Back in February this year, thecheckeredflag.co.uk were invited down to visit the headquarters of national single-seater outfit SWB Motorsport, to try out their simulator and find out whether we had potential as racing drivers ourselves.
After seeing my spirited, albeit slow, efforts in a Formula Renault around Donington Park and Brands Hatch, team driver Jack Dex decided to offer me the opportunity to try out the next step on the motorsport ladder, go-karting.
The former Formula Renault racer currently runs the team’s burgeoning in-house karting outfit, the SWB Motorsport Academy. Created to utilise Dex’s extensive karting experience, and potentially find drivers for their single-seaters, the team currently runs drivers in competitive club-level, regional and national events.
“We set up the team as we wanted to expand into karting, which is a really big market in itself,” Dex told thecheckeredflag.co.uk. “We run the karting team as its own entity and it’s getting bigger and bigger, with around eight drivers on our books now, some who are looking to move up into cars, and some who are there purely to enjoy their karting.”
The team’s local circuit, Whilton Mill near Daventry, was the scene for my morning’s running in one of the team’s Senior Rotax-category ms kart’s, with the day’s open testing format seeing me sharing the track with a few experienced karters.
With next to no karting experience under my belt, a couple of birthday parties aside, it proved to be a massive learning experience, but luckily Dex, fresh from finishing fourth overall in the Le Mans 24 Hour kart race earlier this month, was on hand to provide guidance.
The opening session was a huge learning curve, with the sensitive braking in particular taking a while for me to get my head around. This, plus an initial tendency to hit the gas to the floor coming out of the bends, led to far too much of my time being spent facing the wrong way.
After a debrief with Dex, the second twenty minute session was to go much better. A consistent, spinless run saw me take a few seconds off my lap-times from earlier in the morning, thanks mainly to a more conservative approach to the braking leading to better cornering speeds.
With my pride in tact as I successfully handed the kart back in one piece, and with Dex relatively satisfied with my running as a first-timer, it was time for one of the team’s regular drivers to take over as I sat back and assessed my time on track.
The morning provided a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the world of professional go-karting and to get a chance to enjoy the brilliant driving experience karting provides, with the ms kart proving to be unlike anything I’d driven before. For anyone who’s tried some casual karting before but not a professional kart, give it a go if you can.
Thanks to Jack Dex and SWB Motorsport for giving thecheckeredflag.co.uk the opportunity. This season, alongside their karting efforts, the Maidford-based team are competing in the Protyre Formula Renault Championship, the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain and the new-for-2013 Michelin Clio Cup Series, their first step out of single-seater racing.
Anyone interested learning more about the SWB kart team, or having a test themselves, can contact Jack Dex at [email protected].
All photos: Simon Paice