karting he won the Junior World Cup at Genk. By that stage he was coming under the expert tutelage of Mike Wilson who also guided him to 2nd place in the 1998 European Championships for Super Cent, forerunner of today’s KF1.

Clearly it was only a matter of time before he moved into cars and in 1999 Fernando won the Spanish Formula Nissan championships. He also tested a Minardi F1 car that year and emerged the quickest by 1.5 seconds. After a season in Formula 3000, Alonso signed for Minardi and produced some notable results throughout 2001 Flavio Briatori snapped him up as a test driver for his Renault team in 2002 on the understanding that he would replace Jenson Button 12 months later. He scored 15 GP wins in his first four seasons with Renault and won two world titles. The dream move to McLaren in 2007 was spoiled somewhat by a rookie driver called Lewis Hamilton often out-pacing him. Despite winning four Grand Prix that year, Alonso’s 3rd place in the championship standings must have been a disappointment and rather tarnished his reputation. Back with Renault for 2008 he won two more Grand Prix, despite Renault’s lack of pace, and faith was restored once again. Who knows what 2009 might bring?

KIMI RAIKKONEN (2007)

Several years ago I asked Paul Carr to name the kart driver who had impressed him the most. After a moment’s hesitation he replied, “Kimi Raikkonen!. I’d been running Robert Bell at the same time and he was obviously very good, but Kimi had that touch of class that set him aside, almost like Senna in the late seventies.” Kimi had been winning national titles in Finland from the age of ten, but didn’t venture abroad until after his 15th birthday. He competed in the 1997 world championships finishing 30th and improved upon this result by half a dozen places the following year. At the 1998 Monaco Cup, he survived a first bend collision to fight his way through to 3rd place. By then he was racing with the famous PDB team led by Peter de Bruyn who guided Kimi to a fine 2nd place in the 1999 European kart championships for Formula A (now KF1). Switching to Formula Renault brought him seven wins from ten events in the UK championships. Peter Sauber was sufficiently impressed to offer him a place in his F1 team for 2001 and he scored 9 points helping to deliver Sauber’s best ever result of 4th position in the constructors’ championships. Ron Dennis also became a Raikkonen fan and promptly signed him up as a replacement for Mika Hakkinen. In five seasons with McLaren he won nine Grand Prix but retired from almost 40% of his races. The switch to Ferrari in 2007 certainly brought about more consistency and his six GP wins were good enough to make him world champion.

LEWIS HAMILTON (2008)

At the age of three Lewis had his first taste of karting whilst on a family holiday in Ibiza. After spending two or three years racing remote controlled cars, he went to Rye House for a few laps on some real karts. “That was it!” recalls Lewis. “It was all I ever wanted to do.” He finally got his first kart as a Christmas present just before reaching the age of eight. It was a very old and battered All-kart that his dad had spent many hours painstakingly restoring. Nevertheless, it was good enough to make Lewis instantly competitive and he won all his races in the novice class. His first time out on yellow plates was at Clay Pigeon, a race that he won against all the odds. In their old Vaxhall Cavalier Lewis, his dad Anthony, step-mum Linda and half brother Nic would soon be travelling to circuits throughout Britain. Lewis had been learning Karate for some time but after receiving one or two threats from angry fathers who didn’t like to see their sons being beaten, Anthony took it up as well. By this stage the All-kart had been traded in for a brand new Zip and Lewis was receiving support from Martin Hines. He won his first British Cadet Championship in 1995 at the age of ten, successfully defending the title 12 months later. Lewis famously approached Ron Dennis at the 1995 Autosport Awards ceremony and told him that he’d like to drive for McLaren one day. Ron signed his autograph book with the message “phone me on nine years time.” In actual fact, it was Ron who contacted the Hamiltons less than three years later after Lewis had started making waves in the JICA S1 championships. He was offered a place in the McLaren Mercedes Young driver Support Programme. It meant that Anthony would never again need to go out erecting advertising signs at 50p each to finance his son’s karting activities.

After scooping four national championship titles in cadets and Junior Yamaha, it was time for Lewis to try his hand in Europe. Martin Hines arranged for a factory drive with Top-kart and Lewis scored a sensational victory over Nico Rosberg at Parma. It was the start of a long lasting friendship as they became team-mates in an outfit set up by Ron Dennis called MBM. He finished 2nd in the European Junior championships before winning this title at senior level the following year. After noting Hamilton’s performance in the 2001 world karting championships, Michael Schumacher observed that he clearly had the right race mentality for a career in F1. Lewis then moved straight into Formula Renault, finishing 3rd in the 2002 British championships after setting three poles and winning three races. He breezed through this Series the following year with ten wins to his credit. A move into F3 was rather less successful, though he still finished 5th in the 2004 championships. He dominated the 2005 F3 Euroseries championships, winning 15 out of 20 rounds. There then came a GP2 title the following year which eventually earned him a place in McLaren’s 2007 F1 team. If you don’t know what happened after that, then you’ve probably been living on another planet.

