This weekend was James’s first MSUK race since he completed his ARKS test in December. We are absolutely over the moon after the weekend. James’s performance far surpassed anything we could have hoped for.
Friday 21st February – Testing
We left the house at 5am! These mornings are really starting to get earlier. I had spent the night before getting our clothes packed, with snacks – enough for each of the three days. Darren had managed to pack up the car the on Thursday night too, so we were set to go first thing. Once the shell shock from 4:50 alarms wore off, we bundled James and Lucy into the car – onsies on – and set off on our trip down to Whilton Mill in Daventry.
We were heading to a 3 day weekend of karting. Practice Friday / Saturday followed by our first MSUK race on Sunday. Joining us at Whilton was Finn Leslie and family. They have taken us under their wing in the world of karting, and supporting us no end. James and Finn have really become good friends. Its great to see how much they are invested in each others success.
This weekend, we ran with a new team called Ultimate-R. Ben fortunately had a space for us when we decided to attend Whilton last minute after GYG had cancelled the weekend before because of the bad weather.
Arriving at the track
Leaving James and Darren to get the kart out of the car and into the lovely awning – complete with light, power and heating! I nipped down to the shop, to get a number of items on the shopping list! I had pre-ordered wet weather gloves (James loved these) and boots (came up too small – even when a size bigger – and I need to return them) brake pads, break cleaner and chain lube. When I got back with the parts, Finn and James were on a track walk. Giving the parts to Darren to fit, I wandered off to look around too.
We run an Alfano 6 and usually manage our own data. Ben at Ultimate-R uses the Mychron, and was able to lend one to us. This meant that we could compare data with Finn and the other girl there called Skye. Data means we can see where the drivers have strengths and weaknesses.
The whole day was fantastic, and the drivers got a total of 7 sessions on the track. I love watching them go out and try different lines, finding the breaking points and feeling the grip. The use of data means we can really show them the improvements (or otherwise) from the different sessions in the hope of putting together good fast laps. James and Finn were absolutely flying.
This was James’s first time out on his LS3 tyres – the new cadet tyre for 2020. The tyre is much stickier than the LS2’s even in the cooler temperatures.
Saturday 22nd February – Practice
What a glorious day! Bright and dry. The day didn’t go as well as Friday. James had a bout of self doubt. He was almost trying too hard to get improve his times and became more ragged in his driving style. He got a little upset when looking at the data and felt he was being compared negatively. James is by far the harshest critic on himself. He amazes both me and his Dad every time he gets out on track.
Ben at Ultimate-R was nothing short of amazing with him. Taking time to try and understand where James was coming from. Adjusting his coaching technique to get the best out of James. Frustratingly, he made little progress in terms of the numbers, but where he would normally get quite cross with himself, James kept a much cooler head and continued to push on.
Sunday 23rd February – Race Day
Being James’s first MSUK race, we didn’t have too high an expectations. We know that his nerves often get the better of him. Today was different. James was cool, calm and collected. He was excited and determined. As James is on a Novice Licence, he has to start his heats at the back. This gives new drivers a bit more space. It keeps them out of the ‘thick of it’ so they can focus on themselves once on track.
In good company, and there was 9 novice drivers at Whilton Mill. This included the 2001 Formula 1 Champion, David Coulthard’s Son! Darren was a little star struck to say the least!
A fully dry session, James set of in 7th of the novice drivers. He got a really good start and pushed forward really well. A few drivers got a little stuck in traffic, but James drove straight through. Sticking some great moves, he was driving in 16th position at one point. 16th, against some of the very best drivers in the UK. For some, their experience paid off and they passed him, but heroically, he crossed the line in 19th out of 33 drivers.
The heavens had opened! Darren had had to change tyres. From Slicks – to intermediate – to wets! All the other mechanics were changing gearing as well as tyres. We were just not that organised. James set off as 3rd Novice on a full dry set up – but with wet tyres. Sadly this put him off the pace, but he drove a great heat, coming over the line in 27th.
