The UK has long been a proving ground for young talents. Driver’s will come from all over the planet to contest in our competitions in the hope of proving they are the next big things. Drivers such as Kimi Raikkonen, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna & Mika Hakkinen all wining championships on UK soil. All have also become a Formula 1 world championship. The UK also has a huge reputation in the karting industry, Raikkonen started out of a British built Gillard chassis. We have also had huge success on the international stage. The pinicle of that is the world karting championship.
The world championships are a single round, single venue competition, the winner of which takes home the title. It attracts star drivers and manufacture teams from all over the globe to fight for the top prize. It even attracted some current racing stars, such as Fernando Alonso who was there to support his FA team. Over the years we have had quite a few winners, drivers like Lando Norris and Enaam Ahmed, who scooped the senior & Junior titles respectively in 2014. This a just a year after Max Verstappen secured his world title. Despite the success we have had, the UK hasn’t hosted the world championship event before. Until last weekend.
PF International near Grantham played host to the 2017 event, which saw 185 drivers decend on the premier kart circuit in the country. Split into 2 classes for Juniors & Seniors, using the 125cc OK class of engines. The weekend started with qualifying to split the classes into 6 groups, as 90+ drivers filing into turn 1 would end in disaster. Each driver then competed in 5 heats across Saturday & Sunday before a grand final on Sunday to decide the 2017 World Champions.
CIK FIA World Junior Champion – Dexter Patterson (GBR)
The run up to the event suggested that it would be the Harry Thompson & Johnny Edgar show, the pair had fought all year for the European Championship, which is now in Edgars hands. Chris Lulham also looked like he could be a major player, but his last few races have been plagued with mechanical problems. However, qualifying saw Thompson & Lulham top the time sheets. Italian Francesco Raffaele Pizzi in a very close 3rd. Jack Doohan, who has secured the Australian title was 4th. Edgar was down in 41st, 0.547s off the pace. Once the drivers had been split into their 6 groups, the heats started.
Thompson had an almost perfect run in the heats, winning all but 1, where he finished 2nd to Gabriel Bortoleto of Brazil. That allowed him to bag pole for the final. Lulham would sit 2nd with Dexter Patterson sitting 3rd. Both won 2 heats while finishing 2nd in the other 3. Zane Maloney of Barbados would have a strong run to line up 4th, having won 2 heats, only being off the podium once. Aleksey Brizhan also won 2 heats to line up 5th. Gabriel Bortoleto and Jack Doohan both won 1 heat each, leaving them 6th & 7th overall. By contrast Edgars weekend went from bad to worse. He managed to come home 4th in his first heat, but took a 10 second penalty due to a dropped nose cone, dropping him to 16th. Even though he had a good run in his 2nd heat to 3rd, he didn’t finish heat 3, leaving him 28th. He lined up 26th for the final encounter.
Only the top 34 drivers would take part in the 22 lap final encounter. Off the start it would be Patterson who would take the lead under the Litchfield bridge. Thompson dropped down the order with Maloney and Lulham who put pressure on the leader. Lulham made it passed Maloney to join his team mate at the front of the field, pushing Patterson hard for the entire race. The Forza Racing duo would hold pull away from the chasing pack allowing them to fill the top 2 places on the podium. Maloney dropped down the field later on, allowing Thompson to retake 3rd place to complete a British 1-2-3. The star of the race would be Shabib Al Habsi, who started from 15th eventually driving through to finish 4th. Tyler Gonzales would come home 5th on the road, but would drop down due to a 10s penalty. That promoted Maloney back to 5th and Doohan up to 6th. Edgar would retire on lap 3.
2017 World Karting Champion Danny Keirle (GBR)
The 87 strong entry list was full of some huge names. Rasmus Lindh, Pedro Hiltbrand & Esteban Muth were all in attendance, as well as some of the UK’s top drivers including GP winner Oliver Hodgson and X30 Champion Danny Keirle, However, it would be Callum Bradshaw who had the upper hand in qualifying chased closely by Russia’s Pavel Bulantsev. Top Brit was Fin Kenneally in 4th, just behind Juho Valtanen. Keirle and Muth would be 7th & 8th leaving the team mates in different groups. GP winner Hodgson was 13th with top seed Sami Taoufik down in 28th.
Keirle had a near perfect run by winning 4/5 heats, only loosing out to Pavel Bulantsev in heat 1. Pedro Hiltbrand had a similar fate, but lost out to Keirle and Lorenzo Travisanutto. Valtanen and David Vidales Ajenjo both won a heat each, but David dropped out of the top 3 on his final heat. Hodgson had a tough start, loosing 3rd in heat 1 due to a 10s penalty, that coupled with a tough final heat left him 9th on the grid.
When the lights went out, Keirle took control from the front, holding the lead, his team mate Muth fought through from his 5th place start to complete a Chiesa Corse 1-2. Behind the charging Muth was Oliver Hodgson, who moved from 9th to 3rd by the flag. The results wouldn’t stay that way, as Muth & Hodgson were both handed 10s penalties for contact, dropping them to 10th & 14th. This allowed David Vidales Ajenjo to claim 2nd while Juho Valtanen returned to his grid position in 3rd. Pedro Hiltbrand dropped out of the race in the early stages, ending his chance at defending his title.
After a weekends racing, we now have two more British world champions, who won their titles on home soil. The likes of Patterson, Lulham & Thompson will be wanting to follow in the footsteps of Max Verstappen, who also won a karting world championship. Especially as Thompson is now a Red Bull Junior driver, along with Edgar and Doohan. Keirle on the other hand, claimed the world title at his first attempt. It tops off a mega year for him, which saw him seal the X30 GP Plate & British Championship against some of the UK’s best drivers. What will come next for Keirle?
Words: Tom Gibson (@WA10Tom)
Image: CIK FIA