This weekend the lights go out for the first Kart meeting of the season, after all the waiting it is time for more brilliant bumper to bumper racing, an endless amount of rubber and a great mix of drivers all eager to start the year off on a high around Clay Pigeon Raceway in 2021.
The drivers and teams have been busy since the 29th March completing a short but busy test period in order to prepare for this weekend’s opener – quite possibly the shortest preseason in Clay Kart Club history. And yet everyone is looking forward to hitting the track in anger. We took a look at each of the classes in detail and sat down with one of Clay Pigeon Raceways resident marshals Lee Hodge, to make some bold predictions for who could be this year’s club champions from each category, ahead what could be the closest season on track for years.
So, hang on to your helmets, step into those racing boots and zip up that race suit, There has been plenty of chitter chatter over the winter and while many drivers have taken to online sim racing to fill in the time, their have been some interesting moves around the paddock, has the pandemic together with the delayed start to the season really shaken up the pecking order all that much?
During the off season, several drivers made the switch up in class leaving the door wide open for others to step up to the line and make their bid for glory, there are some notable names amongst those moving which are sure to not go unnoticed.
Honda Cadet champion Hugh Moulton is making the move up to Mini Max along with runner up and his main rival last season Charles Green. 2020 ended on a dramatic high for the pair as both could have been crowned champion at the final round. Charles headed into the Rotax Festival ahead of Hugh by just 8 points, only to see it all slip away in the final just as it looked like it was all coming together.
For Hugh it was a well-played final meeting keeping his main rival just behind in order to leap frog them for the title. Expect this rivalry to be one to watch and yet their battle is set to be even more fierce as they are joined by Jonathan Pigott who came alive towards the end of last season and will look to pick up where he left off.
Finn Smith joins Junior Max in what is probably the most competitive category of them all, with Leo Purches joining him, it would be easy to assume that they should be on the pace strait way however with such a competitive field in Juniors it is hard to see them making an instant impact among the front runners early on in the season.
Junior Max runner up Jordan Morris makes the step up to the Senior Max ranks knowing he has it all to do to be at the front again, having pipped Harri Reynolds to second overall last season by just a single point. There is no doubt he has the ability to mix it with best and surely time will tell if he can cut his teeth at the front.
Harrison Crook also makes the move up to the Senior Max ranks and will be hoping his 5th place in the Rotax Festival Junior Max B final is a precursor of things to come, having spent most of last season teetering on the top 10, a good season this year could see him as an outside contender and would be considered an achievement in itself.
Junior MAX, Jack Goring, Jamie Burt & Jake Shurey, Rotax Festival 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography
Dalton Haywood returns to Clay Pigeon Raceway having made an instant impact from his debut, having shown great speed on his way to winning multiple heats and both the finals he has appeared in it would be easy to assume he is the outright favourite. His performance during heat 3 of the Rotax Festival showed that he can make mistakes, dropping from 26th at the start and having to fight through the field to 12th showed great race craft if he is to mount a season long title challenge. But with a possible campaign also looming with Ultimate Karting Championship and Sodi Academy could doing both hurt his chances of securing a first overall title, it is hard to say at this stage, but one thing is for sure Dalton is certainly one of the drivers to watch.
Returning Jack Price will head into the season knowing that should he needs to find the consistency throughout the season and produce that little bit extra when it matters, he could be a serious outside contender for overall victories and possibly an outside chance for the title. He showed that very potential during the Rotax Festival taking fastest lap and a top 3 finish in the opening heat, going on to finish 7th overall in the final ended what was a very mixed season on a high note. Should results go his way Jack could well be the dark horse for this season.
Lucas Howell is another driver who should be considered a bet for the Honda Cadet championship, his consistent approach to each race put him regularly in the front half of the field and it was fair to say he did show that he had the pace to keep up with many of his more experienced pears. The one thing that stands out and puts him in the mix has to be his ability to make moves work and find space on track that others did not, while others pushed passed or made late moves for track positions. Sometimes it is not all about speed but race craft and consistency, of all the drivers in Honda Cadet Lucas most definitely has that aspect in spades.
