7 December 2011
Dan Wheldon Memorial Kart race a great success
“Gentleman, start your engines.”
Dan Wheldon called karting 'the purest form of motorsport' and Daytona Milton Keynes provided a great way of honouring the late double Indianapolis 500 winner.
Two-stroke engined karts raced around the circuit on a chilly Monday evening and raised money for the Wheldon family's chosen charity, the Alzheimer's Society.
Wheldon was described as a 'mini Ayrton Senna' in karts. He won the Cadet championship in 1988, 89 and 90, the Junior 100B title in 1993 and the Ayrton Senna Memorial World Cup at Suzuka in 1994 driving for Terry Fullerton's team. During his success in Indycars in the United States, Wheldon paid homage to his roots in karting, competing at the Montoya Race of Stars in Columbia, the Granja Viana 500 in Brazil and, in February this year, at the Florida Winter Tour.
The day before the memorial event held in his honour, he had been honoured for his achievements in motorsport with a posthumous Gregor Grant Award at the Autosport Awards in London.
An impressive range of racing talents came and 100 members of the public paid to drive alongside them. 36 teams with four drivers each competed in the race. They included Wheldon's karting rivals, Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson; his friend in Indycars and fellow Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti; Martin and Alex Brundle; Luke Hines; Johnny Herbert; David Coulthard; BTCC champion James Thompson; and up-and-coming young talent like GP2's Sam Bird and Formula World Series Renault champion Robert Wickens. Reliving the days of nurturing their sons through the karting series, John Button and Denis Davidson joined Wheldon's father Clive. Siblings Austen, Elliott, Ashley and Holly also joined the drivers for the photo shoot.
Johnny Mowlem thanked everyone for coming saying it was testament to the 'spirit of community' within motorsport.
“I just came up with the idea and Daytona approved it immediately,” he said.
Alongside the sense of loss, there was a party atmosphere at the event and as Mowlem said: 'Dan liked a good party.'
The novel twist for the race was the Cash for Penalties initiative. Competitors could bribe the clerk of the course Jim Graham to give their competitors black flags and stop-and-go penalties in the pit-lane. They could also pay for laps to be added on.
The 30-minute practice session saw Team Herbert qualify on pole position and, after the announcement of 'Gentleman, start your engines', the field took to the track escorted by a Mercedes SLS pacecar.
The race was frantic with three red flags and slippery tarmac. It lasted for two hours and ended before the curfew.
The winner was Team Button-DW Lionhearts, which included Jenson Button, Clive Wheldon and family friends Doug Coleman and Mark Lewis. Second was shared between Team Coulthard-DW Bandits (Elliott and Ashley Wheldon and Jason Moore) and Team Franchitti-DW Legends (Dario Franchitti, Holly Wheldon, Peter Houghton, Tom Coleman and Gavin MacFayden). Third place went to Team Watts (Danny Watts, Jim Littman, Jason Fowler, Nick Perks and Austen Wheldon).
“Dan would have been proud," Clive Wheldon said as he presented the trophies, "I just wish he could have been here tonight. I hope we repeat this event next year with people like Jenson and all the other drivers who have come to support him. I take my hat off to them.”
Three cheers were raised for Mowlem and the professional drivers signed the Dan Wheldon Memorial Event kart board which will be auctioned on eBay. The money raised during the event was £17,000.
by Simon Stiel
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