James set off from 23rd. On the outside of the track he got leaned on and pushed wide, which left him last (32nd). Determined like I’ve never seen before, he got the bit between his teeth and pushed on. Sticking moves and late braking. His fastest lap time of the weekend, and crossing the line in 22nd! Go kn my boy ❤️
Sadly got a nose cone penalty, james thinks from the first corner cufuffle), so officially placed 25th.
We have been counting down the sleeps to Wombwell IKR Round 6! This is the only track that James has actually raced on before. He has had a little bit more seat time since then. He’s done some rounds of the scholarship at Three Sisters Circuit, and a couple of indoor sessions at Teamsport Leeds. (Indoor karting is completely different to outdoor though).
We left the house at a relatively respectable 7am. Picked up the trailer and set off down the motorway. Wombwell is by far one of the easiest tracks to get to from Harrogate (North Yorkshire). The A1 was once again, kind to us. Arriving in good time, we set up with the rest of the Mark Baines Motorsport Team for our first day of driver coaching with them. We’ve had one day with a driver coach before [you can read about that here]. We plan to try and have a few days with different teams to learn how everyone does things differently. Each time on track we all seem to learn something new – myself and Darren (dad.husband.mechanic) in particular.
First order of the day is to get James signed on. Signing on means heading to race control and confirming that he is present to drive for the weekend. Following that its grab a cup of tea from the butty van. By now the mechanic has the trailer parked and door open waiting for a lift with the kart. Trolley out, we haul the kart up an onto it. James’s kart weighs around 75kg (with his weights added) – so its a two person lift! I am not entirely sure what Darren then does for the next hour or so but I went on a track walk with James – Lucy in tow on her scooter. As we land back into the paddock, Mark and the other drivers from his team are heading out on a track walk, so James goes again too.
Racing at Wombwell cannot start until 11:30am due to the noise and the neighbours. Wombwell has been running for decades, but with all the new housing around the noise of the karts causes the populous an issue and racing is restricted to one weekend of the month. Engines can be started at 11:30, and its a quick turnaround and the first practice session is usually on track about 11:30:01 😉
This was James’s first time on track without his good friend Jamie. That did seem to upset him a little bit. Not quite his happy chirpy self. Darren had his work cut out for him too, and changed three engines and two carbs. This was to see if we could get more performance out of the kart and also to reference our own equipment against. This had a negative impact on James I think, who found the day quite stressful. I don’t think we helped by suggesting one of the engines should give him a few extra tenths… he was then over driving to achieve and ended up in a bit of a pickle with himself.
Now this is a different creature. Race day has a different feel in the air. The awnings went up overnight and everyone is ready a bit earlier. We arrived around 9:30, having pre prepared the kart before we left. First job of the day, sign on and collect our rented transponder. The transponder is what times the drivers. They weren’t ready, but we signed on and took a picture of the running order and grid positions for the heats. The day is set to consist of three heats and a final.
We came back to our team pitch to a bit of a commotion – one of the karts had a broken a seat bracket – this meant Alicia wouldn’t be able to race! There was some discussion about welding the bracket, but no-one had the confidence to do it. Luckily, Darren is a qualified welder, and offered up his services. Wombwell is the local track to a few in the MBM team, and one had a unit not to far away with a mig. Darren jumped int he van and went off to weld the kart. In the meantime I kept an eye on little Lucy and got James into the scrutineering queue. Scrutineering passed, its time to race.
Heat 1 – 6th to 3rd place. 2nd heat – 5th to 3rd place. In the 3rd heat, James was given a black flag for contact. He pushed another driver off the track. [read this blog on flags] I think that the flag was somewhat harsh. There was no malice and there was only a touch of contact, but the stewards word is final, and we respect that.
Final – 3rd to 4th. James was pushing hard gaining on 2nd, but frustratingly he spun just a couple of laps in. He did however make up almost 3 seconds to battle for 3rd, but missed out by just 4 tenths over the line. Just one more lap and he could have been on the podium – in only his 2nd ever race in his kart!
Sat here in the playground, pondering the week that has been. From tears and tantrums to content and settled once more.
