The qualifiers for the British Universities Karting Championships (BUKC) at Whitton Hill Kart Raceway saw Durham come agonisingly close to making the main BUKC Championship. Nevertheless, the team will have to settle for the rookie competition, starting in February, but whilst disappointed, they can still be pleased with a strong showing on the day against drivers with much greater experience.
A team of Bradley Appleton, Jamie Nuttall, Dan Burnett and Jake Welsby meant that the later was the only member with actual competitive karting experience, with Burnett being a complete rookie on the BUKC circuit. Durham were also handicapped in this format due to the lack of funding karting receives compared to other universities. Many other teams had the option to go to testing days and improve their performance in advance, whereas Durham had no such opportunity.
Further difficulty was added to the day due to the weather conditions, which perhaps played into the hands of the most experienced teams and drivers. Heavy showers at the start, followed by persistent drizzle, meant that only the last two races of the day (races 9 and 10) were dry, resulting in a challenge for all involved.
Qualification for the races resulted in a mixed bag for the Durham competitors, with Welsby finishing as high as eighth out of thirty-five competitors, but Burnett down in twenty seventh. Nevertheless, given his relative inexperience, this can be seen as a positive result.
The races started well for the team. Jake Welsby demonstrated his ability to compete with the best around, finishing eight in first race out of thirty-five competitors. When comparing best lap times, this was demoted into fourteenth, but as captain Bradley Appleton pointed out afterwards, it was nice to see that Welsby’s racing ability allowed him to finish higher than his individual lap pace would suggest.
From there, however, some misfortune set in. In both of Bradley Appleton’s outings, he experienced some kind of misfortune, which saw him fall below his qualifying position of sixteenth. In both the Captain’s races, he was spun out by another driver and did well to finish twenty second and twenty eighth respectively. Burnett’s two races also saw good racing performances and signs of improvement throughout the day, but with no reward, with the driver finishing thirty fourth.
Jamie Nuttall put on a strong showing, finishing nineteenth in his first race, also higher than his individual lap pace, once again highlighting good driving ability and a personal high finish of eleventh in the second. Nuttall’s two races took place in completely contrasting conditions, with his first being perhaps the wettest race of the day and his second being almost completely dry, so he showed an impressive ability to adapt.
Overall, Durham finished in twenty ninth out of forty-five university teams, just behind UCL A and Nottingham C. As the top twenty-seven teams qualify for the main championship, with less misfortune, the Durham team may well have qualified. However, qualification to the second tier could be a blessing in disguise. In this competition, Durham will be expected to perform well and will look to get on the podium, whether it be for gold, silver or bronze. This is a similar story to last year, where the side collected three podium positions in these rookie championships.
The team will now prepare themselves to go again in February and April, having taken away valuable experience from their day at Whitton Hill.
Photograph: Matt Buck