2014 was a stand-out year for the UBMRC in the BUKC Rookies Championship. First of all Birmingham entered 2 teams into 3 out of the 4 rounds held across the year and having achieved the target of not finishing last at November’s Northern Qualifier held at Teesside Autodrome, hopes were high that the number 56 kart of Birmingham C could make an impression on the championship.

Birmingham C’s year started with the Northern Qualifier with a team consisting of BUKC returnees Eliot Dixon, Alex Dawson, Victor Koh and BUKC rookie for 2014, Andrew Mather. Changeable conditions at Teesside made the physically demanding track a real challenge as C competed against the other 35 teams. With the morning testing session held in damp conditions for all drivers, Dawson was the first to encounter a dry line as he took 27th in race 1 and Dixon brought home a 28th place in race 2 to give Brum C a positive start to the day. Race 3 saw Koh come home in 33rd after showing for much of the race why some say the man from Singapore is the toughest man to overtake when the BUKC is concerned. Mather came home in 31st in his first competitive kart race and first visit to Teesside. The late afternoon saw two endurance races, firstly Dawson and Dixon coming home in a very strong 24th position, securing a new haul of points to keep C away from that wooden spoon. Mather and Koh then brought things home as the sun went down and the floodlights were switched on (we think..) with a 28th place in the final race of a long day. Birmingham C finished 31st out of 36 entrants and with 26th of the teams ahead going into the Main Championship, hopes were high.

Round 1 – Buckmore Park

C Team – (C Aldermann, L Emberton, H Forsyth, A Mather)

D Team – (S Cade-Westcombe, A Glencross*, C Grange*, H Mitchell*)

*Not eligible for Rookies Points

As with previous years the Rookies rolled onto the scene of the previous day’s Main Championship activity. Two teams from Birmingham arrived at Buckmore Park in Kent to find a wet track but surprisingly no rain falling unlike for the Mains the day before, and also little sign of the flooding seemingly gripping the south of England on the news, already a curious start to the day. Even more curious and requiring the attention of all the drivers both new and experienced in the Rookies Championship was the new format for the day. Gone was the morning’s test sessions, replaced with 6 20 minutes sessions corresponding to the 6 races that would be held in the afternoon where drivers would have the first 10 minutes to get used to the track before seeing the green flag wave, cueing what would also be as the year panned out a frantic second 10 minutes to decide the grid for each race. By the time JV, the well-respected man in charge of Club100, had completed what always tend to be one of the more testing and long driver briefings of the BUKC year, no more rain had fallen and signs that new drivers would be heading out onto a potentially drying track for qualifying were eminent. A recipe for an intriguing first morning of the Rookies Champs.

Session 1 saw Andy Glencross head out for Team D having already experienced Buckmore’s wet conditions from the day before. Despite not being able to score Rookies points due to his involvement in the Mains, his experience was invaluable for all those to follow as it became clear in each session that the key to a good result was to stay calm, not push too hard and let the track come to you as it progressively dried out. Off the racing line though there was plenty of water to catch the new drivers in all teams out and each session saw a chaotic flurry of yellow flag waiving as the 10 minutes of competitive qualifying begun and many pushed too hard too quickly.

With qualifying complete and positive results in both C & D Teams it was time for racing in the afternoon. Glencross headed out first for D in Race 1 starting from a strong grid position towards the front and holding his own in the top 10 and after 25 minutes of racing coming home 8th. Post-race the team got the best news of the dry, the track was mostly dry, especially round turns 1 & 2. With this information Andrew Mather headed out for Team C having qualified in the top half of the field. Mather, despite his lack of racing experience, drove brilliantly and used the wisdom that comes with being the oldest rookie Birmingham has probably ever seen to come through a few scary moments, avoiding the chaos that took place in every race in the first Rookie meet of the year. Mather moved up the field to finish in 7th position after an entertaining battle with the driver from Huddersfield C. This performance would turn out to be the strongest result for a Birmingham Rookie without previous BUKC experience all year and a great start on the day for Birmingham C. Race 3 saw two Birmingham karts on track for the first time that day with another new team member, Harry Forsyth in the C kart alongside Club Captain Chris Grange in a D kart, ranking in the top 3 on the grid. Forsyth, a first year driving at Club100 for the first time in a competitive session had another fantastic race for C, coming home in 9th place and showing the first glimpses of impressive talent that would develop through the year. Grange was the first to mention this speed as he commented on how tough it had been to lap Forsyth as he himself drove to a podium finish; 3rd for Team D in Race 3.

After a slight pause for a mini drivers briefing to calm the new drivers down, the racing continued with Race 4 and another two fresh faces to the university and BUKC took the track. Liam Emberton lined up in the #56 for C and Stuart Cade-Westcombe in the #82 for D. Having only done one test day prior to Buckmore, Emberton was through no fault of his own playing catch up and came home in 25th place but showed encouraging pace in the race with a fastest lap within 2.5 seconds of the race winner’s. Cade-Westcombe similarly did well to get the finish and score points for D with 27th place. Race 5 saw Craig Aldermann round out C’s day with a 25th place finish and more crucial points on the board. The final race of the day saw Howard Mitchell take to the track and show all of his experience from the year before in the BUKC and miss the continuing chaos to finish 5th, rounding out an impressive day for those competing for the 2nd day in succession at Buckmore. The important result of the day saw Birmingham C finish 24th out of 42 for the first round and good ground work for the next meet at Whilton Mill.

