Former kart racer turned leading television presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson declared a ‘massive respect’ for her rivals in the Formula Kart Stars Senior Rotax class following her return to the seat after an absence of more than two decades in the seventh FKS Challenge event at Glan Y Gors recently.
Butler-Henderson, known in motorsport and television circles as VBH, last raced a kart in 1989 before she stepped aboard her Henderson Racing CRG UK prepared machine at the undulating Welsh venue and while she admitted that it was a struggle to get on the pace initially, by the end of the day she was lapping within two and a half seconds of race leading pace and had impressed her fellow drivers.
“It was massively tougher than I was expecting,” grinned Butler-Henderson, whose exploits were being filmed for an upcoming episode of the popular programme Fifth Gear, which she presents. “When I was racing I was always mid to front grid so to be suddenly at the back of the grid and to be left behind was quite humiliating.”
Butler-Henderson may have talked down her performance but with only Saturday’s three-lap practice under her belt before qualifying began this was the karting equivalent of being thrown to the lions.
Rain just as qualifying began meant the Hertfordshire born racer was stranded on slick tyres for the ten minute timed session and by the time the first heat started, everyone was on wet tyres and it wasn’t until the second heat of the day and the gruelling 15-minute final that VBH finally had a dry track and slick tyres to properly gauge her progress. Despite having to cope with the physical demands of a modern day kart, the fact that her lap times were within three seconds of the ultimate pace was a cause for celebration, even if parts of her body said otherwise.
“I haven’t been to Glan Y Gors before and I haven’t raced a kart for 23 years so at the end of the day I was 2.8-seconds off the pace and I started out 10 seconds off so I can go home with my head held high, if I could still feel my head as my neck is about ready to fall off,” added Butler-Henderson.
Her day job of presenting Fifth Gear may involve hurling some of the world’s fastest cars around a variety of race circuits but Butler-Henderson was quick to heap praise on the drivers she faced on her FKS debut and the level of work that goes into being a competitive modern day kart racer.
“I’ve always had massive respect for anyone who races a kart because I know what you live through to be successful in karting,” concluded Butler-Henderson. “But today I’ve really learned that these karts are a lot heavier than the ones that I raced so you do need to be a bit more ‘on it’ in terms of fitness. I’ve also learned that they are a lot more media savvy today and I’ve never seen so many race teams in karts before. It was definitely more out of the back of a van when I did it so in that respect its very interesting to see.”