With limitations on testing, Supercars drivers are increasingly going back to their go-karting roots to keep race fit, as we analyse in issue #103.
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It’s almost impossible to name a driver on the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship grid who didn’t begin their motorsport careers in go-karting.
Take, for example, the 2010 Supercars champion James Courtney, who excelled in karting in his formative years.
He won two world titles in 1995 and 1997 and remains the only Australian to clinch a World Karting Championship, a feat which earned him a place in the CAMS Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame for his go- karting achievements rather than his Supercars title.
“Karting is the foundation for all motor racing,” says Courtney.
“I look back on my karting days very fondly, which is why I’m still involved through my JC Kart brand.”
Other Supercars champions such as Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom were also developing their race-craft in karting in the 1990s, by which time go-karting became an almost perquisite for drivers looking to progress to the likes of Formula Ford.
“The set-up, driving skills and mental aspect all transfer through to what we do today,” says Winterbottom.
Today’s passionate advocate for go-karting is Nick Percat. The South Australian Brad Jones Racing driver began karting at seven years of age, paving the way for a career that includes a Formula Ford championship win and victories in the Bathurst 1000 and Adelaide 500.
But rather than moving on from go-karting, Percat competed in the elite KZ2 class for the CRG Australia in the Australian Kart Championship over the course of 2017.
“I love how pure the racing is; it comes down to how well you can steer and set it up,” says Percat.
“It’s extremely important to learn your craft. Obviously you also need to be very competitive... karting is a great tool to learn the basics.
“Testing is so limited in Supercars you’ve got to make sure you stay on top of your game and for me there is no better training than racing.”
Team boss Brad Jones saw the benefit of go-karting to his driver’s development, so gave Percat his blessing to race in the Australian Kart Championship away from Supercars.
“At the end of the day we’re all racers, if it’s got wheels we’ll race it and deep down Brad is one of the purest racers you’ll ever meet,” says Percat.
“He can really see the benefit of karting and I thank him for allowing me to be able to race and do what I love doing.
“Racing a KZ2 gearbox kart is more physical than driving a Supercar. You’re doing some- thing between 25 and 35 gear changes per 40 second lap, with karts right in front and behind you – it’s intense.
“Anything that can keep you sharp in between rounds is a real bonus in the long run.”
New-generation Supercars drivers such as Scott McLaughlin, James Golding, Todd Hazelwood and more are also regular go-karters.
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