Lennox-Lamb tells European rivals: Catch me if you can! If the CIK-FIA European Championship brings together the very creme de la creme of international karting talent, then in the Western Region qualifying round young Bedford star Jordon ...
Lennox-Lamb tells European rivals: Catch me if you can!
If the CIK-FIA European Championship brings together the very creme de la creme of international karting talent, then in the Western Region qualifying round young Bedford star Jordon Lennox-Lamb proved that he firmly intends upon being one of the leading challengers for glory - by leaving his competitors quite literally trailing.
Facing a 67-strong field populated by KF2 class front-runners of the calibre of Ben Cooper, Brandon Maisano, Chris Lock and Jordan Chamberlain, Jordon travelled to Angerville in France confident of being able to hold his own, if entering the unknown to some extent having never before so much as set eyes upon the Île-de-France circuit close to Paris. He would waste little time in getting to grips with it and making his mark.
"We went to test there before, which went well," he related. "With the standard engines in we were fast - and the main thing really was just to go there for the race weekend and make sure we qualified for the summer championship.
"I thought qualifying would be a big issue and that the racing could be a real nightmare because the track is so narrow, with only about three real overtaking spots over the course of the lap. I really liked driving it, though; it's tight and twisty, with some corners that take a while to get used to, but once you get it all right it's really fun to drive.
"After being consistently inside the top two in the practice sessions we had high hopes of winning, and in timed qualifying I went fastest by quite a chunk in the first session. That left me thinking I wouldn't need to go out in the second session, but the temperature picked back up again and Maisano just pipped me on his last lap. I was gutted. On the plus side, he'd had to push pretty hard to do that, which meant his tyres were more worn than mine."
Nonetheless, second place amongst such exalted company - a scant five hundredths shy of pole position - was nothing to be sniffed at, with his Top Kart mount evidently working far better on the Dunlop tyres used at CIK- FIA level than it does on the Bridgestone rubber stipulated in the WSK International Series. And to rub further salt into the opposition's wounds, Jordon would go on to make his four heat races look positively easy.
Having dropped back as far as seventh in the first of them, he soaked up sustained pressure from Spanish rival Toni Alarcon to take the chequered flag almost four seconds clear of any of his pursuers following a penalty for on-the-road winner Max Goff. There would be two further comprehensive victories later on, but any hopes the 17-year-old may have had of making it a rare clean sweep were swept away by officialdom after he too found himself controversially penalised ten seconds for being adjudged to have crossed the start-line a scant 30cm in front of pole-sitter Maisano in heat two.
"I was being pushed from behind on the rolling-up lap," Jordon explained, "and I was putting my hand up to say slow down, because if I'd have braked it would have caused a concertina effect. The stewards who gave me the penalty didn't even watch the video footage of the start, and my team manager said to them 'okay, if that's what you want then next time we will brake and that will cause the biggest pile-up you've ever seen'. What made it even worse was that Maisano still ended up in front of me at the first corner... It was frustrating, because I had really wanted to have zero points next to my name."
It did indeed seem to be a somewhat disproportionate punishment for an incident in which the Kimbolton Road ace was blameless, but the fact that he still wound up on pole position for the first of the two all-important finals only served to underline his superiority. And then disaster struck...
"Everything was going really well," he recounted. "I had Lock behind me and I knew he was fast, so I thought he'd be able to hold onto me, but I made a gap at the start and by the third lap I had opened up a fair lead over him. As soon as I got comfortable there I concentrated on saving my tyres and winding the carb out so that it was nice and rich. I wasn't having to push at all and was just maintaining my advantage, but equally I knew that if I needed to make a bigger gap I had the pace there.
"I was comfortable setting consistently quick lap times and in a sweet spot with the kart. Then going through the chicane on lap nine I jumped over a kerb, and as the kart landed again I think one of the connections must have been a bit iffy because the wiring loom failed; I went straight to the carb to try to fix it by hand, but obviously that wasn't the problem and I had to pull off by the side of the track. It was so frustrating - I just stood there and stamped my feet in fury!"
From a position of dominance, Jordon suddenly found himself under what he described as 'big-time' pressure, as he faced beginning the crucial second final from right down towards the back of the 34-strong grid in 29th place. Needing a top ten finish to be sure of making it through to the main championship showdown, the Palmer Sport employee was only-too aware that even the slightest minor issue - spin, accident, clipped kerb or mechanical problem - would spell the end of his hopes.
"I always like starting from the back because it can be fun," he confessed, "but this time I was wary of getting caught up in a crash being right in the pack. I just had to concentrate on trying to find the gaps and working my way through the traffic. I got a knock from behind at the first corner which sent me right across the grass, but luckily that meant I just missed a collision ahead and came back onto the track in about 20th place.
"There was another crash in front of me in the second corner which I also managed to avoid, and then I just kept pushing and pushing and pulling off some late lunges and managed to get up to third. After that I was really trying hard to catch Ben Cooper and David Da Luz, because I thought on the last lap they might start scrapping over the lead which could give me a chance, but I was just too far behind.
"Afterwards everybody in the team was coming up to me to shake my hand and saying 'how the hell did you do that?' I felt quite pleased with the way I had driven, but I was so disappointed that I didn't get to stand up on the podium because they worked it out on the aggregate results rather than on the basis of the second final."
Be that as it may, he will have a second opportunity to make amends at Essay in early August, when the leading 24 contenders from each of the three regional qualification rounds unite to battle it out for the title of 2009 KF2 European Champion - one of the most prestigious and coveted trophies of the season.
Similarly in France, Essay is practically the polar opposite of Angerville in terms of track layout - meaning that drivers' skills will be staunchly tested at both ends of the spectrum. Having survived a punishing qualifying meeting that resulted in high-profile casualties of the likes of Maisano, Goff, Alarcon and highly-rated compatriot Mackenzie Taylor, Jordon now has his sights set fully on claiming the ultimate crown.
"I did the European qualifiers there a few years ago and wound up in the top five overall, and that was my first time out in KF3 so I was still having to get used to everything," the former John Bunyan School pupil concluded. "It's a good track - quite fast and flowing with some nice corners and plenty of overtaking places.
"I'm pretty confident we can repeat this kind of performance there. The Italian contingent will all be there too, so that will make things harder, but I think we can do well. If the equipment is on-form, then I will be too."
The Italians have been warned.