James Singleton very nearly found himself taking an early bath in the 2012 finale of the fiercely-contested British Super 1 Series at Shenington, but thanks to a dose of never-say-die determination and a scintillating turn of speed, theNorth Wales karting star fought back to conclude the campaign with a third consecutive rostrum finish.
Singleton travelled to high-speed Oxfordshire circuit Shenington sitting eighth in the Super 1 standings during his maiden season at Senior Rotax level, and with burgeoning momentum on his side following a tremendously strong run that had included his breakthrough national victory in the class at Three Sisters near Wigan, a podium at PF International, a top four overall finish in the Euro Rotax Challenge and a second title in as many years in the Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone-backed Formula Kart Stars Championship.
I felt quietly confident, because we know weve got the pace now, acknowledged the Gwynedd Forklifts-backed, Conwy-based speed demon, but on the other hand, we had never previously raced at Shenington in Seniors, and prior to that, we had traditionally been plagued by bad luck there it had never been one of our happiest hunting grounds. Still, after being quick pretty much everywhere else recently, I was fairly optimistic that we would be there-or-thereabouts.
The target was simply to come away with two consistent, solid finishes, to end our first year in Senior Rotax on a high note. I knew the racing was going to be extremely close, so I would have been a bit happier if wed been a little further up the order in qualifying but we were still well in the ballpark.
Fourth-quickest in his group a scant five hundredths of a second adrift of P2 Singleton wound up eighth overall out of the 34 Senior Rotax entrants, the indisputable crme de la crme of British driving talent at that level, but what ensued were two torrid heat races indeed.
They couldnt have gone any worse! he quipped. In the first of them, we were quick to begin with and moved up to sixth, but then a few laps in, I noticed that my brakes were beginning to fade, which caused me to slip backwards. They gradually got worse and worse and worse right to the point where I had no brakes left at all!
Shenington is such a fast circuit, with several long straights leading into heavy braking zones, and entering the first hairpin on one lap, the brake pedal went right the way to the floor as I was travelling at high speed. That was a pretty scary moment, and at that point, I decided that the safest option was to peel off into the pits.
The failure to finish meant the pressure was really on in heat two, in which the highly-rated Penmaenmawr hotshot needed a good result in order to ensure himself of a safe passage through to the following days finals. Briefly leading and never out of the top five in a frenetic multi-kart tussle, he looked to be on-course, until an unfortunate coming-together with a rival towards the end sent him spinning down the field to a distant and unrepresentative 16th at the chequered flag.
Revealing that neither of us was in the mood to concede, as with a train of karts right behind, whichever one had backed off would have lost momentum and a lot of ground with it, Singleton confessed that he would have done exactly the same had the roles been reversed. He scraped through to Sundays finals by the skin of his teeth in 26th place the last available grid slot.
That was a massive relief, because if Im honest, after the results wed had, I really thought we would be going home on Saturday night and I was feeling pretty despondent about it all, admitted the 16-year-old Coles Racing ace. Still, even having got through, I knew we couldnt afford to have a bad pre-final and I was aiming to make it into at least the top ten.
I got a good start to improve 11 places to 15th, and then made up positions with every lap. I caught the pack fighting over third place relatively quickly, but because of the nature of the layout at Shenington, you can defend pretty much the whole way round the lap without losing a lot of time. Nobody was taking any risks, and so whilst I was able to latch right onto the back of the guys ahead, I couldnt make any further progress. It was a 12-kart train by the end, but I was satisfied to finish eighth from where we had started that was mission accomplished.
I wanted to move up into the top five in the grand final, and given the way the pre-final had gone and how difficult it was to overtake, I knew I needed to gain as many positions as possible on the opening lap whilst also being careful not to get tangled up with anybody else. I made up a couple of places at the start, and then as the race went on I pulled off a few do-or-die manoeuvres to battle my way through to third, with a long train of karts stretching right the way back from second to 16th!
I was one of the quickest on the circuit at that point and all was looking good, but just after I had passed the driver in second, he slammed into the back of me going into one of the hairpins. That dropped me down to eighth, leaving me with it all to do over again. I recovered to fourth by the end, and then the driver that had hit me was penalised for the contact, which elevated me to third.
Indeed, just one more lap and Singleton would likely have reclaimed the runner-up spoils as he flashed across the finish line barely a tenth of a second adrift of his quarry, with the races fastest lap to his credit for good measure. Whats more, his performance and the fourth-highest points haul of the weekend lifted the MSA Academy member to sixth in the title standings out of the 41 Senior Rotax contenders, just three markers shy of the top five. Not bad, all-told, for a rookie and one of the youngest competitors on the grid, to-boot...
We were over-the-moon with the result, he reflected. It certainly wasnt something we had been expecting 24 hours earlier! If somebody had offered me a podium then, I would have bitten their hand off I would have been happy merely to make it into the finals at all! It was a great turnaround and a fantastic way to finish the season!
James is seeking sponsors to help support his burgeoning career; if you are interested in backing him, please contact his father Mark on 07795 297350 or at: email@example.com