15-year-old karter claims victory in an event run by an old master – and it might pitch him into the big time.
Motor sport has a happy knack of giving drivers unexpected opportunities just when they really need or deserve them. Tom Kristensen’s late-notice (and victorious) debut at Le Mans, say, or Michael Schumacher at Spa in 1991.
Karting starlet Callum Bradshaw may have chanced upon his own lucky break recently with the Henry Surtees Challenge karting event. “We didn’t know much about the competition until the MSA said it was entering me,” says the 15-year old from Leicestershire. “I didn’t go in with any real expectations and just approached it as a bit of fun.”
The premise of the Henry Surtees Foundation’s event is simple. Put rising stars and karting kids into identical arrive-and-drive two-stroke karts and let them battle it out on the UK’s most modern karting circuit, Buckmore Park, for a variety of prizes. Then throw in John Surtees overseeing proceedings for a fun-but-serious event.
Winning isn’t everything: there are things to be picked up by the younger ones from the more experienced nearly-pros against whom they’re competing. But put hungry karters of any age onto a circuit and things will always get serious.
“The prizes are amazing so to win was great, but I also learned a lot racing against drivers like Ben Barnicoat and Jake Dennis,” Bradshaw says. “I know them already, but to have them racing with me and going past meant I could really watch and that probably helped me to win the prize.”
This is by no means Bradshaw’s first win. He’s been racing at the front of the Junior XC30 and OK Junior classes in the UK, also winning Kartmasters and the IAME European Open titles. By becoming Britain’s first winner of the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy he represented the UK in Bahrain in November. A month earlier he found himself on the podium at Le Mans.
“We finished second at the IAME World Finals in France. It was daunting, but it was our second year so there was a bit more pressure on it having finished runner-up that first year, too. But once I’m in the kart the pressure and the nerves soon disappear.”
It will be the seniors for Bradshaw next, both at home and at the world championships, but beyond is a blank canvas for the youngster. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan already being shaped in his head.
“I want to reach GT3 and go from there. Single-seaters aren’t really an option for me because we don’t have the budget. That means it might be Ginettas when we start in cars, but I wouldn’t rule out single-seaters – or anything. If the budget arrives then I would love to have a go.”
He had a taste of racing with a roof over his head with a half-day Clio Cup Junior test as part of the HSF prize package. The car was ideal; a proper Clio Cup car but with reduced power, aimed at karting graduates. “The test was at Snetterton alongside Phil Glew, who was a perfect tutor.
“It was my very first day driving a car. There was so much more grip, and you sit so much higher up – there’s so much more to think about.”
The second part of the prize was with single-seater super-team Carlin, a test Bradshaw’s budget wouldn’t normally have afforded. “Carlin was great. We started with time in the simulator and then we went to Pembrey to drive the Formula 4 car. The pace was good, and I think they were impressed. I felt more comfortable in that it was obviously more like the kart than the Clio.”
Not all the prizes in sport go to the ones who most need them, but those from the HSF have landed in the right hands in Bradshaw and, last year, Piers Prior. Now it’s up to him.Time is on his side to see just how far he can take things.