The majority of the town’s population probably didn’t know it, but a Formula One world champion was in Milton Keynes yesterday. At the Daytona kart circuit to be specific, treating an army of competition winners to a very special karting experience.
They were the winners of Vodafone’s VIP event, and the world champion was Lewis Hamilton. And, as you may already have guessed, Badger was there too.
The competition winners – all of whom got to bring along two friends – enjoyed a Q&A with Lewis and an opportunity to beat the McLaren man’s best lap of the circuit. One lucky chap even got to hold tight through a few laps in a two-seater kart with the 2008 title-winner. Mad and brilliant.
As well as, this some very lucky media folk were in attendance – Badger among them – and were given the impossible-to-turn-down opportunity to get some karting tips from Lewis. We we’re fitted with earpieces so that once on track he could give us some advice on our driving and are told to simply get out there and wait for the advice. What with Mr. Hamilton having been a hugely successful karter in his youth it’s safe to assume everyone would be listening closely. Suited-up, and in kart number 52, I’m off.
Well, nearly – I actually don’t get going immediately. My engine is started up, but due to me leaving the pits last it dies (as these engines have a habit of doing – it wasn’t my fault, honest). “Oh-ho, one of them’s stalled on the grid!” Hamilton shouts. I turn my head to look at him and he’s grinning like a madman. Next time he has a problem getting off the line I’ll be sure to get in touch.
I do eventually get away and, on the short, relatively simple track, I’m immediately pretty quick – I should mention at this point that I spent the majority of my youth karting, winning a decent clutch of races and a national championship. So when I say I was the among quickest out there I’m not bragging; I’m certainly no world beater, I’ve just had more practice than most.
And this comes in handy, because it leads Lewis to pay a bit of attention to me.
“Number 52 is destroying them,” he laughs. A few passes at the final corner and the hairpin ensure a bit of praise that left me rather chuffed.
We tear around for a fair while. I wasn’t counting, but it seemed like a good twenty laps, at least by the physical beating I felt like I’d taken afterwards – which is significantly worse as I write on Sunday morning. At one point mid-session the advice slows down, no doubt related to the fact that Badger’s editor has begun chatting with Hamilton (more on that coming later this week)
Soon enough Lewis is dolling out tips again. “Number 52, don’t cross your arms so much,” he says as I continually let the back end snap out and then apply full lock to get the kart through the hairpin. Yeah, he’s right, I am losing a bit of time to an over aggressive driving style, and I make the change accordingly. And it occurs to me: if Lewis thinks I’m creating excessive oversteer, then Jenson ‘Mr. Smooth’ Button would probably have broken down in total despair at my driving style.
Session over, Lewis heads off for the obligatory interviews – which Badger managed to get in on as well – and from there Brazil.
It was great fun and Lewis, whether he likes events like this or not, was in a top mood the whole time. He didn’t get frustrated with the media attention, was great with the fans, and showed no signs of being a man who’s less than a week away from a decisive, championship-critical grand prix. Maybe he’s just used to it, but you’ve still got to hand it to the guy.
The day was more for the competition winners than anyone else – they got hours of free karting and a chance to meet Hamilton just a week before Brazil. It was great to get racing tips from an F1 driver. I’m surely with Yamamoto on pace by now.
If you would like to be in with a chance of similar events with Vodafone VIP – you should visit vodafone.co.uk/vip and register today and if you fancy having a go at karting yourself, the Daytona circuit over in Milton Keynes is superb.