Hornchurch kart racer Bobby the man to beat at Ellough

• Teen ace Thompson races to maiden win in Formula One backed Championship
• Popular victory moves ‘Bobster’ to second in standings.

Hornchurch’s fastest teenager Bobby Thompson scored an emotional first victory in the Formula One Management backed Formula Kart Stars Championship at Ellough Park in Suffolk in his 70mph Junior Rotax kart.

Following in the footsteps of racing idols Lewis Hamilton and Paul Di Resta, who both made their names in the Bernie Ecclestone backed championship, 15-year old Thompson dominated the fourth round of the championship to take the winners spoils and move within one point of the title lead.

Bobby and his Vital Motorsport team travelled east to the sinuous, demanding and abrasive Ellough Park circuit for the third and fourth rounds of the twelve round 2012 Championship with Bobby focusing squarely on banishing the memories of his round two penalty from Kimbolton, which saw him dropped from second to third in the final results after starting the race from pole position.

“I went into the weekend feeling confident as I’ve been fast at Ellough Park for the last two years with FKS,” stated the 15-year old Emerson Park School student, who missed part of Friday’s test session due to having to sit a GSCE exam. “Where I’ve been so close to my first win on so many occasions it has become a bit frustrating so I was determined to seal the deal this time.”

Some of Bobby’s frustrations stemmed from his controversial demotion from second to third in the second round of the championship, where he saw his first career pole position ruined by poor driving from some of his main championship rivals. Coming into the Ellough Park weekend fourth in the points standings, Bobby knew that a fast and consistent weekend with minimal issues was required to keep him in the thick of the title picture.

With the weather set fair for the weekend Bobby, known throughout the karting paddock as ‘Bobster’, was quick to recognise that making his tyres last would be a key to success as each driver is only permitted one set of slick tyres per day. Ellough Park is one of the most abrasive tracks in the UK and combined with numerous slow corners and twisty, technical sections, every driver had to know when to push hard and when to take it easy.

Saturday’s third round began with ten minutes of timed qualifying and Bobby placed his Caudwell Children’s backed kart on the second row of the grid, his best time of 43.46-
seconds only one tenth of a second slower than Oliver Norris’ pole position time and good enough for third on the 19-strong grid.

After so many issues with first corner contact at the previous two rounds at Kimbolton the officials were watching closely as the field were unleashed at the start of the first of two 15-lap heat races and Bobby was relieved to emerge from turn one in second place and he soon set about trying to pass the leader.

“Oliver [Norris] was being a bit defensive so I tried to make a move into the Alan Wones Hairpin but I overshot the corner and two other people got through,” stated Bobby, who briefly slipped to fourth place before battling back to finish third, just one second behind eventual winner Shaun Arnold. “I was really close to getting the fastest lap so it was a good start.”

Heat two was slightly more fraught with Bobby slipping to seventh on the opening lap although he rallied back to take sixth place at the flag, which translated into a fourth place starting slot for the all important, 22-lap final.

“My mechanic told me to make sure I got to the inside line as quick as I could after the start,” commented Bobby who wanted to avoid getting trapped on the outside line going through the first corner. “When the lights turned green I noticed a gap between the two karts to my inside so it was a case of getting my right hand down and hoping there was room for me.”

There was room and Bobby emerged from turn one in fourth place although his quest to get to the front would prove to be somewhat problematic, as he explains.

“I was trying to pass Luke Whitworth and I made a move on lap three and got third but a lap later he came back at me and that allowed three other karts to get through as well. Then I got tipped wide by Oli Myers and that cost me another four places.”

With such a closely matched field Bobby found himself in 11th place on lap seven but with 15 laps still to run he soon showed the kind of true grid that won him the 2012 Trent Valley Kart Club Winter Series earlier this year.

“The red mist came down and I started passing people ad I re-passed Myers cleanly,” commented Thompson, who picked up five places between laps 7 and 17 to move into sixth, setting the fastest lap of the race as he did so. Another late flurry saw Bobby move into fifth place when the chequered flag fell and although he knew that his pace warranted a better result, his speed and the fact that the weekend was still only half over meant he wasn’t too displeased with the result.

“Setting fastest lap always re-assures you that you have the speed to win,” concluded Bobby, who went to bed on Saturday night sitting in fifth place in the overall championship standings but only ten points behind the leader with a maximum of 200 points available in Sunday’s fourth round. “Although I took a few knocks I proved that I had the pace to recover and the whole team showed to everyone that the chassis, the engine, the set-up and the driver were all in good working order for the next day.”

