Under cloudless blue spring skies the 2019 Motorsport UK British Kart Championships for the IAME classes burst into life at the PF International circuit in Grantham today with nearly 150 drivers battling it out for glory across the four classes in the opening round of this weekend’s historic doubleheader.
Saturday may have dawned grey and overcast but any thoughts of rain dampening the spirits of a packed paddock were soon dispelled as the sun broke through shortly after the beginning of what was a jam-packed 20-race schedule. And the balmy conditions were the perfect backdrop for a series of races that epitomised the unrivalled level of competition we can expect to see throughout this year’s 12 Round IAME Championship.
IAME’S flagship class, Senior X30 boiled down to a three way fight for honours between double heat winners Gus Lawrence and Clayton Ravenscroft and European Champion Mark Kimber, who were able to jettison the remainder of the 52-strong field that was littered with past champions and international visitors.
Lawrence claimed pole positon over Ravenscroft by virtue of his outright fastest time in qualifying and made a superb start to lead by almost two seconds at the end of the first of 17-laps. But courtesy of some inch perfect slipstreaming and drafting that was more akin to the Cadet class than the monstrous 80mph Senior division, Ravenscroft and Kimber were able to gradually peg the Vmotorsport driver back.
Despite initially losing second spot to Kimber, Ravenscroft grabbed the lead in one fell swoop during the first half of the 14th lap and was able to keep Lawrence at arm’s length to take the win for the KR Sport team who recovered admirably across both the Junior and Senior classes after suffering a number of engine failures during Friday’s practice sessions.
Lawrence’s pair of heat wins and runner-up finish signalled his title credentials while Kimber’s experience and support from his Strawberry Racing squad means he will be a force to be reckoned with all season as well.
British Open Champion Thomas Turner and the very impressive Cole Kilner rounded out the top five and in addition to the above quintet at least a dozen other drivers showed race winning pace over the course of the weekend in what will surely be an epic season long struggle for honours.
The incredible strength in depth seen in the Senior class was mirrored by their Junior counterparts as once again the British Championship showed itself to be easily the most competitive national series anywhere in the world.
Once the 50 strong entry had been whittled down to the final 34, the 16-lap main event stood out for its’ constant nerve-wracking, place changing frenetic pace, epitomised by the fact that the leading 14 finishers were covered by a mere seven seconds at the flag.
Strawberry Racing’s Josh Rowledge, who won both his heat races started from pole alongside Alex Ley in his Coles Racing mount and although Rowledge held on bravely at the front for the opening three tours, once he had been deposed by eventual winner Georgi Dimitrov neither he nor Ley would feature in what was a titanic lead battle.
Dimitrov’s Fusion Motorsport kart didn’t hold the lead for long in a race that bubbled along and grew in intensity throughout. Alessandro Ceronetti briefly headed the pack as he sought to continue BKC Racing’s reign as the most successful team in the history of the class since it arrived on UK shores but he was undone by a superb move from Dimitrov coming off the Litchfield Bridge while Caden McQueen also put his Mad Croc kart in top spot as the leading train expanded to no less than 11 karts.
With Dimitrov regaining the advantage at the half way mark many eyes began to turn to the rapid progress of Oliver Bearman and Reggie Duhy, who both started well down the order after being involved in a multi kart crash on the final lap of the first heat of the day. As Dimitrov led, Bearman was able to oust Ceronetti, Tom Edgar, McQueen and Oliver Gray to snatch second but didn’t have the time, or the tyres, to catch Dimitrov who ran out the winner by just over one second.
Ceronetti completed the podium ahead of Edgar and while Duhy took fifth on the road, a nosecone penalty dropped him back to 13th. That demotion left Gray, McQueen and Rowledge to round out the top seven with Ley a disappointed 10th and Joseph Taylor, who was fastest of all in qualifying, only 12th.
Alfie Rigby emerged victorious in a final that saw three lead changes in the final lap alone. Rigby won both heat races and the final – an impressive feat from the youngster.
Oliver Greenall shaded qualifying by two hundredths of a second over Rigby and although the KR Sport driver got the better of Greenall in both heats, his combined winning margin over the two races was two tenths of a second.
Indeed it was Greenall who got the jump over Rigby at the start of the 16-lap final and for most of the race it was Greenall and the Mad Croc kart of Theo Micouris who held the upper hand as Rigby was left to dispute third with Luke Watts, Jessica Edgar, Ed Pearson and Olivier Algieri. However as Greenall began to defend from Micouris in the closing stages their pursuers’, led by Edgar, finally closed in and as the final lap began the gloves were well and truly off.
Micouris took the lead as they headed on to the bridge but just two corners later Greenall was back in front. Watts briefly made it three wide on the run towards the Fullerton Esses which allowed Rigby to capitalise as he pulled off a superb move at Bobby Game corner to sweep past all three of his rivals to snatch victory at the death.
Watts and Micouris would complete the podium ahead of Edgar and Pearson with Greenall’s misery added to courtesy of a nosecone penalty that dropped him to tenth, scant reward for the driver who led 14 of the races 16 laps.
The final race of the day was the always enthralling Cadet IAME class and with the three heats being shared between lead qualifier Sonny Smith and the Fusion Motorsport machines of Vinnie Phillips and Aiden Neate it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the 14 lap final was wide open.
The pace that helped earn Smith pole for the final vanished when it mattered most but after Neate led the opening two tours, Smith’s Ollie Rowland Motorsport teammates Brandon Carr, Harley Keeble and Harry Burgoyne Jr stood firm at the head of the field for much of the race with the highly impressive privateer Macaulay Bishop next and then the imposing squadron of Fusion karts comprising Neate, Phillips, Kean Nakamura Berta and Leo Robinson.
Phillips gradually worked his way into second place behind Carr as the laps wound down but the race remained fairly sedate until the very last lap.
Berta, running third was first to strike, diving to the inside of Phillips as they entered the banking only to watch helplessly as Phillips made it three wide for the lead and swept in front of both Berta for a few fleeting seconds before Carr reclaimed top spot on the outside of the banking. Behind the top three chaos ensued with Burgoyne, Neate, the unfortunate Bishop and Keeble all losing ground to varying degrees and while the podium finishers remained in the same order of Carr, Phillips and Berta it was Robinson, Smith and a delighted Ethan Jeff-Hall who eventually completed the top half dozen.