In preparation for his racing debut at Buckmore Park on Saturday, Dan Wright - the KM Group’s Editorial Apprentice - headed to the Chatham go-kart track to get a much needed training session ahead of the big day...
James Abbott and Dan Wright at Brands Hatch. Picture: Andrew Cliffe, Norwich Photo
At the weekend, I’ll be taking on national racing champions - including the current British Touring Car title holder - in the Ryan Lawford Memorial Trophy.
My only previous driving experience, apart from aboard my trusty 1.1-litre Rover Metro road car, is a quick go on the figure-of-eight kart track on Hastings seafront.
So I’m not expecting great results in the 90-minute endurance race with my team of three.
But to help prepare for race day, the good people at Buckmore Park invited me for a one-hour training session at their cracking 1200-metre track.
Weather conditions were perfect and having the track all to myself for the duration gave me the best training experience possible.
The day kicked off with a lengthy track walk with instructor Matt Homewood - where I took in every twist and turn that Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button once graced.
Once aboard my 390-cc Honda-engined kart I hit the track immediately and got to work.
Initially, I followed my instructor but once comfortable I was let loose alone...
After a couple of spins on the challenging hairpin section I quickly picked up the racing line, turn-in and braking points.
It looks simple but when you’re getting rattled around in a powerful kart lap-after-lap it does take a lot out of you. Karting is a proper work-out.
I remembered all the advice Matt offered - as he does for every Buckmore training client - and after setting lap times of well over one minute to start with, I was quickly finding more speed.
The track is incredibly daunting. Unlike other kart circuits, Buckmore is full of undulations and variety.
I loved sliding the rear end out to the limit and dealing with frustrating under-steer every lap at the awkward turn one - which was damp under the shade of the trees all morning.
At the half-time break my times had dropped to 57 seconds: good, but not good enough.
A quick karter will do 52/53 seconds around Buckmore in the dry so I’d already set myself a target.
“You’re too tense” I’m told, “relax your arms and you’ll feel the kart more.” I did so, and hit the track again for one final blast.
I never quite mastered the first turn, which was a real challenge with the damp and slippery tarmac under the trees.
But elsewhere, each bend felt good in the 4-stroke RT8 kart - especially the steep downwards Symes Sweep section which is taken flat-out if you’re brave enough.
With a handful of laps left I gave it my all and reaped the rewards. “You’ve done 55 seconds then!” I’m told once back in the pit lane.
That was great to hear - 55.178 seconds on a partly damp track is a very satisfying result and one that sets me up nicely for Saturday.
I could even beat the touring car champion now...
But my day wasn’t done yet and once finished at Buckmore I set off to Brands Hatch for the circuit’s annual media day.
After grilling Kent-based drivers about their season plans for the local papers, I got comfy aboard a 460-bhp Radical SR8 sportscar alongside champion racer James Abbott.
The speed was unbelievable and the adrenaline-filled passenger ride gave further insight ahead of my race on Saturday - which is all in aid of the Demelza Hospice children’s charity.
Abbott said he was still three or four seconds off proper pace but it felt quick enough to me... especially with a 2.7-litre V8 engine on board.
Now my preparation is all over, Saturday can’t come quick enough.
A big thanks to Chris Pullman, Matt Homewood and all at Buckmore Park for their time, training and fantastic track - and to Radical for their hospitality at Brands Hatch.