The 2020 British Universities Karting Championship officially kicked off at a circuit brand new to Club 100 and the BUKC, the magnificent and rather elongated PFi circuit situated in the middle of a Grantham, Sleaford, and Newark-on-Trent triangle. For the main championship, 54 teams from universities scattered around the country battled it out amongst each other to see who would get the early advantage in what promises to be a hotly contested season.
The first meeting consisted of six sprint races and three endurance races just like in previous seasons. However, the sprint races were split into three lightweight and three heavyweight races in a bid to make the competition a little fairer after the Rotax engines caused a bit of controversy during the Three Sisters meeting last season.
The first race took part on a mostly dry circuit aside from a few damp patches going into the first hairpin and also going into the third sector. This caught out a number of drivers on the first lap including Huddersfield B’s Kezia Santoso, who found herself with an unintentional reverse gear going into the first hairpin. It was Leeds A who finished 1st on the road but had an early penalty for an ABC bump and pass, handing the win to the defending champions Coventry A with Joe Fowler at the wheel. Just to rub salt into the wound, Leeds A were disqualified from the race completely after Kieran Harrison was found to be 0.1kg underweight. Taking 2nd was Brighton A’s Marcin Matczak after just holding off Sam Cobb from Cambridge A in the closing stages.
The second race saw the heavyweights take to the track, racing under an increased minimum weight limit of 82kg. A flying start from Oxford Brookes B’s David Haynes saw him move from 5th to 2nd at the start, and then take the lead going into the long left on the second lap. He was mostly unchallenged, but a brief rain shower with five minutes to go created some pressure along with the presence of Exeter A’s Josh Craft and UWTSD A’s Sam Johns, but Haynes held on to win. Johns and Craft battled hard for 2nd on the final lap with the honours going to the Welsh university.
Oxford Brookes remained on top for the third race as reigning BUKC Super Final champion Matthew Taylor for the A team controlled the race with the help of an ineligible Dom Whiting for Uni of Life to win. Behind Taylor, there was a bit of a last-lap scramble for what was 3rd on the road. Brookes D’s Lucas Sullivan was grimly defending his position from UWE A and Huddersfield A. Matthew Graham snuck in front coming out of the long left, but when Aaron Walsh tried to follow through, contact was made and Sullivan was sent spinning. As it was the last lap, Huddersfield A received a one-lap penalty and finished 32nd, which Walsh wasn’t happy with. With Uni of Life being ineligible, taking points for 3rd was Rory Hudson for BUKC newcomers Bournemouth A, and he described it as an enjoyable race.
The first three races saw very clean starts, but the trend was interrupted for the start of race 4 thanks to a multi-kart incident at the first couple of sweepers. The end result was a puncture for UWE A’s Cory Richards and many other drivers’ races baulked including UWTSD A’s Harry Farnhill and Queen Mary A’s Yannick Brandt, who had to pit for a new kart. The biggest movers were Nottingham Trent A’s Sam Pooley and Brookes A’s Piers Pakenham-Walsh, who went from 32nd and 35th to assume 1st and 2nd by an unbelievable lap 5.
The two then worked together to pull away from the rest of the field, but Brookes A’s chance of winning disappeared after a late track limits penalty, effectively securing victory for Pooley. This opened the door for an intense three-kart battle between Southampton A, Huddersfield A, and Nottingham A. It eventually went the way of Pasqual Pook for Southampton A who gained two places on the final lap to finish 2nd ahead of Nottingham A’s Stefan Kessler.
All races so far saw close battles for the lead, and race 5 was perhaps the most intriguing of them all. From pole position, Huddersfield A’s Stephen Letts held the lead at the start from Manchester Metropolitan A’s Sam Richardson, but Richardson looked the quicker driver. A rain shower then helped Letts open up a three second gap before the track dried and Richardson closed the gap. The two battled over the final few laps but Letts held on to win the race. Coventry A’s Sam Spinnael was 3rd on the road, but received a track limits penalty and therefore, Sheffield A’s Callum Barnett inherited the final podium place.
