“We won’t be taking part in this year’s Little Green Man. I’ve seen how quick the two Mills drivers Stevens and Gee are going. There’s no way that anyone else can live with them and they’ll all be racing for 3rd place.” That was the comment made to me by one disillusioned parent just a few weeks before the championships got underway in April. Fortunately, it wasn’t a view shared by too many others. However the shock announcement in September 2009 that WTP had ceased production undoubtedly created an air of uncertainty. As we moved into March, organiser Mike Mills was confident that sufficient entries would materialise to make the championships viable. His expectations were realised a week or so later when the number of registered drivers reached 25.
If a black cloud had hung over these championships earlier on then at least the opening round at Fulbeck was conducted under clear blue skies. Mike Mills described it as a happy weekend for all concerned and, after enjoying some well contested racing, there was certainly plenty to smile about. Cory Stevens had a huge grin on his face as he celebrated victory in the final, but there were big smiles too from Sam Priest, Alex Stott and Jordan Falding who had all demonstrated that they were quick enough to give Stevens a hard time in future rounds. Rookie driver Lewis Brown surprised everyone with his pace and he was eventually rewarded with 5th spot ahead of Max Stilp The real topic of conversation, though, was Shayne Harrison’s amazing speed with an old B1 engine. More controversy would surround this motor at future rounds.
Kimbolton was the next venue and we were treated to a real cracker. Once again, Harrison’s B1 motor was outrageously quick and only his relative inexperience kept him off the podium. Stevens looked set to expand his championship lead, but a late surge by Priest earned him victory by a coat of paint. Sean Gee took 3rd spot less than a kart’s length behind with Eddie Hack in 4th spot ahead of Max Stilp and Gaby Weyer. If there’d been a prize for the unluckiest driver at Kimbolton, then Alex Stott would certainly have claimed it. After working his way up to 3rd spot, his race was ruined by a loose track rod.
There was plenty of excitement on offer at the Three Sisters circuit as five drivers furiously contested the lead with absolutely nothing to choose between them. Eddie Hack could have been amongst this group had it not been for a bad smash in an earlier Heat that resulted in him being seriously injured. The battle between Stott and Priest was particularly intense with Sam seizing the initiative late on in this race. Half way round the last lap, though, Alex pulled off a daring manoeuvre and Sam almost lost 2nd place to Cory Stevens. Thomas Day squeezed out Sean Gee for 4th spot, with Max Stilp following some distance behind in 6th. By setting fastest lap, Stevens collected two bonus points that kept him sitting on top of the championship table.
Round 4 at Ellough Park produced a defining moment in the championship battle. As ever, Harrison looked extraordinarily quick but a broken rear bumper knocked him out of contention with eight laps of the final still remaining. Coming off pole position, Priest had assumed command and he survived a sustained assault from Stott. As Sean Gee and Alex Sedgwick both began to apply pressure on the 2nd placed man, Priest was able to extend his lead and finished up a comfortable winner. Stevens had looked curiously off the pace all weekend and he came home in 5th place ahead of Gaby Weyer who managed once again to finish amongst the main prize-winners.
The championship pendulum had swung in Priest’s favour as they arrived at Buckmore Park to contest Round 5. Cory Stevens needed a good result here to regain the momentum and he looked pretty quick when Sunday’s racing got underway. Unfortunately for him, half a dozen others were circulating equally rapidly including Sam Priest. At the end of a hard day’s racing, It was Priest who took his place on the winner’s rostrum. Stevens found himself edged into 3rd spot by his team-mate Sean Gee with Stott in 4th position and Day 5th. For the first time in these championships, Harrison managed a top six slot provoking more comment about his engine speed.
A good result at Shenington could earn the title for Sam Priest, although much depended on how his opponents, particularly Cory Stevens, fared. Stott and Harrison both won Heats with Gaby Weyer recording her maiden victory in a Little Green Man event. The stage was set for an action packed final. Weyer led the race briefly before Gee took over. Priest seized control only to be replaced at the front by Stott. Harrison sustained a knock from Stevens which slowed him down slightly but he was lapping more than half a second quicker than anyone else and soon caught up with the leaders. After swapping places with Priest, he rapidly pulled away from the chasing pack. Priest’s 2nd place ahead of Stott, Gee, Stevens and Day was good enough to give him the championship title.
The drama didn’t end there. Since the opening round at Fulbeck there had been a certain amount of disquiet over Shayne Harrison’s obvious speed. This had increased throughout the year and at Shenington Mark Weyer protested Harrison’s motor on behalf of his daughter, Gaby. The engine was sealed and taken away for examination by Paul Klaassen who subsequently found it to be ineligible. Shayne’s win was taken away from him and this left Sam Priest as the winner. The final round at PF is reported elsewhere in this issue. By virtue of a well taken victory in wet conditions Alex Stott claimed 2nd place in the championship table ahead of Sean Gee, Cory Stevens, Thomas Day and Jordan Falding.
