For the last three years the Henry Surtees Foundation has been holding a karting event for up-and-coming young drivers at Buckmore Park in Kent.
The prizes on offer not only attract current karting stars but drivers who are already making their way up the ladder as well. It’s not hard to see why. There’s Puma racing gear and all sorts of simulator and track tests up for grabs and the racing is usually frenetic as the youngsters fight for the haul.
So, the prizes are impressive, but what can victory at Buckmore really do for a driver’s career? Just ask David Pittard, last year’s winner.
I spoke to David shortly after he dominated his heat and the final race and he was still a ball of adrenaline as the realisation of what he’d won sunk in. Almost a year later, not much has changed. “I get a massive grin on my face whenever I look back on it,” he says. “It was a very good day and everything went right for me.”
The biggest prize on offer last year was a GP3 test with Carlin in Abu Dhabi, where David found himself up against several of today’s most promising young single-seater drivers. His experience at that stage was limited to karts and various levels of club racing and while he was pretty handy in both – winning several minor titles in the UK – without any mileage in a bona fide championship his résumé wasn’t exactly the ticket to a professional drive. He told me at the time that his ambition was to become a GT driver, which was surprising, only because you expect most young drivers to be gunning for a Formula 1 seat.
“I’ve always enjoyed F1, but getting there just never appealed to me,” he said at the time. “There’s a whole lot of money and people involved and it’s difficult to forge a career. You see a lot of drivers coming out of the lower formulae into sports cars.”
And what’s he doing now? Sitting third in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup standings as a rookie, with three wins to his name. In the wet at Donington in April David turned heads with a double-pass for sixth place that was one of the most daring manoeuvres in recent memory.
“My career wouldn’t be where it is without that win [at Buckmore] and it’s given me the confidence to go up against the best,” he says. “I wasn’t very impressed with my results in Abu Dhabi; I don’t think I’ve ever been that far down the time sheets. But when you look back at the calibre of driver I was up against, I did myself proud.
“I think I did more than the team was expecting. After they looked at my CV they thought I’d be much worse than I was – after all, it was only my second time in a car with slicks and wings.”
It wasn’t just the Dallara GP3/13 that was a culture shock for David. A lifetime of racing around run-down British venues doesn’t do much to prepare you for the glitz of Abu Dhabi, or the names he was looking up at on the time sheets.
“The whole scene with the circuit, the harbour and the hotel and watching the GP2 practice afterwards with the floodlights coming on… it was such a great experience,” says David. “It was daunting too. There were some big names out there, names I recognised from my karting days as the next big things. And there I was out on circuit with them! But I was out there to prove myself and it was the biggest opportunity of my life so I wasn’t going to waste it. Those two days out there I just absorbed as much as I could.”
“The GP3 test has given me more recognition and respect as a driver. I’m still on my way up but my CV stands out now. Other drivers my age with that experience are all doing single-seaters but on the BTCC package there are very few people who have driven anything near a GP3 car. Any single-seater experience you can bring to a team is going to stand you in good stead.
“To have a reference from Trevor Carlin is magnificent. He’s put so many drivers into Formula 1 so that was a massive asset. It allowed me to gain the KX Academy backing this year. It couldn’t have come at a better time as well, it was only a couple of weeks before my interview for the KX scheme. It put me on their radar.
“The Henry Surtees Foundation helped get me the KX backing, which then helped me get my major backing, which is helping me on the road to my dream – the Porsche Super Cup.”
Whatever a driver’s experience, an HSF karting win can provide a huge boost to their career. That is, of course, if they can put themselves in a position to win. With every competitor in identical Club100 karts they need to be on the pace from the get-go and that’s difficult with such a deep field. But the fact that there’s a race once a year with the sole purpose of helping an unheralded young driver is what motor sport needs now more than ever.
This year’s event takes place on Wednesday October 8, where Great British Bake Off star chef and HSF supporter Paul Hollywood will be on hand to do some demonstration laps.
“Paul Hollywood and I have recently had an adventure at Brands Hatch when he tested my 1960 MV Agusta World Championship model motorcycle,” said John Surtees. “When Paul isn’t baking or judging others he is a great two- and four-wheel enthusiast with his Ducati motorcycle and Aston Martin. He’s enthusiastic about karting.”
Test and race opportunities
– Test day in the Ginetta G40 GRDC to one driver aged 16 or over, donated by Ginetta
– FIA Formula 4 Ford test: half day seat fitting and acclimatisation test in the UK, followed by one full day with Falcon Motorsport at its Spanish test, with the new composite-chassis car that will be on display at the event, donated by Falcon Motorsport
– BRDC Formula 4 test, donated by Hillspeed
– Formula Renault 2.0 two-day test with Manor Competition at a Spanish circuit, donated by Renault UK and Manor Competition
– A simulator session at the Ferrari Driver Academy and a Ferrari Racing Department factory tour for two people, donated by Ferrari. Air travel donated by Travel Places
– Tour of Carlin racing facility, seat fitting, simulator testing session with a race engineer, Formula 3 Dallara Volkswagen test, donated by Carlin Motorsport
Race support equipment and services
– A full kit of Puma race clothing – one suit, three pairs of gloves, two pairs of racing boots, one pair of running shoes and one pair of lifestyle shoes for the winner (in addition to their chosen prize), donated by Puma
– Two sets of gloves and underwear, one pair of racing shoes, one pair of running shoes and one pair of lifestyle shoes for second place (in addition to their chosen prize), donated by Puma
– One set of gloves and underwear, one pair of racing shoes, one pair of running shoes and one pair of lifestyle shoes for third place (in addition to their chosen prize), donated by Puma
– Tour of the Red Bull Racing facility, simulator session and evaluation by a race engineer, donated by Christian Horner
– An Arai GP-6S helmet in white finish, donated by Arai
– A full motor sport fitness assessment, donated by Porsche Human Performance
– Full website package and online branding, plus a three-month social media package, donated by 5G Creative
– A pair of custom-fit driver communication earpieces suitable for all racing formulas up to F1, supplied with a year’s support to ensure the wearer is fully equipped to hear vital communications for a full season of racing. A pair of custom-fit filtered noise plugs to protect hearing, a complete hearing health check consisting of an ear examination using a video otoscope (see inside your own ears) and a comprehensive hearing test, plus advice and information on protecting your hearing to assist with a motor sport career, donated by specialist in Formula 1 equipment, Hearing Electronics Limited
– A two hour training session at iZone Driver Performance, donated by Andy Priaulx
– A supply of Teng Tools to the value of £1,000, donated by Teng Tools