A TEENAGE boy from Dysart has had an amazing debut year racing Karts, finishing runner-up in one of the biggest races of the year, and earning a once-in-a-lifetime visit to a Formula 1 factory.
Liam McGill, 16, entered the Red Bull Kartfighter competition during the summer, a nationwide event which saw 2400 drivers contest regional heats in a bid to qualify for the Grand Final – raced over the streets of Cardiff city centre.
Former Viewforth High School pupil Liam, and cousin Lee McGill from Kennoway, were both among the 36 finalists who made it to August’s final, where drivers raced in front of 15,000 spectators in a bid to be crowned best Kart driver in Britain.
And it was Liam, the youngest entrant, who stole the show, qualifying in first place before building up an unassailable lead – only for a yellow flag to occur two laps from the end allowing the pack to bunch up.
A controversial re-start saw the Fifer overtaken and slip to second – a crushing disappointment given his dominance of the entire race.
“The Red Bull thing has just been absolutely amazing,” Liam told SportsPress. “It was a challenging track, against good drivers, and an amazing atmosphere.
“We also got to meet people like Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo – I was even interviewed by F1 commentator Jake Humphrey, and seeing yourself on the big screen was mental.
“I was leading the full race, then the yellow flags came out with two laps to go. You are not allowed to gain on the person in front under yellow flags, so I turned around and told the guy behind me to move back.
“As I did he shot past me just as the green flag came out. It was really gutting and for weeks afterwards I was kicking myself, but I can’t really complain with second place.”
Liam’s stunning performance did not go unnoticed however and event sponsors Red Bull invited him down to their F1 factory in Milton Kenyes for a visit and chat.
“It was an amazing day out,” he said. “I got taken round their factory and shown all F1 cars, and all the parts being made for them. To be told how much it all cost was unbelievable. The factory was also immaculate.
“I got to try out an F1 simulator – exactly the same thing that F1 drivers use – and that was a really good experience, and really hard to do! It was absolutely brilliant.”
Liam, currently enrolled in an apprenticeship with Exxon Mobil at Mossmorran, started karting aged 11 when his father, Derek, a former stock car racer, bought him his first go-kart.
Liam has since honed his skills at Crail Raceway, where he has a family membership, and this year, he entered the MSA Scottish Karting Championship for the first time.
After learning the ropes in his novice year, Liam hopes to vie for the Scottish title in 2012 - so long as he can see over the steering wheel!
He revealed: “When we first bought the kart we had no clue about set-up, so we just drove it as it was.
“But the previous owner was obviously a bigger driver than me, so when I sat down I was too low down and couldn’t see over the steering wheel! I think that was quite entertaining for all the other drivers.”
Liam’s kart is his pride and joy and he boasted: “This go-kart can do zero to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds, if you gear it right.
“It can also reach speeds of 135 mph but on most tracks in Scotland the fastest you’ll get up to is 95 to 100 mph.
“It’s a brilliant machine to race because you’re so low on the ground when doing those crazy speeds.
“They are really fast, and really grippy, and it’s a thrill to drive them – especially when racing against other people.”
n Videos of Liam’s performance in the Red Bull Kartfighter final are available on the official Red Bull website, www.redbull.co.uk.