Sunday dawned with the same dry, hazy and breezy skies overhead and as Bobby guided his kart onto the track for timed qualifying he simply picked up where he left off on Saturday.

“I was fastest for most of qualifying but towards the end I started saving my tyres,” recounted Bobby with a wry smile. “Oli Myers and Luke Knott went faster than me right at the end of the session but to be honest I was happier starting third than second as it meant I was on the inside row of the grid and after I had passed Myers twice on Saturday, I knew that he knew I had a stronger race package than him.”

Four hundredths of a second slower than poleman Myers, Bobby simply bided his time in the opening heat race and waited for a passing opportunity to present itself.

“I made a good start and was able to pass Luke Knott at the first corner to move into second place behind Myers,” stated Bobby, who was about to give a first hand demonstration of the kind of mental toughness required in top line karting. “I knew I had ten minutes to make my move and so I waited for him to make a mistake. With three laps to go he began to get defensive and I used that to my advantage.”

With third place driver Shaun Arnold rapidly closing on the lead duo Bobby calmly set Myers up coming through the penultimate corner, thus putting the leader off-line for the approach to the final tight left hander onto the home straight. Slotting to Myers’ inside Bobby was into the lead in a flash, running Myers slightly wide on the exit of the bend to prevent any comeback and giving Arnold the chance to squeeze into second place in the process.

“The heat one win was a great result and I was really pleased with it, especially as I finished without a scratch on my kart.”

Heat two saw more of the same excellent racing between Bobby and Myers, who occupied the top two positions throughout the 15-lap duration, passing and re-passing each other numerous times before Myers finally equalled the daily score at one win a piece by a scant seven tenths of a second.

“Heat two was a good clean fight with Oli Myers,” stated Bobby afterwards, whose points total was still enough to secure pole position for the final. “He got through with a couple of laps to go and got the win this time but I knew that second place would give me pole position for the final, which was the most important thing. I noticed my team manager Gary Rolfe telling me to keep calm from the pit wall so I didn’t worry too much about trying anything silly on the last lap.”

As he did for the Sunday final at Kimbolton, Bobby would start the Sunday final at Ellough Park from pole position and he was determined to avoid the chaos that effectively ended his bid for victory at Kimbolton in the first corner. But in order to do that Bobby had to control the pace of the field and then somehow get through turn one without getting hit from behind as everyone scrambled to make up ground as quickly as possible.

With Myers alongside him on the front row Bobby took the green light and tried to maintain neutral ground in the centre of the track for the run into turn one. However Myers tried an audacious outside passing move going through the first corner, which momentarily looked like succeeding until his extra momentum bounced him over the kerbs on the exit of the turn and cost him valuable time, leaving Bobby in the lead.

“When Oli Myers slid off and gave me a clear lead I got my head down and made sure I didn’t make any mistakes for the rest of the first lap,” stated Bobby, who completed the first of 22-laps half a second clear of his nearest rival. “Because the track is so tight and twisty there isn’t any need to look behind you as you can see the drivers behind you through your peripheral vision when you are coming out of each hairpin. Every lap they started getting smaller and smaller and so I knew I wasn’t under any pressure.”

Far from being under pressure Bobby’s lead continued to grow lap after lap and as the race drew to its conclusion Bobby began to realise that the elusive first FKS triumph was within his grasp.

“I just had to stay focused and judge my pace and make sure I kept my concentration,” continued Bobby, who began his final lap with a comfortable six second lead. “I had to think of each lap as a qualifying lap where every corner matters and when I saw the chequered flag I felt a mixture of happiness and relief as this win has been a long time coming.”

Soaking up the applause from his team and supporters, Bobby was quick to thank those who have made his most recent success possible and wasted no time in looking ahead to the next stop on the FKS calendar, which will see him make the long trip north to Larkhall in Scotland. “I showed the rest of the field that I am quick at all different types of track and everyone knows that I will be a threat to win at every round. I’d like to thank Vital Motorsport, Grice Racing engines, Caudwell Children and the team from Smart 4 U who have been really supportive ever since I met them and their fantastic looking Smart Car at Kimbolton. I’m looking forward to Larkhall, it’s a long way to go but I’m going to make sure that all the travelling will be worth it.”

Bobby heads to rounds five and six of the 2012 Formula Kart Stars Junior Rotax Championship sitting second in the points standings a mere one point behind current leader Sam Marsh but with momentum squarely on his side.

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