The Easykart UK series reaches its midway point this weekend (16/17 June) and pays the first of two visits to Wales. Llandow, near Cardiff, hosts the Championship on this occasion and presents the drivers with a number of fascinating opportunities.
For points leaders Sam Faulkner, brothers James and Patrick Lay, plus Will Smith it is a chance to ensure a comfortable run-in to the Cadet, Junior, Senior and Heavy titles - whilst their rivals will all be hoping it is the venue where their own title aspirations step up a gear.
If he was an Australian racehorse, you’d know him as Black Caviar. Sam Faulkner claimed his sixth straight Cadet victory at Clay Pigeon last month. Jenson Murchison, Ethan Hawkey and Bailey Campbell were again left to fight over the remaining podium places. If any of this trio is to break Faulkner’s stranglehold on the title race, they need to do it at Llandow. They will also need Adam Sparrow, Jason Gavagan, Charlotte Fox, Jacob Wardle, Krishaan Sivagnanam, Harry Barlow and Shayne Harrison to play their part and keep Sam behind them.
By his own standards, James Lay had a disaster in Dorset. The Junior pace-setter could ‘only’ muster a brace of 5th-place finishes at Clay, but it was enough to keep his championship lead. However, his ATPC team-mate took a big bite into his lead with a win and 3rd place at the same fixture. Surprising them both was James White. It is no disrespect to James to say that no one predicted his brilliant upswing in form at Clay Pigeon. Put simply, he was lit. The big question is, can he do it again or will Lay resume normal service? Thanassi Barnicoat put himself in the limelight with twin podiums in the West Country, thereby sending Lay another warning that he faces a tough fight at each and every round. Thomas Moran also kept Lay locked in his box in both finals at Clay to show that he too is no pushover and could well be a challenger for victory in Wales.
With James Lay looking to create Easykart history by repeating his older sibling’s 2009 championship success, big brother Patrick is also looking to write his name in the history books - by winning the Light title in the same season. Arguably his greatest challenge will come from another fraternal pairing; Ayrton and Luca Hirst. Patrick is tied at the top with Luca, but after a brief absence at Ellough, Ayrton returned for the 3rd round and showed that he’d lost none of his pace by winning the first final. At that meeting, Jake Hughes, Richard Moxom and Jim Rainbird all featured strongly and will again be big threats at Llandow. AJ Morris demonstrated in fine style that he has now made the adjustment from junior to senior and claimed an excellent 4th place, ahead of the returning Jack Sales. However, pre-race tips for success at Clay; Sam Dimelow, Tony Longstaff, Steve Youle and Kieran Gordon all experienced lacklustre weekends, proving that just when you think you’ve got a handle on the form, someone will pop up to surprise you. The same can be expected in Wales – especially if it rains.Surely in a top university, some of Britain’s finest mathematical brains are trying to work out how Joe Paterson is not leading the Heavy championship. He has won all bar one of the finals so far, but still trails the admittedly, uber consistent, Will Smith. Is this situation about to change on Sunday? Simon Mace will certainly hope so, but solely in his favour. He has been Smith and Paterson’s closest challenger and his results have been consistently improving. He will feel due a win very soon, as will the only Welshman in the field, Andy Gould. A popular figure in the paddock, Gould drew on his sense of hiraeth to take his best finish of the 2011 season at Llandow, and now - buoyed by the knowledge that he is wholly capable of taking podiums - there will not be a driver on the grid keener to win this weekend. That said, he will have to not only overcome the pace and abilities of Smith, Paterson and Mace but also those of ‘Sir’ Tim Hill, the ever-rapid Mark Lawrence and Michael Roots. It’s game on, butty!
The action starts from 10am at Llandow Karting Centre, near Cowbridge and Llanblethian, Glamorgan. Put CF71 7PB in your Sat Nav.