THE BIGGEST ARRIVE & DRIVE EVENT OF THE YEAR | THE DAYTONA 24 HOURS 2021
The biggest Arrive and Drive go-kart race of the year took place on the 29th – 30th May 2021 at Daytona Milton Keynes. A slightly overcast day brightened up and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air as teams got out on track for practice before qualifying officially started at 11.50am.
As always, two classes were lined up to be on-track simultaneously which always ensures plenty of action throughout this spectacular endurance race. Teams of up to 10 drivers carefully plotted their race strategies before and during the race which started at 13:00.
In practice, the early pace in the DMAX class was being set by Six Helmets Racing, recording a 1:08:192 on lap 29 of their practice stint, followed by D&D Wildcard Racing, myPremier Racing, Raven Motorsport Alpha, Modernised Racing, Ace Go-Karting, Young Guns Racing, Clive Emson Auctioneers, Harry’s Hot Wheels and El Diablo and The Magic Man all setting lap times under the 1:09:00 mark.
In the N35 ST class, SPInKarters set the early pace with a 1:13:477 on lap 38, followed by Algorithmic Ascendancy, MW Racing, Fitzroy Motor Racing Team, The Only Way is Brentwood, Race Ventura, Beige Gazebo, J-KATS, Koopa Troopers, Stream Racing, Kartforce 2 and Club100 Esports Racing all setting times faster than 1:15:00.
Some regular names and faces were sitting at the top of the leaderboard early but as we’ve seen in previous years, it was way too early to predict winners as teams familiarised themselves with the circuit.
An early warning for kart number 8, PALS Battalion, who received the first black flag of the day after speeding in the pits. Onlookers were quickly warned by Race Control and the commentary team to not suffer the same fate in the race itself.
After just under two hours of practice, it was time for the 10-minute qualifying sessions to get under way with both classes taking to the circuit separately to post their fastest times.
In DMAX qualifying, some very fast laps were set from the outset as drivers pushed themselves to the limit to get to the front of the grid. With the sun shining, the track was completely dry and it was MyPremier Racing consistently posting lap times in the 1:07’s who were showing early signs of being race challengers – their fastest lap coming on lap 6 with a 1:07:882 ensuring they started in pole position at the front of the grid.
The second fastest team in qualifying were Ace Go-Karting who managed to post a 1:07:935 and an average lap time of 1:07:971. However, as they came back in to the pits at the end of the session, miscalculations from the team (not having enough ballast on the go-kart), caused them to receive a disqualification and after what seemed like an extremely positive start, meant they started from the back of the grid. The top 14 teams were split by a second.
Scenario Se7en Alpha gladly moved up to second on the grid with a 1:08:354 followed by Harry’s Hot Wheels, Clive Emson Auctioneers, Six Helmets Racing, Modernised Racing, D&D Wildcard Racing and Brentwood Banta (who won the N35 ST class last year were back and hungry to compete in the DMAX class for this year’s race).
N35 ST qualifying got away without any major incidents and Mob7 set the early pace and took pole position with a 1:12:697, followed by BW Racing, Player One, SPInKarters, J-KATS, Stream Racing, Alpha Delta Racing, Race Ventura, MW Racing and Club100 Esports Karting making up the top ten.
At 12.55pm, all drivers lined up perfectly in unison on the grid and made their way behind the pace go-karts for the start of the race. It was beautiful to see the grid rolling up after all the setbacks of the last 15 months. Onlookers gathered alongside the main straight for the start which kicked off the Daytona 24 Hours in style.
After 2 hours of racing, the early story in the DMAX class was MyPremier Racing extending their lead, consistently posting quick lap times and a very fast pit stop helped them pull away from second place.
The big early movers were Six Helmets Racing who jumped up 4 places within 25 minutes of the race start. They did, however, have a slower first pitstop which made the gap between themselves and the early race leaders slightly bigger than it could have been. That being said, they were looking like real contenders from the outset.
