Online Sport Editor Jamie Klein spoke to Exeter Motor Soc President John Pike, whose go-karting career is suffering from a lack of finances:
It’s a truism in the world of motor racing that talent doesn’t get you far if it isn’t accompanied by a significant sum of money.
And, having spoken to go-karting prodigy and second year Exeter student John Pike, it seems that’s a state of affairs that stretches all the way down to grass roots level.
With seven years of karting experience under his belt and nine championship wins to his credit, as well as a creditable eighth place finish in the British national championships in 2012, Pike is ready to make the next step in his career.
But he needs a hefty dose of financial backing to continue climbing the ladder – something which he’s finding especially hard to come by given that Exeter’s High Performance Programme, which supports numerous fledgling athletes studying at the uni, has rejected his requests for assistance.
“I don’t know why the university doesn’t recognise karting as a sport,” says an exasperated Pike. “They still support more expensive sports like cycling. It could be a case of them not knowing enough of the sport in general.”
Pike is eager to point out that karting is just as worthy of recognition as any other form of motor racing. “You can have five or six lead changes per lap, which you don’t get in other forms of motorsport – especially Formula 1,” he enthuses. “It’s just not publicised enough.”
The go-karts Pike races are slightly more sophisticated machines than the type you might sample at your local indoor track, though, boasting 45 horsepower while weighing only 180 kilograms. Such a potent power-to-weight ratio makes them capable of top speeds in excess of 100mph, with 0-60mph taking just over three seconds.
All of this means that professional go-karting isn’t cheap. A new kart is likely to set you back around £7,000, whilst Pike, despite his clear talent, needs to raise between £10,000 and £15,000 just to be able to take up the offer that has been made to him this year to race in Europe.
Asked about how he has gone raising such funds in previous years, Pike explains: “I just look for sponsorship through people I know. Last year I got in touch with 400 or 500 companies.
“I’m not sure what’s holding them back from backing me – perhaps it’s because many businesses want to look environmentally sustainable and it doesn’t look good if they supporting some guy burning fuel around a track.”
This means that Pike has been forced to rely on additional support from his parents to fund his racing, but understandably he’s keen to minimise the burden on them. “It makes life more difficult for them. I want to be able to support my own racing,” he says.
Back in 2010, Pike was offered a drive in Formula Ford, an entry-level car racing series, having won no fewer than 23 of the 33 kart races he participated in during the previous year.
But the team in question, Saxon Motorsport, needed Pike to bring £100,000 to the table, meaning he was forced to continue building his reputation in karts – and he questions why he should continue having to dig into his own pockets having already proven himself to such a great extent.
“The top six guys are in karts paid for by the manufacturers. I’ve raced most of them before so I think I could be competitive with them,” reasons Pike.
The 20-year-old has now been recruited by R&S Motorsport to participate in this year’s British Karting Championship as well as three European races if the money can be found. “The team want me to race with them in Italy and all over Europe – they must think I’m good enough to do that,” Pike points out.
For the past two seasons, he has driven for Lotus Racing Karts, a scheme put in place by Lotus Cars to help not only young drivers with a promising future but also engineers. “We agreed to help develop the Lotus chassis in the UK,” says Pike, who studies engineering at Exeter.
And, if opportunities to drive karts dry up in the future, engineering his own is another potential career option. “I’m in the process of designing my own kart which is radically different,” reveals Pike.
For now, though, his heart remains set on securing the finances he needs to go racing in Europe and competing against the best. But the financial obstacles in the way of doing so regrettably remain considerable.
“That’s the difficulty – standing out. I can see how good I am but it’s difficult to demonstrate it to a company who could potentially support hundreds of different people.”
To more information on John, click here to visit his website.