Far from going into decline, Mike Mills is predicting that next year’s little Green Man series should be amongst the best ever. Negotiations with a title sponsor have almost reached their conclusion and already there is a strong line up of drivers registered for the WTP class. Super Cadets will be included in the 2011 Series and it looks as though there will be a lot of support for this class. I’m looking forward to finding out who will be the 10th WTP champion.
Had we been served the main course, or was this wholly hors doeuvres from the Priest? That was a question I asked myself after watching Sam Priest capture the 2010 Little Green Man title with considerable panache.
Throughout the Series, Sam had displayed supreme confidence, suggesting that this was merely an appetiser for bigger things to come. His thoroughly relaxed style belied a steely determination and any rival who believed that he could be easily flustered into making errors was quickly re-educated. Even before arriving at PF for the seventh and final round, hed done enough to establish himself as the new champion. In doing so, hed seen off a determined onslaught from Cory Stevens, Alex Stott and Sean Gee, all of whom carried the aura of potential champions. Hed achieved this goal, moreover, without the benefit of team support, relying on his dads mechanical skills to see him through.
After passing the half-way point it became clear that the title was his to lose I honestly expected the opening round at Fulbeck would provide Sam with his best result, remarked his dad, Nigel. It was Sams home circuit, after all, and he always goes particularly well there. He finished 2nd behind Cory, but it could just as easily have been 4th as he was under tremendous pressure from Alex Stott and Jordan Falding on the last lap. I was concerned that he might be at a power disadvantage on other, less familiar circuits At that point I was thinking a top three place in the championship table would be good, but we raised our sights once the race wins started to materialise. After passing the half way point it became clear that the title was his to lose.
Sam suffered a minor set back at Kimbolton when he dropped down to 16th in his 2nd Heat after starting from pole. He recovered well from this, though, and actually won the final with an additional bonus point for setting fastest lap. The round at Three Sisters saw him eat further into Corys lead, even though he was narrowly beaten by Alex in a thrilling final. At Ellough Park he demonstrated total supremacy, earning pole position and setting fastest lap on his way to winning the final. Cory had an off day here and Sam was able to build up a clear points lead. Another win at Buckmore extended his lead even further and he went to Shenington knowing that a good result here could win the title for him.
Not even Sam could live with Shayne Harrisons pace at Shenington, but it didnt really matter. He remained ahead of the chasing pack and, as Cory struggled back in 5th place, Sam had done enough to win the title with another round still remaining. His 2nd place turned into a race victory when Mark Weyers protest against Harrisons motor was eventually upheld. He didnt need to race at PF but nevertheless chose to do so. Sundays wet conditions didnt quite suit him although he still managed a front row slot for the final alongside Jordan Falding. After shadowing Falding in the early part of this race he found himself unceremoniously dumped off the circuit. It wasnt quite the ending hed hoped for but Sam could reflect with some pride on an excellent championship campaign.
It had all begun back in 2006 when Sam attended the opening Little Green Man round at Wombwell as a spectator. Almost immediately afterwards he acquired a second-hand B1 powered Swiss Hutless. Previously hed been content to drive a grass-track kart around the fields outside his farmhouse in Cawthorne near Barnsley. His first five races as a novice were completed at Wombwell and brought him four trophies. Nigel was impressed with the WTP class, particularly liking its relative simplicity and low running costs. A brand new BRM chassis was purchased complete with a B5 motor. Sam began competing at other venues especially Fulbeck where he became a regular visitor. His results were encouraging and a decision was made to enter the 2007 Little Green Man Championships.
Like many other parents we blamed our motors but, with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise it was Sams inexperience that cost him places.
Sennan Fielding emerged as the champion that year but there was fierce competition for the minor places. Sam finished the season in 19th spot and considered that hed done quite a good job. Expectations for 2008 were high, but he missed out on a top 15 place. By coincidence it was Alex Stott, his closest rival in 2010, who edged him out. Like many other parents we blamed the motors but, with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise it was Sams inexperience that cost him places, says Nigel. Sam raced in 2010 with the same three engines hed used two years earlier. They looked so much quicker in a straight line because he was pulling out of corners better. It shouldnt have surprised me. All other things being equal, I think youd expect a twelve year old to be that bit sharper than someone whos only nine or ten.
Nigel runs his own garage employing ten others. The economic downturn persuaded him to concentrate on club racing in 2009. Missing out on the Little Green Man meant that funds could be diverted into purchasing a new Zip chassis. I found that the Zip was better suited to my driving style, Sam acknowledges. I was obviously disappointed not to be taking part in the championships that year, but it probably turned out to be a good move. It meant that I started the 2010 season ranked 4 or 5 with Cory a clear favourite. I think that took some of the pressure off me. Ive always enjoyed the Little Green Man but obviously this last one has been something really special for me personally. I wouldnt want to alter the format. Some people think that you should award points for Heats and Finals but I actually prefer the present system. The only thing Id probably change is to have two finals at each round rather than just one.
