The 2012 Formula Kart Stars Junior Rotax title chase would be decided in the final two rounds of the season at Whilton Mill with three drivers aiming at securing a place on the stage at the Autosport Awards in December, the coveted FKS Steering Wheel trophy and one of the prize TAG Heuer watches.
Last year’s championship runner-up Sam Marsh (RL Racing Department) arrived at Whilton Mill with a four point lead over Shaun Arnold (DC Motorsport) with Bobby Thompson (Vital Motorsport) 39 points adrift in third but with momentum on his side after a dominant win in the previous round of the Formula One Management backed Championship at Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland.
Marsh may have had the advantage, no matter how slight, at the start of the weekend but he had to overcome some patchy history at the Daventry circuit, which saw his title dreams in 2011 cruelly crushed with a controversial exclusion that almost led him to quit the sport altogether.
Formula Kart Stars Junior Rotax Championship
If Marsh felt any pressure heading into the most important weekend of the season he didn’t show it as he took pole position in Saturday morning’s sun-blessed qualifying session and watched his title rivals struggle. Thompson was fourth while Arnold remained only 15th after a collision with Marsh in the opening minutes rendered his kart undrivable. Independent runner Lemuel Pay capitalised to take second on the grid for the heats with Mini Max graduate Jai Nijjar (Chris Rogers Motorsport) a sterling third fastest.
Marsh’s form continued in heat one, taking the win from Nijjar by half a second as Arnold charged up to third. Thompson’s challenge was dealt a mortal blow when he ran off track after a collision with Oliver Norris (RL Racing Department) and wound up 11th with Norris retiring on the spot. Heat two saw a stunning triumph for Pay, who passed Marsh with two laps to go and then held off Marsh and his fellow RL driver Josh White over a tense final lap to claim his first FKS heat win of the season. Thompson was fifth with Arnold a frustrated 11th.
Pay sat on pole for the final but would retire with a stripped sprocket, leaving the road open for Marsh to take a major step towards the title. Arnold’s challenge faded when he retired before half distance and with Thompson only fifth, Marsh’s two-second victory over Nijjar and Lando Norris meant he could theoretically wrap up the title in Sunday’s first heat.
Marsh duly scored his first national championship in fine style under bright skies on Sunday thanks to a combination of a smart drive from himself and another calamitous morning for Arnold and Thompson. Despite only qualifying third and finishing the first heat in second behind an ecstatic Nijjar a seventh place finish for Arnold and a retirement for Thompson meant that Marsh couldn’t be caught and therefore he sat out the remaining races to soak up the adulation from his team.
Nijjar proceeded to win heat two by inches from Pay with White and Rob Hodkinson (Advance Motorsport) completing the top four. Thompson was sixth and Arnold eighth, meaning that neither could be caught for second and third in the standings, which resulted in Arnold taking the start of the final before retiring so as not to risk a potential disqualification.
In the final itself poleman Nijjar dropped back, leaving Hodkinson to hold off a trio of RL karts in the form of the Norris brothers and White. When a crash triggered the Battenberg flags, Hodkinson’s advantage evaporated and when the green flag waved again he had two laps to hold on. Fortunately Oli Norris and White tripped over each other in their fight for second and Hodkinson was left to score his first FKS final win.