No matter what Storm Hannah threw at the competitors at the PF International circuit in Lincolnsire, the opening round of the TKM and Honda classes in the Motorsport UK British Kart Championships strode on through rain, wind and ice cold conditions. With 162 racers across the four categories racing over the weekend, there was plenty of drama and action in each of the championships commencing their 2019 campaigns in fine style.
The 2019 Karting UK Bambino Championship saw 19 young stars competing for the podium across a range of different experience levels. Jesse Phillips completed an exceptional weekend by winning both heats, the pre-final and then despite fierce pressure from Henry Carter he sealed the perfect score in the final with a thrilling race to the finish line that saw him take a clean sweep of wins across the weekend and he now leads the championship with the maximum 100 points available. Carter managed to hang on for second in the final ahead of Max Mason and Ewan Charman who challenged the pair up front for the entirety of the race. Jacob Davis rounded out the top 5 after hanging on determinedly ahead of Noah Baglin and Jenson Hookey.
There were early threats through the weekend from Charlie Vairy, Tyler O’Neill and Evi Davidson but dramatically the final saw all three of them struggle and then sadly fail to finish the final but they’ll all be back in action at the second weekend of the season at Three Sisters in Wigan. The racer to make the biggest progress through the final was Katie Donaldson, as the young Scot from Dufftown made up an impressive nine places to be firmly inside the top ten.
With 57 entries coming into the weekend, four different winners across the four heats set the tone for an epic pair of races to begin the season. The chief rivals for the crown Kean Nakamura-Berta and Sonny Smith both opened their championship accounts with victories, with Jack Hobson and Henry Gregory also hitting the top spot, with victory in the repechage heading the way of the brilliant Macie Hitter. But Nakamura-Berta’s weekend was severely compromised by mechanical failure in his second heat whilst leading comfortably.
Having to start the final from P26 on the grid, the Japanese star miraculously tore through the grid to win one of the most unbelievable races in Honda Cadet history in Round 1. Mitchell Gibbons would be less than a tenth of a second back at the line with Oscar Teuten promoted to third position after an unfortunate penalty was handed to third on the road Sonny Smith.
The tables were turned in Round 2 when Mitchell Gibbons learnt from the duel in the first encounter, made a strong and bold move to lead and held on valiantly to grab his first win at national championship level ahead of Nakamura-Berta and the solid Jack Hobson just a whisker in front of the resilient Ewan Charman.
The championship now sees Nakamura-Berta and Gibbons joint leaders in the standings, making the Japanese driver championship leader in both Cadet classes in the Motorsport UK British Kart Championship. He now heads to Shenington in a fortnight to defend his IAME championship lead.
The 38 drivers in this year’s Junior TKM national category are very closely matched and at this early stage it’s almost impossible to pick an incumbent champion. Oliver Richardson stated his intent for the title with an epic drive in the first heat to clinch victory with James Barty handling a tough fight beautifully to bag the second and Scott Smith bouncing back from a miserable first heat to grab a brilliant win in the third. The repechage saw Josh Raistrick pick his moment to perfection to take a stunning victory and secure his place in the opening two rounds.
Race 1 was a true thriller that went right down to the last lap. Connor Kearney had fought his way back into contention and was duelling for the win with Morgan Kidd, the young pretender to Abbi Pulling’s crown as the fastest woman in British junior karting. They battled down the back straight, and as Kidd went for the move in the first hairpin they collided which saw Kearney drop back only to be handed a penalty to compound a disappointing race, and Kidd rejoining despite spinning over the top of Kearney’s kart. She resumed in fifth, but that handed the win to a resurgent Oliver Stewart with the Scot timing his move on Oliver Richardson beautifully to grab a famous victory, with Louis Harvey storming back through the pack to finish a strong third.
Having made up 12 places to finish 4th in the first race, Zak Oates wasn’t done yet and he set about the task of moving through the field to grab the lead in Round 2, and as he did so the race was red flagged for an incident further back. When the race resumed, Oates delivered a calm and composed drive to finish ahead of Morgan Kidd for a brilliant win. Regrettably Kidd’s woes from earlier were compounded even further as she was sadly hit with a front fairing penalty that dropped her out of the top ten, but now we know she’s a championship contender for sure. Second place was inherited by Oliver Stewart who now leads the standings and Harry yardley-Rose delivered a brilliant podium from 9 places back on the grid.
When the 48 drivers rocked up for TKM Extreme, nobody would have predicted that one man would stand tall and dominant throughout the weekend in such a manner as demonstrated at PF International. When last season saw a dozen drivers fight for the title, unpredictability was the buzz word of the paddock. But last year’s vice champion Chris Whitton clearly intends to leave no doubt in 2019.
Having brilliantly won his two heats, he then stood at the sidelines and watched Matthew Taylor and Michael Cornell cross the finish line first in theirs. Then came a truly thrilling repechage that saw Aaron Lask pip Joseph Reeves-Smith past the post by a mere quarter of a second.
In race one, despite their best efforts nobody could keep too close to Whitton who stormed to victory by over a second with Michael Cornell and Ryan Cole joining him on the podium with some spirited battles throughout the field. Matthew Taylor and Owain Rosser sadly ended their weekends in race one, with hard impacts into the barrier at the Litchfield Bridge rendering their karts too damaged to continue.
If the first race had been a strong display by Whitton, then he was simply showing off in race two. He steadily pushed the gap further away from his rivals, consistently lapping nearly a second faster than the rest of the field in the closing stages to romp clear by a massive 4 seconds. But the battle for the podium steps was fascinating as James Pashley made a convincing move for second, and allowed the pack behind to squabble over third as he cemented his position in second place. In the closing stages Kyle Sproat brought his weekend back to the podium with a fantastic drive that saw him take his first trophy of 2019.
With our championships well under way in fantastic style, the TKM and Honda paddock now moves on to Rissington on the third weekend of May, while the Motorsport UK British Kart Championships turns its attention to Shenington for the IAME classes in a fortnight.