In the middle of the pack, D&D Wildcard had managed to fight themselves up to 4th place but after also suffering a slower pit stop, they moved back down the pack in to 9th position after 2 hours 30 minutes of racing. Would they fight back up to the front? Only time would tell.
In the N35 ST class, it was a real scrap in the first two hours of the race between Player One, Mob 7 and BW Racing all taking turns at the front. With so much of the race remaining, it was still all to play for, but all three teams had really good pace early on.
Also setting good early pace was Alpha Delta Racing who were setting good times when the track in front of them was clear, but seemed to struggle with traffic. 47 go-karts were on-track at the same time this year on this challenging 1200m circuit.
J-Kats, MW Racing and Race Ventura were all still in the mix and were worth keeping an eye on, with plenty of racing still to take place.
As the temperature slightly cooled on Daytona Milton Keynes, making driving conditions slightly more favourable for the drivers, lots of movement was taking place at the front of the pack.
MyPremier Racing, Clive Emsom Auctioneers and Young Guns Racing were all in strong top 5 positions but after all three suffered unexpected mechanical issues, all three teams lost ten minutes moving them all back down in to the middle of the field.
MyPremier Racing had shown glimpses of race-winning performance, so it would be whether they could fight their way back after their early setback.
The big winners from the challenges faced by the teams in front of them, were Ballinger Law, who had been the big movers in the late afternoon and early evening stints. Adam Pughe had an amazing stint in the race seat overtaking Six Helmets Racing for the lead in the race.
Another driver who also had an equally impressive drive was Peter Knight from Modernised Racing. He was battling with Adam at the front of the pack and at one point managed to take the race lead as the pit stops cycled through from the teams around him.
D&D Wildcard had been there or thereabouts throughout the first stages of the race and on the 5:20pm mark actually took the race lead although had to give it back up quickly when they pitted. Up to that point, they had great pace but struggled to time pit stops perfectly and had lost time due to fuel bay queues. At the early evening stage of the race, they were still expected to be challenging at the end of the race if they continued to perform like they had been early on.
In the N35 ST class, BW Racing had been racing consistently well throughout the first 6 hours of the race. We commented earlier about their 3-way battle with Mob 7 and Player One, but whilst the battle still continued, they managed to build a slight advantage over their nearest competitors.
The rest of the pack mostly maintained their order and the top teams at 7pm were BW Racing, Mob 7, Player One, Alpha Delta Racing, J-Kats, Motorsport Woman and Only Way is Brentwood.
Maintenance Stops started and the pack was expected to change all over again as the karts underwent their servicing for the night-time session. Whilst all the action of the maintenance stops was taking place, D&D Wildcard Racing had jumped Six Helmets Racing and Ballenger Law in to the race lead.
Modernised Racing also had suffered a black flag and dropped 3 places but continued to fight and drew closer to the race leaders. MyPremier Racing were back in the fight for a Top 10 place. The commentators wondered whether they could progress even more throughout the night.
Just before 8pm, Team Petrol Heads unfortunately suffered a bad accident at turn 8 bringing out the red flag and causing a halt to proceedings. Luckily the driver was okay and the Daytona 24 Hours got back under way as the floodlights and drivers raced under a clear night sky.
After the delay, Scenario Seven Alpha lead the race in the DMAX class but catastrophically ran out of fuel dropping them right down the pack. Harry’s Hot Wheels also briefly led the race at 10pm but had yet to be called in for their maintenance stop which would ultimately move them further back in the field.
Six Helmets Racing were fighting hard and after stopping for their maintenance stop, posted the fastest lap of the race so far as the ‘happy hour’ began with the track cooled and go-karts performing at their peak in the ideal conditions. The experienced Six helmets Racing were once again looking like real contenders for the coveted title.
D&D Wildcard Racing were running behind Six Helmets Racing and would continue to push for the race lead. The battle between the front two teams was well and truly on.
