Apart from a short try in a Bambino kart at Buckmore Park, Alex’s first experience of petrol karts was at Daytona Sandown Park in summer 2011. Daytona run a superb race school which in turn qualifies the driver to race in their Inkart championship. The race school was 2.5 days and a simply brilliant introduction into karting.
The Sandown Park track is incredibly flexible enabling them to reconfigure the track into at least 6 different layouts, all of which can also be run in reverse. This makes for a really interesting Kart Championship, all run out of the one venue (ie no need to travel round the country to different circuits).
Also the staff were (and still are when we visit) really friendly. In fact the huge attraction of Sandown was its friendly social atmosphere with lots of time for parents to chill out and chat whilst their kids also had a great time with one another. Great if you aren’t interested in the mechanical side of karting! Its fair to say that we made some great friends which continue to this day.
So what about the karting? Well its fair to say it was mixed. Whilst the speeds aren’t as fast as our own Honda Cadet and now TKM karts, the competition is just as challenging. During our time at Daytona we had some good close tussles with various other drivers, including one of Alex’s now best friends, Luke who was a hard determined racer who never gave any quarter (no, I won’t you let forget that side by side moment through the chicane Luke :)).
One interesting aspect of racing at Daytona is the use of slicks regardless of conditions. I think it was Jenson Button’s dad who reportedly made his son race on slicks in the wet and I guess if it worked for him, no harm done! Certainly it made for some great races where conditions were chopping and changing, teaching them the importance of reading the track conditions, finding the drying line etc.
So why did we move on ? A number of reasons. Firstly we became tired of karts being a little inconsistent at times. At each race meeting by the end of the first heat it would be clear which kart was a ‘duffer’ and from then on my heart would sink if Alex was placed in it for one of his races.
The staff would do their best to work around this but still it would happen and this feeling of the outcome being out of our hands was frustrating. For some, the many merits of Sandown outweighted this happening on occasions but for us, with me being mechanically minded, we wanted to be more in control of our own destiny.
Also as already stated, I’ve always been quite mechanically minded, spending much of my 20s rebuilding engines, gearboxes etc So the idea of working on and maintaining our own kart was quite appealing.
Finally in the Cadet and Junior classes there was no equalisation of weight. This meant that when Alex was one of the younger, lighter drivers in cadets, he was competitive but, as he became one of the heavier ones it became harder and harder to do well, at least in the dry.
So it was that in late 2012 we went to see a race meeting at Camberley Kart Club and bought Alex’s his first own Honda Cadet kart for Christmas. Alex also passed his MSA ARKS test in 2012 meaning he could start racing his own kart in MSA race meetings.
We actually carried on racing at Sandown for about half of 2013 because we so enjoyed being with our Daytona friends, whilst also starting to race in Honda Cadets at other circuits. The weight issue though became more and more of a problem so that, in late 2013 we finally stopped attending Daytona. It was actually a really difficult decision because it was such fun, at least most of the time!
We still go to Daytona for the occasional special race meeting, catch up with our Daytona mates and look back with fond memories. More recently Daytona have been running a DMax Championship using 2 stroke engines, karts weights levelled for all drivers and visiting different circuits around the country. Some of our karting friends, now 14 and therefore eligible, are participating in this championship and, if we hadn’t gone and bought our own kart, we would probably be joining this as it combines the best of both worlds……unless of course you want to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty, like us 🙂