The Karting Show at Autosport International attracted a record number of celebrity drivers and product launches at Europe’s largest motorsport show at the NEC Birmingham this weekend. The show, which ran from 8-11 January, received massive acclaim from drivers across the motorsport spectrum including Formula One and sportscars, single seaters and touring cars. Over 1,000 of the UK’s top karters were also in attendance with the next Lewis Hamilton almost certainly among them.
Long-time supporter, double Le Mans winner Allan McNish, made a welcome return to the Karting Show and was delighted to see increased public interest in the sport. McNish commented: “Once again karting has formed an integral part of Autosport International, giving young drivers the opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars of motorsport all the way up to Formula One. The BRDC Stars of Tomorrow and the Super One championship awards were also held in the Karting Show and it’s great to see the UK producing so much talent. I’m sure that we will see some of those names at the top end of motorsport in the near future, in Formula One, IndyCar or Le Mans.”
Over the four days, the Karting Show Stage welcomed a host of drivers offering karting champions of the future the chance to meet and get top tips from the experts. Five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro enjoyed his first ever visit to Autosport International and commented that he was impressed to see such focus on the grassroots of the sport.
David Coulthard’s appearance over the weekend received a huge response from the enthusiastic crowd as he shared his passion for karting and encouraged newcomers with an impromptu Q&A with his young fans on Sunday. After recently becoming a dad, DC admitted he’d already bought his son his first crash helmet and race suit and definitely planned to return to the show with him in future years.
Sportscar legend and former Formula One driver David Brabham hosted the first ever Karting Show Workshop on Saturday, offering an exclusive insight into the fundamentals that a driver must master in order to build a foundation for success in motorsport. The workshop covered essential elements from personal fitness and breathing control to visualisation and race preparation.
On Friday, Brabham’s charity kart race, the BP Ultimate Celebrity Karting Challenge, together with the Racing 4 Charity auctions held on the F1 Racing display, raised over £45,000 for a variety of charities including the Richard Burns Foundation. In the race, Brabham was joined by a host of top celebrity drivers, including Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Johnny Mowlem, who raced alongside members of the public, each donating £300 for the exclusive privilege. Team 11, ‘The Good Mornins’ finally took the spoils with ‘MSA Rally Elite’ second and ‘Team GT’ third.
The cream of Britain’s top karters attended the show on Saturday, with competitors from both national championships, BRDC Stars of Tomorrow and Super One, collecting their 2008 championship silverware. Various personalities joined the presentations, with McNish, Brabham, multiple kart champion Jack Harvey and British GT Champion Bradley Ellis assisting with the awards.
The Karting Show also hosted an array of launches from the UK’s leading karting companies, including Karting for the Disabled and Taylor International Motorsport. Karting for the Disabled aims to help people with disabilities realise their racing dreams to participate in motorsport and for the first time ever the programme’s specially adapted karts were available for the public to drive.
Karting for the Disabled is a project between Karting Endeavour, a group of drivers who do not wish their disability to interfere with their love of motorsport, and BRDC Stars of Tomorrow – the karting championship from which Britain’s recently crowned FIA Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton learnt his craft.
Commenting on Karting for the Disabled, Lewis said: “Any initiative to make motor racing more accessible to people with disabilities will always have my support and in this case Karting for the Disabled is a fantastic opportunity to open up the experience to as many people as possible. Karting for the Disabled goes a long way towards helping out those people who would otherwise have been denied this opportunity."
Taylor International Motorsport (TIM) unveiled the ST30 and ST32 parallel chassis from Sodikart, which sees a complete departure from the traditional A-frame kart. The fresh new approach from the leading French manufacturer went down a storm and TIM sold five karts, booked 30 test sessions and signed at least two drivers for the international race team. Tim Taylor commented: “We’ve had a really encouraging level of interest in the new Sodikarts, not only have we sold five karts but we have also made some good contacts. Without a doubt, it’s really important that karting has a strong presence within Autosport International as it is the grassroots of motorsport.”
Other leading launches included the Association of Racing Kart Schools, which joined forces with MSA Let’s Go Karting to allocate £10,000 in vouchers to be used at ARKS venues across the UK. The British Superkart Association unveiled the 125 Open Challenge class, presenting a more economical route to gearbox karting for newcomers. Club 100 introduced a brand new fleet of more powerful karts for 2009, including an updated engine that boasts 15% more power while EasyKart chose the Karting Show to showcase the recently launched Cadet.