Karting series gives hope to desperate dads

Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:24pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton's father knew something had to be done about the soaring costs of karting and the huge financial risks being taken, when his son was first crowned Formula One world champion.

"Back in 2008 we were getting letters and emails from people who wanted their kids to be like Lewis. Numerous people were selling their houses to go karting and taking their kids out of school," Anthony Hamilton told Reuters.

"One or two British families sold what sounded like great houses to move to Italy to go karting. I have no idea where they are now.

"I remember I didn’t really want the responsibility of young kids and their parents losing their livelihoods or believing that if you do a little bit of racing, you get into a top team race car," he added.

Competitive karting is the first step on the motorsport ladder, taking youngsters from eight years old to the threshold of single-seater car racing, for almost all of today's grand prix hopefuls.

But costs at the top level have escalated to the point where some parents are reportedly spending six figure sums annually to ensure their 13 or 14-year-olds get the best equipment, opportunities and testing.

In Europe, where youngsters pay fees to professional teams, it can cost 10,000 pounds ($15,171) to compete at a four-day meeting.

There is, however, an alternative whose organizers hope will become increasingly attractive with the support of Formula One Management and F1 teams, themselves no strangers to enormous expenditure.   Continued...

Anthony Hamilton, father of driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, smiles in the pits during the first practice session of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at Shanghai International circuit April 13, 2012.  REUTERS/Aly Song