The 2020 BUKC season got underway last weekend with the qualifiers; two days worth of action in order to determine which teams would be participating where, with the top 27 teams from each day progressing through to the main championship, and the remaining 24 from each day taking part in the Intermediates championship. Each day was made up of 12 races, each team took part in a total of 8, and each driver raced twice. There were the usual players near the front, but also a few incidents and surprises on the way.
Since the final round of the 2019 season, the Whilton Mill circuit has undergone a couple of a changes, mostly cosmetic with some new paint being laid on some of the kerbs, but more notably, the final corner has now been re-profiled with an enormous kerb on the inside in an effort to stop drivers from cutting the corner and slow them down a touch. Hitting the kerb would result in a one-place penalty, the same as a cone penalty, and repeat offenders would be black-flagged. This played a significant role to some of the teams during the weekend.
Last season saw Coventry secure their third BUKC title win after edging out Loughborough A and Oxford Brookes B by just a single point after a highly dramatic final meeting at the full Whilton Mill International circuit. They opted to race on Saturday, and they showed that they had lost none of their form as Sam Spinnael took the first victory of the new season ahead of Leeds A and Nottingham A. The defending champions had time to reflect on their win during race two, which saw Exeter A’s Konstantinos, also known as Mr. Karting, win from pole position after a race-long battle with Brookes B’s Daniel Burgess.
After a difficult race two for Brookes A, the 2018 champions bounced back in race 3 after Kyle Morby resisted a late charge from Coventry A’s Joe Fowler, but in race 4, a real sensation occurred. One of the teams making their debut in the BUKC were London South Bank; they had qualified in 2nd courtesy of Michael Houghton, a driver with plenty of go-karting experience, and he went one better by taking the lead and controlling the race to finish over five seconds ahead of Brookes A’s Piers Pakenham-Walsh.
Race 5 brought on another sensation, this time in the form of a returning BUKC team taking their first win for a very long time. It was the 2013 champions Hertfordshire who cemented their return in style courtesy of Will Dowling, who beat Brookes B’s David Haynes and UWSTD A, although Dowling was somewhat fortunate after a mid-race penalty was rescinded. The final race of the first rotation saw the sixth different winner in as many races, as Oxford’s Sam Faulkner dominated proceedings to win by nearly 20 seconds.
The second sequence of races began with another new winner in the form of Cambridge A’s Sam Massey. Taking his 2nd was Sam Spinnael, who inherited the position after Exeter A’s Josh Craft had an incident at Oblivion on the final lap which dropped him down to 21st, while Leeds A’s Kieran Hutchinson took his second top three finish. Exeter’s despair was redeemed in the following race however as Konstantinos did the double in what was a very comfortable win from Nottingham A’s Charlie Lamb and Cambridge A’s Sam Cobb.
After just missing out on the win in the first series of races, Joe Fowler beat Kyle Morby in race 9 after a terrific race-long battle where the pair were never more than a second apart. Coventry A and Brookes A were at it again for the following race as Rayaan Williams and Piers Pakenham-Walsh battled for the lead, but bizarrely, neither were allowed to win as both had picked up cone penalties. The main beneficiary was De Montfort A’s Mark Cuthbert, who spent most of his race battling with Brookes C and London South Bank A.
With the sun having set and the floodlights switched on, race 11 saw another Coventry victory, this time for B team’s George Bridson, a driver who improved enormously throughout the A team’s championship winning campaign. Taking 2nd and 3rd were Hertfordshire A and Brookes B. The twelfth and final race of Saturday’s qualifiers saw a tenth different team take a win in the form UWTSD A, with Exeter A and Brookes B rounding out the top three.
As far as the main championship goes, Coventry A made a fantastic start to the championship by taking the round win with 354 points. Despite not taking any race wins, Brookes B were 2nd thanks to some very consistent results, while Exeter A took the final podium slot overall. The top 13 teams attained the status of premier class. Five teams between 12th and 16th were separated by just a single point, with Manchester Met A and Swansea A winning a tiebreaker against Brookes D for the final two premier class places.
Just making it through to the main championship were York A, who very nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after two separate exclusions, one in race 8 for restarting on the grass, and another in race 11 for being underweight. Another team who survived a scare were Kingston A, who just scraped through by a single point after steadily improving their results during the second rotation. This came at the expense of Swansea B and Nottingham B, both of whom only just missed out on retaining their place in the main championship.
Other teams that have been relegated to the Intermediates championship include Coventry C, Edinburgh A, Leeds C, Nottingham C, and Kingston B, whereas Leeds D suffered an even worse fate, not even making it into the Intermediates after competing in the main championship the previous season, although they along with Manchester Met B and Swansea C were agonisingly close. By comparison, teams making the metaphorical promotion into the main championship include Cambridge B, Hertfordshire A, UWE A, Coventry D, and sensationally, London South Bank A. More action was to come the following day where Loughborough and Huddersfield would be taking part.