• Factory supported drive gives Brynmawr ace his big chance• Rally co-driving legend Grist gives full endorsement.
The high speed, ultra competitive world of Kart racing is a cut and thrust sport played out on tracks that resemble mini Formula One circuits and with drivers supported by big teams with fully equipped race support trucks.
At its highest level in the UK, Karting also tends to reward those with the financial support that allows them to spend day after day testing the latest engines and chassis with the majority of those competing as independent drivers left far behind.
Every so often one driver bucks the trend, achieving far more than their budget should let them through a combination of hard work, dedication and raw talent.
Step forward 16 year-old Macaulay Austin from Brynmawr, whose years of success against the odds have finally been rewarded with the biggest break of his career.
With two Welsh titles, ten Club Championships, a pair of National Kart Racing Association titles and four Celtic Challenge victories on a CV that contains nearly 200 outright wins since he started Karting as an eight year-old, Macaulay is one of the most decorated karters in the UK. Making those achievements seem all the more remarkable is the fact that Austin has done it all whilst running as an independent driver with only his dad Neil for support.
But just as he feared his top line Karting career was coming to an end the Brynmawr Foundation School GCSE Student was signed as a works supported driver by PKP Motorsport, the British importers of the Italian Dino brand of kart for a shot at this year’s British Junior Karting Championship.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” says Macaulay, whose roll of honour also includes a typically against-all-odds fourth place finish in the 2008 MSA British Cadet Championship. “PKP and Dino want to establish themselves in the UK and I can’t thank them enough.”
Macaulay will now step up to the fearsome KF3 class, where speeds in excess of 80mph are commonplace. It is the fastest Junior class in the UK and the Super One British Junior Championship is regarded as one of the toughest in the world.
“I’m under no illusions about how hard it’s going to be but I’m the best prepared I’ve ever been,” continued Austin, who won the 2011 Welsh Junior Rotax title at his home circuit of Llandow. “It’s the biggest challenge of my career and I’m training every day. This is where all the hard work and making the best of the equipment we could afford will pay off because I know that now my kit will be good.”
On top of this, one of the most well respected names in Welsh Motorsport, World Championship winning rally co-driver Nicky Grist has endorsed Austin through his Stilo brand of helmets and race safety equipment. Grist, who won the 1993 World Rally Championship as co-driver to Juha Kankkunen, recognises the potential of his fellow Welshman.
“He’s a young star that deserves a lot more of a chance that he has had up until now,” says Grist, who spent more than five years sat alongside the late Colin McRae as part of one of the most popular pairings in the history of the sport. “He’s a talent that needs to be picked up now or there is a risk it will go to waste. He’s the underdog that has performed on ability rather than equipment and now that he has the equipment underneath him he’ll be able to show everybody what he can really do.”
PKP Motorsport team principals Sean Girdler and Leon Cole both agree that Macaulay’s initial test with the team gave enough of an indication that, despite his lack of budget, he was the driver they needed to complete their 2012 line-up.
“Having tested Macaulay at the end of 2011 we knew that we wanted him on board with Dino/PKP,” says Cole. “Sean and I worked very hard to make this possible and we know believe we have a strong line up with both Macaulay and Jessica [Hawkins].”
“Having already signed Jessica (Hawkins) to race in KF3 for 2012 it was vital that we strengthened the team with another top driver and believe we have found that with Macaulay,” added Cole’s fellow team principal Girdler.
In true underdog spirit, Macaulay was given a huge boost in late 2011 when he was named as the inaugural recipient of the Dannie Pennell Trophy following a nationwide hunt to find the driver who best epitomised the spirit and never say die attitude of Pennell, who ran a highly successful kart team and series despite having few resources at his disposal. Unanimously nominated by a panel of officials from the Formula One Management backed Formula Kart Stars Championship, Macaulay was presented with the award at the final round of the 2011 FKS Championship at Ellough Park in Suffolk.
“Ever since I started I’ve lived to race,” adds Macaulay, who finished 13th in the 2011 Formula Kart Stars Junior Rotax Championship, as always, one of the best placed independent drivers in the class. “As a family we have sacrificed a lot just to keep me on the track. We’ve had one family holiday in the last eight years.
“Winning the Dannie Pennell award was a great recognition for all our efforts. It really epitomises my career and attitude throughout.”
Although Macaulay is keeping his feet firmly on the ground, there is no denying that his first works supported drive and the support of one of Wales’ most renowned motorsport figures means that 2012 could be the most remarkable chapter in an already remarkable against-all-odds career.
“I know my potential and the potential of the kart,” concludes Macaulay. “Now I get a chance to show others that potential and I can’t wait for the new season to start.”For more information about how to sponsor Macaulay please contact Neil Austin on 07811 615075.