The final sprint race of the day once again delivered in terms of action and intrigue as teams from the Clubman class battled for the win along with Brookes A. After early leaders De Montfort A faded from pole, Birmingham A’s Rory Smith and Oxford’s Sam Faulkner diced with Kyle Morby for the whole race. The winning gap was just 44 thousandths of a second in the favour of Birmingham A from Oxford.
Morby had to settle for 3rd, but his result was good enough for Brookes A to take the overall win for round 1, two points ahead of Coventry A, and a further two from Nottingham Trent A. In the Clubman class, Nottingham Trent B were the overall victors, four points ahead of Brighton A, and a further two from Brookes D.
Round 1 Results
1. Oxford Brookes A – 175
2. Coventry A – 173
3. Nottingham Trent A – 171
1. Nottingham Trent B – 156
2. Brighton A – 152
3. Oxford Brookes D – 150
After the break came the three endurance races of round 2, and the first race got off to a highly dramatic start. Initially, Exeter B bumped into Huddersfield B which sent Kezia Santoso and a couple of others off-road at the sweepers, then a separate chain reaction saw six drivers spinning off underneath the bridge including Warwick C’s Angel Marco being thrown out of his go-kart. A false start was declared and drivers had the opportunity to do the start again properly.
Unsurprisingly, the second attempt was much cleaner and Exeter A took the early lead, although they quickly picked up a cone penalty which meant they were already not allowed to win the race. Although they took 1st on the road, the real battle for the win was between Oxford Brookes B and Birmingham A, and it was decided on the very last lap when Daniel Burgess outbraked Oli Basey-Fisher going into the first hairpin to give Brookes B the win. As Exeter A’s cone penalty was only worth 1 position, they took second ahead of Birmingham A.
The start of race 2 was mostly clean aside from Nottingham Trent B attempting their hand at rallycross before the first couple of sweepers. The first few laps were fought out in a rather out-school fashion as Loughborough and Oxford Brookes battled for the lead, but the order was altered dramatically after the first pitstops as the reigning champions Coventry A took control of the race from De Montfort A.
Although they were nose to tail, the two teams were quite keen to work together as Huddersfield A were bringing themselves into contention thanks to Stephen Letts. Traditionally, Huddersfield are one of the first teams to pit as soon as the window opens, and this race was no exception. It paid off during the first pit window, but they were delayed by behind another kart that was refuelling and they rejoined behind Loughboroughs A and B. Luckily for Alex Gunn, the two Loughborough teams had picked up penalties during the race and Gunn decided to pace himself. Although he lost a place to Oxford Brookes A on the penultimate lap, Brookes A had also picked up penalties, so Huddersfield A ended up 3rd after all, which earned Gunn a well-earned interview with Jacob Harris.
The top two places were battled out by Coventry A and De Montfort A, and it looked as if Coventry A had lost the win after a slow second stop, but a small rain shower played into the hands of Joe Fowler, who set some scintillating laps in slippery conditions and when De Montfort A made their second stop, Coventry A retained the lead and opened up an eight second lead to win the second endurance race.
It took three attempts to start the final endurance race of the day. The first start was deemed a false start after 2nd-placed Bournemouth A were a bit keen to get going, plus the first couple of sweepers witnessed a lot of loading and a spin for Kingston A just before the long left. The second start went wrong before the drivers even crossed the line as the left-hand side of the grid were delayed by the pusher kart. Meanwhile at the back, Leeds A fancied a quick spin.
At the successful third attempt, Bournemouth A took the lead at the start, but it was judged to be a jump start by the stewards, so they were already unable to win the race. Even so, they led from Bath A, but Coventry A’s Rayaan Williams was flying and took the lead on the 11th lap. A quick pitstop only strengthened their advantage and they continued to pull away from the field.
