Gearing up for success: DU Motorsport hopeful ahead of new season

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Amongst the vast array of societies and clubs at Durham exists a little-known club that brings together enthusiasts from one of the planet’s more exotic sports: motorsport. DUMotorsport (DUMS) brings together drivers from all levels of experience, from total novices to British champions. Two or three times per term the club organises races, often in co-operation with Sunderland and Newcastle University, at Karting North East just 20 minutes from Durham.

These events introduce novices to the sport, and though not always particularly competitive, the large grids give everyone somebody to race. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the year is the Intercollegiate Karting Festival after exams, where teams of two represent their colleges; Castle won last summer’s event and Collingwood the year before.

DUMotorsport photo

However, it is the British Universities Karting Championship (BUKC) that is the pinnacle, and the important date on DUMotorsport’s calendar.

The BUKC is one of the most exciting sporting events on the University calendar. A big claim, but it’s a big championship, with students competing individually and also as a team, challenging more than 45 other Universities, more than 70 teams and in excess of 700 students, whilst also providing the adrenaline rush of wheel to wheel racing at average speeds of over 45mph only an inch off the ground.

The BUKC uses the fleet of Club 100 karts: the fastest arrive-and-drive karts in the world. These karts are capable of over 65mph, and can accelerate from 5mph to 60mph in 4.5 seconds. The BUKC attracts some of the UK’s top drivers whilst they undertake degrees, with racers from Formula Ford, Formula Renault, British GT, and Porsche Supercup, as well as from Britain’s top Karting Championships.

Durham has competed in the BUKC for a number of years, but achieved their best ever championship finish in the 2012/13 season where they finished fourth, sat behind three Universities, which offer a specific Motorsport Engineering degree – a very strong achievement.

The BUKC is spread over the academic year, with a Qualifying event taking place in first term before four further rounds which generally take place in second term. These rounds are spread all over the country, with a couple in the Midlands, one up north, one in Wales, and one down south.

In the past, Durham has experienced a number of impressive individual achievements as well as team achievements. Two of the current line-up, and Will van Es, hold the accolade of Driver’s Championship Champion in their respective weight categories; Dawson, Super Heavyweight, in 2012/13, and van Es, Lightweight, in 2012/13 and 2013/14 (only the second driver in the history of the BUKC to become a double Driver’s Champion). The latter also won Driver of the Year 2014, awarded for a number of stunning drives (4x 25min Sprint wins & 3x 60min Endurance wins partnered with Dawson).

In fact, van Es has a number of other significant accolades to his name. He began racing in 2007 and was crowned ‘best novice’ in all of his five novice races, following in the steps of Lewis Hamilton. In 2009, he moved up to national level, racing in a series known as Super One. This series is the pinnacle of British kart racing, where the best talent from across the UK comes together to compete. In his first season he placed as the highest ‘rookie’, finishing fourth overall with his closest rookie competitor in eleventh. He continued racing at this level and made consistent steps forward, ultimately becoming British Champion in 2013 – joining famous names such as Jenson Button, David Coulthard, and Anthony Davidson on the championship trophy.

The two-time Driver’s Champion passes on this experience to the other drivers in his role as Captain, sharing the best racing lines, best places to overtakes, and areas of driving style to focus on. As a result, with two new drivers the 2014/15 season has started incredibly well. Brad Appleton is a third year Engineer with a serious passion for motorsport of all kinds, working with United Autosports in the British GT. Elliot Graves is a geographer who has raced rally cars in the past, but has never before really competed in any form of circuit racing.

This year, Durham have qualified in the ‘intermediate’ tier, a strong result considering the mix of experience. As it stands, Durham is leading the championship, and with the tools at the disposal of DUMS, the aim is to keep it that way until the end of the season!

 

If you are interested in keeping up with how Durham are getting on follow them on Twitter (@DUMotorsport) and to find out more about the championship, head over to www.bukc.co.uk

With 3 of the 4-strong team graduating at the end of the season, DUMS are also looking for new drivers who may be interested in competing. If that is you, then please visit community.dur.ac.uk/motor-sports.society/ and get in contact using the online form.

Photograph: Stu Stretton Photography

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