Niall Mackenzie Column - Feb 09

Ex-Grand Prix legend turned super-fast roadtester Niall Mackenzie looks at the costs of producing the next Lewis Hamilton or Casey Stoner

Posted: 15 February 2009
by Niall Mackenzie

There can’t be anyone on the planet that isn’t impressed with what Lewis Hamilton has achieved in his short life. The dream job, a world championship, the potential to be the highest paid sportsman ever, and on top of that, a real live Pussycat Doll to entertain him now the cold winter nights are drawing in. He also seems a very honest, likable chap who would never deliberately set out to upset another human being. Well, off track anyway...

At this moment in time everybody loves him, but over the next few years I reckon he could be held responsible for all kinds of heartache as families bankrupt themselves in an attempt to emulate the Hamilton success story.

I believe along with his old man’s guidance, Lewis’ accomplishment has immediately become an inspiration for many parents who dream that their sons or daughters can one day become a professional racing driver. And I truly wish them well as I know through personal experience that dreams can definitely turn into reality, but I also know that the addiction to motor sport can be financially disastrous at the very least.

If I haven’t already put you off read on. My friends in four wheel sport tell me that if you want to give your ten year old a fighting chance of winning a junior karting championship then don’t expect much change out of £20,000. As you move up the ladder that will increase to around £50,000 and if you haven’t set up home in a skip by the time he or she is fifteen you’ll be looking at finding the sum of nearly £200,000 to fund a season in a junior formula series.

Sponsorship is obviously the answer, but with companies trimming unnecessary outgoings and more drivers than ever desperate for funding times are tough. So that’s why entry level bike racing makes so much more sense. For a fraction of the cost, you can introduce your budding Valentino to circuit racing via Mini Motos. You’ll get the same motor sport emotional highs and lows of winning and losing, improving and crashing (never seen a serious injury yet by the way) but your nipper will also be learning valuable race and life skills that no X-box will ever provide.

As you move up through the ranks, costs don’t. And even if you get to Superteen Championship level, providing you have no bad luck, a talented rider could take the title on a total budget of twelve to fifteen grand. Casey Stoner and his family did it on peanuts back in 1999 and no one can argue with his stunning progress.

And it gets better, as I know a way to grab yourself a free bike, although it would help (but not necessary) to be based in Scotland. For nine years McIntosh Mini Bikes or has ran the Scottish Mini Moto Championship. In the last two years alone eight riders from this Scottish series have finished in the top ten in British 125cc Championship races. Two are also in the MotoGP Red Bull Rookies series and one is racing full time in Spain, so its success speaks for itself.

Anyway, if you go along to the Kartstart Karting centre at Kirkcaldy on March 22nd, ten lucky youngsters will go home with a Polini Mini Moto for the season, providing they want to compete in the Scottish Mini Bike Championship. Just show up, have a free session and if little Jonny or Jenny shows some talent their bike career will kick off right there and then.

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