Editor’s Note- It only took Max Verstappen a year to get from karting to F1 so you never know who may be on the fast track to the grid. Our own Dave M. gives us a rundown on the recent event.
This past weekend saw the World Karting Championships take place at the Paul Fletcher International circuit in the United Kingdom, this covered two classes:
- OK-Junior (125cc water cooled direct drive karts for drivers aged 12-14);
- OK (125cc water cooled direct drive karts for drivers aged 15 and over).
The freedom to use a power valve in the senior class and the use of different tyres, resulted in lap times that were close to 2 seconds a lap faster than for the junior drivers. A total of 185 drivers were entered in the meeting (91 in the seniors and 94 in the juniors) coming from all over the world.
Practice started on Thursday, with qualifying for both classes held on Friday. This determined which of six equally sized groups each driver would compete within. The fastest driver in group A, second in group B, third fastest in group C down to the sixth fastest in group F. The sequence then starts again with the seventh fastest in group A and so until all drivers are allocated a group.
Each group then races each other group through a series of heats such that each driver races in five heats across the Friday to Sunday. Each driver starts each heat from the position they qualified in, the fastest driver on pole for every race with the second fastest in his group behind him etc. Points are awarded for each heat equal to the drivers finishing positions 2 points for second place, 10 points for tenth place etc. The exception is the winner gets zero points. At the end of all the heats, each driver’s total score is added up and the 34 lowest scoring drivers qualified for the world championship final held on Sunday afternoon. In the event of a tie on points, then the driver’s original qualifying position would be used to determine the relative positions of the tied drivers.
The 94 drivers covered 22 different nationalities, with the host country tying with Italy in providing the largest number of competitors with 14 junior drivers each. Qualifying saw two drivers disqualified for failing to fit transponders, although they were allowed to start the heats from the back, and one fail to set a time, leaving 93 to go through to the heats. Of these the top drivers were:
- Harry Thompson GREAT BRITAIN
- Christopher Lulham GREAT BRITAIN
- Francesco Raffaele Pizzi ITALY
- Jack Doohan AUSTRALIA
- Alesky Brizhan RUSSIA
- Alexander Simmonds GREAT BRITAIN
- Gabriel Bortoleto BRAZIL
- Zane Maloney BARBADOS
- O’neill Muth GERMANY
- Dexter Patterson GREAT BRITAIN
- Luigi Coluccio ITALY
- Luca Griggs GREAT BRITAIN
These twelve drivers would start on the front two rows of every heat they raced in, and would be the ones most likely to progress to the front of the final.
Eight drivers won at least one of the fifteen heats, seven of them had good results in their other heats and filled the top seven places in the final, the eighth though (O’neill Muth) had a poor result in his third heat, being classified 25th, and as a result started down in 14th position. The top ten for the junior final looked like this:
- Harry Thompson GREAT BRITAIN (four wins, one 2nd)
- Christopher Lulham GREAT BRITAIN (two wins, three 2nd)
- Dexter Patterson GREAT BRITAIN (two wins, three 2nd)
- Zane Maloney BARBADOS (two wins, one 2nd, one 3rd, one 4th)
- Aleksey Brizham RUSSIA (two wins, two 3rd, one 4th)
- Gabriel Bortoleto BRAZIL (one win, two 2nd, one 4th, one 5th)
- Jack Doohan AUSTRALIA (one win, one 2nd, one 3rd, one 4th, one 5th)
- Antoine Potty BELGIUM (one 5th, three 6th, one 7th)
- Tyler Gonzales USA (two 2nd, one 6th, one 9th, one 11th)
- Dino Beganovic SWEDEN (three 5th, one 7th, one 11th)
At the start of the 19 lap final Thompson lead away from pole, but Patterson was quickly on the move up into second, and by the end of the first lap he had taken the lead from Thompson. Lulham lost out dropping to fourth as Maloney moved up to third. The first four were nose to tail before a slight gap too fifth placed Bortoleto. On the second lap, Thompson retook the lead, with Maloney following through into second and Patterson dropping to third, this pushing both he and fourth placed Lulham back into the following group of Bortoleto, Potty and Doohan.
Lap three saw Potty and Doohan pass Bortoleto which enabled the lead for to once again establish a gap. On lap four Patterson moved into the lead, with Thompson falling back to third. This allowed Patterson to pull all of 0.4 seconds away at the front with only 0.4 seconds covering the next six karts. The fifth lap saw Lulham move up into third place, relegating Thompson back to fourth. On lap six Alexander Simmonds, who had started in 12th place and by this stage had worked his way up to fifth, was eliminated as a result of a coming together at the first hairpin as Maloney attempte to take the lead. The end result was Patterson lead by 0.9 seconds from Lulham who was 0.7 seconds clear of Thompson before a massive 2.2 seconds gap to Bortoleto. Maloney meanwhile dropped to 11th place.
With the top three now having some free air between them, things settled down while the pack from fourth down continued to fight over the lower places. Gonzales managed to pass Bortoleto for fourth on lap 8 although on lap 15 he would lose this place to an impressive Shihab Al Habsi who started down in 15th place, while at the front Lulham was slowly catching Patterson at a tenth or two per lap, at the same time pulling away from Thompson. By lap 12 he was within two tenths, and from then on was never further than a tenth away. As team mates, they elected not to fight with each other (which would have allowed their rivals to close in), but Lulham appeared to be waiting to make his decisive move on the final lap. Patterson seemed aware of this intention, and pulled out a very slight gap on the final lap eliminating any hope Lulham had of passing him. He crossed the line a tenth of a second in front to take an emotional victory. As a Scot he seemed pleased to receive his winner’s trophy from fellow Scottish World Champion Allan McNish.
