KARTING: Ben Slater’s racing diary

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Ben reviews last year and looks forward to the season ahead

Review of 2010

My last meeting of 2010 was at Kimbolton in December. I had missed the November meeting because I was visiting a University. The October meeting was also very special as it was my 18th. On practice day we celebrated it with a birthday cake with the guys in the paddock and some of them came back to the motor home to open a bottle of bubbly I only had the one glass.

On race day I was presented with my new helmet during drivers’ briefing by the Clerk of the Course which was embarrassing in front of 150 drivers.

I was also presented with a big birthday card signed by the officials, drivers in my class and other people who know me from the paddock.

I had worked my own helmet design and my dad had arranged Craig Hook from nippy designs to spray the helmet and get it back in time for my birthday weekend.

The racing went really well and loads of people commented on my helmet. Luckily it was a dry meeting but cold. I was having a good meeting up to the final when I was accidentally driven over in a high speed collision wrecking the side bars, pod, graphics, steering column and axle but I kept the kart going and finished in mid pack.

2010 was my rookie season in senior rotax max regarded as a tough class to race in. I managed a few top ten finishes and my best result was 2nd in a very competitive field.

I also finished 5th in the schools karting championships natSKA and finished that series on a high with a win in my last ever race. That weekend was a bit of a disaster with lots of damage. I had a huge crash in practice when a track rod bolt sheared and I hit a marshal post at high speed wrecking the kart. I was unhurt but the damage to my kart was bad and the championship weekend didn’t look very promising.

Nick Moss from KKC and his mechanic along with my best my best mate Graham Roberts, Tim Penstone-Smith a black smith by trade and of course my dad managed to get it back into shape for the following day. My mum kept our spirits up with cups of tea food, and good humour.

I was driven over a further two times over the weekend and nearly decided to throw in the towel but we stuck at it worked late into the night again on Saturday to repair the damage and finished the weekend with a win and retired from the championship with some pride and lots of respect from school teams from around the country. I had competed in 3 national championships at Llandow, Buck more and Whilton Mill and won races at Glan-y-Gors, and Whilton Mill and had been selected to represent the national schools in Belgium in the euro max series and picked up some awards at school for my efforts.

For 2011 we looked at other karting championships. Stand alone rounds were being promoted by the Super 1British Championship. Whilton Mill our local track was the opening round of the series. My dad and I spoke to the organisers at the Autosport Show in January.

The cost for one round was very prohibitive. Apart from entrance fee, you have to purchase tyres from the organisers, fuel ,hire of on board camera, uni-loger [detects clutch slip].

You would get little change from around £2000 for the weekend and that would not include damage and you are not going to beat the works teams with drivers who have an open cheque book.

We also looked at the NKRA championship. This is a budget nationally recognised championship for mainly club divers from Scotland, North and South of England with qualifying rounds at selected tracks in your region and a grand final at Clay Pigeon, Dorset. We would have done the northern qualifying rounds at Hooton Park Liverpool, Three Sisters Wigan, and Glan y Gors, North Wales but after much deliberation we decided to stick to kimbolton club championship and do some guest drives at club meetings at Glyn-Y- Gors with the midlands championship meeting at Little Rissington The London cup at Rye House and The Welsh open at Llandow a possibility.

Preview of 2011 Kimbolton club championship

Kimbolton is regarded as one of the best tracks in the country and drivers travel from Staffs, Herts, Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk, Kent, Surrey, Suffolk, Cheshire, Leics, and West Midlands to race against some of the best club drivers in the country. Andrew Winter, former London cup winner and also NKRA champion. Aaron and Dale Head representing Global Karting and Euro max contenders racing on the continent.

Henry Easthope a representative of the British Team in the u18 world championship along with Daniel Graham former super 1 driver have made an appearance this year. Lewis Plato won the March round. Last year he competed in British Championship and Euro max Lewis is a relative of the touring car ace Jason Plato. Last year 2010 British champion in the rotax 177 class Lucas Orrock took part in the East Anglia trophy.

My money is on Craig Hook to take the title again in 2011. He is going to be difficult to beat as he is very consistent and always seems to stay out of trouble. Alex Rowley will be amongst the contenders along with lap record holder Andrew Rees-Reynolds and Andrew Winter. Anton Stamps from Essex is the dark horse and could upset a few of the professional teams.