Sams mum Jayne works alongside Nigel in the family business. It can get a bit hectic at times, especially last year when Sam was racing virtually every weekend, she acknowledges. Nigel and Sam spend most evenings working on the kart and its surprising how many things they can find that need altering. Karting has certainly improved Sams technical knowledge and its also done wonders for our social life. I attend all of the race meetings along with our daughter Stephanie. Sams grandfather likes coming to most of the Wombwell events and we also have a number of friends who travel around the country supporting Sam. We booked a table for ten at the awards presentation so that half a dozen of these friends could see Sam picking up his awards. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Of course, its easier to smile when youre actually winning, but weve always impressed upon him the importance of remaining upbeat even when things arent going his way.
Jayne confirms an opinion expressed earlier by Mike Mills that these championships have regained the friendly atmosphere for which they were once renowned. I always enjoy the weekends when we meet many different people and this is especially true of Little Green Man rounds where everyone is so friendly. Its always nice to see young drivers coming off the circuit wearing a smile and Im pleased to say that Sam had a big grin on his face at the end of every race last year. Of course, its easier to smile when youre actually winning, she adds, but weve always impressed upon him the importance of remaining upbeat even when things arent going his way.
Karting is my passion, Sam insists. I keep fit by attending the gym regularly and Ive found that has improved my stamina. My favourite circuits are Rowrah and Buckmore as they both have hills that give them lots of character. I also like my local circuits Fulbeck and Wombwell obviously. My best race of all time was at PF last year when I won Kartmasters. Winning the Little Green Man Championships meant a lot to me because we had some really good drivers taking part. At the start of the year I believed that Cory Stevens, Sean Gee, Alex Stott and Max Stilp would all do very well so there were no real surprises when they all finished in the top seven. Thomas Turner came on very well during the season and I think hell do especially well this year. I also think that Thomas Day will be a strong favourite in 2011.
Rather than moving into Mini-max or KF3, Sam has opted for Super Cadet this year and has already had some impressive outings. Hes also decided that joining a team will enhance his future prospects. Ive taken a look at the way Prima Motorsport is being run and Im very impressed, he acknowledges. Sam Brough, Billy Monger, Sean Gee, Gaby Weyer and James Kellet are all team members. We get on very well together and thats quite important. Im looking forward to working with Jamie Croxford who has so much karting knowledge. We did a WSK round at the year end and that was certainly an experience. We plan to do a few more of these in 2011. I like the Tonykart which seems quite easy to set up. Obviously, the Lenso motor produces much more power than Ive previously been used to and it requires a different driving style.
It was good to watch Sam Priest in action last season. This year hell be attracting a wider European audience. I believe that his performances at home and abroad will be no less impressive.
A PROFILE OF MATTHEW GRAHAM, THE 2009 LITTLE GREEN MAN CHAMPION & FORMULA KART STARS RUNNER UP
Compared to many other cadets, he was a late entrant into the sport. Matthew was ten years old when his parents took him for a birthday treat at the Karting North East indoor circuit in Newcastle. “I was amazed at how much skill he demonstrated that day,” recalls his dad, Les. “Four months earlier, we’d bought him a quad-bike for Christmas and he took to it very quickly. Prior to that, though, he’d had absolutely no experience of any motorised vehicle. After the indoor karting session, I decided to take matters a bit further and made some enquiries about the sport itself. After visiting the Warden Law circuit we purchased a second-hand Zip Puma/Comer. A pull start WTP B1 engine came as part of the package and we found that these motors were quite popular in none MSA events at Warden Law. Racing in MSA meetings was a totally different ball game compared to indoor karting but Matthew adapted very well. We were sufficiently heartened by his early results to enter him for the 2007 Motors TV Challenge, racing in both Comer and WTP classes. Even though he was still in his first full season of karting, he gave a good account of himself and managed to upset a few big names. That persuaded us to step up our efforts in 2008 and we entered all three national championships, namely S1, Stars and the Little Green Man.”
For a newcomer, Matthew’s performance in each competition was impressive to say the least. In Stars he finished 15th and bettered this with an outstanding 6th spot in S1. The Little Green Man Championships were fiercely contested that year, but he still managed to claim 5th place behind Messrs Barnicoat, Russell, Line and Pay. In the Kartmasters GP at PF he finished an excellent runner up to George Russell and went one better by winning the London Cup at Rye House against stern opposition. By this stage Matthew was racing virtually every weekend. “Our biggest outlay was on the diesel we were using getting to circuits all over Britain,” Les insisted. “Many of the tracks we visited were totally new to us but fortunately Matthew’s a quick learner and it didn’t take many laps for him to start returning fast times. That allowed me to concentrate on getting the set up right. I bought a couple of brand new WTP motors in January and we raced all that season without requiring a rebuild. I know of some competitors who religiously send their motors back for rebuilding after every race meeting, but my philosophy is that if it’s not broken don’t try to fix it.”
