The track is characterised by its rapidly changing gradients and blind crests leading into unforgiving corners but is loved by all who take part at this unique venue.
1 Old Hall Corner
I approach Old Hall Corner in 5th gear at 115 mph pulling 10,600 revs. and keep tight to the left hand side of the circuit using the extra bit of tarmac. Giving the brake pedal a tap, I come down one gear to 4th. Aim for a normal apex, but you can attack the corner as it has a good positive camber. Flick the kart into the apex and let it drift through the corner at about 98mph using the camber of the corner to hug the inside. Let the kart naturally run out wide with the left hand side tyres touching the rumble strip on the exit.
Click into 5th gear along the Avenue keeping the kart to the left hand side. I take a late apex into Denton’s as the track drops away and keep to the right hand side as the track continues to fall. At this point I am doing about 118mph pulling 10,700 revs.
Keeping to the right hand side of the track approaching Cascades I aim for a normal apex. With a lift off the power, I tap the brake on the entry to the corner and come down to 4th gear. I hold the kart tight to the inside kerb but don’t touch it keeping the revs up at 100mph through the corner. Let the kart run out to the edge of the circuit on the exit but keep off the kerb as the track runs a bit off camber.
4 Island Bend
Grabbing 5th gear before the crest along Lakeside, I stay on the right hand side of the track all the way along Lakeside. Island Bend is taken flat in 5th gear at 122mph. The entry to the corner must be smooth and easy on the steering. Brush the normal apex and let the kart run to the middle of the circuit on the exit and then pull it back to the left hand side on the approach to Shell.
5 Shell Oils Corner
At Shell Oils Corner it’s hard on the brakes and down to 2nd gear. Turn in for a normal apex and hug the inside about two feet from the kerb at 65 mph using the banking of the corner. As the camber starts to flatten out and change to off camber aim for the marshals post on the outside and as I approach the exit kerb I grab 3rd gear.
After the hairpin the circuit is still on a gradual right hand curve. Gently bring the kart to the right hand side of the circuit and grab 4th gear.
7, 8 & 9 Britten’s
I approach the Britten’s chicane at 107mph pulling 10,700 revs still in 4th gear. Then it’s hard on the brakes and down one gear to 3rd as I turn into the left hand kerb and down to 2nd gear for the right hand kerb. As you go through the left hand exit kerb you then hit a bump where the Island circuit joins the International circuit. At this point I grab 3rd gear letting the kart run out to the right hand side of the circuit.
10 & 11 Hislop’s
Over the crest of Hilltop I keep the kart over to the right hand side of the track and grab 4th gear and then 5th as I go down the hill towards the next chicane. I approach Hislop’s at 115mph and bring the kart across to the left hand side of the circuit. At Hislop’s it’s hard on the brakes and down to 2nd gear turn as I turn into the right hand apex keeping off the kerb. Then I take a late apex for the left hand kerb at 60mph and try to keep the kart to the left hand side to set me up for the next corner.
Along the short straight I grab 3rd gear before Knickerbrook and then flick the kart into the right-hander so that the kart drifts to the left hand side on the exit.
13 & 14 Clay
Hill I bring the kart to the middle of the track as the circuit starts to rise for Clay Hill and take 4th gear. Hold the kart to the left hand side over the crest and grab 5th gear on the little straight. Through the left hand kink keep the kart hard over to the left hand side taking a late apex.
The approach to Druids is at 120mph pulling 10,900 revs. in 5th gear. I take a slight lift off the power and just feather the brake pedal with the left foot at the turn in point. Aiming for the second apex still in 5th gear I trail the brake to keep the kart stable and drift it to scrub off a bit of speed through the corner. I take Druids at 105mph and get back on the power at the apex letting the kart drift to the left hand side of the track over the crest on the exit and making sure to keep off the kerb.
16 Lodge Corner
Increasing the speed to 120 mph along the straight, I try and stay down inside the bubble as the kart floats over the crests under Warwick Bridge keeping the kart to the left hand side of the track on the approach to Lodge Corner. Then it’s hard on the brakes and down three into 2nd gear at 70mph. I take a late apex as the exit of the corner drops away steeply downhill and the kart understeers on the way out.
17 Deer Leap
I grab 3rd gear in the dip and then 4th over the crest at Deer Leap quickly followed by 5th gear and let the kart run to the middle of the track as I cross the grid to start another lap having just recorded a time of 1m 39.863s at an average speed of 97.04mph to set a new lap record.
