Best weekend ever moves Whitworth to within striking-distance of top five goal
Luke Whitworth has brilliantly reignited his ambitions to secure a top five championship placing in the Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone-backed Formula Kart Stars (FKS) series this year – with an inspired double rostrum finish at Whilton Mill on the best weekend of his fledgling career to-date.
Having begun karting less than two years ago – when the vast majority of his rivals have been pounding round the tracks for considerably longer than that – the talented young Rotherham speed demon has made dramatic progress, although his burgeoning form was somewhat masked by a nightmare weekend at Genk in Belgium that dropped him from fifth in FKS’ Junior Max class points table to ninth and left him ‘really motivated to fight back’.
Third position in qualifying on Saturday at Whilton in the 22-strong field was an excellent way to begin, and Luke converted that into a solid fourth place in his opening heat race, albeit admitting that ‘my driving wasn’t the best and I made some mistakes’. He would rebound magnificently in heat two.
“We got a good start to move into second,” recalled the highly-rated Wickersley-based hotshot. “A few laps in, the leader’s chain protector fell off, so I knew he would have to go into the pits. James Singleton and Bobby Thompson came past me, but then Bobby overtook James which gave me the run and I got them both around the outside through the next corner. I enjoyed that move – it was completely opportunistic!
“After that, I just tried to keep my head and stay consistent all the way to the end. We knew James was quick behind us, but we knew we had some decent pace as well; there was a lot of pressure, but it was alright.”
Far more than merely ‘alright’, by grittily holding on with the runaway championship leader breathing right down his neck, Luke clinched his maiden national heat victory and with it, second on the grid for the final.
“We were aiming high,” the 16-year-old confessed. “Starting on the outside line at Whilton is tough and we dropped back to third initially, but that was ok and I just had to keep looking forward and stay consistent whilst pushing hard. I was catching George Williams, and towards the end I overtook him for second at the top of the hill. He stayed right on my bumper for a while, but he dropped far enough behind on the last lap that I didn’t need to defend. We were really happy to finish second – it was the best trophy we’d had!”
His finest national result to-date, the runner-up spoils were thoroughly well-deserved, and after promising to ‘go for it again’ the following day, he would not disappoint. A lack of prior wet running around Whilton might have disadvantaged him in a damp qualifying session and left him only eighth, but the Wickersley School and Sports College pupil maturely reasoned that ‘we knew we could go forward from there, so we kept our heads up’.
A number of errors in the inclement conditions cost Luke third place in the first heat, whilst following an early delay in heat two, he confessed that ‘I was trying too hard, pushing the kart too much and getting frustrated’ in his efforts to recover. He would begin the final from sixth.
“I really wanted a strong result, because we hadn’t been happy with the heats,” he pondered. “We knew another podium would really help us in the championship, so that was the goal again. We got a good start, which moved us straight into the top four. I then improved to third, but Singleton and Sam Marsh had established a bit of a gap ahead. I knew I still had people right on my tail, but I concentrated on trying to chase the two leaders down and was closing on Marsh until he got black-flagged again.
“That left me second, at which stage I just tried to focus on not making the same mistakes as in the heats. I looked behind a few times as the race progressed and saw Thompson and Ryan Norris were working together to catch me, and I knew they had both been quick all weekend; Bobby got very close on the last lap, which really piled the pressure on, but we held him off. The kart was good, the engine was good and my consistency was good – and it all paid off.”
A second consecutive runner-up finish, the result has vaulted the Yorkshire ace up to sixth in the standings, a mere four points shy of fifth and only ten adrift of fourth. Recognising that he has a battle on his hands but palpably up for the fight, encouragingly, the season finale will take place at Ellough Park Raceway – scene of Luke’s breakthrough rostrum at national level just under a year ago.
“It couldn’t have been a better weekend, really – the best we’ve had so far,” he grinned in conclusion, “and it definitely gives us confidence for Ellough. I’m feeling really positive now, so hopefully that will be another good weekend…”