This was Lucys first week at school and not without tears. I suspect not because of school but after havkng had the whole summer at home. Something she’s never experienced before due to my previous work commitments.
James has just taken back to school like a duck to water. Counting down the sleeps – of course – until he is next on track!
I’ve probably struggled the most this week. Tears set in on their first day back as I realised I wasnt sure what to do next – or even who I really am. I ran my last company for so many years that milling about the kitchen i felt somewhat lost. My part time job filled Wednesday and Thursday, so quickly picked my back up and thats left today to fill with cleaning and washing, so all in all not too bad.
I’m always the first in the playground 😂 not one to like being late. Enjoying the sun, for as long as it lasts and listening to childrens laughter as they play outside, readying myself for a weekend if karting Wombwell.
Well, everything we had read suggested James couldn’t start karting till he was about 7 or 8 years old and over 25kg.
Dad had even spoken to people at the Autosport show. As it turns out, he had spoken to people that only knew about cadet karting and they were not forthcoming with bambino details as they didn’t run them in their team.
We had found however, York Motorsport Village where children can kart from the age of just 4 years. It is only available as a block booked session- so parties, and prices start at £95 for 30 mins with 6 children. Little electric go karts and we booked them for James’s 5th birthday in 2014!
The boys had such a great time karting, and James lapped them all, showing us – even then – that he had a natural ability for the sport.
Fast forward to 2019, and he had another karting birthday party for his 10th too! [Read that blog here] Seems likely we’ll be booking his 15th on a kart track somewhere too 😂
As you can see in this picture, hes always been one of the smallest in his class and this year he’s finally made weight for the cadet class which has a minimum driver weight of 27kg!
How did we find out about cadet academy? James has tried karting a few times. He’s always wanted to take it up as a hobby, but we thought he had to be 10 years old or so. We once took him to an indoor electric track for his 6th birthday and he loved it. He had a natural ability and a good eye for a racing line. From that moment, we have tried to find information as to how to get started karting.
We really did not have any idea where to start. His Dad, Darren – took him to the Autosport show, and spoke to a couple of karting teams there, but they seemed to be much more of a professional set up than we needed. Arrive and Drive sessions at local (outdoor) tracks, he isn’t old enough for and anywhere else seemed to be hours away.
We then came across TeamSport, completely by chance in a conversation with friends we’d not seen in a while – and their cadet academy. TeamSport have a number of indoor karting tracks around the UK – find your nearest track below or call them on 01252 732300
Academy consists of 3 x 15 minutes sessions. The first session usually consists of their Instructor – Ben – giving instruction and laying out cones on the track, to teach them racing lines or breaking points and overtaking etc. The second session, Ben often comes on track and will either do a ‘follow the leader’ and gives each of the cadets a turn – or he tries to overtake and gets them to defend, or other activities that are relevant to the training that they have had. The third session is a RACE! James has been attending Cadet Academy since November 2018 and has progressed through the beginners course and is one session away from finishing the intermediate sessions. Once he has done that (I think its braking points) he will be moving up to the advanced section of cadet academy.
Cadet Academy has done wonders for James. His confidence and attitude has come on beyond my expectations, and its great to see his eyes light up. It is also a nice chance to see him away from a computer screen – even if all the cadets do their ‘fortnite’ dances with Ben!
At TeamSport locations, you’ll find dedicated, certified instructors. All the staff are competent drivers and fully trained to teach your children. For more information on on Kids Karting lessons at TeamSport, read more here.
In the UK, 3 people die every day from Asthma. 2 of those deaths are considered avoidable through proper treatment and care. Asthma now effects 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults. Read James’s story below or visit Asthma UK for more information.
James has had asthma since before I can remember. He has been a terribly poorly boy over the years, and on several medications – some in fact had side effects that were terrifyingly similar in the severity of effects rendered on his small body
James was just 12 weeks old, and merrily bouncing away in his Tigger door bouncer when I first noticed what seemed like a wheeze. I called to take him to see our GP, but they were moving premises so advised – considering his age – that I take him to the A&E department. Upon arrival at A&E we were seen quickly by the triage nurse and then a Doctor – with James being so little and in respiratory distress, they initially took it very seriously.
