Ford is gaining a firm grip on the coveted trophy for the Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ annual Karting Grand Prix.
For the second year running, the blue oval team took first place and ‘did the double’ with its ace wheelman Jake Cassetta again taking the fastest driver title, while the GP also yielded another record total for charity: £4,815 donated to the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) this year and making it nearly £17,000 raised for charities since the inaugural event in 2104.
Despite being the first team to retain the GP trophy, Ford’s victory was not entirely nerveless, as it also collected the most black flag penalties on the night, yet still managed to see off all comers.
Team member and Press Officer – Corporate Affairs, Maisie Goldney, could barely contain her delight (see our video at http://www.sgmw.org.uk/video-highlights-from-sgmwkarting-2017):
“There was a lot of pressure to come back and take the gold again, and I’m delighted that we’ve won it. It was a really, really tough race, but it’s been so much fun.”
There was a familiar look to Ford’s closest challengers though: the Audi team came second to continue a proud record of securing a podium place every time it has entered, while third-placed FIAT, this time partnered with Alfa Romeo, has also notched three podium finishes, including first at the inaugural GP.
SGMW Chairman Ian Robertson said afterwards: “Nobody can disagree that the GP just gets better and better: even more cut and thrust action and yet more support from our PR colleagues in the motor industry, which has enabled us to raise another potentially life-saving sum for a favoured charity.
“We have donated to air ambulances since we started the event, the brainchild of SGMW members Kevin Haggarthy and Massimo Pini and then brilliantly executed by Chris Rees – my immediate predecessor as SGMW chairman. The GP was only intended as a one-off, but it returned by popular demand and is a firm fixture in our calendar.
“We now have a well-oiled team running it – though there’s no drinking on the night! And we continue to build the event too, adding video to the proceedings as an experiment and extra fun this year, courtesy of Group member Andy Russell.”
The SGMW doesn’t enter a team itself, because the GP is intended as a small ‘thank you’ to industry PR colleagues for the events they stage for group members.
But some members did volunteer for teams who were short of in-house racers: Tyler Heatley and Sean Ward (Honda), Phill Tromans – who filled a hole in the ‘holy’ alliance Renault-Nissan team – Chris Pickering (BMW-MINI) and Tim Pitt (Porsche).
For Tyler it was a very different event to last year when he helped the FIAT team come so close to victory. This year, he and Sean shared Honda’s wooden spoon for gaining the second highest number of black flags (see our video).
So, the 2017 podium places were:
1st Ford: Jake Cassetta, John Palmer, Kristian Gilling, Maisie Goldney and Charlotte Ward
2nd Audi: Alex Fisk, Marios Alexandrou, Nick Mitchell and Paul Grayson
3rd FIAT: Darren James, Chris Clubley, Nate Wright and Omid Dehghan
Fastest Lap winners:
1st: Jake Cassetta (Ford) 49.211 seconds
2nd: Rhys Jones (Honda) 49.544
3rd: Chris Clubley (FIAT-Alfa Romeo) 49.966
There was another prize too: a surprise birthday cake for Citroën Head of Communications John Handcock, who chose to attend and drive for his brand rather than celebrate at home. Apparently, it was a ‘no brainer’ for John: “Why wouldn’t I be here? We all look forward to it and we thank you guys for organising it.”
This year’s grid (in alphabetical order): Audi, BMW/MINI, Citroën, EHAAT, FIAT-Alfa Romeo, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, MINI, Mitsubishi, Newspress (also including Jade Wells and Darren Newman from the Subaru press office), Peugeot, Porsche, Renault-Nissan, Skoda, Suzuki, Toyota, Vauxhall, and Volvo.