Gary was fast at Zuera for the final WSK round but was hampered by tyre and engine problems.
This month I have been quite busy. I had the last round of the WSK Euro Series and then I’ve also been testing in Genk to prepare for the World Championship in KZ there in September. I’ve been to Zuera before but this was my first time in KZ.
Through the week I was fairly fast but not ever quite fast enough to be able to win and in Saturday’s heats I had two 4th places and then in the Final I had a terrible start and had to come back through and ended up finishing 13th but like the tests I still missed a couple tenths to the people at the front.
On Sunday I tried a different engine and it felt a lot better however in the first heat the bearing in the engine broke and I didn’t finish, so I knew it was going to be difficult from then. The other problem is now the format of the WSK is you start your second heat where you finished your first heat so I would be starting at the back for the next race. I came through to 7th in that one but it meant that I would have to start 26th for the main Final.
You start your second heat where you finished your first heat so I would be starting at the back. I came through to 7th in that one but it meant that I would have to start 26th for the main Final.
At this race there were some problems with the tyres blistering too, and during the Final I was very fast in the beginning but then had big problems with blisters on the tyres during the second part of the race and I ended up finishing 16th.
My fastest lap was quicker than my team mates Marco Ardigo and Rick Dreezen during the second Final but I really suffered at the end with grip because of the tyres. What was good was that my team mate Dreezen won the WSK series in the class so we were all happy for him.
After the race I came home for a break and then went to Genk to test there as our World Cup is there in the beginning of September. My speed wasn’t great there to be honest during the tests so I need to improve if I’m going to threaten at all for a good result but I’m still hoping for the best.
Also the little Mini driver I help, Max Fewtrell finished 2nd in one of the Finals of the Italian Mini kart championship in Val Vibrata during this month so that was good for him and the team Mark Rose Motorsport who run him. He’s still improving so quickly and I’m sure he can be a star in the future if he keeps making the same progress as he is now.
This month I don’t have any race meetings to report on but I’ve been asked to write a little about what it’s like to be a factory driver and what my roles and responsibilities are.
For sure driving for a factory team is very different to driving for a privateer team. The priority is still to win but when you are a professional driver you also have to remember that you are representing the team too. I think the longer I’ve driven with Tonykart the more I’ve realised that although the aim is to win I am also employed to help promote their material and of course try to do my part to ensure that they sell as many chassis and engines as possible.
The main commitments I have are obviously the races. I still live in the UK so the team deal with all my fl ights and travel arrangements for all the races and tests. Although at the beginning of the year I know the dates of the races and when I will be competing, there are also times during the year when they could call me and say they need me to test the following week, whether it is to test a new chassis, or Vortex have something new for the engine and we need to test it or even a Bridgestone tyre test.
Now when I fi rst went to Tonykart I found it diffi cult to adapt and fi t into the team and the fi rst year I drove I had more bollockings than I can remember by the boss for doing things wrong in the races. When I was fi rst there I always had good speed but never got the results because I always made some mistakes even though I was 25 years-old. But looking back now I’m really pleased that I got through that and I’m now completely at home there. I have a good relationship with everyone in the team and for sure those bollockings improved me as a driver. At the beginning being a non Italianspeaking driver in a team full of Italians was very diffi cult. Now I can get by with my Italian and, although it’s not perfect, I can understand most things. The English of the people who work there is also so much better now too as in the last 4 years they’ve had me, Will Stevens, James Calado and Oliver Rowland all driving for them.
While driving for a factory team is a fantastic opportunity it does come with more stress at times too. I think you always have to perform and, like in every formula in motorsport, if you’re a professional driver there are always other good drivers who would love to take your seat and this is especially true when you drive for a top team like Tonykart. So it’s always important to do a good job with what you have even when you’re not the fastest or at the front.
I’m just 29 now and have driven for Tonykart for over 4 years. I still enjoy it as much as ever and I’m still as motivated to win as much as ever. I still never class what I do as a job and I’ve never got fed up of travelling to races as I know I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in with Tonykart and also when I was driving professionally with Paul Fletcher. I grew up all my life driving karts so now to be getting paid to do it is fantastic, and being with Tonykart I’ve experienced some great moments and one of these was to race in the same team as Michael Schumacher at the end of last year in Las Vegas.
I’ve won 4 British championships in different classes, the Italian championship, the Margutti Trophy and Winter Cup all in KF1, rounds of the European championship and been close to being World champion and European champion twice. While those crowns elude me I will still be as hungry as ever to win and hopefully I can achieve that.
I’m not talking about Sven’s tinkerings with the England formation and let’s not even mention Scotland against Belarus (we wuz robbed!) but probably the best ever series of events to grace short circuit karting. The event started off in 1968 at Heysham Head circuit near Morecambe. This was what was known as a ‘challenging’ circuit, unkindly described as a couple of straights with a hairpin at each end. In fact, the top part of the track was a sweeping double apex right hander and the downhill section had a kink in the middle of it that certainly sorted the men from the boys. As a scrutineer, you could always tell someone who raced at Heysham on a regular basis, as they had an additional mechanical caliper on their braking system just in case the hydraulic one failed. At Heysham, if the brakes failed, you didn’t end up in the ambulance but under it! The man behind the vision was Bert Hesketh, long time supporter of gearbox karting and the chap who ran the Heysham venue.
