When asked by the Boar if I fancied heading down to Warwick Motorsport’s Driver Development Programme to test karts that reached up to 70mph, I remember the assault I subjected my laptop keyboard to repeatedly typing the word ‘YES’. It turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but was I in any way ready for it? Probably not.
The day started like any other for me, rolling out of bed at 5:30am (honest) having a shower and wearily sighing at the increasingly non-existent prospect of revision. I could barely hide my excitement at the idea of a day spent bombing round the Whilton Mill circuit in Northamptonshire. Warwick Motorsport’s Driver Development Officer Callum Brewell would drive me all the way to the track. Callum’s job is basically to make sure everyone involved enjoys karting as much as possible at the expense of his own time on track. Despite being an accomplished driver with GT Academy he sacrifices his own enjoyment to prioritise others. Basically, I would say he is the equivalent of Jesus if Jesus was a white van man.
It turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but was I in any way ready for it? Probably not.
As the day’s racing commenced the first thing I noticed was the noise; it immerses you in that grand prix atmosphere, feeding your Button/Hamilton delusions. Two karts were on show, the ‘less’ powerful TKM which had around 15 BHP and the other Rotax at 32 BHP. When you factor in these karts weigh as much as helium balloons, they effectively feel like rockets.
As my turn arrived, my lack of experience beyond Xbox started to creep into the back of my mind. At least I was earning the ‘Absolute Boarginner’ tag and there was no backing out now. Tentatively I stepped on the throttle. The first couple of corners I intently focused on keeping concentration and getting the car round, but then coming up to a clean straight, I floored it. Adrenaline. Pure, insane unadulterated adrenaline. I had never felt anything like it in my life and started whooping like an excited child. I was Ayrton Senna, flying round the bends of Monaco, Silverstone and Spa setting lap record after lap record… Then a seven-year-old overtook me. To clarify, this seven-year-old and others like him are known as ‘cadets’, they join racing teams at a very young age and seem to have a suspiciously high number of days off school. Maybe I was overtaken by a future F1 champion, I was overtaken by a lot of people that day, maybe I was just a bit rubbish.
At this point. I momentarily lapsed in concentration and spun. Frustrated I looked to the heavens for answers. Nothing doing. Sighing sluggishly, I got out of the car to see Callum running towards me shouting. In karting, the protocol for spinning off is to let any nearby traffic pass, then once the track is clear, get the car as far off the racing line as possible. One of the race stewards beckoned me over. “Listen son” he said, “I’ve been doing this for nearly 50 years, and I’ve seen people killed doing what you just did there.” I mumbled something apologetic. I would hate this encounter to put anyone off joining the society or karting because realistically the chances of getting hurt are miniscule, but you have to accept that what you’re doing is racing, and that dicking about could have a heavy price.
Maybe I was overtaken by a future F1 champion, I was overtaken by a lot of people that day, maybe I was just a bit rubbish.
After that I lost the psychological battle. I wanted to drive faster but it was like there was a mental block stopping me: that moment of hesitation those seven- year old future champions never develop. If I raced more I’m sure I could overcome it, as many of Warwick Motorsport have. Andrew Tyrell, a long-term member was telling me how it took him two years to have the steel to drive flat-out. I should say once again all the team were absolutely brilliant and a far cry from ‘boring engineer’ stereotypes. Callum was telling me how he found the car I drove “actually quite slow” and another member Kyle Roberts tasked himself with going out in the pouring rain on slicks for the sole purpose of drifting. It was a sight to behold, especially when he momentarily lost the rear of the car on the corner closest to the pit lane. Without wanting to sound like an Oscar-winning actor thanking all of his backroom staff from personal stylist to coffee-fetcher, the point of this all is I had an amazing day and I sincerely hope I can do something like it again.