Thomas Bolts To British Open Title
Harrison Thomas has claimed the biggest reward of his already-successful karting career by landing the coveted British Open title in the Junior Rotax class at Rowrah.
The Welsh teenager put a frustrating 2014 campaign firmly behind him with a dominant performance in the final race of the weekend to come home fully 13 seconds clear of a highly-competitive field and earn the right to carry the prestigious ‘O’ Plate for the remainder of 2015. However, it had not been all plain sailing for the KR Sport driver, whose first race hopes ended abruptly after a series of promising practice and qualifying sessions…
Facing the cream of the Junior Rotax class, including past and reigning British and European champions as well as talent attracted by the British championship’s reputation as the strongest in the world, Thomas set out his stall early in the weekend, posting regular appearances at the top of the timesheets in Friday’s free practice sessions. He again featured amongst the leading times in official practice on Saturday, before qualifying sixth fastest, just a couple of tenths off the leading time.
Starting the first heat from the outside of row three, the Merthyr Tydfil native gained a couple of spots early on the opening lap, but was then spun to the back of the field as the battle for the lead intensified on lap two. Knowing that any places he could recover would stand him in good stead for the later stages of the competition, Thomas sliced through a series of backmarkers to scrap his way to 13th by the chequered flag, but knew that there was still a lot of work to do on the final day of the meeting.
Sunday morning saw the Bishop Hedley High School pupil back into the top three in practice, and he showed steely determination in the first of the day’s races to come from sixth on the grid through to second. Up to third spot by the end of lap one, Thomas led briefly in the closing stages before crossing the line just 0.09secs from victory, but did enough to earn himself fifth place in the intermediate classification and a decent grid slot for the Pre-Final.
“After the first heat, it would have been easy to let my head drop, but I knew that I had the pace to still be a contender, and showed that in race two,” Thomas noted, “The second heat was a lot of fun with three of us fighting over the win and, while it was a little disappointing to come so close to taking the flag first, it was still early in the weekend.”
Another good start allowed the 14-year old to move up into third place by the end of lap one of the Pre-Final, and he remained there for the majority of the race before producing two world class passing moves – around the outside of turn three to claim second place and then another at T7 – to vault into the lead with three laps remaining. Once in front, he maintained the gap to his rivals to claim victory and put himself into pole position for the British Open final later in the day.
Buoyed by his success, it was a confident Thomas that led the field around to the start of the main event, and he did just enough to hold position over the opening three laps as the pack began jostling in his wake, even surviving contact with the rear of his kart on lap four. Frustrated by their inability to pass the KR kart, however, the chasing drivers then began squabbling amongst themselves, allowing Thomas to begin breaking away. Initially putting as much as a second a lap between himself and his pursuers, the Welsh driver had opened a nice advantage by the mid-point of the 20-lap encounter, and a final spurt as he stepped up a gear in the final stages saw him cross the line nearly 13secs clear of second place.
“I was very surprised to win by so much – anothert 13 seconds covered second to eleventh,” Thomas admitted, “While I was helped by everyone else fighting amongst themselves, I always felt comfortable out front and reckon I would have been able to stay there even if I had more competition. After a difficult year in 2014, it feels great to already be British Open champion in 2015 and, after taking second place in the TVKC Winter Series, this is a promising start to the season.”
Thomas will now concentrate on the seven-round Super One national championship with only the annual trip to Kartmasters in the summer to distract him, but has already been offered the chance to consider moving up to single-seaters in the future after impressing the crack Arden Motorsport operation with his pace in their simulator. Having never so much as driven a car or been in a simulator before, Thomas took eight seconds off the target time put in front of him by the family team of Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner, and now hopes to raise the finance to take up a place on the team’s Young Racing Driver Academy programme.
“It’s every young driver’s dream to keep progressing towards F1,”Thomas acknowledged,“and the Arden/YRDA programme can definitely help me in my aim of being able to race cars in the future. However, for now, my full focus has to be on adding the Super One crown to my British Open title….”
While Thomas thanks friends, family and, in particular, loyal sponsors Smerdon Tree Services and P&R Motors for their unwavering support over the past five years, he is seeking additional backers to enable him to take up Arden’s offer, with the promise that investors will recoup their contribution and more as he moves up the racing ladder. Further information is available from email@example.com or Julian Thomas (Talk Motorsport Management) on 07967 376746.