The top two teams were followed by Ballinger Law and Modernised Racing who although not making massive news at the front of the pack, seemed to be racing consistently behind the leaders. As everyone knows, race strategy is extremely important in endurance racing and Modernised Racing seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
During the night in the N35 ST class, BW Racing’s lead was cut to just 36 seconds by Player One who had been on the charge. Just like the DMAX fleet, the battle for the race lead was continuing to develop throughout the night and it would be anyone’s guess who would be in the race lead when morning arrived. The other big movers were Alpha Delta racing who fought their way up to third after two hours of really strong racing.
As some teams gained places, others fell back down the pack and Mob 7 unfortunately were one of those teams after suffering slightly slower lap times and a longer maintenance stop. In the middle of the pack, Algorithmic Ascendancy had moved up to the Top 6 and at one point briefly led the race as the teams around them went in for their scheduled maintenance stops in the evening session.
We weren’t even at the halfway stage but the race was getting more and more exciting and looked set for another epic finale come Sunday morning.
An action packed night time session had seen 3 major red flag incidents and plenty of movement in the field. D&D Wildcard Racing had dropped back down the pack after mechanical failures had cost them some time. Harry’s Hot Wheels also joined them further down the grid. Both teams had been the big movers in the wrong direction. The biggest movers up through the field in the night time session were without doubt Brentwood Banta. An unbelievable evening and night time stint had moved them from the middle of the pack up in to third position. They must have been delighted with their form as the race moved in to the final 4 hours of the race.
Mypremier Racing were still in the mix and had a chance if things went their way. They were 9 laps off the race lead. Their pit strategy would be absolutely critical if they were to gain places, and time, on the race leaders.
Those who witnessed the Daytona 24 Hours race in October 2020 would remember the epic final stages of the race and the bumper-to-bumper battle which took place between the top teams.
At 9am, the finale to this race had all the signs of another extremely close finish as well. Six Helmets Racing managed to claw themselves in to the race lead in the DMAX class, but nothing split them and Modernised Racing who were incredibly on the same lap with only 4 hours to go. Modernised Racing’s consistency throughout the race had been amazing to watch and throughout the night they managed to close the gap between themselves and the race leaders, after coming from fourth up into second place. It was clear they were going to push the race leaders all the way to the finish line.
The same could be said in the N35 ST class. After a full night of racing, unbelievably it was the same top 3 teams who were still fighting at the front of the pack. The battle was also well and truly on.
At 10am, BW Racing lead Player One by 1 lap only. Imagine that. After 21 hours of racing the top two teams in the race were separated by less than 1000 metres. Incredible. The slightest mistake with fuel stops or driver swaps could wipe out their slender lead so it was imperative that their race strategy was flawless if they wanted to hang on for the win. Alpha Delta Racing were still only 7 laps off the lead as well so still had a chance if things fell their way with the upcoming second scheduled maintenance stops still to happen.
There were two other epic battles taking place in the top ten. MW Racing, J-Kats and SP-InKarters were neck-and-neck and fighting it out for 5th, 6th and 7th place on the same lap. Going Going Gone and Mob 7 were also fighting it out a few positions back. There were battles taking place throughout the entire field and all the drivers out on the circuit were giving it everything they had.
As the clock ticked down in the final stages of the race, BW Racing had their lead cut down to just 8.194 seconds in N35 ST class. Player One, had taken full advantage of pitting for their last fuel stop during a full course yellow period, which gained them around 40 seconds on the leaders.
Further back, a battle was developing between Alpha Delta Racing and Algorithmic Ascendency. The former having received a 5-minute penalty which dropped them to 4th. Alpha Delta Racing once again took the race by the scruff of its neck and wrestled their way back ahead into 3rd place and looked safe for the podium as they consistently lapped quicker than their nearest rivals.
