Luke Whitworth acknowledges that his forthcoming karting campaign will be a ‘vital’ one for his future career prospects – but a trio of podiums of late as he builds up towards the resumption of national hostilities have left him in optimistic spirits indeed.
Although this year will represent only Luke’s third full season of competition – having started out at the comparatively late age of 14 at the tail end of 2009 – so far has the highly-rated Wickersley-based hotshot come during that short period of time that he has already established himself as one of Britain’s very brightest young stars.
“I’ve worked with my mechanic Sam at P1 Racing practically ever since I began karting,” he reflects, “and that has helped me to develop an excellent relationship with him. When I give him my feedback, he understands exactly what I’m talking about, so there is no time wasted – and that’s really beneficial. Back at the start of 2010, I would never have believed we’d make as much progress as we have now, and Sam has played a major role in that improvement. It’s a constant learning experience.”
Be that as it may, it is clear that Luke is learning tremendously fast – as his recent form attests. The runner-up spoils at Whilton Mill and a brace of third-place finishes at Kimbolton and PF International – up against some strong grids composed of many Junior Rotax class front-runners – have left the 17-year-old MSA Academy member feeling positive indeed looking ahead, particularly given that Kimbolton will stage the opening round of the Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone-backed Formula Kart Stars (FKS) Championship, and Whilton the curtain-raiser for fellow national series Super 1.
It is irrefutably a gruelling schedule to take on both British championships at such a high level, but Luke is physically and mentally prepared for it – and ready to win. Under no illusions as to how fiercely-contested the two series will be, the Wickersley School and Sports College student nonetheless has his sights set on a top three overall finish in his sophomore season in Super 1 – and even better still in his third campaign in FKS.
“The opposition looks like being extremely tough this year, so I’m fully expecting a very close fight,” he concedes, “but we’re feeling quite confident. We’ve been quick pretty much everywhere we’ve been, and we recently discovered that we’ve been suffering from an engine problem, too, so we might have been able to go even quicker, which is encouraging. The level of competition has been really high throughout the winter meetings, with a lot of very fast drivers out there and the top 20 separated by only two or three tenths of a second at times.
“I definitely feel more prepared for what lies ahead than I was this time 12 months ago; I went into Super 1 last year not realising just how aggressive I would need to be, but having that extra knowledge and experience under my belt can only help me. My racecraft is definitely better now – in particular, I’ve improved a lot in terms of being able to read a difficult situation well enough to emerge from it on top – and mentally, I’m stronger than I was, too.
“It will be really important to get my national challenge off to a positive start. It’s absolutely crucial to hit the ground running in the first meeting; it gives you a confidence boost and takes away some of the pressure that you would be under if you were having to work your way up the points table. The focus at both Kimbolton and Whilton has to be to get off to a good, solid start and notch up as many points as I can.
“This year is vital for my career; it will probably be my last year in karts before hopefully stepping on up into cars, so I really need to sign off on a high to boost my future chances.”