If anyone should be considered the pre-season favourite, then Harrison Whitticombe is the one to watch, he ended the season as joint runner up with Charles Green and came agonisingly close losing out on the title at the Rotax Festival. His performance in 2020 was without doubt outstanding and by far one of the standout performers of the year, had it not been for a disastrous meeting during round 6 we could have seen Harrison become champion not Hugh. Provided Harrison can maintain his form across the whole season then it is going to be hard to see anyone else crowned champion.
Freddie Baker, Travis Rose, Luke Ford, Sam Green Gomez and even Max Lovell all showed that they could deliver a standout result when it counts, hopefully they will also give everyone something to watch out for, we all would love to see a title fight that goes right down to the wire with multiple drivers pushing each other to the chequered flag.
Lee Hodge, Clay Pigeon Raceway 2021 Season Prediction: Harrison Whitticombe
Honda Cadet, Lucas Howell, Round 8 NKRA 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography
One driver who should be in the mix is Arun Phull, he came close to the Mini Max title last season only being outscored in the opening two round proved costly, despite a late surge in the remaining rounds in which Arun outscored Finn Smith. Not to take anything from Arun he was consistently up their pushing from the off and never to far away from his main rival.
With Finn now moving up to Junior Max, Arun should be the bar for which all other drivers aspire to match, he will need to watch his back though Daniel Tribe is the only other driver who competed on a similar level to him last season and with Hugh Moulton, Jonathan Pigott coming up from Honda Cadet, Arun will need to perform at his best each week to claim the title.
If there was ever a driver who was in the wrong class last season it was Scott March, one appearance in Honda Cadet was all he needed at Clay Pigeon Raceway to cause a stir. For anyone watching from the outside Scott was clearly no slouch easily able to match those around him, now he is in Mini Max full time and will be the one to watch out for. Scott has shown his ability and has his sights firmly set on the title, can he do it? Will he be able to repeat his results of last season? Or is there more to come? We will have to wait and see, if he does indeed deliver it could be interesting indeed.
Also moving up from Honda Cadet is Charles ‘Cheesy’ Green joining forces with Xcel Motorsport, he is in good company with Ewan Chairman and Arun Pull. In a team that is as highly competitive as this, Charles is going to have to stand out from the rest to be seen in Mini Max. There is no reason he can not do just that, he has proven he can win in the past and knows how to mount a serious title challenge. If that is not enough, he managed to beat Freddie Wherlock by 0.03 with a superb late pass on the line last season. Provided Charles is able to bring everything together on track there is no reason he will not be up their when it matters.
Lee Hodge, Clay Pigeon Raceway 2021 Season Prediction: Arun Phull
Mini MAX, Ben Crossley, Rotax Festival 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography
Jez Williams is a name that many will already know and will be watching very closely this season, he has made a name for himself rising thought the ranks and even surprising many in the MSUK British Kart Championship by finishing 9th overall in the Junior Rotax standings in 2020. He is a driver with an abundance of experience and it shows. The other drivers will surely have to watch out as Jez should have no reason not to be running up the front of the field. The real question will be if he is able to fully commit to a full season especially with the opportunity that may arise if he is to make the step up to the British F4 Championship Powered by EcoBoost in the future.
Lucas Hayden was well established within the field back in Mini Max finishing 4th overall in 2019, at the time he was receiving great praise for matching Noah Hadley and compared frequently to Harry Rowett for his ability to race closer to the driver in front and deliver very consistent lap times. His results last season may have only been for competing in three events but look closely at the final two rounds and the drivers he outscored, he had finished above in Mini Max. Lucas is an outsider for the title and certainly a good choice, he may or may not win a race, but you do not have to win every race to win the title.
A bold move that could turn out to be a big move in the right direction, Donovan Dyer moves up to Junior Max from Mini Max. Donovan has already made his debut in the class back in December during the Turkey Trot showing great promise finishing a hard-fought 7th in the final from 14th on the grid. What really stands out however is like Lucas Howell in Honda Cadets he is able to make real moves and carve his way up from the back. A championship push may be too much to ask this year but with right support an outright victory may not be out of the question.
