AFTER the turn of fortune that left April’s event cold and wet, Llandow Kart Club was once again graced by dry and sunny conditions when it reconvened for the blue riband Welsh Kart Championships.
The two-day meeting, complete with timed qualifying in addition to the usual heats and finals, attracted around 70 entries across eight classes as the event doubled as round four of Llandow’s summer championship, but with the added incentive of earning the coveted ‘C’ plate for the next 12 months.
In the absence of the Bambino class – a major contrast to April’s meeting, which had seen 28 of the nation’s youngest racers converge on South Wales as part of their national tour and whose latest round clashed with the Welsh Championships – it was left to the Cadets to kick off proceedings on Saturday.
With 23 runners spread across Honda (14), Comer (3) and IAME (6) categories, the Cadets again created a spectacle on track, but it was the IAME machine of form driver Shay Keough generally to the fore. Winner of the past two club rounds, Keough held sway until it really mattered, when pre-Final runner-up Ethan Rees turned the tables to claim the title by 0.199secs. Callum Bradshaw completed the podium.
Comer honours went to Max Fenlon, who only had Shayne Clarke to beat after Celtic champion Connor Kearney fell by the wayside, while the Honda class was fought out between Joshua Martin, Harry King and Ferguson brothers Oscar and Stuart. While the Fergusons shared qualifying race wins with Martin, it was the latter who came out on top in the final, edging King by 0.001secs. As the Fergusons faded, Will Uphill came through to complete the podium ahead of Jack Fordham and Louis Harvey.
The usual quintet of Honda Junior drivers renewed their fight for silverware, and Patrick Hill gave regular pacesetter Kristian Prosser a wake-up call by winning the opening heat. Prosser responded by claiming heat two and the pre-final, but Hill proved that his early success had been no fluke by returning to the front in the final, claiming the Welsh title by a little over a tenth of a second. Eight-tenths further back, Jack Bligh made up for his April disappointment by completing the podium. Alex Wilkins and Sofia Nardone made up the field, with the latter later being nominated for the prestigious Kath Denscombe Memorial Award for her ‘dedication and enthusiasm.’
A dozen drivers turned out in Junior TKM, with Scott Morris and Alex Rees sharing top spot in the heats and pre-final. Come the main event, however, and it appeared that reigning Welsh champion Yousuf Ashraf had saved his best for last, only to fall foul of a post-race exclusion. With provisional third-placed runner Sam Johns also a victim of the scrutineers, the final podium saw reigning Welsh champion from the Cadet Comer class, Tom Rawlings, add a second national title, ahead of Ryan Edwards and Ross Deal.
The Junior Rotax and Minimax classes shared the track for their qualifying races before being split for separate finals. As has been the case all season, Rob Ellis held sway amongst the Juniors, topping every session before claiming the Welsh title by over a second from Ryan Luscombe, with Tom Ford in third place. Mention should be made of Tom Croydon, who broke his wrist after flipping his kart in heat two, but returned to the track to follow proceedings later in the day.
The results of the Minimax class were only confirmed following the main presentation, but saw Ethan Ling come out on top by 0.5secs ahead of fellow heat winner Harry Gooding, with Riley Phillips – who had topped second qualifying on Sunday morning – in third place.
Senior Honda produced a fairy-tale win for one of the class’ stalwarts as Chris Lipscomb finally claimed the Welsh crown after 13 years of trying. The national series regular won three of the four races, but was denied a clean sweep by Monty Gorringe’s success in the pre-final. In the main event, both Gorringe and Danny Griffiths kept Lipscomb honest, with the latter eventually emerging as runner-up, as Gorringe had to settle for third despite crossing the line 0.6secs behind the winner. Nick Turley similarly edged reigning club champion Paul Saunders for fourth.
Senior Rotax numbers may not match those seen in recent years, but the 10 runners ensured that the meeting ended on a high. As he had in the April club meeting, Josh Gray appeared to be in control after claiming victory in the two heats, but Zach Jones refused to roll over and edged the pre-final to claim pole for the main event. The pair remained closely matched, but, ultimately, it was Jones who came out on top, taking the Welsh title by a couple of tenths, as Gray crossed the line ahead of Ashley Lewis and Kasey Watson.
As well as the Kath Denscombe Memorial Award, other drivers were rewarded for meritorious performances that fell short of the podium. In classes that numbered at least six drivers, circuit commentator – and new ‘face of British GT’ on MotorsTV - Henry Beaudette decided that these should go to Jack Fordham (Cadet Honda), Jonny Wilkinson (Cadet IAME), Jack Johns (Junior TKM), Jodie Handford (Junior Max), Jack Hixon (Senior Honda) and Tom Stride (Senior Max). Meanwhile, Jack Bligh (Junior Honda) took ‘Best Novice’ honours, while Shay Keough received the ‘Driver of the Day’ nomination.
The most prestigious award of the weekend, however, went to someone not taking part on track. Following in the footsteps of inaugural recipient, the late Richard Dowers, who was recognised for his contribution to the administration and organisation of Welsh karting, the 2014 Harry and Evelyn Maund Memorial Award was presented to Peter Stephens, who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport in a quite different way.
Noted as ‘one to watch’ in 1971, his first year of karting, he went on to achieve outstanding success at national and international events. A Welsh champion on at least 17 occasions, Stephens remained a perennial contender well into the 1990s, as well as becoming the first Welshman to win the Wessex and Midland Championships; the first Welshman to make the seven-man British team, and the second to make the four-man national squad. Since ‘retiring’ from the track, he has become a familiar sight in the pits, where his knowledge, technical expertise and advice continue to assist and support new generations of young karters.
The Welsh Championships would not have been possible without the support of various sponsors and Llandow Kart Club would like to thank BSC Controls, Kartmania 2014, Lewis Motors, Llandow Kart Shop, ProKart Engineering, Rumney MOT Centre, Silver Fox Karting, South Wales Karting Centre, Talko, THR Graphics and Zip Karts for their involvement.
Round five of the 2014 Llandow club championship takes place at South Wales Karting Centre on Sunday, June 15.
Cadet Honda: 1, Joshua Martin (BRK); 2, Harry King (Project One); 3, Will Uphill (Project One).
Cadet |Comer: 1, Max Fenlon (RK Birel); 2, Shayne Clarke (Zip); 3, Connor Kearney (Zip).
Cadet IAME: 1, Ethan Rees; 2, Shay Keough; 3, Callum Bradshaw (all Zip).
Junior Honda: 1, Patrick Hill (Wright); 2, Kristian Prosser (7Kart); 3, Jack Bligh (7Kart).
Junior TKM: 1, Tom Rawlings (Tonykart); 2, Ryan Edwards (Tonykart); 3, Ross Deal (Jade).
Junior Rotax: 1, Rob Ellis (Kosmic); 2, Ryan Luscombe (Kosmic); 3, Tom Ford (CRG).
Mini Max: 1, Ethan Ling (CRG); 2, Harry Gooding (Kosmic); 3, Riley Phillips (Kosmic).
Senior Honda: 1, Chris Lipscomb (7Kart); 2, Danny Griffiths (MS); 3, Monty Gorringe (7Kart).
Senior Rotax: 1, Zach Jones (Jade); 2, Josh Gray (Tonykart); 3, Ashley Lewis (CRG).
Best novice: Jack Bligh (Junior Honda).
Driver of the day: Shay Keough (Cadet IAME).
Kath Denscombe Memorial Award: Sofia Nardone (Junior Honda).
Harry and Evelyn Maund Memorial Award: Peter Stephens.