It’s not often you get a call asking if you would like to go karting with a former F1 world champion, well when I say not often, it has happened before but it is still a amazing call and it was certainly an amazing experience. Once a year the good folk over at Daytona Motorsport get together with a charity Damon Hill is highly involved in called Halow and they run an amazing evening of team karting that is actually open to everyone. The idea is very simple; you call Daytona and you book a team to race in the event, places do get snapped up pretty quickly as you can imagine but it really is open to anyone. The teams then arrive, get a race briefing and hit the track in a 2.5 hour multi driver endurance race. On top of the racing itself there is a BBQ and a rather interesting auction of amazing racing collectables and signed bits and bobs. If that wasn’t quite enough you also get the pleasure of seeing Damon Hill casually walking about chatting to people along with various other drivers from across the world of motorsport from BTCC drivers to various other very professional looking folk you probably won’t know but get the impression they are very good. The whole evening is a bit surreal and even though this was my third time I was in awe and having fun before we had even started racing.
Halow – A Good Cause
Halow is quite simply a wonderful charity that helps young people with learning disabilities engage with the community and have a life as young adults on their own. It fulfils what is sometimes a lost gap between the help and support children get and community support adults get. It is very much geared around helping young people have a life and this includes social events, learning to live on their own, helping them get a job and build relationships to name just a few things. Halow has a number of trustees of which Damon Hill is one and he is very hands on witht he work and the young people whom Halow supports.
Previous years I had taken different friends with me to try and not only have a great time but also to attempt to do quite well. From the Production Executive of Top Gear to old karting buddies and crazy motorbike racers each year we kept doing a little better. However, this year came after my 2015 DMAX Karting season and if I was ever going to be any good this was the time. team Velocity Torque consisted of myself and my arch DMAX nemesis Faris Malik. We pretty much spent all season in 2015 battling, ultimately Faris is quicker than me but we certainly give each other a good run for our money and Faris was a sure fire hit to join the team. The third member was not quite so experienced…the last time I raced him a side swiped me on a wet track at about 35mph then got black flagged. However, seeing as he works at VT I could hardly say no so Aaron Thomas made up the team, a wildcard at best and a potentially danger to other drivers at worst. There was an option to have up to 5 drivers but selfishly that means driving less so I went with 3 people. To keep things fair ever team has to make the same number of stops and frankly if you are not used to it 30 mins of karting is enough for anyone but I was feeling confident so we kitted up and waited for the start.
Damon Hill’s GoPro Footage
Without going into endless detail about the race we started in 7th on a random grid where the first 4 places were auctioned off in aid of Halow. The start was a bit of a mess with the person in front of me seemingly unable to see a green light which lead me to actually hitting the brakes before even passing the start line. However all 25 odd karts were soon piling into turn 1 of Daytona’s Sandown track and as always things just got more fun from there on in. The level of ability was wide, from pro drivers to people who really had little or no experience in a kart at all. This certainly goes to create an interesting race and a race that means most people get to over take and be overtaken by a good amount of people. There is, however, always a selection of people who are perhaps not very good in a bad way and by this I mean they are not technically fast but think they are. These people do tend to ignore normal race etiquette and get rather angry if they get a little nudge back from anyone in a corner. The Daytona marshals are always eagle eye though and soon give people a little ticking off if they are misbehaving.
During my stint I managed to put some moves past some drivers I was genuinely proud of, all the DMAX races paid off by the bucket load. It is amazing how my level of racecraft just seemed to get better without me ever really noticing. I did incur the wrath of one driver because after being all over the back of him for what seemed like forever I just tapped him a little as I overestimated a gap. I could actually hear him shouting at me through his helmet and over the noise of the race, which seemed rather odd at the time. I obviously held my hand up and waved him on and the marshal saw no wrong doing. I had to then arrive on his bumper again and dispatch him flat out into turn 1 much to his indignation, a move that came to be somewhat of a signature one for the evening. It is always hard to work out where you are in the running during a stint but as the boys waved to pit board to bring me in I was told we were sitting around 6th which was great news. I had also put in one of the fastest laps which I was frankly over the moon about.
Next up was Aaron who hit the track with all the vim and vigour you would expect from someone who actually seemed a little nervous. Aaron has done many scary things in his life and being unsure about jumping off, in or over something is not really an option but seeing 25 karts flying round a track with people like Mr Hill on track may well have just caused him to pause for a moment. Despite this he did very well holding some good lap times and certainly not losing lots of places though he did manage to spin out twice at turn 4 which catches a lot of people out.
Faris then jumped in the kart for a 40 minute session and it is worth saying at this point he was fasting for Ramadan and so had not eaten or drunk any fluids since before the sun came up that day….it was about 7pm when he went on. Anyone who has ever been karting will know it is physically hard work and very hot, to do 40 minutes and put in some fast lap times as well as making up places was nothing short of heroic. We swapped places again and refuelled leaving Faris to take the final drive and take the kart over the line.
The final few minutes were tense to say the least, after an amazing race Faris was battling for 4th place. He was trading blows with a quicker driver but Faris is able to make his kart very wide when he needs to and he held the guy off and re gained the place a number of times but as the final lap came round he simply could not hold the place any longer. Team VT passed the line in 5th and a very proud 5th at that.
Having 20 teams slower than us was a great feeling but really the best feeling was just being part of it all. The whole event is so well done and the track and venue make it perfect, add on top the money it raises for Halow and the fact Damon Hill and friends are there and I would be hard pushed to think of a better way to spend an evening.
If you have read this and you are wondering about getting a team together for next year, just do it! It is an awesome event and one that not does so much good too! Plus you might just get to race against team VT too, what more could you want!?