CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Go-karting thrills at Daytona Sandown Park, Esher with Damon Hill

PUBLISHED: 17:29 08 October 2013 | UPDATED: 15:49 25 June 2014

Karting thrills at Daytona Sandown Park

Karting thrills at Daytona Sandown Park

Archant

When an invitation arrived at Surrey Life asking if we’d be interested in assembling a karting team to share a charity track day with Damon Hill, Heston Blumenthal and a host of professional racers, it was too good to resist. Ade Holder took on the challenge at Daytona Sandown Park, Esher

For many people, the thought of adult go-karting would seem odd at best; however, the world of karting is as far from a child-only sport as shark fishing is to pond dipping.

Karting is the proving ground for most racing drivers – for instance, it’s where current British F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button both learnt their craft – but it also offers the rest of us the chance to engage in a fantastically intense and thrilling racing experience.

Nestled in the middle of Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, you’ll find Daytona’s 900m tarmac circuit and it was here that I found myself kitted up and ready to go head-to-head against a host of celebs and pro-drivers at Damon Hill’s annual charity karting event in aid of the Halow Project.

The Formula 1 legend was one of the founding members of the Surrey-based charity, which supports young people with learning disabilities on their journey into and through adult life.

He remains an active patron today and the reason Surrey Life assembled a ragtag team for the occasion. Joining me were young karting whizz Harry Law, Paul Williams (production executive for Top Gear), Pete Young (our wildcard) and John Manning (Top Gear production assistant).

 

Under starter’s orders

I was really rather nervous as we pulled into Sandown Park. The car park was full and it was hard not to notice the larger than usual number of expensive and rather fast cars.

As we wandered around the viewing area, there were quite a number of people in racing suits festooned in sponsorship badges and I didn’t think they were there in fancy dress.

I’m a big motor racing fan, so I couldn’t help but notice Surrey-based racing driver Sam Bird’s presence – this year, he is a test driver for the Mercedes F1 team as well as driving in GP2 for Time Russia. Next to him, the small matter of Josh Hill (Damon’s son and a successful driver in his own right) and Rick Parfitt Jr (yes, son of that Rick Parfitt). Oh, and there was Heston Blumenthal. Hot in the kitchen perhaps, but could he match it on the track, I wondered?

As the pre-practice tension built, there was a bidding frenzy for pro-drivers to join teams as guest members. Nerves disappeared for some as they smugly had photos taken with their newly acquired and rather fast teammates.

Ahead of us we had two-and-a-half hours of racing, which had to include one fuel stop. Strategy decisions are key to motorsport success these days and fortunately Team Surrey Life had the addition of a team manager and supportive dad of Harry, Ken Law.

Our best driver, Harry, was duly sent out for qualifying and after a fine drive placed Surrey Life in the top ten. Things were looking good.

After a parade lap lead by a rather stunning Mercedes AMG SLS, the green lights flared and the race began in earnest. As we hoped, Harry had a great session

but now, with a screeching of brakes, it was my turn.

Getting in and out of a kart can lead to some ungainly slips and stumbles – a little disconcerting when you feel the heat from the engines and are currently attempting to maintain some sort of dignity among pro drivers – but the change-over, luckily, was smooth.

Harry jumped out athletically and I “jumped” in, settled down and pressed the throttle pedal. I made my way to the end of the pits… glanced to the right… spotted a kart speed by and… a gap… right foot down! Go, go, go!

I fought hard to maintain position but, as many people had already made their first stops, it was tricky to tell who you were racing. In this instance, I fell back on the plan to race everyone, and it seemed to work.

Seemingly just moments later, I saw my number being enthusiastically waved by Paul on a pit board, so I headed in. Had I performed that badly? No, it turns out. I was stunned to discover I had not only maintained our position but, in fact, gained a place! Perhaps time for that career change after all?

At this point, some of the leading drivers were now, for no apparent reason, getting the dreaded black flag – penalties dispensed for dangerous conduct and resulting in the agonising penance of sitting in the pit lane for a lap while your competitors get ahead.

After some quizzing, it came to light that for a large donation Halow PR supremo Di Bird was willing to goad the race director into falsely black flagging the teams of your choice. With a new strategy possible, we began digging around our bags for loose change…

 

In the thick of it

Back on the track, John’s laps for Team Surrey Life were clean and uneventful but, after missing my terrible gestures from the pit wall to re-fuel, he came in for his swap with Paul. This meant Paul could only complete one lap before heading straight back into the pits; the pressure clearly got to him as he managed to miss the pit lane and bump into the barrier of the fuel lane. Caught there, in front of the crowd, Paul eventually wrestled the kart into the right lane, with much mirth from some quarters. If only the Top Gear cameras had been there. Pete took his turn and kept the pressure up until the final swap. Who would be the chosen man?

I was given the honour and had it all to drive for – all the other teams had sent out their pros. To say I held my own would be generous, but I fought for every place I lost and I enjoyed every second.

In the end, Team Surrey Life managed to secure 17th place and a very proud place it was too. Not only had we sweated, struggled, laughed and worried, we had also enjoyed an amazing day. The ensuing pats on the back, pro-driver photos and charity auction raised a total of over £19,000. Here’s to next year; let’s make that £25,000!

 

***

 

For more information about the Halow Project, visit their website at halowproject.org.uk

 

***

Further reading:

Former F1 world champion Damon Hill on Top Gear, City bankers and his life in Surrey

F1 star Lewis Hamilton on McLaren, Woking and what's driving him round the Benz in Weybridge?

Tom and Max Chilton - Reigate’s motor racing brothers

More from Surrey Life

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search