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February 02 Issue

Rebbecca Noakes
'It doesn’t matter how big your motor home is it still doesn’t help you when it comes down to race.'

So, You want to be a racing driver?
The increasing popularity of Formula One and the influx of talented young drivers like Jenson Button and Kimi Raiknonen have encouraged a new wave of youngsters to try their hand at kart racing. Many of them dream of joining the elite men that drive in Formula One, but of course not all of those dreams will come true, nevertheless racing karts offer a great way for them to try the sport.

A day at the kart track usually starts at about 7:30am and the pit lane is usually already bustling with activity. The people rushing around take racing seriously, it’s something they really love doing, the atmosphere of camaraderie, fun and friendly rivalry reflects this.
The race day consists of an early morning practice session, a timed qualifying period and two pre-finals leading up to the eventual final race. It is only the final race positions that count towards championship points, the other sessions give the drivers experience on the track in preparation for the final.

Circuits like Bayford Meadows in Kent and other tracks scattered around the country allow people to race karts and see whether the sport interests them. The drivers are able to turn up with or without a kart depending on the type of event running.
Race weekends are always hectic especially for the organisers, signing in the drivers, checking the safety, and getting together the marshals, the list goes on.

Track manager Ian Ward has been conducting the smooth running of Bayford Meadows for four years, and in a year he would organise over 400 events varying from the company days out to owner-driver sprint events. The events are always busy and attract a lot of interest.
"I think a lot of the drivers are chasing a dream to be in Formula One but in reality not an awful lot of them are going to get there," he explains.
Money plays an important part of people deciding on whether or not they want to take up the sport but is it worth the cash?
"Of course I would recommend racing to people that’s how I make my living! But seriously I think it’s very good for all age groups, from eight upwards. There are people like myself who are forty and if they didn’t do it when they were young it’s given them an opportunity to do it now."

Racing karts is a specialist sport there are certain ways to get into the sport and be able to get into a good kart club.
"There’s a number of places all over the country, indoor kart tracks, outdoor kart tracks most areas have got them now that you could go to."
He recommends, "Initially, to start off to find if you really want to do it is to go along to you local track hire a cart. Have a go and if you like it most circuits like ourselves organise hire cart events where you don’t need to own your own kart."
He says, "As far as the individual is concerned you can join the kart club which is basically a club that organises twelve events a year."
As you walk down the pit lane you can see that some people have a lot of money to spend on racing karts and a lot of people don’t. It would be hard to decide whether it actually has any bearing on the races. "I don’t necessarily believe it makes a difference," He argues, "When you sitting on the grid you can only take one engine it doesn’t matter how many you’ve got in the truck and it doesn’t matter how big your motor home is it still doesn’t help you when it comes down to race".

Money is a deciding factor to many people in whether they take up kart racing or not. The costs rise as you become more and more involved in the sport but the thrills and excitement hugely outweigh the financial burden.
James Pitcher aged thirteen and Robin Aldridge aged fifteen both race in the Junior TKM championship at Bayford Meadows.
"It was my friend’s birthday and he had a party at a track called Buckmore Park," James explained, "I went along and we got to race in the little karts, it stated from there."
"Well I started when I was about ten years old when I went to a Raleigh go-karting track," Robin continued, "I liked it so much I carried on going. It’s a competitive sport and I like getting some aggression out if I’m a bit irritated from the week, the speed is an attraction as well of course!"

There are a great deal of safety precautions taken by both drivers and the track owners, but of course it is still a sport and very competitive so accidents do happen.
There would be no point talking about the danger of kart racing though because if you’re worried about it then you shouldn’t be on the track. Fear can break the concentration and when your racing at high speed you need to be sharp and have quick reactions.
"It doesn’t really bother me because I’ve had so many accidents I know what happens!" Grinned Robin, "I don’t know how many accidents I’ve had… uncountable. I’ve broke my exhaust and spun off through the air before, nothing serious though no broken bones."

The price of the karts and the obviously added price of accidents and replacing equipment doesn’t seem to bother the drivers themselves. (But this could be that it’s usually their parents that have to bare the brunt of the money worries - all of them hoping that their sprog will turn out like those young Kart racers the Shumaker brothers, Michael and Ralph -
whatever happend to them I wonder?)

"Well as long as you can afford it it’s all right if you cant you shouldn’t be doing it." James explained, "I don’t think money makes that much of a difference you don’t need a big motor home, just a box trailer will do. You don’t even need the best kart really."

Robin agreed, "I don’t really worry either. If you really enjoy it you should be willing to pay. It doesn’t matter how much money you have when it actually comes to racing just when you’re buying the karts themselves, but I’d recommend anyone to get into it, it’s a great sport!"

If you’ve been tempted by the colourful world of kart racing then go along and try your hand at racing these powerful machines, although the world seems costly and even slightly dangerous you get the feeling from talking to the drivers that’s all just a part of the thrill.

© Rebecca Noakes

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