Les talks with the confidence of someone who has experienced motor-sport himself. He’d emigrated to New Zealand as a young man and became involved in the rallying scene over there. On returning to this country he enjoyed a three year sabbatical before taking up the sport once again. Now that he’s retired from running a foundry there’s more time to concentrate on karting. “We’ve got planning permission for 150 homes on the foundry site and I’ll probably be building a couple of houses myself,” he suggests. “Also my wife Val runs a pub and restaurant in Ponteland that’s just been refurbished, so I’ve spent a bit of time on that project, but you could say that karting occupies most of my time.” Val is equally enthusiastic about her son’s karting activities. “Matthew has matured an awful lot since taking up the sport,” she remarks. “He’s very level headed and never seems to get over excited when things are going wrong. I have to say that he doesn’t take after his dad in this respect. Les hates to be beaten by a problem and can get quite frustrated if he doesn’t find the solution. As there was an official British title at stake we decided to run with Tooley Motorsport in the Formula Kart Stars Series for 2009. I’m sure it made life a lot easier both for Les and Matthew as they were able to work in a more relaxed atmosphere. For most other events, though, the mechanical side of things was left to Les. As with many other father and son relationships in karting, it could get pretty tense at times.”
Last year, Matthew contested the three major cadet championships once again, albeit with rather higher goals. His assault on the Formula Kart Stars title began in April at Kimbolton. A broken exhaust spoiled his chances for Saturday’s final but he bounced back the following day to take 5th place. He could count himself unlucky not to have finished even higher in the running order after leading this race until the last lap. He followed this up with another 5th place at Glan Y Gors, but by now George Russell was beginning to pull out a convincing points lead on the championship contest. The turning point came at Rowrah six weeks later. Strong performances in his Heats gave him a front row position alongside Max Vaughan for the Final. Heavy rain some 15 minutes before this race started had made conditions very slippery and many drivers found it difficult simply to remain on the track. However, Matthew remained unfazed by it all, proceeding serenely on his way to a very comfortable victory over Vaughan, with 250 yards or more separating them. “I’ve always regarded Rowrah as my home circuit and so I know how to drive it in the wet,” he explained. “After I’d passed Max at around half distance it was simply a case of concentrating hard and lapping as quickly as possible without making any mistakes.”
George Russell couldn’t manage a top ten finish at Rowrah and so his claim on the title suddenly began to look vulnerable. Matthew was determined to take full advantage and produced a strong performance at PF as he finished 2nd behind Harry Webb with Russell having to settle for 4th place. He then travelled overseas to Genk for what would be an important Double Header counting as rounds 6 and 7. Saturday’s Heats went off well and Matthew lined up 3rd on the “A” Final grid. However a number of incidents relegated him down the running order before a good recovery brought him back up to 7th spot. Sunday’s final produced an exciting four man battle that went down to the very last lap. Matthew pulled off a breathtaking manoeuvre by overtaking three karts on one corner to take a well earned victory. “I got a really good tow up the main straight and then left my braking very late,” he explained afterwards. “I was delighted with the win at Rowrah, but I think this one will go down as my best performance in cadets.” There was a double celebration within the Tooley Motorsport camp. Earlier, Andrew Tooley had been a member of the winning “Old Joes” team in a special event for mechanics. Matthew was now lying 2nd in the championship standings, but an eventful weekend at Whilton Mill played into George Russell’s hands. In Saturday’s final, Matthew was involved in a collision with Alex Gill but still managed to claim 7th place. Unfortunately, Russell finished two spots higher. Sunday got off to a bad start when Matthew broke down three laps into the timed qualifying session. This meant that he had to qualify via the “B” Final. A fighting performance earned him 12th spot, but Russell in 5th place was able to claim the title.”
“I thought 2nd position in the FKS Championships was an outstanding result even though we were aiming one place higher,” commented Dave Tooley. “I recognised from an early stage that Matthew had lots of potential as a driver. What I particularly like about him is that he always uses his head out on the track. The reason why he avoids a lot of incidents that others get involved in isn’t entirely due to luck. If there’s traffic to get through, he’ll think carefully about every manoeuvre and when the move comes it’s almost always decisive. It’s much the same in between races when we’re preparing the kart. No matter what’s been going on out on the track, he’s always very calm and relaxed, planning for what might lie ahead. I’d have to agree with his mother, though. He definitely doesn’t take after Les in that particular respect. We looked after Matthew for all of the Formula Kart stars rounds but weren’t formally involved in other races. I was able to offer Les advice over the phone, though. I remember at a Little Green Man round, these calls had to be directed through our works telephone as the race coincided with my shift pattern. Les rang that number so many times over the weekend that my work colleagues placed a notice on the telephone marked TOOLEY MOTORSPORT. I have to say, though, that it’s been a pleasure helping Mattie throughout last season and I’m very happy that it turned out to be such a successful one for him.”