Former natSKA drivers [schools championship] and good friends Greg Jackson and Graham Roberts should do well. Graham is running with a professional team Spell frame whilst Greg is also being mentored by a professional team. Lewis Penstone-Smith is in his rookie year.

I would like to finish in the top ten but exams and university take priority and I don’t think I will be able to compete in all of the rounds. I will however take part in the East Anglian trophy and a drive in the televised TKM festival is looking promising

Kimbolton 12/13th March 2011

I travelled to Kimbolton for the third meeting of the season as I missed the first two due to my exams and family illness. I was anxious to get back into the seat as this season we are on a different compound of tyre and they are unknown to me which meant I had to learn how to drive on them quickly before going into racing.

We arrived early at the track on a brisk cold winters morning for practice. With new regulations for tyres and air box I quickly got my act together with lap times consistently improving, however I was very lucky to escape with minor damage when I was collected by a novice that spun in front of me. Everything came together in the final practice session keeping up with the lead pack and setting an overall time of 41.95 which was 3 tenths off the driver who won the meeting before hand; I was feeling confident.

On race day we bolted on a fresh set off tyres which gave me an edge over my opponents as a new set is much quicker and offers more grip Race day was dry but overcast and rain was threatening for the opening heat. Teams were prepared for a quick change of tyres in the waiting area but the light rain was not enough to dampen the track. With practice times not counting for grid position I started on P15 [from 25] and I made a brilliant start and was eager to make up more places but due to a silly error I lunged another driver into the bus stop my favourite overtaking spot. Unfortunately I came off worse when the nose cone came off. The regulations state you cannot repair the kart on the side of the track. This was not the start I wanted Alex Rowley won the heat with Ben Palmer 2nd and Danny Graham 3rd

Staying relaxed and positive I started on P8 for my second race. With the weather warming up and track temperatures and grip improving I needed a good finish to give myself a chance in the final. I kept my wits about me with the charge [of the light brigade] into the first corner and kept out of trouble. With the leading drivers switching and changing on every lap I stayed composed running in 7th position but on the last lap I lost out to Jamie Harrison in the dash to the flag and finished 8th which gave me valuable points and redeemed myself from my previous race disaster Henry Easthope won the race with Aaron Head second and Anton Stamps third

I really had to push hard in the final I was starting P16. I made a brilliant start getting into 7th when the red flag came out and abruptly ended the race, I stayed calm whilst a driver was treated by the ambulance crew following a crash. With a delayed restart a full restart took place and this time I got a poor start only making it to 11th by the end of the first corner however I only needed a few more places to get into the top 10, I pushed hard and after some good battles I settled for 10th and some valuable points for the championship and setting my fastest lap of the weekend of a 41.75 3 tenths off the fastest lap of the weekend! I was really pleased. Henry Easthope won the final with Ben Palmer 2nd Andrew Winter 3RD and Aaron Head 4th My mate Graham Roberts finished one place behind me in 11th spot whilst Greg Jackson was 15th and Lewis-Penstone Smith was 20th

I would like to thank Joe Higham my friend who also races senior rotax for coming to help me out on Saturday

Niki Rene Paterson of Photo World and his dad were our guests on race day. Nicky is a keen motorsport photographer. He took some brilliant action photos of the racing; you can find him on Facebook if you are interested in having some professional photos. He is also available for weddings, and other functions. He can be contacted on 079287 46198 or e-mail N.PATERSON@LIVE.CO.UK

When I am not racing or working hard for my A levels I help out ‘Kart-Tek Racing’ where I mechanic for drivers over a race weekend usually at Whilton Mill in Weedon and Shennington in Banbury. I do everything to the kart such as kart setup, maintenance and I also do driver coaching, I love it I get a real sense of accomplishment when at the end of a stressful weekend when nothing has seemed to have gone right but then to come out with a top 5 in the final is just indescribable. Last year I helped out ‘Jade Karts’ but unfortunately due to other commitments I had to end this job to concentrate on my AS level exams.

If anyone is interested in starting karting then contact Darren Masters at Kart Tek Tel O7792 990592 or 01327 349615 E-mail kart-tekracing@live.co.uk He is based at Weeden

After My A-levels I am hoping to go to University to study Motorsport Engineering. This may be my last season whilst I concentrate on getting a good degree and hopefully a dream job as a race engineer with a top team If it is to be my last season let’s make it a good one and keep consistently scoring points. I’m already looking forward to April’s meeting! Bring it on!!!