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Florida Winter Tour champion Jonny Edgar plans to accept an invitation to race in more events in the United States, as well as racing in domestic competition this season.
The 11-year-old scored the Mini-Rok title at the final round of the series in Ocala earlier last month ahead of Nicholas d’Orlando who had led the points heading into the weekend. Edgar was run by the Benik squad, owned by ex-Pats Ben Cruttenden and Nick Mitchell, throughout the Winter Tour as well as at last year’s SuperNationals event in Las Vegas.
“The final weekend was huge as it was a triple header, so 300 points were up for grabs,” Edgar’s dad, Justin said. “We went to Vegas last year but it was a big shock. We thought it would be easier and we had to work hard to eventually get the fifth place finish. But the relationship with the team began there and has continued.”
Edgar’s Winter Tour win has handed him a prize ticket to the ROK World Finals at Garda in Italy in October. That will give the youngster his first experience of European racing.
“We’ve no plans for the end of the year just yet,” Edgar Sr added. “Benik have invited Jonny to go back out there again but his main focus is on Super One and Little Green Man Cadet. He will continue with that next year too, but European racing is also possible. The MG tyres at the Florida Winter Tour were very sticky and the kart was bigger than a Cadet machine with quicker engines. It was in between a Cadet and MiniMax kart. The MiniKart category in Europe is something I’d be keen to consider, possibly instead of MiniMax.”
Since last month I have competed the 3rd round of the European WSK championship at Zuera, Spain. I’ve raced there a couple times before and last year finished 2nd there in the WSK. It’s a really long circuit where engine power is very important and also it’s in the middle of the desert so the track never becomes very grippy because of the dust, and it’s hard to get the chassis perfect too.
Going into the race I was 4th in the championship after the first two rounds. I had a bad first round with a crash in the pre-final and then the second round at Lonato I had a win and a 3rd in the two finals. The tests went OK but we weren’t the fastest. Armand Convers was consistently the quickest and he qualified pole in Superpole, I was 2nd, not too far off his time. During the heats I wasn’t really as fast as Convers or the young McLaren driver Nyck de Vries. I finished 3rd behind them both in two heats and then in the third heat the engine broke early on in the race. So, after the heats with having one bad one it would mean I would start 9th for the pre-final. I started well and got into 2nd after a few laps and was right with Convers, however in the second part of the race I struggled to hang on to him and he pulled away. De Vries also passed me so I finished 3rd. We changed a few things for the second final and in the early stages of the race I was leading and battling with Convers, he was always faster than me but the slipstream on the long straight enabled me to stay with him. In the middle of the race I started to struggle again with grip and Convers pulled away then I was passed by De Vries and in the end I finished 5th. It wasn’t a great result for me and in the championship and I am still 4th now.
After the race we had big problems getting back to the UK because of the Volcano erupting in Iceland. Luckily, Steve Tillett arranged a coach for all the Brits at Zuera to drive us back to Stansted. It was a coach full of karters and it was good fun (well for the first few hours anyway) and 23 and a half hours later we arrived at Stansted. The next race I will be doing is the next round of the WSK and it’s at Genk, Belgium. I need a good result there to get me back in the championship, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Bas started racing in 1993 as a Cadet and has since become one of the most successful racers in Europe. He raced in JICA, winning the Dutch Championship, then stepped up to Formula A where he was European Champion with Swiss Hutless in 2003. In 2004 he combined karting with a limited Formula Renault programme in Holland and the UK, then in 2005 went to Formula Renault full time, coming 5th in the Dutch Championship. After a switch to Tonykart, he retired briefly, but was tempted back to top-level karting in 2008 by Topkart, now concentrating on gearbox racing. After moving to Intrepid, Bas won the European KZ1 and WSK KZ2 Championships last year, as well as the SuperNationals at Las Vegas, and also won races in the BRL Light touring car series in Belgium and Holland. He has won one European round and two WSK rounds this year, and is leading the WSK Championship after three rounds.