Things didn’t go quite so smoothly in the Super One Series. His hopes of making a flying start to this competition were dashed when he failed to set a time during the official Timed Qualifying session at PF. He completed the first final lying in 9th place although his 4th position in the second one provided some useful points. Things got even worse at Shenington when he failed to claim a top ten finish in either final, but the Rowrah round boosted his points tally with 4th and 6th positions. He was on fire at Whilton Mill four weeks later, winning his first final and finishing 3rd in the other one. The round at Nutts Corner was abandoned after just one final had been completed and Matthew came home in 8th spot. He enjoyed another good round at Larkhall finishing 3rd and 4th, but Fulbeck wasn’t quite so rewarding. 9th and 7th place finishes here meant that he’d equalled his 2008 championship position of 6th, some 42 points behind the eventual winner Alex Gill. By that stage, though, he’d already achieved his main objectives of capturing the Little Green Man title and securing a good position in Formula Kart Stars.
Luke Stapleford, Jack Harvey, Jordon Lennox-Lamb, Max Goff, Andy King, Sennan Fielding and Ben Barnicoat were all previous holders of the massive LGM cup that Matthew had set out his stall to win. Fierce opposition was expected from various likely contenders but his previous form certainly placed him amongst the favourites. “When Matthew first started racing in the WTP class I thought that he was a very cunning little driver,” says Mike Mills, organiser of the Little Green Man Series. “You can be watching a race without even noticing him and suddenly he’ll be up there amongst the front runners. I think he’s very clever at moving through the pack without any great drama. For that reason, I started calling him the Silver Fox and the name appears to have stuck. We knew that he’d be a favourite for the title in 2009 and he proved us right on that score by producing some excellent performances. Although my main interest was obviously focused on the Little Green Man competition, I also noticed him in various Stars events and found him equally impressive. He established an excellent record, although I think that his size was beginning to work against him in cadets. It will be very interesting to see how he performs as a junior competitor.”
Matthew’s Little Green Man title bid got off to an excellent start at PF where he was able to hold off strong challenges from Jordan Baines, Philip Rawson and Aaron Coleman, winning with just half a metre to spare. Rawson actually beat him across the line at Shenington but was subsequently handed a five place penalty for his overtaking manoeuvre on the final bend. Matthew claimed the race win and with it he established a handsome championship lead. He looked like making it a hat trick of victories after hitting the front at Kimbolton. However Brad Shaw tried to overtake and this incident resulted in Matthew spinning off. He recovered sufficiently to capture 3rd place and actually strengthened his grip on the championship trophy. At the Teesside round he had to accept 3rd place, even though just 0.06 seconds separated him from the race winner Shaw. This result placed him a comfortable 18 points ahead of his closest championship challenger, Hannah Pym. Shaw repeated his Teesside success at Ellough Park five weeks later but Matthew followed him home in 2nd spot. He won Sunday’s final at Rowrah and took 2nd place 24 hours later. Just like Jack Harvey six years earlier he’d wrapped up the title with a round to spare.
“Becoming the Little Green Man Champion was very important for me but now I want to concentrate on KF3,” Matthew declares. “It’s totally different to cadet racing but I really enjoy the extra speed. I’m now using an RK chassis that seems to be very quick in the wet. It’s taking us quite a while to find the right dry weather settings and because there aren’t many others using this kart, we have to do quite a lot of testing ourselves. Mostly we test at PF with occasional visits to Shenington. I think testing on Saturday’s prior to a race meeting can sometimes be frustrating because there are so many different classes, each with their own sessions and you can never find enough track time. My immediate aim is to get some good results in KF3. In the long term, of course, I’d love to be a professional racing driver and my dream is to race Touring Cars. Jason Plato is a particular hero of mine and of course Lewis Hamilton in F1. In karting I admire Jake Dennis who really is an excellent driver. I’d like to think that I could match his achievements in KF3 some day. This year, I’m hoping to compete in Formula Kart Stars and Super 1. Dad says that if we can attract some sponsorship then we’ll also have a crack at some European events, probably in WSK rounds.”
In preparation for what he acknowledges will be a tough season, Matthew has embarked upon a rigorous fitness training programme under the guidance of Paul Martinson. This is paid for by Devere Hotels at Slaley Hall Northumberland. “Matthew enjoys the sessions even though they are very exacting,” claims Val. ”He’s definitely showing the benefits of all the hard work. We’re delighted that Slaley Hall has been able to help out by sponsoring the programme. Obviously, we’d like to find more sponsors but to do that you need good publicity. I’m a little bit disappointed that his results haven’t attracted more media attention because others with less race wins to their name seem to make the headlines. It may have something to do with not running in a big team or maybe living in a fairly remote part of Northumberland. Karting magazine has always given us good coverage and I’ve taken out a subscription for my mother, Margaret Nichol, who follows Matthew’s progress with great interest. She’s a motor-sport enthusiast and long time friend of Charlie Harrison who used to race against Jim Clark and Andrew Cowan at Charterhall. Charlie won the Scottish National Speed Championships back in 1960 and became friendly with a certain Jackie Stewart. He has also taken a close interest in Matthew’s karting activities, which I think is very nice.”
