Lockdown to visor down

09 Apr 2021

Amazing to be back at Whilton Mill, just a few days after we shot the new ‘Welcome’ film, and this time, in my ‘real’ role, race driver coach for Protrain Racing, writes Steve Deeks, Driver Coach.

Given that most of our WM website focuses, by necessity, on the ‘arrive’n’drive’ and corporate offerings, I thought I should set the record straight, and frame what, arguably, our real ‘purpose’ is.

Race driver training. I’m delighted to see that Daniel and his team are filling every available date with test days for all of the myriad karting classes – and, also, that there is a pent-up demand from the, (mostly young), karters, eager to dust off their lockdown blues, and get back out on track.

Returning to racing after a twenty-year layoff, it’s simply the best…

Don’t get me wrong, Whilton Mill is a playground for everyone – but those of us in racing business regard the place as an essential resource for all kinds of reasons. For me personally, returning to racing after a twenty-year layoff, it’s simply the best – and the only financially possible – way of getting my ‘chops’ back. Pounding round the Mill on old rubber, in a Rotax Max. Pound for pound, it’s the real deal. For the youngster wanting to make their way in motorsport; whether at club or professional level, it’s the ONLY way. Miss karting, and in my considered opinion, you are going to be found ‘wanting’ at some point on the ‘ladder’

OK, let’s qualify this, as some of you know I coach and mentor in Esports, and in 2020 looked after Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports F1 star and twice-World Champion, Brendon Leigh. I presented the first series of ‘GT Academy’, where we took a bedroom gamer to Le Mans. And I re-engaged in 2020, to get Brendon back on the Esports F1 podium. Esports is very cool, and sims are a fantastic tool – and can be an ambition and end in themselves. Don’t underestimate the dedication and commitment required to win; I’ve seen it first hand, I lived it with my protégé throughout the 2020 Championship.

But NOTHING delivers quite what karting delivers. Here’s why:

It’s utterly frenetic. You do not even get a tenth of a second the whole lap to relax. It’s physically intense – if you are unfit, it will tear bits out of you. If you make the slightest mistake, you will be shuffled back not one, nor two – but TEN places. You need intelligence and discipline to mine those last few hundredths. And the one thing no one ever says is ‘it’s not fast enough’.

Driving my classic 911 is, by comparison, life in the slow lane. I should know, in a previous existence, I raced single-seaters up to, and including, Formula Three. And it’s only when you scale the ladder as far as F3, you get back to the same experience that karting offers. I’m not even joking.

And finally, I am struck by the fantastic life lessons karting teaches those lucky enough to be involved. I’m conscious this ludicrous lockdown has cost our younger generation a high price in terms of lost formulative life experience. I feel proud to be part of a sport and discipline that provides incredible life experience for the youngsters who take part, and Whilton Mill, as a venue, is the hub for that process.

It’s an iconic venue. I’ll see you up here sometime, no doubt.

Written by: Steve Deeks – Presenter, Trainer & Racer (Guest contributor)

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