The transition from Saturday to Sunday provided a much better sleep for myself than the night before, still not perfect, but definitely more than six hours. After the action of the main and Intermediate championships, just four from Huddersfield remained for the individual drivers championship; myself, Sam Tearne, Aaron Walsh, and Jack Lynas.
All four of us would be in the Lightweight category, and as the format went in the order of Graduates, Heavyweight, then Lightweight, we weren’t in a particular rush to congregate in the paddock. Instead, we watched some of the Graduates action from the Boot, and we did notice a particularly over-zealous marshal calling out every single piece of contact made by drivers. He would have his hands full for the entire day.
Each category had four heats and all drivers would take part in two of them. The top 32 from the heats would go through to the A Final while the rest would compete in the B Final, although the top four from each B Final would then progress to the A Final. Lastly, there would be a Super Final consisting of drivers who finished in the top ten from each A Final. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to make the Super Final. My main target was to have fun, although I did have a rather ingenious plan up my sleeve.
The drivers championship encourages people to dress up in interesting costumes. Last year’s event at Clay Pigeon saw a 118 118 athlete race against a Despicable Me minion and someone disguised as Niki Richardson, the Club 100 tester. This year would see Scooby Doo race against a sailor and what I had dressed up as… a traffic cone.
The idea came up shortly after my place was confirmed in the drivers championship and I then proceeded to buy a full-sized cone costume online, which I only revealed to the paddock in between the first and second Heavyweight heats. As I had been christened as ‘Coneman’ during the Three Sisters meeting, I thought it would be appropriate to milk the nickname as much as possible in my final BUKC appearance as an undergraduate. I also thought that whoever made contact with me (Or whoever I nudge) would immediately receive a cone penalty. My plan was foolproof!
My first race was the second Lightweight heat alongside Aaron Walsh. He was starting 4th, while I was in 8th. Sandwiched in between us was last season’s Bandit of the Year, Alistair Mallard from Exeter. On the grid, Jacob Harris asked me if I thought I was going to win the fancy dress competition to which my candid answer involved deprecating my own racing skills.
The start of the race was a chaotic one as a minor scramble at the second corner bottlenecked the field going into Christmas. At this point, I was still in 8th but with a lot of really eager drivers behind me. I tried to squeeze in between Lewis Bracewell and polesitter Adam Pughe under braking, and it nearly worked out, but Scooby Doo then bumped Bracewell into Dom Whiting who consequently spun, leaving me to trek across the damp grass. Upon rejoining, I received a thump from behind which actually helped me to regain momentum, but the off-track excursion left me down in 20th after the first lap.
It wasn’t the easiest race I’ve ever competed in with so many fast drivers around me, but I did have a few good battles, namely with De Montfort’s Gabriella Martinez De Luca, Warwick’s Chris Miles, who at one point I might have forced onto the grass at the exit of Osiers, and UWTSD Swansea’s Ben Gilbert, who dressed up as Shaun the Sheep. His performance was anything but woolly as he went from 32nd to 14th, but he had his result sheered after he was found to be underweight.
As for myself, I managed to avoid much of the carnage and finish in 16th place. Even though I wasn’t especially quick (My best lap was the second slowest out of everyone), it could’ve been a lot worse! Aaron Walsh finished down in 20th after a black flag for an ABC take-out, while one of the favourites, Tom Thickpenny was excluded from the race entirely after his own ABC take-out on Sam Lovelace.
I was back out for the third Lightweight heat and starting down in 25th. This time around, I had both Aaron Walsh and Jack Lynas racing with me, and they started 29th and 10th respectively. Again, the first lap didn’t go well for me as I lost a few positions on the run up to Christmas corner, but anarchy at Ashby hairpin meant that overall, I only lost one position. Again, it could’ve been a lot worse as on the second lap, I saw Lynas facing the wrong way at the same corner.
My second race of the day was a fair bit less frenetic than the first one, probably because I had started this one from nearer the back, but I did receive an ABC penalty. It happened on lap 4 when I was following James Grant going into the Boot. I actually received a bump from behind which then pushed me into Grant and I had no option but to overtake him. It was an almost identical situation to Ollie Milner’s penalty at Llandow with exactly the same outcome.
Not much happened after my penalty until the final lap of the race where I became involved in a multi-kart scrap for 23rd on the road. A recovering Jack Lynas overtook me going into Inkermans, and then at the exit of Osiers, we both effectively double-teamed Callum Young. It all got a bit scruffy at the Boot, but at the same time, it was rather interesting. I was eventually classified 30th after my penalty. Aaron Walsh had a much cleaner race to finish 15th, while Lynas was 25th. He showed his frustration by sliding about on the cool-down lap, too much at the Boot, which left me laughing my head off.