Matthew comes from a relatively large family. His brother Daniel is 23 years old. Rachelle3, aged 18, adds a touch of glamour at Super 1 meetings where she can be seen as one of the Grid Girls. 14 year old Emma is the closest to Matthew’s age. With his obvious talent backed by such so much family commitment, it’s difficult to see how he can possibly fail in KF3 this year.
Life can be full of little surprises. Less than six months ago I was looking ahead to the Little Green Man championships with a sense of foreboding. In previous years, this competition had produced superb racing and some very worthy champions, Luke Stapleford, Jack Harvey, Jordon Lennox Lamb and Max Goff. This time around, I was convinced that we would be watching a watered down affair. Many of the established stars had baled out of this series due to uncertainties surrounding the new B5 engine. A six month ban imposed on these motors did nothing to lift my spirits and I wasn’t looking forward to the opening round at Wombwell with any particular relish. I’m very happy to confess that I got it totally wrong. The racing at Wombwell was fantastic and every round afterwards somehow managed to lift the bar a little bit higher. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the 2006 series has been more competitive than ever before.
Five competitors went to the final round at Kimbolton each with a realistic chance of winning. Andy King is the new champion with 360 points, just twelve ahead of James Raven in 5th place. After a magnificent seven rounds, more than half the field is covered by seventy points. Previously, Sennan Fielding, Dominic Wheatley and Connor Hambleton were names that didn’t figure too prominently in the pages of this magazine. Whether these drivers choose to remain in cadets or move onto pastures new, they have more than proved their ability and can approach the coming season with confidence. What about newcomers like Ben Barnicoat, William Whitelock, George Line, Ashley Lacey and Benjamin Craig? All of these managed to find a place in the top fifteen and that’s surely no mean achievement.
I’ve deliberately omitted George Russell’s name from this list because he deserves a special mention of his own. He started out at Wombwell as a raw novice but finished off this competition looking every inch the true professional. 7th place in round 3 at Rowrah was the start of some spectacular results that culminated in a podium finish at Kimbolton. Luca Hirst, James Raven, Sam Clarence, Adam Hughes and Brad Fairhurst began the season looking like seasoned campaigners and their reputations certainly hadn’t diminished as the competition reached its finale. All five looked well capable of winning the title. Of course, there can only be one champion and you’d have to travel a long way before finding anyone quite as deserving of this honour as Andy King. Like Max Goff last year, Andy never once set the fastest lap at any round yet he possessed a special knack of coming through from the back that often left us all gasping in wonderment.
The championships have now been running for 5 years, consisting of 34 rounds and, when you take heats and finals into account, that adds up to more than 200 races. Although competitors have suffered from various collisions and mechanical breakdowns, none of these could be attributed to engine failure. All those races took place without a protest ever being registered and that must be worth shouting about. However when we reached number 201 nothing less than the title itself was at stake. In such a highly charged atmosphere, driving errors inevitably occur and ultimately there was a protest registered after the final at Kimbolton which led to a subsequent appeal. I’ve no argument against those who made this protest and, indeed, it was actually upheld. Nevertheless, I hope we can go another 200 races without having to deal with the next one.
Two or three years ago, WTP grids at championship level were considerably larger than Comers but couldn’t really match them for quality. I’d argue that in 2006, this situation has actually been reversed. I’ve watched every S1 round this year and, for one reason or another, the cadet racing here hasn’t quite come up to Little Green Man standards in terms of excitement. Next year, WTP will be featured in the Motors TV Ultimate Challenge which, instead of being based exclusively at Three Sisters, is now going nationwide. I believe that this innovative competition offers a tremendous opportunity to broaden the appeal of WTP. All too often we’ve seen judgements made by people who have never observed the class actually operating. The additional exposure on television might dispel one or two myths. Apart from providing us with a feast of exciting racing I expect to see one or two words being eaten. I hope the gastric experience won’t be too traumatic for some of our detractors.
They come from different backgrounds, one with very firm Scottish roots and the other steeped in Northamptonshire tradition. They have different ambitions and each has his own distinctive driving style. They are teammates who have also been fierce rivals in at least one championship this season. As drivers they have at least one thing in common. Both have given maximum effort in pursuit of their goals as anyone who has followed the major championships will no doubt testify. Max Goff, a tall lad by Cadet standards, has earned a big reputation, especially in the WTP Little Green Man Championships which he dominated virtually from round 1onwards. Mackenzie Taylor is smaller in height and weight but the impact he made in Comer Cadet this year was positively huge. After winning the S1 title with a round to spare, he finished as runnerup to Sam Jenkins in Stars of Tomorrow and actually led the series for much of the year.
