The close of 2019 saw the end of the inaugural UK Daniel Ricciardo Race Series, a new format of 125cc two-stroke kart racing headed up by the F1 driver himself, Daniel Ricciardo. Even though the new format and kart has taken some getting used to, it has been a very successful year, which has Matt’s and the team’s best result to date, culminating in Matt achieving an amazing 2nd place in the Championship overall.
From round 1 until half way through the season, Matt was fighting for the championship title, often taking the lead with many successful races and wins. Some of these wins were tough fought, with great overtaking and making for some great viewing for sponsors, friends, family and even fans at home via the live race streaming on the official DRS website.
It was possibly the wettest racing season the team has ever experienced, making learning the new kart even trickier. Fortunately, Matt’s experience means he tends to race well in the wet, which was needed at Fulbeck where in the pre-final race due to technical issues and poor pace, Matt started from the back of the field in the worse rain conditions possible, with near zero visibility. His steady clean driving saw him gain more track positions than any other driver, passing the checkered flag in 5th place.
Another memorable wet race was at Shennington, where the whole field’s eyes were on the heavens. Matt and the team gambled on the track drying out during the race, and as Matt was starting from 14th on the grid, the team figured they had nothing to lose, opting for slick tyres rather than full wets. The race began with the guys on wet tyres pulling away leaving Matt dead last, but as a dry line slowly appeared Matt started to put in the quickest laps, and what a smile he had on his face as he passed everyone to take the lead and the race win, finishing a full ten seconds ahead of the 2nd place driver.
Overall the team had a few issues with the new kart this year, trying to get up to speed at the various tracks around the UK. They tried everything they could to get the kart up to the race pace that was expected, the kart set up and raw power wasn’t giving enough to maintain the challenge to win the championship. Therefore, the second half of the season became more about securing 2nd place in the championship. This was also due to a few tricky finishes through bad luck as well as the lack of race pace that made the goal of winning the championship tougher. Worse still, the 3rd and 4th place drivers in the championship were getting quicker, finding more pace, scoring good points and therefore catching up to Matt. Matt did a great job, driving intelligently to hold the other drivers off from stealing 2nd place in the championship away from him.
For that reason the last race of the season was exciting, as Matt needed to finish 4th or higher with his closest rival finishing 2nd or lower for Matt to maintain 2nd place in the championship. The challenge was tough from the start as the rain came down while all the drivers were on slicks. Matt carefully made his way around the track but unfortunately was taken out by a driver pushing him to 5th, while his rival was now leading! After some tough racing Matt managed to get himself back to 4th, overtaking his main rival who eventually slipped back to 7th.
With that, the season was completed. Matt managed to finish 2nd place in the championship, which was no mean achievement given the handling and power issues the new kart posed for the team. Second place wasn’t the main goal for 2019, but it’s still a great result and is now Matt’s highest finish in two-stroke championship racing. An achievement that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the incredible support from sponsors Oakenhurst Aircraft Services Ltd, friends and family.
Being interviewed at the end of the last race Matt said; “What a race!!! That went down right to the wire, I am so happy to finish the season in 2nd place. It wasn’t the result we wanted from the start, but so happy with the result after the bad luck we had in the second half of the championship”. He continued to say, “I am very thankful and appreciate the support given to me this year by my sponsor Oakenhurst Aircraft Services Ltd. They have been incredible through the whole year, on and off the track they have supported us, which I am truly thankful. Can’t wait to celebrate with them at the awards night, on another great year of racing’’. The awards night is on the 11th Jan, so look out for the podium pictures from the night.
The team would like to say a massive thank you to friends and family that have made the long trip to tracks around the UK. With a special thanks to Matt’s Dad, the chief mechanic and his Mum, the Chief events coordinator and Chef. The team looks forward to next year, where they will be pushing harder for that number 1 spot. The team plan to do winter testing before the start of the next season, and try to get the best out of the kart and find some of that lost pace ready for the 2020 season.
Kindest regards and Happy New Year,