Wednesday, 13 August 2014

British 24 Hours 2014. Teesside, 15-17 August. Preview.

This is why I go racing.

For 51 weeks of the year, every training session, every running mile, every precious moment of karting seat time boils down to this. There are kart races, and then there is the British 24 Hours. For scale, spirit and sense of occasion, nothing in endurance karting comes close.

Every August, 70 top teams and 300 drivers flock from across Europe and beyond to duke it out over a day and a night on the longest, fastest kart circuit on Planet Earth. If the weather is dry, the winners will lap its gargantuan 1.3 mile length over a thousand times at an average speed of more than 60mph.

Think Plymouth to Inverness and back. No power steering, no seatbelts, no windscreen, no sleep. If there's a sterner test of stamina, teamwork and driving skill I've yet to experience it. And if there are bigger thrills to be had with your clothes on, I've yet to discover them.

The race is the blue riband event of the European Prokart Endurance Championship, a ten round series for owner driver teams. It will feature four classes - effectively four races in one. The big-money owner teams bring their own karts, mechanics and truckloads of support gear. Each of these teams competes in one of two classes with slightly different technical rules.

The other two classes are for hire karts which are supplied and maintained by the circuit. We'll be competing in the Club Hire class, the faster of the two. In 2014 ours is the most popular class of all, with over 20 teams entered.

In previous years good causes have abounded, with various initiatives and teams raising thousands for a number of charities; 2014 continues the theme. The two Kartforce teams of wounded veterans make a welcome return and again, the challenge they face makes ours look like a stroll to the shops.

Our longtime sponsors Corporate Chauffeurs have generously stepped up their support this year: two karts will run under their banner. Kart #11 will be driven by British 24 Hour regulars Lee Jones and Jonny Spencer with newcomers Russell Endean and Lee Hackett. Be not fooled by the newbie status, however - Russell and Lee H are multiple champions in other categories and bring a wealth of talent to their first 24 hour race.

Kart #22 will feature three quarters of last year's lineup and one defector: team captain Alex Vangeen will be joined by Lee Hollywood, Michael Weddell and myself. We're delighted to have lured Michael from the Squadra Abarth team - he proved his worth by helping them to a podium finish and claiming the fastest lap in class last year. Lee returns for a second campaign with us and is simply one of the finest drivers I have ever seen. In our fourth British 24 Hours together, Alex and I are approaching hardened veteran status. We bring more dogged determination than raw talent, but we know how to get the job done.

We will, as ever, be ably supported from the pitwall by Marianne Duff and Lauren Vangeen. Backed up by an enthusiastic (and long-suffering) crew of loved ones, they'll man the radios, look after the drivers and keep the team on its feet through a long, tough weekend.

With the hours counting down and packing underway, I'm offering up my usual prayer for Fate to smile on us. Come what may, the Corporate Chauffeurs team will approach the weekend with commitment and a sense of humour. But we want to stand on that podium. And I'll wager that no team will work harder for it.

Testing for the British 24 Hours starts on Friday 15 August. The race starts at midday on Saturday 16 August. Facebook and Twitter will be buzzing with regular updates and pictures throughout the weekend. The hashtag for both will be #B24. As always, any and all remote support will be much appreciated.

To everyone competing this weekend: good luck, and stay safe.

Game on, folks...

Click here to read the race report.

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