Mackenzie was born into a motor racing family. His father Rod was an accomplished motor cycle racer who finished as runner-up in the British Championships on three separate occasions. Douglas, his uncle, was also an accomplished star on two wheels, having won the Scottish ACU title no less than five times. Mackenzie is named after multiple motorcycling champion Niall McKenzie, a friend and former rival of Rod’s. “Niall christened his own son Taylor McKenzie after me, so I thought that I’d better return the compliment,” claims Rod. “Obviously I encouraged him on to two wheels at a very early age and he soon started competing in Motocross events but
then we met up with Ted Taylor who won the first ever Kart GP at Silverstone. Ted convinced us to buy a Comer powered Swiss Hutless and Mackenzie soon decided that four wheels were better than just two. He made his debut at Blackbushe almost four years ago and collected the prize for 1st novice. After that he had some good races at Rye House and actually finished his first season by taking 6th place in the 2002 WTP series, although competition back then wasn’t quite as severe as it is today.”
The following season, Mackenzie concentrated on WTP using an ex-Thomas Arme Zip chassis and repeated his 6th place in the championship. “It was still a good result for me,” he maintains. “That was the year when Jack Harvey became champion ahead of Jordon Lennox-Lamb and Jesse Smart. I had a bad accident in the opening round of last year’s competition at Fulbeck. It prevented me from racing for a good while and meant that I couldn’t win the championships or even finish in the top six. I decided to drop out of this competition and concentrated on Comers instead. Racing in WTP taught me a lot about competing up at the front and I found all this very useful when I moved into Stars and S1. Last year I missed a couple of Stars rounds and finished 26th, which wasn’t too good, but I was quite pleased to take 14th spot in S1. Twelve months after Mackenzie made his
karting debut, so Max Goff entered the sport. “We bought a Mari kart initially,” says Max, “but as soon as I came off my novice plates I switched to a Zip. I had some good results in the Comer class but it wasn’t until last year that things really started coming together. I finished 12th in the Stars of Tomorrow championships and 11th in S1 which wasn’t bad for a first attempt. Our plans were to just do Comers this year but Rory Campbell persuaded me that I’d have a good chance in the WTP Little Green Man series. Rory can be very persuasive but he kept his promises and I finished up winning the title. My teammate Ashley Bibby, finished as runner up so that says a lot about Rory’s set up. Doing all three championships has meant taking part in 19 rounds so, along with events like the ‘O’ Plate and TV Masters, it hasn’t left a lot of time for clubbies. Racing with Fusion and Rory’s Racecraft outfit has obviously made things a lot easier for us and without their support we couldn’t have managed.” As an interested onlooker at Little Green Man rounds this year, I spent most of my time secretly hoping that someone would beat Max. His domination of this competition, at least for the first five rounds, was such that it seemed as though no one else would get a look in. The opening round at Dunkeswell did produce a win for Ashley Bibby, but 2nd placed Max still managed to look every inch a potential champion. After that there seemed to be no stopping the Corby flyer as he won four consecutive rounds in convincing style. Only at Wigan did a slight chink appear in his armour as he finished 5th. However, this was achieved after setting off from 16th position and it seemed good enough to secure Max the championships. “We’d done the maths and left for home convinced that he’d scored sufficient points,” says Ian. “I got quite a shock when Mike Mills rang later in the week advising me that the bonus points were being awarded differently to how we’d all expected and that this now made it mathematically possible for Ashley to win. We turned up at P.F. and everything went wrong for us. Fortunately from our point of view, Ashley didn’t quite manage the maximum score he needed, but it was a closer call than we’d expected.”
