Luke Whitworth might have been frustrated in his ambitions to shine on foreign shores when the Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone-backed Formula Kart Stars (FKS) Championship travelled to Genk in Belgium, but the talented young Rotherham speed demon certainly rebounded in style with the second victory of his burgeoning career just a week later at Shenington.
Having stormed to his breakthrough ‘national’ top ten finish at Genk in 2010, Luke would leave disappointed 12 months later, as after fairly scything his way up through the order from the very back of the starting grid to an excellent eighth place at the chequered flag on the Saturday – lapping third-quickest along the way – a scintillating qualifying performance the following day sadly came to nought at the very first corner when the highly-rated Wickersley-based hotshot found himself unceremoniously harpooned by an out-of-control rival.
“I was really annoyed after Genk, because we had gone all the way there only to have such a bad weekend,” he reflected. “We were really quick in the wet and qualified second on the Sunday when it rained, but we lost pace when it dried out again, and being excluded from one of the heats cost us a lot of points and really hit us hard in terms of championship position. We only decided to go to Shenington on the Thursday before the meeting, and the principal goal was just to get the best result we could to try to get a bit of confidence back.”
If Belgium had been soul-destroying, then Shenington, happily, would prove to be the perfect pick-me-up, and in a competitive, 37-strong Junior Max class field, Luke wasted little time in demonstrating his mettle.
“There were a lot of very fast local specialists there, as well as some good national-level drivers,” he mused, “so we knew it was going to be a hard weekend’s racing. We hadn’t been to Shenington since April, and that makes it tough going up against guys who are competing there weekend-in, weekend-out, because they obviously have a lot more track knowledge.
“I started the first heat all the way down in 27th, but there were a couple of crashes around the opening lap, which gained me quite a few places – and after that, we were quick and just kept coming through, picking them off lap-by-lap and getting closer-and-closer to the front. It was a good, fun race; with it not being a national-level meeting, the pressure was off, which meant I could just go out there and go for it and we ended up sixth.”
In a tougher encounter in heat two, Luke raced well to claim a close second position – right in the wheeltracks of the winner, who was on fresher rubber – whilst heat three yielded a strong fifth from a midfield starting spot. Fastest lap in two of the three outings laid down a potent marker ahead of the all-important final, but beginning on the unenviable outside line in second cost the Wickersley School and Sports College pupil when the lights went out, as he slipped back to third. He would impressively not allow it to deter him.
“I kept my head up and just focussed on trying to catch the two leaders,” he recounted. “I got back into second, but then midway through the race, Kaan Onder came past me and we worked together until it became a three-way fight for the lead with Cameron Twynham.
“It was quite a battle, but then Kaan and Cameron had a coming-together, which let me through into the lead and after that I just had to keep calm, maintain my consistency and make no mistakes. If the other two guys hadn’t crashed out, it would have been a really good fight between the three of us, I think, because we all had very similar speed.”
Handling the situation superbly, Luke pulled away effortlessly in the closing stages, going on to claim his third fastest lap from just four races and cross the finish line more than two seconds clear of any of his pursuers. As tonics go, it was timely indeed.
“It was really good to win – just what we needed after Genk – and it was good to know we’ve moved forward quite a lot pace-wise, too,” concluded the 16-year-old Yorkshire ace. “We’re definitely more confident now looking ahead.”