The Rookie’s 1st round, held at Buckmore, ended on a high note with successful first drives and a bit of sunshine to end the day.

Round 2 – Whilton Mill

C Team – (S Brown, H Chart, A Mather, H Mitchell)

D Team – (C Aldermann, S Cade-Westcombe, V Koh, K Szul)

The 2nd round of the Rookies was held at the club’s local(ish) outdoor track of Whilton Mill with a full complement of points scoring drivers for both C & D teams. The same format applied as Round 1 with similar track conditions, a drying surface for qualifying yet still tricky in places. Hopes were high in race 1 as F3 Cup driver Henry Chart, who had qualified 2nd, lined up for his first Rookie race of the year. Unfortunately though Henry found out how unpredictable rookie races and rookie drivers especially can be, taken out in a melee halfway round lap 1. Now at the back of the field Chart began to fight his way back only to be taken out again, this time by that age old driver who will turn in on you as you legitimately try to overtake. Chart eventually came home in 17th, disappointed but with good points on the board. Race 2 saw Mather return for his 2nd outing in the Rookies for Team C but having qualified poorly and Team D having its first outing of the day with Kamil Szul. Race 2 turned out to be a story of ‘what only if’ for both drivers. Szul caught up in 2 separate incidents caused by others after having had good speed, eventually getting back to the pits after the 2nd crash damaging the #82 kart. Mather’s race was going better than his qualifying, steadily working his way up through the field and potentially on for a top 10 finish until he suffered the same fate as Chart halfway through, spun out and eventually came home 18th. Races 3 and 4 saw the attention switch to Team D as Cade-Westcombe looked to improve on his Buckmore Park performance and sure enough did, finishing 25th out of 31 in race 3. Race 4 saw another display of great defensive driving as Victor Koh entered the rookie fray for the first time in 2014 and come home 26th in what turned out to be one of the strongest races of the day.

Race 5 saw Team C back in action on what had so far been a frustrating day for the #56 kart. Sam Brown, normally a Mains driver but unable to race the day before, had qualified well and was confident going into his race. Team D also had Craig Aldermann in action, could he prove to be a crucial player in the race perhaps? Brown got a clean start and soon became embroiled in a battle for the podium spots. As the race settled down and backmarkers started to become a factor, Brown used great skill to pounce and take the lead a third of the way through the race. The rest of the 25 minutes were a tense and enthralling affair as Brown continuously fended off the attentions of Brighton A and Plymouth A’s drivers whilst getting the worst of the traffic, backmarkers unaware of the pace the leading trio had until Brown swept through. The traffic included Aldermann who himself was having a tight battle in the midfield but played the part of team-mate to Brown brilliantly when lapped, not even needing the frantic arm waving from the Birmingham camp along the pitwall to read the importance of the situation. The minutes counted down but Brown drove with great maturity and cheered on by the whole team brought home arguably the most memorable moment for the club in 2014, winning Race 5 by 1.695 seconds. To make the occasion even more special, Sam’s Dad had come down to watch and was able to share in the glory of his son’s first win in the BUKC.

Celebrations calmed as Howard Mitchell, in the same situation regards points eligibility as Brown, took to the track for the final race of the day. Mitchell drove a stellar race, capitalising on a steady qualifying and similar to his race at Buckmore for D driving up towards the sharp of the field and staying there. Mitchell came home in 4th, one of only 5 drivers on the lead lap, to culminate what in the end was a great day for Birmingham C. The final results were announced with Birmingham C finishing 6th for Round 2 and Birmingham D in 39th out of the 45entrants. This result left Birmingham C in a strong spot within the top 20, halfway through the Rookie season. Next stop, Glan-y-Gors.

Round 3 – Glan-y-Gors

The smallest rookie field of the year visited Glan-y-Gors in Wales for the first time in the BUKC’s history for Round 3 of the championship. The smaller number of cars meant that only 4 races took place during the day so there would be no rest for any teams throughout the day. Birmingham sent one team, the ever present #56 C team to the track who were presented with high winds and the prospect of rain in the afternoon. Qualifying was dry though and the team looked to get to grips with the high speed and challenging circuit. This round gave the opportunity for another two drivers new to the BUKC to get their first taste of competitive action and Chris Brassett was first up for Birmingham C. Another noticeable factor in this round of racing was the strength of the field, qualifying was much closer than previously seen during the season. Brassett took the track looking to keep things on the track and pick up positions through the mistakes of others. Eyes were on the skies as dark clouds came over and sure enough the heavens opened and chaos reigned. Brassett despite his lack of experience performed admirably in his first race and recovered from being taken out in the early stages to finish 24th. Race 2 saw another debutant to the Rookie Championship, Amir Reza Farah-Abadi, take to a very wet Welsh circuit, Mount Snowdon now no longer visible due to the low cloud and driving rain. Farah-Abadi ensured that Birmingham C scored well again with a 22nd place finish and another strong performance from a young new member of the team.

