Little did Robbie Hunter's family know that a day out to a kart track, whilst on holiday in France six years ago, they'd uncover a huge sporting talent in their son. At just nine years old, Robert showed not only the natural driving talent that karting emphasises but the commitment and desire to learn that marks a youngster aside.
Back home, Robbie was eager to continue in the challenging motorsport world of karting and father, Dave was more than happy to support his son all the way and became fully engrossed in the sport himself. The family, from Castle Donington, were about to embark on a journey that would absorb them all and see them travel the length and breadth of the country as Robbie made his mark.
|Robbie Hunter in pole position|
Now aged 15, Robbie has 25 career wins and podiums to date and an armful of trophies for his efforts. 2004 sees him competing in two main Junior Max Club Championships - Wombwell and Fulbeck. Robbie currently lies third in the Fulbeck championship and second at Wombwell - by the end of the season being a fully fledged Kart Champion is firmly on the cards and Robbie is determined to give it his all.
As with so many young sports hopefuls, the amount of support needed is immense. For the Hunter's this has become a family run and orientated business. The family have formed their own team Black Sheep Racing, running and preparing karts in a whole series of different championships.
For the uninitiated the world of karting may seem a daunting prospect. Kart championships are divided into national and regional divisions and within these are different classes of kart based on amongst other things, power. For those who are visualising the leisure type go-kart, think again. Modern racing karts are lean machines requiring precise and dedicated driving and maintenance.
Dave and Black Sheep Racing are eager to promote karting to a wide as audience as possible and are actively there to help make sense of the sport for racing novices enabling them to make a confident start in the arena. The team have devised Cadet and Junior driver programmes specially formulated for youngsters and their families to give them a full and supportive introduction to competitive karting. It is an area Dave feels passionately about.
"I would like to see more children given the opportunity to take part in karting" Dave told me. "Many children would like to have a go and their parents would be happy for them to but just don't know how to go about it. For many people competing in karting will give them a positive hobby. It encourages fitness, responsibility and dedication. It's also about team work. And there are many who will spring board from karting whether it awakens their interest in mechanics or engineering or continuing to take part in motorsport."
The burgeoning business has already attracted new drivers who like Robbie are making the most of Black Sheep Racing's enthusiasm and expertise, bolstered by the arrival of Wayne Douglas as a technical advisor. Dave is keen to see more join their karting family and works tirelessly to ensure the lowest price possible to ensure as many as possible have access to follow their dreams.
And knowing a positive experience taking part in karting can be Dave would like to see local firms back youngsters to be given the chance to take part as an incentive perhaps for having performed to the best of their abilities at school or for showing community spirit.
"Ideally" Dave told me, "I would like to a scheme that supports young karters and gives the cream of the crop the opportunity of a sponsored season of kart racing. I think it would even make a great television show so if anyone wants to hear my idea they should get in touch!"
To keep Robbie's career firmly on track the search for sponsors is on going. It is a sad fact that many hopefuls never have the opportunity to explore their talents to the full purely due to financial constraints. With karting often referred to as the first step to Formula One it is a natural question to ask whether Robbie has ambitions to be the next Jenson Button.
"I would like to try single seater racing" said Robbie who's F1 favourite is David Coulthard, "that's natural." Having shown such promise on the kart track, where the likes of Senna and Schumacher honed their craft, it would appear to be a natural progression. But, even a season of one the first formulae like Formula Ford needs serious financial backing. However with a sponsored F.Ford drive the much sought after prize of a kart championship next year, no-one would bet against Robbie as a serious contender for the honour.
And perhaps one of the more saddening downsides of Robbie's success and commitment has been a degree of what I can only term as bullying with the converted bus they use as a transporter having been vandalised. Thankfully, Robbie and his dad don't let such things dampen their spirits, far from it and when the student council of his school raised £100 for Robbie's racing fund it showed what support there is amongst his peers.
And as if juggling karting and schooling isn't enough Robbie is also an active member of the Royal Air Force 'Air Training Corps'. Whilst he wants to make sure he gives motor sport his best shot, Robbie is also looking to a career in the RAF who are proudly supporting his karting campaign.
The Hunters have an infectious enthusiasm for the sport they love and I for one wish them every success and hope to be writing on Robbie's continued victories for a long time to come.