Here we go again, NKC embarking on a third season, bigger and hopefully better than ever before. As NKC has grown from 11 TKM racers at our first ever meeting, it’s always been a concern that we might begin to lose what we love about this series, i.e. low cost, fun and friendly racing. Of course things are going to change but so far so good. Who would have known that Rotax drivers are actually alright? It’s not true what they say about you lot.
We arrived on a bright and sunny Friday, with a great weather forecast ahead. Once again NKC brought the sunshine and it looks like some of our wet tyres are going to perish before they get worn out. Tyres were dished out and much to our relief, everybody got what they had ordered. We weren’t really worried, honest.
Saturday testing proceeded without issue and the pecking order in both classes began to reveal itself. Whilton Mill is a tricky circuit that takes a lot of learning, made more difficult by it being particularly brutal on the body – as the weekend progressed we would lose 2 drivers to injury and TKM’s Will Cregeen barely made it through race day with a neck that had succumbed to the cornering forces.
Thanks to our new chief scrutineer, Phil Smith, everybody got through safety scrutineering on Saturday evening, with only a very small number of minor issues to be dealt with.
Drivers took advantage of the additional testing provided on Sunday morning to get fully prepared for the qualifying sessions. In TKM a pattern emerged as the top 4 pace was in a different league to the rest of the pack, although 2 other anticipated contenders failed to set a time. Pole was taken by Ryan Edwards, quite astonishing since he is also racing in the 160 kg class. The top 3 was rounded out by Mitchell Ball and Lucas Sullivan.
In the Rotax class the battle ground for the day was set at the front, with Max Fitton taking pole, closely followed by Matt Hildred and Milton Steele Vaessen.
In TKM Pete Newman and Matthew Ayres confirmed what we all suspected, they would very much be contenders this weekend, despite their disasters in qualifying. Bother drivers picked their way through from the back to finish 3rd and 4th respectively. Lucas Sullivan was severely hampered by starting problems, meaning he could only make it back up to 9th by the finish. At the front Ryan Edwards and Mitchell Ball fought a 2-kart race for the win, with Mitchell coming out on top following a move on lap 5.
In Rotax we saw the first episode of an epic battle for the win. Max Fitton held the lead at the start but Matt Hildred and Milton Steele-Vaessen were on his tail and looking for their opportunity to pounce. However, as the race progressed, the 2 chasers got a bit too involved in their battle for 2nd, which enabled Max to break away and claim victory. Matt won the battle for 2nd this time. The rest of the field split into several mini-races, with a few drivers making up the odd place or 2.
Mitchell Ball took advantage of the battles behind him to build a gap and take a lights to flag victory. Pete Newman and Ryan Edwards swapped places a couple of times, with Ryan coming out on top this time to claim 2nd place. More problems for Lucas Sullivan meant a DNF, surely preventing him from racing with the quick guys at the front. Oli Nitch-Smith made up a lot of ground after losing out in the heat thanks to an incident and finished a respectable 7th. Strong performances from Darren Smith and Andy Wagstaff saw them gain a handful of places to finish 13th and 10th respectively.
It was a case of here we go again in Rotax. Matt and Milton stalked Max Fitton for long periods but ultimately ended up fighting over 2nd, enabling Max to break away and take another win. Matt claimed 2nd again but he and Milton must have both been rueing another missed opportunity to grab the win. Aled Davies settled for another solid 4th place, sometimes looking like he might cruise up to the back of the front 3, but just not quite having enough on this occasion. Elsewhere Stephen Moran gained 3 places to finish 8th, as did John Bramwell, who finished in 12th place.
We were treated to an epic battle at the front of the TKM pack and it’s well worth a watch of the excellent Alpha Live coverage. Mitchell Ball lined up on pole but this was never going to be an easy win with so many quick drivers behind.
Pete Newman made a move stick on lap 8 and for a moment it looked like these 2 would fight it out to the end. However, Ryan Edwards and Matthew Ayres weren’t done and took the opportunity to engage Mitchell. This was great for Pete who was able to take advantage of the fighting and pull out a lead, ultimately cruising to victory.
The battle for the podium was set though and at one point it looked disastrous for Mitchell as it appeared his earlier dominance was going to be reduced to a 4th place finish. An audacious last gasp move in the last 2 corners though meant he was able to snatch 3rd from Ryan Edwards, Matthew Ayres taking 2nd. This was a great example of close clean racing by some highly skilled drivers.
Naturally Ryan took the 160 class win and Lucan Sullivan showed he very much has the pace to be amongst it at future rounds, racing from the back of the grid to take the final trophy for 5th. Another stand out performer was Curtis Grainger, who gained 8 places to finish 6th.
Matt Hildred knew he had to hold 2nd up the hill this time to avoid getting involved in the battles that stopped him racing for wins earlier in the day. Alas it wasn’t to be as again Milton mugged him at the start. This time the top 3 didn’t break away though and Matt found himself getting swallowed up by a chasing pack that included Aled Davies, Simon Keeble and Tom Richards.
Max Fitton was now comfortable at the front and in dominant form. He was again able to ease away and leave everyone else to race for the rest of the trophies. Aled Davies gave Milton Steele-Vaessen a run for his money in the race for 2nd but Milton was able to sneak it.
Behind was a close race-long battle for 4th, with Matt growing increasingly frustrated as he could see the leaders disappearing, along with his podium chances. Ultimately the frustration appeared to get the better of him as he went for a 50/50 move in the penultimate corner. There was contact, resulting in damage to Matt’s kart and he limped over the line in 7th with only 3 wheels pointing in the right direction. Simon Keeble took a solid 4th place, with the final trophy position taken by Tom Richards.
Our old friend Mike Gamble took the win in the 177 class, continuing his recent run of kart racing success.
Overall this was a great first weekend of NKC 2019. We really appreciate the efforts of all the drivers in approaching the racing in the right spirit. There was lots of close racing with very little contact, despite decent numbers in each class. We hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did and look forward to seeing you all at Clay Pigeon.