JENSON BUTTON (2009)

Jenson and Lewis share a similar karting background, having both achieved remarkable success on very small budgets. Shortly after his eighth birthday, Jenson’s parents John and Simone separated. John bought a second hand kart from an old Rally-cross friend Keith Ripp and presented it to his son for Christmas. After several trial runs on a disused airfield nearby, they entered their first race meeting at Clay Pigeon. Jenson proved his mastery of the wet conditions and came home with a winner’s cup. In no time at all, he was racing in national championship events. Legend has it that, after a race up at Larkhall, John had to borrow sufficient funds to fill up their Transit van for the journey home. Button became the 1991 British cadet champion after winning all 8 rounds and repeated this success 12 months later by lifting the Junior TKM crown. After competing in the 1994 Junior World Cup, he was offered a professional drive with Tecno. At his first attempt, Jenson captured the Italian title and took 2nd place in the world championships for Formula A. His supreme karting success occurred in 1997 when he was crowned the European Formula Super A champion ahead of Davide Fore. The following season he joined some of his former karting friends such as Danny Wheldon, Anthony Davidson and Jarno Trulli by making the step into cars.

use for Off trackIn return for a 35% share of his future income, David Robertson and Harald Huysman agreed to finance Jenson’s motor racing career. It began with testing a Dallara F3 car run by Carlin Motorsport. Rather than jump straight into the F3 ranks, however, he opted for a season with Haywood Racing in Formula Ford. It proved to be a smart choice as he won the TOCA Slick 50 Championships and also took 1st place in the FF Festival at Brands Hatch. Jenson was also voted the BRDC McLaren Autosport young driver of the 1998. He chose to run in F3 with the Silverstone based  Promatecme team using Dallara cars and Renault engines. Even though his Renault was recognised as being inferior to the Mugen Hondas of Marc Hynes and Luciano Burti, Jenson still managed to win three races and finished 3rd in the championships. He also impressed Ron Dennis in his test drive for McLaren but it was Frank Williams who ultimately gambled on Jenson’s talent by signing him as a fully fledged F1 driver.

He scored 12 points that year which earned him 8th place in the championship table. “Jenson was excellent,” confessed Patrick Head, but unfortunately Williams had already signed a contract with Pablo Montoya. Button was transferred to Bennetton and had a disappointing season finishing 17th with just 2 points. The team was taken over by Renault in 2002 and Jenson finished 7th with 14 points, scoring much better than his team-mate Jarno Trulli. However, it didn’t impress Flavio Briatore who signed Alonso as Button’s replacement. Jenson’s next move was to BAR Honda where he immediately made a big impression. Hi finished 9th in the 2003 championships and improved to 3rd twelve months later. It wasn’t until 2006 that he scored his first Grand Prix victory winning in Hungary. There followed two very uncompetitive years with Honda before Ross Brawn took over the team. Six GP wins and a 5th place finish in Brazil were enough to earn Jenson the world crown. It had taken him ten seasons to achieve his ambition, but in truth this was the first time that he’d been given a competitive car. Few in the motor racing world would deny that his success had been richly deserved.

Ancient & Modern – Old karts get a second chance

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It will be worth it. A fully restored 100cc Montesa

Before we continue with our 100cc engine restoration, I would like to introduce a new feature to the readers of this column. Ancient & Modern will now contain race and event reports for the historic, vintage and classic karting clubs. Obviously, 2006 is going to be a busy year with events, races and demonstrations planned up and down the country from April through to November and organisers and club secretaries should simply submit details of their events or results for inclusion. Please telephone the helpline number with the information. We have already had the first round of the Retro Racer series that took place at East Kirkby on April 2nd. The winners were:

Class IV Vintage:
1 Steve Greaves Fastakart/Villiers

Class IV Historic:
1 Tony Keele Keele/Bultaco

Class IV Classic:
1 Bob Phair Deavinsons/Bultaco

Class I Classic:
1 Jeff Gray Barlotti/Parilla

The next Retro Racer round is at Stretton, Leicestershire on May 21st. Visit the Retro Racer website (Weblink 1) for full details. The biggest event of the year is always the Shenington Superprix that will include static displays, on track demonstrations, a kart jumble and a drivers’ reunion. The event takes place on the 16- 18th June and is one not to be missed. Visit the Historic and Classic Kart Club for Great Britain’s website (Weblink 2) for full details. The winner of the Ancient & Modern photo competition was G. Rosenegk who correctly identified the kart as a Please Kart as well as naming several of the west country drivers. Well done.

The CIK have produced an excellent leaflet on karting to celebrate the sport’s 50th birthday. A copy can be downloaded from www.cikfia.com

100cc Engine Restoration (Part 4)
The final job to do is to remove the main bearings and oil seals from the crankcases. A heat source will be required to expand the aluminium cases and allow the bearings to drop from their housings. Every engine builder has his or her own preferred method but the easiest thing to use is a domestic, electric hotplate. The job is made easier if you have some suitable metal weights made for you so that the bearings will drop from their housings via gravity, without the need for any external force. Once heated, set the cases aside to cool. We can now start to examine the components previously removed from the engine so brace yourselves.

Barrel and Piston
I would strongly advise you to take your barrel and piston to a specialist kart engine builder and request that they carry out the required measuring and corrective machining work for you. The tight tolerances involved require measuring and cutting equipment capable of producing results to less than 0.01mm. Your chosen engine builder should have no problems working to this type of accuracy. As an example, piston to bore clearance on an old 100cc rotary valve engine will usually be set in the region of 0.09 to 0.10mm and the entire bore life of an old 100cc engine will be in the region of 0.5mm before it is scrap! I hope this helps put things in perspective.

Crankshaft and Connecting Rod
Things don’t get much better with the crank and rod assembly. For reliable performance, the crankshaft must be assembled and trued to within 0.01mm. Only your trusted engine builder has the tools and expertise to part your crankshaft, fit a new rod and big end bearing and then reassemble and true the crank. The work on the barrel and crank assemblies won’t be cheap but a failure of the piston, crank or rod under racing conditions will usually result in a scrapped engine. Make your choice. Next month we will continue with inspection and replacement of the component parts and, hopefully, we can do some of the work ourselves and save some money.

Jon Pearce