Karter Jack makes national final

EVENING Star sponsored karter Jack Partridge put in one of the best performances of his fledgling career after linking up with former F1 Grand Prix boss Alex Hawkridge.

Stuart Watson

EVENING Star sponsored karter Jack Partridge put in one of the best performances of his fledgling career after linking up with former F1 Grand Prix boss Alex Hawkridge.

Hawkridge, who gave the legendary Ayrton Senna his Formula One debut in his Toleman Team in 1984, took an interest in 10-year-old Partridge's career after witnessing some of his impressive performances in the Red Lodge Championship last year.

Back then Hawkridge was running his nephew Freddie in Honda Cadet Karting but stopped once Freddie's father Barry took over the management of the Zip Kart Company and decided to run Freddie from the factory.

Looking for another youth sensation to mentor, Hawkridge duly linked up with Partridge and one of the first bits of advice given was to switch from his Trulli kart, which had served him so well this year, to a good second hand Zip Storm kart.

Almost immediately Partridge beat Freddie's best time in the kart and, after some further set-up advice from Hawkridge, Partridge finished second at the Irish Grand Prix last month.

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Since then Hawkridge has encouraged Partridge to take a professional approach towards his fitness, strength and diet and the increased work appears to already be paying dividends.

After the successful trip to Ireland, Partridge travelled to Kent's Buckmore Park for a three-day national event known as the 'O' Plate, named so because the winner of the main final traditionally has the privilege of running 'O' as their race number for the coming season.

Racing in his new Zip Storm kart, and with a new RPM engine tested just the week previous, Partridge put in a gritty performance to scrape into the A final following an action packed and competitive series of heats.

Staring on last place (24th) on the grid, Partridge storm through the pack and finish seventh overall, ending the race with quicker lap times than all of the drivers ahead of him.

In recent weeks GrassRoots has been bringing you the diary of Jack Partridge, a 10-year-old karter who is racing his debut

season in the British Super One Championships.

The diary, written by his father and coach Danny Partridge, continues this week with a report of a sensational performance at the 'O' Plate national race in Kent.

Thursday

I pack the van to the rafters and as soon as Jack finishes school we make our way down to Kent to prepare for the two practice days.

We set up and have a good pitch so that we do not have to walk too far between sessions.

Friday

7am: I am up early as usual as it is my responsibility is to check the kart over. I feel the pressure sometimes for two reasons. One, it would be stupid for Jack to break down and loose valuable track time for the sake of a bolt not being tightened up, while two, at 60mph the last thing anyone wants is for Jack to disappear off into the scenery and injury himself.

Jack's mentor Alex (Hawkridge) is at the circuit early and walks Jack around the circuit.

10:30am: The track is very 'green' to start with. This basically means that there is not enough rubber down and it is very slippery. Quick times will never be set while the circuit is like this so it is a golden opportunity for Jack to fine tune his lines and to think about possible overtaking points.

4pm: Alex is happy with Jack's work during the day and as the circuit slowly develops more grip as the karts lay down more rubber, our times are really competitive. Alex is pleased with progress but stressed we need to work just as hard on Saturday.

Saturday

8am: Alex again walks the track with Jack and they are working well together. They have a strategy for the day which Alex is convinced will make Jack one of the fastest.

10am: A small drama occurs on lap one of the first session as a kart locks up in front of Jack and he clips the kart with his front end but survives the tyre wall. On returning to the pits Jack is concerned that he nay have damaged the kart and we give the front end of the kart a full check over.

2pm: We have deliberately not been out in every session today as Alex is keen to save both driver and equipment for the race day. We have found a good balance on the kart (front and rear end grip) and it is pointless just running around, not learning anything new and making Jack tired.

Sunday

6.30am: I must be mad but I just get so nervous. I have to check the kart about 15 times to satisfy myself that I have done everything. You would think that it gets easier the more racing you do but it doesn't and my nerves get worse.

Drivers briefing takes place and the usual rules and regulations are emphasised on all taking part, with some extra words to the drivers as this event is being filmed by Sky television.

Jack has three heats today with points added up to determine who makes the A and B finals. Hopefully we will qualify for the A final (top 24 drivers), but failing that we will have race in the B final and finish in the top four in order to go on the back of the grid for the main race.

Heat One: When you have three heats, it's one race from the front, one from the middle and one from the back. Jacks grids for today are, 13th, 21st and third.

In heat one the lights go green and 24 karts go racing into turn one, but by turn two (a right hand hairpin) there is an almighty great pile up. I think that Jack is going to miss it but then - bang - he goes in so hard that he ends up under another kart. He gets going eventually but emerges dead last. Despite this he drives hard to come from 24th to finish 17th.

Heat Two: The kart has been laser checked and in fact Jack sustained quite a lot of damage on the front end. However, thanks to our friend Tick, it is all straightened and ready to go again. Just a bit of luck is needed as we are now starting 21st.

A great start by Jack and he is moving through the field until a driver, who does not want to be overtaken, blatantly drives us into the wall. The driver is warned by the officials but it does not help us at all as we finish 24th with Jack ready to explode as I meet him in the pits at the end. Things are kept calm and we look forward and not backwards.

Heat Three: Jack needs to finish as we are seriously in danger of not qualifying for the A final. We start third and a tough race with some excellent driving results in Jack finishing sixth with some very fast lap times.

It's an anxious time in the paddock as we worry that we will be in the B final but the grids are put up and we have snatched the very last place in the A final.

Two local drivers Harry Steward and Bradley Peck have also been taking part. Harry had a decent three heats, qualifying 15th for the main race, with Bradley on pole for the B final.

Earlier in the day Brad had been struggling severely with the handling of his kart and at one point Tick (our well built doughnut machine) had tweaked Brad's chassis with his delicate physique and a scaffold pole! Whatever he did it worked a treat as Brad drove a superb race to finish third and make the A Final.

Main Final: Nothing to loose and lots to gain, that was our team talk to Jack on the grid and he was fired up and ready to go. An Ok start saw Jack pick up one place on lap one with no major accidents and all of the karts pointing in the right direction.

Lap two and Jack came alive! He was passing kart after kart and overtaking karts everywhere around the track. A stella drive resulted in Jack taking the chequered flag in seventh place and in sight of the leaders.

Only one driver overtook more cars than Jack and his fastest lap was third fastest overall and just a few hundredths off the fastest time. His time was faster than all the cars in front of him at the end.

Special thanks have to go to Alex who has been an inspiration for Jack, to Roger from RPM Racing Engines for having faith in Jack and supplying a top quality engine and also to Iztech kart seats who have supplied Jack with an ultra light, flexible seat.

Next stop is Dorset for Round Five of the British Championship and the quest for Jack to get another great result and show he has improved and is ready to beat the best in 2009.

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