THE opening round of Llandow Kart Club’s 2014 season was blessed with a rare dry and sunny day amidst the winter storms and rewarded those that turned out with some close racing.

In all, 56 drivers got their campaigns under way, with some old faces in unfamiliar surroundings doing battle with club stalwarts determined to show the whipper snappers that they still had a trick or two up their sleeves.

Although only three Bambinos were on track – with regulars Ella Stevens and Nathan Browning joined by newcomer Max Hall – there were a few changes for the youngest competitors to deal with, starting with a new format and the challenge of running on the full circuit for the first time. The category’s timed ‘events’ ran for eight minutes, plus one lap, with some hasty recalculation of target times required to determine which award each merited. While Stevens was unlucky to suffer two DNFs in her four outings, she – like her rivals – did enough to merit a gold medal. Hall, meanwhile, belied his ‘new boy’ status by posting the fastest lap of the day.

Cadet numbers were a little down on their 2013 highs – a result as much of graduations as anything – but that did not mean that the expected frontrunners had life easy. Despite that, the results will show that reigning champion Ethan Ling dominated the Honda side of the field, while Shay Keough (IAME) and Max Fenlon claimed three wins from four in their respective classes. Keough missed out on a clean sweep when Joshua Davis beat him to the line by 0.1secs in the final, while Fenlon was denied a similar feat by Connor Kearney’s success during the heats. Harry King and Stuart Ferguson completed the Honda podium, with Thomas Nippers (IAME), Kearney and Shayne Clarke (both Comer) doing likewise in the other classes.

Junior Honda featured five runners, including novice Jack Bligh, but proved to be the domain of Celtic Challenge champion Kristian Prosser, who claimed victory in all three heats before cruising to an 11second win in the final. Behind him, the order was largely the same, with only Patrick Hill’s heat three DSQ denying him a quartet of second places. Bligh took a creditable third, with Alex Wilkins and Sofia Nardone next up.

Like Prosser, Rob Ellis remained unbeaten in Junior Rotax, sweeping the field to make a strong start to his championship defence. Behind him, David Spiller led the pursuit, eventually claiming runners-up spot in all four races. Tom Croydon completed the podium in the final, but not before MiniMax graduate Ceran Sokhi had taken his own turn in P3 during the heats. Lone MiniMax runner Riley Phillips, meanwhile, made a strong impression.

Junior TKM numbers rose to seven, but it was the familiar name of reigning club champion Yousuf Ashraf at the head of the timesheets in all but one outing. Hugo Holmes interrupted the sweep, winning heat three, but could not find quite enough to repeat in what turned out to be an epic final, eventually crossing the line 0.1secs shy of Ashraf. Sam Johns completed the first podium of 2014, but had had to share third places with Alex Rees and reigning Cadet Comer champion Tom Rawlings in the heats.

Senior Honda made a positive start to the new season with seven runners on track, but there was a new name to the fore, with former Junior Honda powerhouse Ben Stevens making an impressive debut by sweeping all four races. The interloper – who earned his second consecutive ‘Driver of the Day’ award - did not have it easy in the final, getting involved in a first turn accident that called for a restart, but had enough in hand to deny fellow junior graduate Cristiano Nardone and veteran Paul Saunders in the main event. Monty Gorringe had looked set for a possible podium prior to a late technical black flag, allowing Jack Hixon into fourth spot.

With numbers a little down in Senior Rotax, and some regulars AWOL, the door was open for new faces to make an early mark at the sharp end. Gareth Taylor and Sebastian Hutchinson were not about to waste the opportunity and, after Taylor had claimed the heats battle by two wins to one, the pair waged battle in the final, before Hutchinson eventually came out on top by just over a second. Scott Rose completed the podium in the main event, having shared the spot with Tom Stride and Dilip Singh in the qualifying races.

Round two of the 2014 championship takes place at the South Wales Karting Centre on Sunday , March 16.

Results were:

Bambino: Gold Award - Nathan Browning (CRG), Ella Stevens (CK) and Max Hall.

Cadet Honda: 1, Ethan Ling; 2, Harry King; 3, Stuart Ferguson (all Project One).

Cadet Comer: 1, Max Fenlon (RK Birel); 2, Connor Kearney (Zip); 3, Shayne Clarke (Zip).

Cadet Iame: 1, Joshua Davis; 2, Shay Keough; 3, Thomas Nippers (all Zip).

Junior Honda: 1, Kristian Prosser (7Kart); 2, Patrick Hill (Wright); 3, Jack Bligh (7Kart).

Junior TKM: 1, Yousuf Ashraf (Jade); 2, Hugo Holmes (Tonykart); 3, Sam Johns (Jade).

Junior Rotax: 1, Rob Ellis (Kosmic); 2, David Spiller (Alonso); 3, Tom Croydon (Gillard).

Mini Max: 1, Riley Phillips (Kosmic).

Senior Honda: 1, Ben Stevens; 2, Cristiano Nardone; 3, Paul Saunders (all 7Kart).

Senior Rotax: 1, Sebastian Hutchinson (Tonykart); 2, Gareth Taylor (Tonykart); 3, Scott Rose (CRG).

Best novice: Jack Bligh (Junior Honda).

Driver of the day: Ben Stevens (Senior Honda).