Charlie Buckland: Ninja Kart Racer
Published on 7 October 2014
So who's this then?
This is Charlie Buckland from Southwater. He's seven-years-old, so he likes playing with toy cars and blowing bubbles in his milkshake. But he also likes to drive at speeds of over 40mph in his Ninja Kart.
What exactly is a Ninja Kart?
They are like go-karts but with a roll cage and racing aerofoil. They are powered by a Honda 50cc engine, so they are a great way to introduce boys and girls aged 6-10 to motor sport. It's strictly non- contact, with races normally being held during an action-packed day of racing organised by Spedeworth Motorsports at several venues, the nearest being Aldershot.
Like a day of banger racing?
There is a mix of categories, more than 20 in fact, with many of them being contact categories including the Bangers, the Reliant Robins and Ford Sierra-based Stock Car races. But there are also numerous competitive non-contact races including Superstox, Hot Rods, BriSCA F1, Oval Track Legends and for the youngsters, the Ninja Karts.
Charlie is climbing the ladder to Banger racing stardom then?
He's not sure yet. Charlie, who is a big Lewis Hamilton fan, said: "I really love the Demolition Derby and I want to paint my kart pink and green, which are the colours of my dad's friend's banger racing team! But I can't decide whether I'd like to one day drive a Formula One car or a banger racing car."
One pays better!
Yes, but on the other hand you get to travel more with Formula One...
Has Charlie tried regular karting?
He did race a regular kart at Angmering Motorsport Centre, and bagged a couple of wins on his way to clinching the Bambino title, but he feels very much at home in the Ninja Karts. Dad Adrian said: "The engines are sealed so you can't take them apart and make modifications. They are all looked after by one person so that all of the racers have the same engines with the same power and tyres, in the spirit of competition. It is better that way as it's not fair when you turn up and there is a boy whose dad has plenty of money to afford a better kart."
How has Charlie fared so far?
When he first went to Spedeworth Motorsports, he hired a Ninja Kart and claimed two first place finishes. Charlie - who describes his driving style as "I just put my foot down and go as fast as I can" – is now lucky enough to have a Kart of his own. At each event, there is three races with the fastest drivers going through to the final. Whilst it is a non-competitive class, with no official points or champion declared, Charlie is very proud of his haul of trophies. He has progressed to the final in all of his races so far. Except for the one when he crashed...
Isn't this a non-contact form of racing?
Yes, but at Charlie's first race in his new kart, he ended up on a spinal board. Adrian said: It was worrying at first, but Charlie was just bruised and within an hour was walking around as normal. They take things very seriously at Spedeworth so when there is an accident they stop the race and take every precaution. The crash did cause a bent back axle and wheel but the damage was not too extensive. Charlie is the most important thing; the kart can be repaired."
The crash was caused by a red flag. Charlie said: "The red flags came out at the end of practice and we have to stop, otherwise we are disqualified. So I did, but the boy behind me didn't see the flag, and he ran into the back of my kart." The other kart rolled after he T-boned Charlie's car, so it was quite a dramatic incident!
What inspired young Charlie to start racing?
He is following in the footsteps of his dad and his grandad, Alan. His grandad was a well-known grass track racing driver, winning many championships. Just last month, Alan raced for the first time in seven years, and impressively took two wins and a second place finish in his Grand Prix Midget. Adrian has also raced for a long time. He started young too, driving a Mini at the age of 11 before progressing to Mark I and Mark II Ford Escorts. So it's fair to say Charlie has grown up around racing.
Where can Charlie progress to next?
If he stays at Spedeworth, he can progress to the Junior Rods or the Junior Bangers, both for 10 to 16-year-olds and both a huge amount of fun for those wanting an affordable form of motor sport. Adrian said: "We intend to just allow Charlie to carry on as long as he wants to in Ninja Karts, and build up some experience, as there's not a great deal else he can do at such a young age. There is a lot more money involved in other forms of go-karting too, so this is ideal for us."
Perhaps he could seek a local sponsor?
He has been trying! He sent a letter to Demon Tweeks and they've promised some vouchers, but only if Charlie is featured in specific newspapers or magazines. So far, the young Castlewood School pupil has had a little write up in the West Sussex County Times, but that doesn't quite qualify him for some new overalls or a nice helmet! But if anyone out there did want their company logo on the side of a kart steered by a charging seven-year-old who wishes that Formula One races involved drivers crashing through caravans, then you can contact parents Adrian and Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on Spedeworth visit http://www.spedeworth.co.uk/