After the final Lightweight heat came a break of around half an hour where drivers could get some lunch and cool down. In that gap was a photo shoot for all drivers that took part along with an easter egg on offer for the fancy dress winner. It must be said that the Galaxy Golden Eggs and the accompanying giant chocolate egg were delicious!
Unsurprisingly, I was in the B Final along with Lynas, while Tearne and Walsh managed to get into the A Final, more on that later. In the meantime, the Graduates class was won by Ed Barrs, who previously raced for the University of Bath, while the Heavyweight class was won by UWTSD Swansea’s Harry Farnhill, one of the drivers I kicked a football around with the night before. For the Lightweight B Final, I was starting down in 19th with Lynas up in 6th.
It was during preparation for this race where the commentary team for Alpha Live, the stream that provides footage for BUKC, began talking about me and how I earned this year’s Bandit of the Year accolade. I hope I can attend all of next season’s races so I can keep an eye out for a worthy successor as well as lending my support to Huddersfield.
Onto the race itself, and for once, I actually had a good start as I picked my way through the field at the exit of Christmas corner to move into 15th despite a close moment with Edge Hill’s Adam Sears, who had dressed up in an all white suit with a dickie bow tie, but then normal service was resumed I was shuffled down to 22nd at the end of the second lap.
One of those lost positions was against Hersch Reddy from Edinburgh, and I ended up spending the entire race battling against him… very hard. In fact, in my time at the BUKC, Reddy was possibly the most difficult driver to overtake as he was defending his position like his life depended on it, but it was good old-fashioned hard racing between us two and I didn’t really have a problem with it.
At one point, I ran wide at Ashby having braked a little too late and dropped back from Reddy, but from that, I set two laps in a row in the mid 54s. During my chat with Sam Tearne the day before, he suggested a target lap time for me to aim for to which I said I’d happy if I set a 54.5 at some point during the drivers championship, which I did on my second quick lap. I wouldn’t have known during the race that I had achieved my goal, I was just concentrating on trying to beat Reddy, who at this point, I was now right behind once again.
He was still just as tough as ever; I tried an overtake going into Osiers, which nearly worked out, but Reddy had a better run out of the Boot and got back ahead of me. After a couple more laps, which included me giving him a friendly little love tap and an ambitious attempt around the outside of Christmas, I finally managed to get ahead coming out of Ashby on the penultimate lap.
The problem with our duel was that we had been losing time and many drivers had caught up to us as a result. After being overtaken by Dylan Paddison at Christmas corner, I had a big snap of oversteer at Ashby which dropped me behind Callum Young and Ashley Jarvis and under pressure from my old sparring partner Hersch Reddy. I just about managed to stay in front after the first apex of the Boot, but then I received a bump which pushed me a little wide and Reddy got back in front, although he received an ABC penalty for it. Looking back, what actually caused the contact was another oversteer moment from myself just before the nudge, so on that basis, Reddy’s penalty was a little harsh. On the cool-down lap, we shook hands on what was actually a really good scrap.
I finished my final BUKC race as an undergraduate in 21st place, while Lynas was 6th, which meant he just missed out on a slot in the A Final, where Tearne and Walsh would be starting 22nd and 30th. However, an extra element in the form of unexpected rain would play its part. It was only a passing shower, but it was enough to make the track slippery for the start. The race was won by Oxford Brookes’ Jack Ransom after a race-long scrap with Birmingham’s Rihanna Purcocks and Matthew Taylor, another Brookes driver. Although Tearne and Walsh both missed out on the Super Final having finished 11th and 13th, they thoroughly enjoyed racing in the damp conditions.
With no Huddersfield drivers in the Super Final which was won by Taylor, that was the end of the day’s work and I spent a portion of the journey home reflecting on my time in the BUKC. In the 18 races I competed in, my best race result came in the second one, a 6th place at the Hooton Park Rookies race during the 2018 season. Although it was a nice surprise to be competitive on a circuit I had never even heard of before, I don’t regard this as my best achievement, that would go to my pole position for my Intermediates race at Three Sisters. Becoming Bandit of the Year was by far my most memorable moment and I suspect I’ll always be known as Coneman in the BUKC world, and that’s fine by me, because I just love go-karting.