Back in the DMAX Class Brentwood Banta, running in third place, pitted for their final fuel stop with 1 hour 27 minutes remaining on the clock. MyPremier Racing, who were behind them in fourth, stayed out on track for several laps before they also came in to the pits. They were still in third and fourth place respectively but the gap had been closed to just 28 seconds. The race for third place was now well and truly on, as the clock past the midday mark. It was all to play for, for the last remaining podium position and only one hour of racing was remaining. Brentwood Banta versus the mightily quick Andrew Spencer who took charge for MyPremier Racing. This battle was always going to go down to the wire.
In the DMAX class, the leaders Six Helmets Racing made their final stop. Andrew Mather announced to the onlookers that it was a “key pitstop”. They waited patiently on the weighbridge and received the thumbs up. Cameron Noble threaded the DMAX down the pit lane and towards his teammate Sam Hampshire who was waiting to take the reins. It was going to be up to Sam to bring the race home with a two lap advantage over Modernised Racing in P2.
In the N35 ST class, the commentators’ eyes were fixed on the battle for third place between Jack Goldsmith and Andy Spencer. Andy was gaining a second per lap on Jack Goldsmith. Meanwhile, D&D Wildcard made their final stop with team captain, Allan Curtis, taking the wheel for the last stint looking to finish in the top 10 despite several setbacks in the first half of the race. Savvy strategy and gutsy drives had pulled the team back from the brink.
Back to the DMAX class and Modernised racing had closed the gap to 18 seconds on Six Helmets Racing and Sam Hampshire, but still had to make one more stop as the commentators made their predictions that the lead was just out of reach. In the race for third, commentator Matt Fielder was getting more and more animated as he took up his position at the start finish line with the sun blazing down on him and his peaked Daytona cap pulled down tightly shading his eyes. The DMAX go-karts flew past him just inches away.
“Brentwood Banta comes through, and I can see the whites of his eyes as myPremier Racing flies round, bit of traffic between them and he screams past on the inside he’s got him in his sights, what’s the gap now?”
Mather “7.7 seconds now between Goldsmith and Spencer and it seems inevitable that Spencer WILL close in.”
The excitement was taking hold of spectators and track staff alike. A team that had started on pole position, had led for the first 2 hours, encountered a problem and lost 12 minutes, but had been on the comeback drive ever since. They had revised their expectations drastically and said they would be happy with a top ten finish. Now they were fighting their way back all the way to a potential podium position. 45 minutes to go. Spencer was closing on Goldsmith all the time as they made their way past traffic. On the back straight, Spencer made his move. He jinked out from behind Goldsmith and started to pull alongside him heading up the hill, as they reached the crest and entry to turn 9 Spencer was half a kart length ahead but ultimately on the outside. Goldsmith hugged the inside of turn 9 (popping 2 wheels up on to the kerbs) and pulled back ahead in to turn 10. His line into turn 10 was defensive and Spencer switched to take the racing line. All of the momentum was with him. As they exited turn 11, Matthew Fielder started screaming down the microphone:
“We can see Spencer trying again, he’s going for it on the inside YES, he’s taken him right by the start finish straight, beautiful driving on the inside as he puts MyPremier Racing back into 3rd place!”
At the same time, the gap between 1st placed Six Helmets Racing and 2nd placed Modernised Racing had reduced to just 13 seconds. A mild clash in the middle of the field had caused a spin, briefly bringing out the yellows. Modernised Racing slowly decreased the gap to Six Helmets Racing. A tenth here, a tenth there all added up and soon they were just 10 seconds behind the leaders. Jake Taplin wringing the neck of his DMAX to good effect and putting the hopes and dreams of his team on his shoulders.
Six Helmets Driver Sam Hampshire seemed, at times, to allow the pressure to get to him and at one point a scrappy pass on a backmarker lost him valuable time posting a 1:09.948 compared with a 1:08.9 from Modernised Racing’s Jake Taplin. Once again during this stage of the race it would come down to who cleared the traffic better that made the difference to keeping ahead or not. Taking lunges and liberties would not do either driver any favours. Just 30 minutes remained on the clock and only 9 seconds between P1 and P2, the Daytona 24 Hours once again delivering scintillating close action right up until the end.
