The biggest British Kart Championships in decades made an instant impact as the opening two rounds of the Rotax series got the new-look season underway with a bang. The iconic PF International Circuit in Lincolnshire provided the stage for 155 drivers across four classes to do battle. One fifth of the current Formula One grid cut their teeth in British Karting and the next generation of stars certainly produced a weekend of mesmerising wheel-to-wheel racing.
First-up to entertain the crowds at a sun-kissed PFI was the MiniMax series for drivers aged 11 to 15. The Coles Racing duo of Archie Kitching and Sam Gornall diced for the lead with the advantage being exchanged several times in the early stages. The pair soon decided to work together to pull a gap over third place and in the closing stages, battle resumed with Gornall clinching the first win of the season by just 0.17 seconds. TWM driver Alexander Hughes fended off Ryan Willis for third.
Kitching was to have his own celebrations as the Shipley driver lifted the trophy in the second contest of the weekend – a race where eight drivers created a slipstreaming freight train in the fight for victory. Teammate Gornall had a race to forget as he ran wide – dropping him down the order – eventually finishing eighth. Hughes followed Kitching home in second to bag another haul of points while Jez Williams in his first season in the BKC took a fine podium – making up eight places after a spirited drive.
Race two winner Archie Kitching said – “It was a great weekend and a really close final race. It was a tough start getting around Sam but once everything settled I managed to pull a gap and to come away with first place, I am very happy with that.”
Kai Hunter did the double in the Junior Rotax category for drivers aged 13-17. The DHR star hardly put a foot wrong all weekend as he took a lights to flag victory in both contests – but he didn’t have it his own way as he was pushed hard by Tom Adams and Taylan Babbs in the first contest before Babbs and Harry Newman-Oakley slugged it out for the spoils in the second. The enthralling head-to-tail racing was in evidence throughout the field as the top-ten were separate by a matter of seconds on both rounds.
Kai Hunter said “I really enjoyed this weekend and had to fight for it at times, but I could control the pace. We had a draft to spring us into the lead and it provided some real close racing and I think the battles are going to be great throughout the season.”
In the first final in the Senior Rotax class for drivers aged 16 and over, James Johnson climbed onto the top step for DHR after a nail-biting race which saw the top-three blanketed by less than one second. Kieran Gifford was the runner-up in race one, but he had his own moment in the spotlight in race two as he secured his first win of the season and with it the championship lead leaving PFI. James Lowther notched up a podium in the first race before a small mistake sent him down the order in the second. Lewis Malin had quite possibly the drive of the weekend. In the first final, the Solihull-star produced a monumental drive to lift himself from the back of the grid to finish seventh, before the MLR driver went on another mission to put his kart onto the final rostrum position in the final race of the weekend.
Kieran Gifford said “Qualifying went really well, the kart was perfect, my team did a superb job and to win the second race was very special, so I am over the moon with the weekend.”
Last, but by no means least, the Rotax 177 classes were the final category of the weekend. Topping qualifying was Nathan Chafer maintained his excellent form to secure the first win of the season in front of James Beacroft and Chris Wright. Such was the competitiveness of the class Levi King who had a disappointing final one by his high standards had the bit between his teeth to pull out all the stops to lift the race two trophy from 12th on the grid. James Beacroft was mister consistent as he recorded back-to-back second places as 2018 Open Champion Michael Cheek rounded out the top three in the final race of the PFI meeting.
Race 2 winner Levi King said “It was good weekend on the whole. I wasn’t pleased with how race one went but race two more than made up for it and I can’t ask for any more than that.”
Dan Parker, Kart Manager at Motorsport UK said. “It has been a monumental challenge to get to PFI for the first round of 2019, but what a way to start off a brand-new dawn for the British Kart Championships. The racing was excellent, the weather was brilliant, and everyone walked away with massive smiles on their faces. Several races were decided on the very last lap and by just tenths of a second. This close and exciting racing in the Rotax classes, really bodes well for the rest of the year.”