Jake started racing at the age of eight after watching his father Steve compete in 250cc gearbox. With numerous club wins under his belt he stepped up to a full season of championship level racing in 2005, finishing the year as South West Cadet Champion and Best Up and Coming Cadet in the Rissington Club Championships. The following year he competed in the BRDC Stars of Tomorrow and Super 1 MSA Cadet Championships and finished third in the Shenington club championship. Since 2008 he has been backed by the Racing Steps Foundation and has raced with the Zip Young Guns team in the KF3 category, winning Stars in his first year with the team. Last year he finished the season as runner-up in the World Cup and the Super One. This year he is focusing on the WSK and European Championships as well as the S1, and will compete in the U18 World Championship with Topkart. So far this year he has won three out of four Super One rounds, and has had a 4th in the WSK round at Zuera.
12-year-old Cadet racer Tom races in the Super One and FKS and is presently leading the Rookie Championship in S1. He started racing in 2006, competing in the Shenington and Llandow club championships, and by 2009 he had improved enough to win the Welsh Championship, the Midland Championship and round 8 of Formula Kart Stars with a huge improvement in the second half of the season. He is racing for Fusion Motorsport in 2010, and at the first round of the S1 at Shenington finished 2nd twice in an almost dead heat with Max Vaughan, earning himself the Rookie of the Day award. Meanwhile, in FKS he is 2nd in the championship after two rounds and a win at Rowrah. His immediate aim is to go on to compete in the major European or American races and eventually he would like to be a professional racing driver and to travel the world.
The staging of the sixth Rotax MAX Challenge World Finals in Langkawi, Malaysia offered me an unexpected bonus when it was all over. My flight home was via Kuala Lumpur, so I took a couple of extra days there to see what I could learn about the wider karting scene in Malaysia. I was lucky. My host was James Leong whose karting prowess in Malaysia is second to none. Indeed, among the many trophies I saw in his home and office, were newspaper cuttings referring to him as the King of Malaysian karting and even the uncrowned King of Malaysia.
For me the knowledge that he had raced against and led Ayrton Senna was all I needed to know. James was heavily involved with the Rotax Finals, as he was with the previous staging in 2002 on behalf of MOFAZ, the Malaysian promoter for whom he worked for five years. Now however he has been appointed as Chief Executive of Swiss Hutless Asia Pacific who opened their new premises in December in the USJ district of Petaling Jaya just outside Kuala Lumpur. Swiss Hutless Asia Pacific expect to have a throughput of 50-60 chassis per month as they service the region including not just Malaysia but Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and the Phillipines. Initially the factory will employ ten persons as well as James and his number two, Marketing Director Ray Kong, himself a successful kart racer who has made the podium more or less every time he has raced in 2005. Malaysia has about 200 kart drivers with a broad mix of chassis such as CRG, Arrow and Gillard competing with Swiss Hutless.
There are kart tracks at the Sepang F1 circuit, the former full race circuit at Shah Alam, at Kota Bharu on the East Coast, the Elite Circuit on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and, of course, on the island of Langkawi. As well as the Morac circuit on Langkawi, I walked the tracks at Sepang and Elite, the former with a wonderfully smooth surface and the latter a most exhilarating track close to 1000 metres in length and owned by MOFAZ. Of course the Swiss Hutless venture is primarily a commercial operation. However, there is a philanthropic motive as well. The Malaysian government through the Sports Ministry is hugely supportive of efforts to enhance the motorsport credentials of the country. It is recognised that all today’s F1 drivers began their careers in karts and the government is concerned to see Malaysians given the same opportunity that is available elsewhere in the world if they are to achieve their stated goal of having a Malaysian F1 World Champion by 2020. Ray Kong’s hope is that by assembling karts in Malaysia the sport can be more affordable and his vision is to build their own ‘Made in Malaysia’ karts within five years. Today’s young kart racers are seen as a long term investment. James Leong told me he has government encouragement for his company’s plans to organise a schools’ competition for 7-8 year olds. The big hope is that this will lay down the foundations towards the common goal. There were certainly some good youngsters I saw in Langkawi.
Jazemaan Firhan Jaafar at 13 years old, the youngest competitor in the World Finals, won a heat as did Calvin Wong and Aaron Lim. Mohammed Nabil and Ooi Fei Hoong also caught the eye along with Hiqbar Danial and Bryan Homi Mehta, two drivers not yet in their teens who drove in the supporting Cadet races. One of the best incentives to succeed in world sport is to win the rivalry with your close neighbours. Indonesia had a strong team in Langkawi and provided the winner of the Masters title and the runner-up in Senior MAX. Thailand also had a couple of good drivers on view. Ruling the world can wait a little while, gaining the ascendancy over Indonesia and Thailand will do for starters for the Malaysian kart racers. If the current crop of young drivers can achieve on the international stage a tenth of what James Leong achieved on the domestic stage, then their future is bright.