Nottingham A assumed 2nd on the road after the first stops but they had picked up two separate penalties; one for overtaking under yellows, and another for exceeding track limits. As a result, Exeter A inherited 2nd with a solid drive from 30th on the grid for Max O’Shaughnessy and Josh Craft, while Oxford Brookes C had a similarly strong run from 34th on the grid to take 3rd.
With Coventry A winning both their endurance races, they were unchallenged for the overall round win, while two 2nd places in their endurance races gave Exeter A 2nd overall. Although Brookes B won the first endurance race, a disastrous second stop during the final endurance race paved the way for Huddersfield A to take 3rd overall. In the Clubman class, Leeds A shook off their embarrassing moment in the final endurance race to take the class win, three points ahead of De Montfort B, and a further ten ahead of Birmingham A.
Round 2 Results
1. Coventry A – 120
2. Exeter A – 118
3. Huddersfield A – 113
1. Leeds A – 103
2. De Montfort B – 100
3. Birmingham A – 90
With a 2nd and two 1st places (including the qualifiers), Coventry A comfortably lead the championship by six points from Exeter A, who themselves are just one point ahead of Oxford Brookes A, and a further one point ahead of Huddersfield A. In the Clubman class, the top three teams are appropriately together in the overall championship in the order of Oxford Brookes D, Nottingham Trent B, and Birmingham A.
Championship Standings After Round 2
1. Coventry A – 179
2. Exeter A – 173
3. Oxford Brookes A – 172
1. Oxford Brookes D – 129
2. Nottingham Trent B – 126
3. Birmingham A – 125
Intermediates Round 1
Whereas the main championship started off on a damp track with intermittent short showers during races, the Intermediates championship took place on a totally dry circuit throughout the day. There were five races plus a Rookies race for those relatively new to go-karting.
The first race saw a team new to the BUKC this year take the win in the form of Backstage Academy A’s Sam Holgate after battling with Strathclyde A’s Elom Boccorh. Boccorh would have been 2nd but like Leeds A in the previous day’s first sprint race, they were disqualified for being underweight, so UCLan A inherited 2nd with Aston B taking 3rd.
Strathclyde bounced back from their disappointment in the best possible way as Chris Doyle dominated race two to take pole, fastest lap, lead every lap, but most importantly, the win ahead of a duo of Leicester teams with the B team beating the A team to take 2nd.
In between races two and three was the Rookies race, which saw Joao Maria Jorge just take the win from Blake Checketts after a race-long battle. Ironically, this race saw the fewest penalties in the whole meeting, and that included the main championship as well!
Another new team took to the front for race three and saw perhaps the most crushing performance of the day as Westminster A’s Michele Esposito was completely untouchable, winning by over 12 seconds from Leeds C and Exeter C. Unfortunately for Westminster, Esposito was an ineligible runner, so Leeds C received the full points.
The penultimate race of the day saw Cardiff A take the lead at the start and control the entire race to finish 1st on the road, but a penalty for forcing another driver wide meant that they weren’t allowed to keep it. Therefore, UCL A inherited the win ahead of Leicester A and Surrey A.
The final race of the day was perhaps the most open of them all with the top three running close for the whole race. It was decided on the penultimate lap in the favour of Strathclyde A as Cameron Maxwell overtook Kings College A’s Jack Kingsley-Smith.
Thanks to their two wins, Strathclyde A took the overall win despite their race one disqualification. They were six points ahead of Surrey A, whose consistency rewarded them. A further one point behind in 3rd place was UCLan A.
Intermediates Round 1 Results
1. Strathclyde A – 174
2. Surrey A – 168
3. UCLan A – 167
Many drivers enjoyed their experience at PFi and seemingly, the altered format hasn’t been met with too many complaints. The next meeting, however, will be run differently as rounds 3 and 4 at the BUKC staple of Buckmore Park will be run under the sprint race format. Can Coventry continue their electrifying form? Or will they be challenged by the likes of Exeter and Oxford Brookes? Those questions and more will be answered on the 4th of March.