However, the doctor that came to see us tried to send us home twice. Something I didn’t agree with. Eventually we were referred up to the children’s ward, where we were seen by a paediatrician – who sent us home anyway. James’s condition gradually deteriorated over the weekend, and I made frequent telephone calls to the hospital, only to be told that – when they had seen him – they diagnosed an upper airways noise, and nothing to worry about. Full swing to Monday morning, I took him to the GP. Once more sent home with the words ‘if he gets any worse bring him back’. Those words will forever ring in my head. I ignored his advice, called the children’s’ ward and asked to be seen. (I had been given 48 hours open access at discharge over the weekend).
Seemingly reluctant, they saw us. I can only assume they believed I was an over worried first time Mum. I was a first time Mum – a worried one.
Immediately upon arrival, it was apparent to the nurses that James was in significant respiratory distress – something I had almost begun to believe I was imagining. He was snatched from my arms and instantly placed into oxygen. It was at this point, the room filled with healthcare providers, and I finally felt reassured that James was going to get the care he needed.
James was tube fed, and kept in oxygen for the following 10 days! He was so poorly, his weak and tired body could manage no more than 1 oz per hour of milk for the first 3 days. That was one of the longest fortnights in my entire life. 10 days of hospital food, of worry. Sleepless nights and hourly disturbances as the nurses try and sneak into James’s room to feed him through his tube. I woke every time. If you’ve never slept on the little put me up beds, I am sure you can imagine the comfort of the 2″ mattress on the metal frame.
It took a few more hospital visits, similar to the above. His first Christmas, we were discharged from hospital at 4pm on Christmas EVE! Eventually someone decided there must be an underlying cause and we were referred to the respiratory clinic.
THIS BLOG IS EMOTIONALLY DRAINING, AND MAY TAKE SOME TIME TO COMPLETE. Keep checking back for updates.
Its a minefield out there, looking for the best kids rib protector!
Whilst I didn’t want to spend too much initially in case this was just a phase. Ensuring James was safe and comfortable was paramount. Coming from an equestrian background, I know the benefit of good body protection. I also know how it feels to have inadequate coverage!
So Much Choice!
There are so many different types to choose from, in my search for a kids rib protector, I have found that many seem to be made from hard fibreglass on the outside of the padded sections, but due to James’s small frame, I think he would find this too clumpy and restrictive whilst he’s trying to get to grips with karting first. I want him to feel comfortable in his cart and able to focus on driving. In the past, he’s had to grab the little inner seats to stop him getting thrown about inside the kart.
I have spent so much time searching for the best kids rib protector. I do like the level of protection that the more traditional rib vest provide, but James is just karting indoors, and getting a taste of the outdoors, I do not think he needs that level of protection. Besides, he grows that quickly, I do not expect it to last him a year anyway!
What did I choose in the end?
I decided to settle on the Sparco SJ PROK-3 for £95.00 – I will gave James adequate protection around the ribs and his back, without causing him too much restriction whilst driving. It offers shock absorption and anti-vibration which I like, but it is still breathable to stop you getting too sweaty. Its made from antibacterial material with individual protection pads to facilitate movement. It has an easy on front zip too which means its not something I have to do, but James can get himself ready easily in the mornings.
Since purchasing this kids rib protector for karting, I have been really pleased with its overall performance. It is small enough to fit comfortably under his overalls and it does exactly what I hoped it would. James’s karting is coming on well, and there are no more marks on his back. He’s really enjoying being on track now and does not use the protective seat sleeve anymore. I can relax knowing that he has a reasonable level of protection and can focus on his racing.
I did a 48.52 lap time! I have been to TeamSport Leeds like 4 times now, and my lap time is down from over a minute to under 50 seconds! YES! I am slowly getting more confident now. I am now a member and have my own membership card. We are hoping to come every two weeks now for cadet academy.
My average lap time was 57.80 so Dad says I need to focus on getting the average time down – but i am just excited about my best lap!
Whats even cooler, is my big sister came this time too!