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Episode 31

My Racing History

A complete novice? Or a seasoned pro? What racing experience does the writer of the #RacingGrind blogs actually possess?

This week’s instalment isn’t going to be particularly long, but I think it’s important to provide a bit of backstory behind my motivation to both write this blog and actually to go racing. Therefore, this article is just going to spell out my previous history in motorsport.

Excluding a couple of one-off visits to the karting track for friends’ birthday parties etc as a kid, my racing journey actually starts really quite late. I was in Year 10 at school – and so around 15 – when I was looking through the list of potential ‘skills’ I could learn as part of my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, and it was at this point when I spotted go-karting. I pitched the idea to my parents, fully expecting them to tell me to find something less expensive, yet they actually agreed.

Therefore, for a period of three months, I had to visit my local karting circuit every week. Yeah, it really was a chore! In this time, I went from being the slowest in every session to being right up there with the quickest.

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Once the ‘forced’ participation ended, I had well and truly caught the bug, and so I would often go karting regularly (although not quite weekly), and I entered one or two competitions, but nothing serious. More specifically, I competed in two editions of the national competition that has now become the British Indoor Karting Championship, and I was also part of my school’s team that made it to the Regional finals of the British School’s Karting Championship. These were very much one-off events though, as neither myself nor my parents were willing to fork out on a ‘proper’ karting campaign.

The first – and so far, only – formal motorsport competition I have taken part in occurred during the 2018-19 academic year, which was the year I spent at university. When exploring the list of sports clubs that Loughborough University offered, I noticed a Kart club. Naturally, I enquired, and signed up to their non-championship taster event, which was a 30-minute qualifying, 60-minute race for teams of three drivers. I managed to find a couple of people living in the same hall of residence that were also taking part – one of which had narrowly lost out on winning the intra-university championship the previous year – and we entered as a team.

Race day came around, and we decided that I would take the last 5 minutes of qualifying, before the first 25 minutes in the race. So, I hop in, not expecting to improve on the time my more experienced teammate had set just before me, yet I managed to qualify our kart fourth of thirty with my final lap. Taking the grid start then, I hugely overcook my braking point at the first big braking zone, and finish the corner stationary and facing the wrong way. Not an ideal start, but I make up some of the lost ground, and end my stint in ninth. Somehow, we managed to complete the last-to-first challenge, and take the lead in the last few minutes and win the race.

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The main take away from that event, though, was my promising pace. Whilst I was nowhere near the pace of the top top guys – with some being former British Karting Champions, one being a former World Karting Champion, and one driver racing in the 2020 British F3 – I showed good promise and had the fastest lap in our team. Therefore, the natural progression was to compete in the full, six-round intra-university championship.

Fast forward about six months, and I ended the season with second place in the (non-BUKC-driver’s) championship, having been tied for the lead before having an abysmal final round at a treacherously wet Whilton Mill. A trio of consecutive fourth-placed overall finishes had put me in good stead, with my rate of improvement meaning I was on the pace of the very best drivers after just three rounds. That one year taught me a lot about my racing, and actually showed me just how good I can be as a racing driver, as I had never visited any of the circuits used in that championship before, yet I was still fighting at the front of the pack in the races.

After a further 12 months of just enjoying some semi-regular karting, and now four months of not sitting in one, my racing story meets us at the present day. I feel that this mix of racing experience mixed with a complete lack of knowledge of the wider motorsport world will really provide you readers with an interesting viewpoint, as it really shows that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not a seasoned professional, and so any success my #RacingGrind may bring me should be realistically attainable even for people who have never raced themselves.

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At least, this sense of attainability is what I wish to portray in my experiences, and why, looking back in a few years, the progression should have the potential to be matched or even exceeded by someone who feels inspired by my journey.

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