Newly crowned World Rotax DD2 champion Sean Babington says the tough conditions throughout the Grand Finals weekend made his title triumph even more satisfying. The 21-year-old from Chatham in Kent is racing on a United Arab Emirates licence as he works as a driver coach and competes in the UAE Championship with the Energy Karts Dubai squad.
Saturday’s pre-finals were cancelled due to heavy rain (see Interview, p36). Babington said that caused difficulty for his final preparations. “It was so hard to judge your position on the track during the final, but we only had five laps of practice in the morning to get the best set-up so we really didn’t know what to expect. “It’s one of the biggest achievements of my career alongside my European Rotax crown.”
Babington has lived in Dubai for the past five months but would not rule out a return to the UK: “I was offered the UAE deal and I didn’t want to go back to racing in Seniors. I still want to race in KZ gearbox but this is always something I’ve wanted to do. A return could be tomorrow or in three years.”
British drivers continued to dominate international karting for another year as Lando Norris and Enaam Ahmed were crowned world champions at Essay.
The weekend was different though. This was lottery: a single-round event in which only one error or mid-race incident could scupper any hopes of title joy. But both Norris and particularly Ahmed, put paid to any chances of that with mature drives. Following a bout of wet weather, the track was still drying by the time the KF Junior final came around. But Ahmed had taken all conditions in his stride. He demonstrated just how dominant he has been this season by claiming victories in all his heats as well as Sunday’s pre-final when running used tyres. But his fi nal hopes could have been dashed before they’d begun. His engine was not performing at 100 per cent and so Ahmed could only apply 75 per cent throttle. It allowed fellow Brit Daniel Ticktum to take the lead. But only for two corners. Ticktum spun at the le. -hand hairpin, dropping to 20th and allowing Ahmed to take a 1.6s lead to Belgian Benjamin Lessennes after the opening tour.
But Ahmed’s kart problems still weren’t solved and Lessennes began to gradually draw him in with Mick Junior up to third. Ross Martin had made an outstanding start, up to tenth from his 31st place start, with Alex Quinn going in the other direction. With Lessennes cutting the gap down to half a second, he suddenly dropped out with a race-ending engine problem, handing Ahmed another chance to draw away. The European champion had altered his carburettor and was now finally able to sprint clear from Mick Jr and celebrate by sliding across the track and over the line. Ticktum recovered to sixth. Last year’s world champion Tom Joyner began on pole for the KF final with Norris alongside. Recently crowned European champion Callum Ilott was at the back of the grid after retiring from the pre-final. Joyner led off the start with Norris down to fourth, but Joyner was forced to defend at Turn Two, a right hand hairpin. Despite initially holding off the challenge, Ilott ceded the lead to Jehan Daruvala who made an excellent start. By only the second tour, Ilott was on a surge and up to sixth. Daruvala had stretched out a one second gap to Norris but the Glastonbury racer was setting fastest laps and gradually cutting into the lead. As Daruvala regularly looked over his shoulder, Norris pounced up the inside at Turn Two on lap ten and gradually began to build his own lead which stretched as high as 1.2s. “The race went pre y much to plan,” Norris said. “I didn’t drop too far back and slowly got closer to Jehan. I didn’t lose too much time passing him and it was a crucial time in the race to make the move.”With Ilott up to fourth, Daruvala was forced to defend from Nikita Mazepin over the final laps, and succumbed halfway round the final tour to finish third.
Newly crowned World KF champion Lando Norris admits claiming the title at Essay last weekend was the perfect way in which to end his karting career ahead of a full-time move to car racing in 2015.Norris bounced back from disappointment at missing out on the European crown by heading Nikita Mazepin and team-mate Jehan Daruvala in the one-off event.“It’s an amazing feeling,” Norris said. “This is the biggest achievement of my career so far. After a very good 2013, this makes up for a year which didn’t start off well. It was important to win something, and to do it in the most important race of the year does slightly make up for what happened in the European Championship.“If I hadn’t have won it, I couldn’t call this year a good season. But it’s a really positive end to my kart career.”
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