Jack Goring impressed many last seasons, his pace seemed to keep getting better and more consistent at each meeting, Learning in front of everyone how to get the best out of what he had against those with more experienced was a tough but necessary steppingstone and despite not being at the front it never seemed to faze him or his determination to keep going. If Jack is to make a real go of it in 2021, he will need to finish each heat and try to make the final at every meeting, it may seem like a big ask for Jack, but it is not beyond his ability to deliver a podium this season.
Lee Hodge, Clay Pigeon Raceway 2021 Season Prediction: Jez Williams
Junior MAX, Lucas Hayden & Callum Davies, Round 8 NKRA 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography
Tom Adams has set his sights on moving up in the world of motorsport and he has good reason to be positive about doing just that. Taking multiple wins and competing in the MSUK British Kart Championship together with representing Team UK at the Rotax World finals ticks all the necessary boxes. Tom has indeed done well for himself his double success taking the Junior Max Championship’s in 2018 / 19 shows he can do it and hopefully he can add the Senior Max outright title to his name this season.
Team Clay Racing have reason to be positive when it comes to 2021, Jack Maidment, may have been erratic at times but beneath all of that was a driver learning with the fastest Karter’s around. His performance at the Rotax Festival was very promising, making the B final was a big achievement it may not have been the A final and it did end in the barriers, but he had learnt what it was like to be in a fight for real honours. Jack will need to move up through the field this year to improve on his 12th placed overall finish from last season. Being within Team Clay Racing should offer him the expertise to do just that, a top 8 should be the minimum expectation for him this season given some have moved on there will be good reason to believe he could score a first podium or win if everything comes together.
Oakley Pryer is for sure one of Team Clay Racing best hopes for a title this year so no pressure their, his performance at Forest Edge where he briefly looked on for the win showed he could do just that. PFI and Trent Valley Kart Club also gave everyone reason to be positive. Many believe that he can do it, and if his performance during the Rotax Festival is any indication of what is to come, Oakley will be regularly outperforming his teammates.
Should Oakley be able to mount a full season challenge for the Senior Max title then both Brendan Hague and Lewis Halliday should definitely watch out, this is one driver with the ability to take their crown from them and rise up to the top.
Lee Hodge, Clay Pigeon Raceway 2021 Season Prediction: Oakley Pryer
Senior MAX, Jack Maidment, Team Clay Racing, Round 8 NKRA 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography
ROTAX 177 MASTERS
Colin Davis took 3rd overall at the Rotax Festival in what was his only round of 2020 and Colin is no stranger to racing at Clay Pigeon Raceway having taken one of the closest pole positions in MSUK British Karting history back in 2019 by denying Michael Cheek, Jack McConnell and Matteo Zanetti by 0.03. That is where Colin could have a chance with this season’s title, if he does decide to go for the championship his experience of racing could be invaluable.
Phillip Haworth is no stranger to the Clay Pigeon Raceway paddock often found around his team’s awning throughout the year supporting George Walker, Lewis Malin or James Tomsett with preparation for their Karts or the MSUK British Karting Championship. A short appearance in the Rotax Festival with the 177 Rotax & Masters showed he still had the pace, setting the fastest lap during heat 1 in the process.
Having Phillip returning to the track is a bonus for everyone especially those racing in Rotax 177 and a full season of racing at the track where he previously dominated the 2017 Senior Max category with ease, seems like the most obvious option for him. It would be a brave person to bet against Phillip winning the title this season should he choose to compete all season long for it.
Veteran and multiple champions, Dan Milner is back to defend his Rotax 177 championship for the second time having first won the championship in 2018 and 2020, Having been involved with Team Clay Racing, it would be easy to list all of his achievements with them. However what he accomplished in 2020 was a remarkable season for himself, for one thing he only won one heat all year, finishing on the podium a further six times but never once won a further race on his way to the title.
Consistency is Dan’s strength, and it shows each time he goes on track he is regularly setting near identical lap times every race, often finishing in the top five. Whether that will be enough against Phillip Haworth is to be seen, but seeing Dan go head-to-head against Phillip will be a like watching Rocky V all over again, Rocky Balboa vs Ivan Drago you can decide which one is which.
Lee Hodge, Clay Pigeon Raceway 2021 Season Prediction: Colin Davis
Rotax 177 Masters, Alfie Williams, Round 8 NKRA 2020, Image Supplied by Matt Gale at Behind The Fence Photography