Race 3 saw honorary captain for the day and rookie ever-present Andrew Mather race starting from the midfield and also experiencing fully wet conditions for the first time. Mather had a fairly uneventful race, just what the doctor ordered as each race had now become a battle for survival, with a single punt from behind under a yellow flag to note. Mather kept all four wheels pointing the right way though and came home in 14th place. The final race of the day saw another driver with main championship experience be loaned to the rookies for the day as Alex Dawson took the track with a strong grid position and the chance of the best result of the day for Birmingham C. He didn’t disappoint, mastering the rivers of Glan-y-Gors to finish the day with a very moist 11th position. With the racing completed and only one round of the championship remaining, Birmingham C were rightly pleased with their efforts which resulted in a 16th place finish for the day and still with a shot at finishing in the top 10 should the last round of the championship be a strong day.

Round 4 – Clay Pigeon

C Team – (C Aldermann, E Dixon, V Koh, A Mather)

D Team – (A Glencross, C Grange, C Holroyd, H Mitchell) (not eligible for points)

The final outing for the Rookies in 2014 took place at Clay Pigeon in Dorset and they were faced with the same issues that caused problems for the Drivers Championships the day before. Heavy rain and fog made visibility an issue, mixed with a good number of drivers who hadn’t seen the track before, a stern drivers briefing was definitely required. With the formalities completed the on-track action could begin, with 5 race groups planned. Birmingham was back to having 2 teams, however the D team was made up of drivers who had competed in the Mains 2 days before therefore were not competing for points. The qualifying sessions presented the first challenge of the day for the drivers, finding clear track at the right time to get a good time in. It was in the 2nd session of the day though that Birmingham had one of its highs of the weekend. Andy Glencross in the #82 D kart once again showed his skills in the wet to dramatically secure pole position for the 2nd race with a last-gasp flyer that snatched the glory of fastest time by 1 hundredth of a second.

The first race of the day saw Craig Aldermann return to Birmingham C action and taking the track conditions into account planned to keep things calm and steady to get some points on the board. Starting from towards the back of the grid, Aldermann was able to work his way past those who fell off the road to finish 24th and only 2 laps down. A good start for Birmingham C’s quest for the top 10. Race 2 saw the duo of Andy Glencross and Andrew Mather both start in the top 10 for Birmingham D and C respectively and hopes were high. Mather in #56 was embroiled in a tough battle with little change from the starting grid, including another encounter with Huddersfield C. Unfortunately a 50-50 overtaking move into the chicane left Mather off the worse and requiring the pusher kart. Mather continued to drive hard though, going down to the last lap coming from 24th to nab 16th back off Edinburgh quite literally on the line by 0.025 seconds. Glencross’s race went much better as he was able to battle with the leaders throughout whilst keeping out of trouble as backmarkers fell off the road and finish on the podium in 3rd.

Race 3 saw Eliot Dixon and Charles Holroyd join the action, Dixon starting towards for C and Holroyd 3rd for D. Dixon used the same approach as Aldermann in the first race and was able to score a decent amount of points with a strong drive through the field to 16th place. Even more impressive as he had been 27th after the first lap but the experience of Dixon was just what the C team needed at this stage. Holroyd was having a strong race up till the later stages when having held onto 3rd he was pulled in for an issue before rejoining the race in the position he would eventually finish, 7th. Victor Koh returned to Rookies action for Team C in Race 4 whilst Chris Grange took to the track for one last hurrah as Club Captain in for Team D. Things started well for Koh as for worked his way up to 22nd before being taken out by another kart putting him 34th place after 5 laps. This was a bitter blow for Birmingham C’s chances however Koh showed that not only can he defend his position on track but he can overtake as well, reaching 28th before eventually finishing 30th. The terrible conditions had definitely had its effect on Team C’s performance. Grange had another strong race, battling for position throughout for a spot in the top 5 which he eventually secured a few laps from the end before pulling away. Grange finished 5th around 10 seconds clear of the 6th placed kart. The final race of the day involved Howard Mitchell on last-man duty for the 3rd time this year. With no points to race for, the pressure was off however as Mitchell fought from 15th in the early stages of the race to finish the final race of the rookie season in 12th position.

With the scores tallied up unfortunately Birmingham C could only achieve 26th place in the final round of the championship, giving them 14th place overall. However the team were still rightly pleased with the achievements of the year which included individual race top 10s, a race win and the strongest round finish for Birmingham C in a long time at Whilton Mill. Both C and D teams had many new drivers try out the BUKC for the first time and given the successes and promise of those around next year the future is bright for the UBMRC who will be looking for even more success in the Rookies Championship in 2015.

Written by Alumni member Andrew Mather