British youngster takes another Henry Surtees Foundation success at Buckmore Park | by Alex Harmer
The best way for a driver to make his or her mark on an event is to keep winning it, and 19-year-old Jack Aitken seems determined to do just that with the Henry Surtees Foundation karting event at Buckmore Park.
Aitken’s approach to the race is to go out there and have fun – any prizes accrued along the way are a bonus. But in three appearances he has stood on the podium three times and won the event twice, his second success coming in October. He hadn’t even been to Buckmore before his first victory.
“I must have the knack,” he says, a little sheepishly.
This one didn’t come easily though, with rising star Ben Barnicoat chasing hard all race long. Starting from third, Aitken made a bold move to take the lead into the first corner. “I’d started third the last time I won it,” he says, “so I knew it was a good place to be. There were some damp patches on the inside as well and things happened exactly as I thought they would. Kyle [Fowlie] ran a bit wide on those damp patches, I snuck through on the inside and ran away to try to get as much of a lead as I could.
“But Ben was really quick and chased me down in the middle part of the race. It was just a case of trying to keep him at arm’s length. He had a little go at me on the last lap, a cheeky look into the last corner, but he was too far back.”
You might remember Aitken appearing on these pages two years ago, after that first win. He was still in karts then, but he’s now competing in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 with Fortec, and at the Hungaroring in September he scored his first single-seater victory.
Without his impressive record at Buckmore, Aitken might not have attracted the attention of a team such as Fortec. He’s been saving all those testing opportunities as well, choosing his education over a full-time career. “I’ve been talking to Carlin quite a bit and it’s always helpful to get your name out there. I tried the Red Bull simulator last year, which was really helpful. It’s good to stick your name under their nose and hopefully they’ll notice. The Henry Surtees Foundation does quite a lot for young drivers now and all the prizes are going to be good. It’s just special to win an event against drivers like Alex Sims and Olly Rowland. It’s good to show you can be competitive in a kart.
“I know them quite well now, because it’s my third year at this event and you see the same faces. I was a bit in awe the first year, with all these great drivers coming up. I think I’d just moved into karts, but they’re really nice guys so we can just chill out and have fun.”
The future’s up in the air for Aitken at the moment, but the relaxed young racer seems to take everything in his stride. “I might do the Eurocup again next year and try to win it, or I might move up and do something else, whether it’s GP3, F3 or Formula Renault 3.5. I don’t know yet. As usual it depends on a lot of things. We’re still at that time of year when everybody’s just talking. We’ll see how things develop.
“The end goal always has to be F1, to get a paid drive and be one of the best. I’m working towards that.”