He even managed to secure John Players tobacco sponsorship for the event that lasted until around the early 1980s when such things became unspeakable. It was one of the longest lasting sponsorship deals in the history of the company and certainly did them and the event no harm at all. Players paid for the cup, named the World Cup, and the drivers raced for the first ever ‘O’ Plate, a red zero on a white background, distinguishable from the black numbers on yellow background the rest of the class raced. Indeed, for a number of years, the trophy was presented by the Mayor of Morecambe on the Monday evening after the event but that was before my time! One of the earlier meetings even saw a runaway kart narrowly avoid going over the cliff after taking off without the driver, a Mr. Hoyle from Todmorden. Going over the cliff wasn’t a very good idea, what with the 100ft drop just behind lap scoring. Although the first few years were won by single cylinder karts, the advent of the 250 twins saw the event rise in prominence to become the pinnacle of short circuit gearbox karting. The sound of a grid full of fully sorted Yamahas never failed to stir the soul and the non-PC part of me hankers back to the time when karts were allowed to make that sort of noise.
My first direct memory of the event was in 1980 when Lennart Bohlin won the last of his four titles on one of Kelvin Hesketh’s Star chassis and uniquely doing it with a reverse barrel Yamaha. I believe the engine is currently being restored and should be in a chassis sometime in 2006. I was spectating at the meeting, as many people did and was cheered by the sight of spectators going in their droves to the Shell bar and coming back with several rounds balanced precariously on trays. Such was the queue at the bar that this was the only way of quenching your thirst in the May sunshine and most were camping at the track anyway, so driving wasn’t a problem. I seem to recall a fairly spectacular shunt in the 210 race involving a driver clobbering one of the flagpoles halfway up it after tangling with another driver. The poor driver was dumped on one side of the track with the kart landing on the opposite side, in the face of oncoming traffic. The race was stopped, oddly enough. That was the last win for the Yamaha, watercooling was allowed the year after and saw Reg Gange the winner and the first World Cup won by the Rotax twin engine. The year after saw a record crowd of 29,640, absolutely unprecedented for short circuit karting and I was there as a scrutineer, just training at that time. Allan Krownow from Denmark won that year but the fastest ever time recorded by a driver on that track went to Britain’s Derek Price in 21.47s, that just shows how quick it was.
It also marked for me Bert, the man. My tent was damaged in the night by some revellers worse for wear and I went to Bert in the morning to tell him I’d have to go home, as I’d nowhere to sleep that night. Nonsense, he said, and set Kelvin to work on repairing the tent poles, diverting him from the task of preparing his kart for the Finals day. That he also refused payment for the repair spoke volumes to me. 1983 was the last event run at Heysham before a couple of goes on Long Circuit at Donington, where Martin Hines, the ‘King’ of gearbox karting won his only World Cup in 1985 Bert passed on the reins of the event organisation to Audrey Ashe (very rapid 250 pilot John Ashe’s mother) and Else Price (Derek’s mum) and they ran it until 1990, by which time it had become the Hesketh Trophy in memory of Bert. The two ladies passed on the organisation to a committee organising events for 250 twins on short circuit on the condition that it would be run on short circuits for gearbox karts. The event ran as part of a series and was renamed the Hesketh Challenge. This ran throughout the ‘90s within the series, reverting to a one venue for the last three years until 2002, when the last event was run. The question now is, whatever happened to the World Cup? We know that Paul Kennings won the last event in 2002 but the trophy hasn’t been seen since and Paul hasn’t got it. So who has?
World Cup Winners
1968 Graham Liddle, GB
1969 Graham Liddle, GB
1970 Kelvin Hesketh, GB
1971 Graham Liddle, GB
1972 Graham Liddle, GB
1973 Reg Gange Jr., GB
1974 Dave Cullimore, GB
1975 Lennart Bohlin, S
1976 Dave Buttigieg, GB
1977 Lennart Bohlin, S
1978 Lennart Bohlin, S
1979 Dave Buttigieg, GB
1980 Lennart Bohlin, S
1981 Reg Gange Jr., GB
1982 Allan Krownow, DK
1983 Richard Dean, GB
1984 Brian Heerey, GB
1985 Martin Hines, GB
1986 Tim Parrott, GB
1987 Not contested
1988 Not contested
1989 Ian Shaw, GB
1990 Ian Woodcock, GB
1991 Bob Kennings, GB
1992 Andrew Bundy, GB
1993 Andrew Bundy, GB
1994 Andrew Bundy, GB
1995 Paul Sydenham, GB
1996 Carl Kinsey, GB
1997 Paul Kennings, GB
1998 Carl Kinsey, GB
1999 Paul Kennings, GB
2000 Christian Turner, GB
2001 Richard Leitner, GB
2002 Paul Kennings, GB
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