Now established as an annual highlight of the motor industry PR world, the Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ charity Karting Grand Prix turbocharged its fund-raising by more than £1,000 this year.
Group chairman Sue Baker was able to hand over a cheque for £4,350 towards the lifesaving work of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance – easily topping 2014’s £3,325 cash injection.
This year’s event was also, by common consent, even better, with 20 rather than 17 teams lining up for a night of thrills, spills and spins at TeamSport Karting in Crawley on Thursday February 5, watched by many colleagues and supporters.
One of the tweaks most appreciated was the use of ‘novice boards’ for karts driven by the less experienced, a measure of protection against the more competitive elements; trackside marshals were then able to deal more severely with transgressors – and there were a few.
With more fair play, the endurance relay format then ensured that team drivers of all abilities could play their part as they tore round the three-storey twisting course.
Competition was tight with three of the top four teams separated by a single point, though Peugeot was the clear winner on 142 points and received the competition trophy – based on a splendid Moto-Lita leather-covered sports steering wheel – relinquished by last year’s winner, Fiat, which took a creditable fifth place this time out.
The other podium places were 2 – Renault (137 points) and 3 – Audi (136) with Ford narrowly missing out on 135, and Performance Communications gaining a ‘special’ prize for attracting the most black flag penalties.
Top drivers were: 1 – Bradley Philpot (Peugeot), 2 – Paul Rivett (Renault) and 3 – Jake Cassetta (Ford).
The charity cause – for the second year running – is one close to the hearts of the group’s motoring writers and their readers: nearly half of all Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance’s 999 scrambles are for road accidents, but the two-helicopter service needs £6.5 million annually to maintain its 365-days-a-year lifesaving missions to the region’s 4.5 million people.
Three air ambulance paramedics, Ben Macaulay, Charlie Leahy and Lewis Allum, joined the racing and their team achieved an impressive sixth place before making their thanks and accepting the donation, enough to fund two potentially lifesaving missions.
Sue Baker said afterwards: “The karting event was staged at the same time last year as a one-off fun event to entertain the SGMW’s valued contacts in motor industry PR.
“Devised by two of our members, Kevin Haggarthy and Massimo Pini, it was then executed brilliantly by events officer Chris Rees, and we thought that was the end of it but the ‘motoring PR corps’ had other ideas. So, by popular demand it is now part of the calendar, with its own coveted trophy.”
Commenting on this year’s racing, Massimo Pini said: “The novice boards were definitely a success, ensuring that the inexperienced were given proper respect. But we were even more surprised this year, shall we say, by the depth of driving talent in some PR departments, though other teams fielded genuine rookies who should be proud of their achievements.
“Last year’s event created quite a buzz on social media, so this year the Southern Group’s newly-launched Twitter account (@SGMWupdates) set up a dedicated hashtag – #SGMWkarting – to help participants keep up with the sporting banter – before, during and after the race. Many of our guests are clearly avid users of Twitter so the hashtag was well-received, and we’re pleased to report that no-one was harmed during the taking of any selfies!”
All competing teams (in no particular order): Jaguar, MINI-BMW, Vauxhall, Newspress, Suzuki, Volvo, Citroën, KSS Air Ambulance, Peugeot, FIAT, Audi, Porsche, Lexus, Ford, Renault, Land Rover, Hyundai, Performance Comms, Toyota and Honda.