Wednesday, 13 January 2016

BRKC 2016. Milton Keynes, 15-17 January. Preview

It's nearly time for the talking to stop.

Time, nearly, for the dreams of apexes and tyre barriers, of squealing rubber and chesty roar, to become reality.

And its nearly time to be reminded of the things we forget from year to year. The never-better taste of a Sunday morning bacon buttie. The knuckle-wrenching weight of a 10kg ballast block. And the inimitable, penetrating cold of a metal-and-concrete warehouse in January.

This, then, is the British Rental Kart Championship. If you've been here before, you know something of what lies in wait. A three-day shot of adrenalin, a pressure-cooker of world-class competition played out over a deceptively simple 500m indoor kart circuit. A welcoming environment of friends old and new. And pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

But whether you're an old hand or not, we're all in uncharted territory. For the first time in its history, the BRKC has sold out. 100 drivers - 10 more than last year - will stake their claim for a coveted spot in the final. In the process, we'll compete in 24 practice sessions and 44 races, and turn over 22,000 laps between Friday morning and Sunday evening. Between us, we'll drive the fleet of karts from London to Singapore.

Based on previous experience, I've no doubt that they'll be up to the task. Our hosts, Formula Fast, have been burning the midnight oil for months in preparation. Nobody works harder to maintain crucial kart parity and keep the competition fair. Ollie Fox and Phil Stanley, together with their hardworking crew of marshals and catering and admin staff, have run a superb championship for us since 2014; every indication so far is that they've raised the bar again in 2016.

The comprehensive live coverage will also hit new levels of professionalism, courtesy of Darren Cook and Scruffy Bear pictures, with every race streamed live via multiple cameras. And of course it wouldn't be BRKC without the dulcet tones of James Auld, who returns for a third stint behind the microphone. This year, he'll be assisted by BRKC stalwarts Anwar Beroual Smith and Sean Brierley who will conduct roving interviews throughout the weekend. Like it or not, we'll all be getting our 15 seconds of fame this time around.

As to the quality of competition... BRKC has always been tough, but this is something else. Taking on our two double champions (2012-2013 champion Lee Hackett making a welcome return) will be an expanded contingent of talent from across the Channel, an ominously fast band of local experts, a loyal core of BRKC oldtimers - and a whole host of unknowns. There are national and world karting champions from five countries, single-seater racewinners, a Race of Champions quarter-finalist (guess who?) and rental kart superstars from every major UK championship.

There will be no easy heats. Every last hundredth will count. And as ever, the atmosphere, the noise, and the consequences of every tiny mistake will push even the coolest heads to breaking point. Will we have a British winner after two years of Dutch domination?

By 8pm on Sunday, we'll know.

As I write, there are 37 hours until the engines start for official practice. Two sleeps, a frenzy of packing, a long journey for many. In stomachs across Europe, the butterflies will be starting to flutter. For the drivers and their supporters, this is the calm before the storm. And what a storm it's going to be.

BRKC practice starts at 10am on Friday 15 January. The first race - which will feature yours truly - starts at 8am on Saturday; all races will be streamed live. For social media updates including live stream links, follow @Britishkart on Twitter, and the #BRKC2016 hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. A day one wrapup will be posted here late on Saturday, followed by the championship blog next week.

Welcome to Thunderdome, folks.

BRKC 2016