OK-Junior World Champion 2017 Dexter Patterson
2nd Place Christopher Lulham
3rd Place Harry Thompson
For the senior class, the drivers have to be over fifteen, and some are very experienced kart racers who have many years at the top level of the sport. Of the 91 drivers entered in this class, only 87 participated representing 25 countries. With 20 drivers, the host nation was again the most numerous. Six ‘golden ticket’ entries were available to British karters selected by the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association, this may help to explain the quantity of British drivers racing. One driver was excluded for being underweight, and would start the heats from the back. The top twelve qualifiers were:
- Callum Bradshaw GREAT BRITAIN
- Pavel Bulantsev RUSSIA
- Juho Valtanen FINLAND
- Finlay Keneally GREAT BRITAIN
- Louie Westover GREAT BRITAIN
- Lorenzo Travisanutto ITALY
- Danny Keirle GREAT BRITAIN
- Esteban Muth GERMANY
- Rasmus Lindh SWEDEN
- Adam Eteki FRANCE
- David Vidales Ajenjo SPAIN
- Glenn Van Berlo NETHERLANDS
Unlike in the OK-Juniors, not all of the heat winners made it through to the final, one (Felice Tiene) was excluded from the meeting for ‘ignoring the Code of Driving Conduct several times’ A couple of the others: Lorenzo Travsanutto and Pavel Bulantsev had two bad results each, so started all the way down in 30th and 23rd place respectively. The top ten for the OK final were:
- Danny Keirle GREAT BRITAIN (four wins, one 2nd)
- Pedro Hiltbrand Aguilar SPAIN (three wins, two 2nd)
- Juho Valtanen FINLAND (one win, three 2nd, one 3rd)
- David Vidales Ajenjo SPAIN (one win, two 2nd, one 3rd, one 4th)
- Esteban Muth GERMANY (one win, one 2nd, two 3rd, one 4th)
- Finlay Kenneally GREAT BRITAIN (one win, one 2nd, one 3rd, two 8th)
- Paavo Tonteri FINLAND (one 3rd, one 4th, two 5th, one 6th)
- Gianluca De Castro Petecof BRAZIL (one 4th, one 5th, two 6th, one 7th)
- Oliver Hodgson GREAT BRITAIN (one 2nd, two 3rd, one 5th, one 16th)
- Noah Milell SWEDEN (one 2nd, one 3rd, one 4th, one 6th, one 14th)
At the start of the 22 lap race Keirle held his lead as Valtanen moved into second with Muth coming up into third. Hiltbrand Aguilar and Vidales Ajenjo dropping back to fourth and fifth as the even side of the grid made a poor getaway. By the end of the opening lap Muth had moved into second and Vidales Ajenjo into fourth. Lap two saw Hodgson move into fifth and Hilbrand Aguilar dropped out of the race the following lap. The front runners then remained static for the next few laps with the top four circulating very closely with fifth placed Hodgson a second behind them. On lap eight Vidales Ajenjo passed Valtanen for third. Further back, the driver on the move was Travsanutto, who had bythis stage made his way from 30th place up to 18th, he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race on lap 16 by which time he had got into 16th place, although he would climb no higher and would drop back to 17th on the road by the finish.
At the front, a failed overtaking attempt allowed Keirle to double his lead to 0.4 seconds on lap 9, and although Muth did not lose second place, he was under pressure from behind, and the battling prevented the chasers from catching the leader. The top six positions remained unchanged to the flag, with the Keirle looking completely in control every lap except for the final time into the first hairpin, when he overshot the apex by a foot or so and allowed the chasing Muth to close to 0.2 seconds by the flag. As they finished on the road the top six were:
- Danny Keirle
- Esteban Muth
- David Vidales Ajenjo
- Juho Valtanen
- Oliver Hodgson
- Paavo Toteri
Karting is a non-contact sport, and to assist with the enforcement of this rule, the front fairing of a kart is designed that if a driver makes contact with the kart in front, the fairing is pushed back out of position. At the end of the race, any driver with the front fairing out of position receives a ten second penalty. While in the OK-Junior, these penalties did not affect the podium places, in the senior class it certainly did. Amongst the nine time penalties awarded were penalties for Esteban Muth and Oliver Hodgson, who dropped down the results to 10th and 14th places respectively. The final results were:
OK World Karting Champion 2017 Danny Keirle
2nd David Vidales Ajenjo
3rd Juho Valteanen
Congratulations to all those who won trophies, I am sure we will see some of these drivers over the coming years as they progress through the car racing series towards a career as a professional racing driver, be that in single seaters, touring cars or sports cars.
One thing I was very surprised about was the lack of publicity for the whole event, at just £5 entry for an adult (accompanied children were admitted free of charge), I expected the circuit to be packed. While there were a few more people watching than a typical club race meeting, most of these were team personnel. It was an opportunity to see some stars of tomorrow racing and the next opportunity may be on a support race to the Grands Prix, where a ticket will cost significantly more. Full entry lists and results are available on the CIK website should you want to keep a look out for the drivers as their careers progress.
For those that are interested, a video of the OK final