The N35 ST lead looked to be a sure-fire thing, with BW Racing continuing to extend their advantage as the chequered flag beckoned. There was nothing that was going to stop them claiming the Daytona 24 Hours 2021 race.
However, in the DMAX class it was still very much all to play for. Hampshire from Six Helmets Racing seemed to be regaining his composure as they made their way through traffic and Taplin started to lose time posting a 1:11.3 compared to Hampshire’s 1:09.4. The gap increasing back up to 9 seconds. Over the next 20 minutes the gap between the top two drivers was going back and forth and it was clear that any misstep now for either driver would dramatically change their circumstances so keeping it clean was essential.
Commentator Matt Fielder was taking it all in…
“The excitement, the tension, it feels like being at a Grand Prix. All the crowds are out here spectacularly in the glorious sunshine and this is kart racing at its finest!”
With only 9 minutes to go, Modernised Racing lost a lot of time with a 1:12.40 lap. Andrew Mather exclaimed that it could be a crucial lap for Six Helmets Racing, with the lead back up to 10 seconds. He thought it might be enough. And so, it proved. Sam Hampshire found himself in light traffic as Jake Taplin began to drop back fighting through the pack. It appeared that Jake was also letting other drivers past him as he apparently tried to save fuel, his lap times dropping to 1:15. Doubts were being cast as to whether they would make it to the chequered flag to take second. Before long, the last lap was upon us with Sam Hampshire piloting his DMAX to a dreamlike win. Having started on the 3rd row of the grid, making their way up to second place in the first hour of the race, enjoying a titanic duel with MyPremier Racing, attacks from D&D Wildcard, Ballinger Law and then finally Modernised Racing it looked to be their race as he made his way around the track to take the chequered flag.
In N35 ST, a confident finish from BW Racing rounded off an extremely impressive display of endurance driving from the team who had been leading the last 7 hours. The pit lane erupted as team members congratulated themselves and each other, cheering their drivers across the line as Andrew Mather and Matthew Fielder called out the finishing order. Chequered flags were handed to the winners, and they then toured the circuit for a victory lap as is customary at Daytona Motorsport endurance events.
The drama, however, was far from over. As the 47 strong fleet of karts carefully made their way over the weigh bridges there was an audible hush over the pitlane. The cheers had ceased and mixed expressions on those waiting for their drivers to arrive in the pits. Sat on the weighbridge was Sam Hampshire in his DMAX. It appeared that Six Helmets Racing were underweight by 2kg. It seemed impossible.
Team managers for Six Helmets Racing and Modernised Racing protested for their teams. Engineers and Daytona staff gathered at the weighbridge. Six Helmets Racing argued that their kart had been losing fluid through the latter part of the race which would account for the weight loss. Kart and driver were duly weighed again to confirm that they were indeed underweight. The DMAX radiator was then refilled and reweighed. To the shock of everyone it was confirmed that they were still underweight and Race Control, as is procedure for this type of contravention, issued a time penalty.
The penalty dropped Six Helmets Racing to second position and promoted Modernised Racing to first place. Sam Hampshire remained in his kart looking expressionless and contemplating just how this could have happened. Later it transpired that due to the increased heat from the weather, Sam had chosen not to wear his thicker clothing that he had worn at his weigh-in and it was this decision that ultimately led to the team being underweight. In racing anything can happen, and the devil is in the detail.
The new victors, Modernised Racing, were of course ecstatic. Their driver had not celebrated as they crossed the finish line but now, they could not contain themselves.
It must be said, that although Six Helmets Racing had the top position on the podium taken from their grasp, the entire team showed real class and grace as they accepted their second-place finish.
The awards were handed out to the drivers as the red confetti bellowed out above the Daytona podium and the customary champagne spray covered drivers who deservedly were cheered on by onlookers.
What a superb race cementing the fact that racing is well and truly back.