Mackenzie’s assault on the S1 championship got off to a steady start at Three Sisters when he claimed 4th behind James Godbehere, Ashley Jones and Nicholas Cristofaro. Max Goff served notice of his intentions here by taking 5th. Mackenzie’s hopes were delivered a hammer blow during the next round at P.F. when he was excluded for a nonperformance enhancing technical offence after seemingly finishing 3rd. Spirits in the Fusion camp were no doubt lifted by a storming victory for Max. They went down to Clay Pigeon for round three with Max in buoyant mood and Mackenzie probably feeling a little subdued after appealing against his exclusion. Third place here kept Mackenzie’s championship hopes alive but this round had devastating consequences for Max who was excluded from one of his heats due to a broken choke pin. By the time round 4 at Larkhall came along, Mackenzie had won his appeal and was now actually leading the championships. He celebrated with a fine win and Max made it a great day for the Fusion team by taking 2nd place. The calculators were busy at Rowrah and it became clear that Mackenzie needed only a top ten finish to seal the title. In fact he finished a comfortable 4th with Max once again demonstrating his ability by winning this one very impressively. Mackenzie was equally prominent in the Stars of Tomorrow series that got under way at Rowrah where he finished 3rd. He was upstaged at Shenington by Max who scored a brilliant win from 16th on the grid. Fifth place at Wigan was followed by a fighting 3rd at Larkhall but equally significant was the total number of points he’d amassed in his heats. This made him the championship leader by five points when they went down to Llandow for a double header. Second and 4th places in the two Finals would normally have been enough to stretch this lead even further. However, Sam Jenkins chose this particular weekend to be in supreme form. Apart from taking 1st and 2nd in the two Finals, Sam only dropped one point from six heats, leaving just about every competitor marvelling at his sheer pace. It placed Sam in a very strong position for the final round at Buckmore where a finely judged 2nd place behind Nicholas Cristofaro was sufficient to see him crowned as the new British Champion. “James Bradshaw is the only Cadet driver to have won the S1 and Stars titles in one year and it would have been nice to repeat his success,” confesses Mackenzie. “I gave it my best shot and I’m really delighted to have finished the year as S1 champion. I think that having a title like this is bound to be a big help when you’re looking for sponsorship and support. I’d like to thank Dan Hazlewood (Fusion) for all the help he’s given me this year and, of course, Leon from Soixante who supplied me with great motors. This year Stars and S1 have been very
competitive and we had at least ten different drivers who were all quick enough to become champions. It’s been a very hard year for me and I’m sure my dad has sometimes found it difficult as well. I’m very proud of him for what he achieved in his own racing career. At some stage I’d like to race motorbikes just like he did but I couldn’t see myself doing it for a living. Like most other Cadets, I’d like to try single-seater cars some day although that’s a long time away. Next year I’ll be moving up into JICA and that’s something which I’m very excited about, although the difference in speed might take some getting used to. I’ll be running alongside Oliver
Rowland in the Zip Young Guns team and that’s something else I’m looking forward to immensely.”
Away from karting, Mackenzie is keen on both soccer and rugby and enjoys watching F1 but doesn’t really have any favourite team or drivers. Max shares Mackenzie’s liking for soccer and rugby but also adds cricket to his list. He’s a fan of F1 too, naming McLaren Mercedes and Kimi as his favourites. In karting, Alexander Sims, Oliver Rowland and Mackenzie are the drivers that he respects the most. “It was also good to see Ollie Oakes winning the World Championships this year, although I’ve never actually seen him race” adds Max. “I think it’s bound to give British karting a boost, especially with Jon Lancaster finishing 2nd. Next year I’ll be moving into Minimax. I haven’t finally decided on the chassis yet but we recently bought a secondhand Intrepid quite cheaply and it seems very good. One decision we have made is to run our own team next year. That’s
no disrespect to Fusion or Racecraft. They’ve been superb throughout the whole year, but both Dan and Rory want to concentrate on Cadets still, so we didn’t have any option other than to leave.”
“I think that Fusion has easily been the best team in Comer Cadet this year but they’ll have their work cut out in 2006 when our own team is up and running” alleges Max. “It’s called Xtreme Motorsport and we’ve already
signed up Formula BMW driver Craig Boyd to act as mechanic. Apart from my own interests in Minimax, we’ll be looking after three Cadet drivers, Jordan King, Roy Johnson and Callum Bowyer who recently won the King of Clubs championship. Piers Sexton will be looking after me in Minimax and I’m hoping that Paul Munn will also be available although it’s possible that he might do a season racing Seats. After my time in karting, I’d like to take up a career in motor racing. Everyone wants to get into F1 and it would be very nice to think that I could do it, but, realistically, any job as a paid driver would be great.” By any yardstick 2005 has been a successful year for Max. “Winning the WTP Little Green Man title is something I’ll always remember,” he says. “I think I’ll also remember the round at Wigan when I wrote my kart off in practice. Rory was a fantastic
help in getting me up and running in time for Sunday’s race but we were also overwhelmed by the number of people who actually offered to loan me their karts so that I could score points if my own wasn’t fixed. I thought that was really good and showed there’s still a lot of sportsmanship in karting. Comers has been very exciting as well. Dan Hazlewood and Piers Sexton are both very good to work with. Apart from them, I owe my mum Mandy, dad and sister Ria an awful lot for the way they’ve all supported me all year.”
Dan Hazlewood meanwhile looks ahead to 2006 without the services of his top two drivers. “Max McGuire is staying on in the team and he’s shown tremendous improvement this year so I’m confident that he’ll be one of the frontrunners. We’ve also got Jacob Stilp and James Appleton joining us and I’ve been very impressed by their prowess. 2005 was a great year for us and I’m hoping for similar results in 2006.” With these words, Dan acknowledged the very significant impression made by Mackenzie and Max upon Cadet racing. His new drivers certainly have a hard act to follow.
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