James Singleton number three in the world after ‘weekend to remember’

Prior to travelling out to the United Arab Emirates to do battle in the prestigious Rotax World Finals at Al Ain Raceway, James Singleton had acknowledged that the pressure was on to do justice to his selection as one of only three British drivers to compete at his level in the blue riband event. The highly-rated young North Wales karting star would do that and then some.

In a 72-strong Junior Rotax class field – composed of the indisputable crème de la crème of international opposition – James recognised that with all competitors using identical Birel chassis, it would be a level playing field in which the emphasis would be placed firmly upon skill behind the wheel and genuine talent would shine through. He proved to be one of the very leading contenders right from the outset.

“When we first saw the track, it looked like it hadn’t been used much with the amount of dust around and lack of rubber down on it,” revealed the Conwy-based speed demon. “We knew it was going to be slippery due to that, but we also swiftly discovered that it was awesome to drive! The layout was very twisty and technical, with only a short break on the main straight, and once some rubber had gone down, that made it very physically demanding, especially on the arms.”

Be that as it may, it did not take James long during practice to get to grips with the circuit’s intricacies, and in evidence of his potential, in only the second session he was the quickest outright – but traffic unfortunately scuppered his qualifying charge and left him an unrepresentative 17th in the standings, albeit just three tenths of a second adrift of the benchmark and quipping that ‘we were certainly still confident the pace was there; the only problem was there were 16 other karts in front of us...’

The Penmaenmawr hotshot began each of his three heat races from ninth position, but admitted to being initially somewhat taken aback by the sheer dog-eat-dog, no-holds barred nature of the on-track hostilities. In a one-off meeting and with so much at stake, the gloves, it appeared, were well-and-truly off.

In the opening encounter, James found himself knocked from pillar-to-post by his uncompromising adversaries and consequently wound up just 13th, whilst a lack of power restricted him to a similarly disappointed ninth in heat two. In heat three, however, he ably demonstrated the benefits of a toughened-up approach as he scythed his way through into second. Those results left the Ysgol Aberconwy pupil ninth on the grid for the pre-final, as 38 of the initial entrants – more than half the field – were eliminated.

“I got a really good start to move straight up to fourth,” he recounted, “but then when I went for a move on the driver in third on the next lap, he turned in on me and drove me clean off the track. I ended up dropping down to 20th, before fighting my way back through to 13th. We were really frustrated afterwards, as third would have been a really good place to start the grand final, but at the same time we were really happy with our pace, because we practically matched the fastest lap. 

“We knew it would be a lot tougher from 13th on the grid for the grand final, but the one saving grace was that we were on the inside line. I immediately vaulted up to eighth, and the kart then got stronger-and-stronger as the race wore on and I was able to battle my way through to third.

“It was a real dogfight, though, and every time I made a move on someone, it was all-but guaranteed that they would try to come straight back at me again into the next corner! I knew I would have to go all-out and be as aggressive as them. Close to the end, the kart began to fade a little and Jordi van Moorsel was able to pass me, but I just sat behind him until the last lap and got the position back with three corners to go.”

In what was truly a titanic tussle, James grittily fought his way through and took the chequered flag behind only a former world champion and multiple Australian champion. What’s more, coming mere days after the Coles Racing ace had celebrated his 16th birthday, it was arguably the best belated present ever, and one that capped a magnificent 2011 campaign that has also yielded title glory in the Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone-backed Formula Kart Stars Championship and victories in the hotly-contested British Super 1 Series.

“We were over-the-moon to finish up on the podium and top Brit,” James enthused in conclusion. “To beat so many quick and competitive drivers from so many different countries and with everyone being on the same kit was just amazing. It’s a massive confidence boost for me, and obviously a weekend to remember – definitely one of the biggest highlights of my career so far. It was our last outing in Junior Rotax, too, and it was fantastic to sign off on such a high. Third in the world – that doesn’t sound too shabby at all, does it..?”

James is seeking sponsors to help support his burgeoning career; if you are interested in backing the new world number three, please contact his father Mark on 07795 297350 or at: gwyneddforklifts@ukf.net

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