In the ultra competitive world of the Formula One Management backed Formula Kart Stars Championship, the same series that help start current patron Lewis Hamilton and his fellow Formula One driver Paul Di Resta on their road to stardom, it is extremely rare that the entire paddock unites behind one driver. But on Easter Sunday at the Kimbolton circuit near Huntingdon there was a unanimous cheer from rival drivers in all classes, spectators and teams alike when 14 year-old Inem Coker stunned the establishment with a resounding victory in the second round of the 2012 Championship.
Not only was the Colchester based driver competing in his very first weekend at national level karting but Coker’s first ever race victory came just one day after he suffered a horrendous string of bad luck with seemingly incurable engine difficulties that prevented him from completing a single race.
Such was Coker’s misfortune in Saturday’s opening round of the 12 round season that several of his class rivals in the 70mph Rotax Mini Max class offered their assistance to Coker and his Campfield Racing team but after team boss Marc Campfield and Inem’s mechanic Carl burned some serious midnight oil on Saturday night the Year 9 St Benedict’s College student caused one of the biggest upsets in the 17 year history of the Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton backed Championship with a resounding maiden victory in Sunday’s final against the best young drivers in Britain.
“Even though I have come close on a few occasions, I had never won a race in MiniMax,” beamed Inem, whose family originate from Nigeria and who only started MSA racing two years ago. “I knew it was only a matter of time because the signs were there. My race craft has been improving and I was getting good speed. I just never thought that my first win would come at a national series like FKS.”
With intermittent rain making track conditions extremely trecherous Inem was finally able to get some meaningful laps under his belt and completed more laps in Sunday morning’s timed qualifying session than he did during the entire day on Saturday. Starting an impressive 12th for his two heat races Coker took finishes of 14th and 11th to put himself on the outside of the sixth row of the grid for the final, ahead of several more experienced drivers and directly alongisde his Campfield Racing teammate Stef Charalambous.
As the field waited to go out for the final team boss Marc Campfield made an inspried decision to change to wet tyres even though the 1000-metre circuit was drying out and virtually everyone else was on slick tyres. But with temperatures barely hitting double figures Coker and his team gambled on the fact that even if the racing line dried out completely, those on slick tyres wouldn’t be able to generate enough heat in their tyres to match Coker’s extra grip. It proved to be a race winning decision.
Before the race Inem said half jokingly; “My dad says that his father always chucked him in at the deep end and he hasn’t turned out too badly so why not try the same with me.”
Thoroughly in at the deep end in one of the toughest karting pools in the UK Inem quickly proved that he was an excellent swimmer as he belied his lack of experience by slicing through the pack to take the lead on lap three. Taking care not to overheat his wet tyres Inem drove with a matiruty well beyond his years as he carefully sought out the wettest parts of the circuit whilst at the same time extending his lead to a massive eleven seconds with five of the 16 laps remaining.
Even when the track dried out completely and the rest of the field began to reel him in Inem kept his cool and calmly completed his final lap to take the victory by five seconds and send his team into raptures.
“The track was going to get drier as the race went on and those on slicks would have an advantage,” commented Inem as he soaked up the congratulatons of his fellow drivers. “So they advised me to keep my head down, avoid the usual crash at the first corner and get away from the pack as early as possible, and that was what I did. At one stage, I was even scared of the lead I had built up.”
Understandably overwhelmed by his achievements Inem, who will also use the unique FKS Education Bus during the year to continue with his college studies, found time to compliment his teammates Charalabous and Junior Rotax driver William Fletcher, who also enjoyed a successful Easter Sunday.
“This win at FKS has given me a lot of confidence and I believe that with the right team around me, I can achieve more. We all had a bad day on Saturday (though none as bad as mine) but on Sunday, Stef came 4th in our race and Will came 5th in the Juniors. For all three Campfield drivers to have come in the top 5 is amazing. This is an ambitious team and I believe that many people will know about Campfield Racing by the end of the year.”
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