Eastern Creek: Orrcon Racing preview

KARTING, THE V8 BREEDING GROUND Larkham -- Orrcon Racing's V8 Supercar driver Mark Winterbottom believes that karting is one of the best and safest ways to educate children, teenagers and sometimes even adults on safe and effective driving both...

KARTING, THE V8 BREEDING GROUND

Larkham -- Orrcon Racing's V8 Supercar driver Mark Winterbottom believes that karting is one of the best and safest ways to educate children, teenagers and sometimes even adults on safe and effective driving both on the road and race track.

Winterbottom, who recently turned 24, began his motorsport career behind the wheel of a go-kart 15 years ago at the Wollongong kart track.

By the time Winterbottom was old enough to obtain his road licence he had already won nine National and dozens of State Championships. The Sydneysider believes his experience on the karting track provided him with a head start towards safe driving on public roads.

"While I may not have been driving an actual road car it was karting that taught me a lot of the principles in car control and an understanding how a vehicle will react in different situations," said Winterbottom.

"By the time I got my licence I had already spent almost eight years racing karts, so when I got behind the wheel on the road I wasn't overwhelmed by the experience.

"Even these days when racing a V8 Supercar I revert back to a lot of things that I learnt when I was racing karts, the basic principles are the same."

One of the most significant steps in Winterbottom's karting career was the KartStars Series supported by Ford Australia. This Series was the brain child of ex-Ford Australia boss the late Howard Marsden and Drew Price Engineering's George Turton.

The one-make KartStars Series was developed as an avenue to provide young drivers with a stepping stone to a career within motor sport through the Formula Ford Championship and into the V8 Supercar Series.

Winterbottom was a part of the inaugural KartStars series before winning the series in 2001 and graduating to the National Formula Ford Championship where he finished Runner-up during his rookie year.

In 2003 Winterbottom graduated into the HPDC V8 Supercar Series with the Stone Brothers Racing outfit where he claimed a convincing victory in the Championship. His outstanding achievements also earned him the coveted Mike Kable V8 Supercar Rookie of the Year award.

At the end of 2003 Winterbottom joined the Gold Coast based Larkham --Orrcon Racing and in the process became the first driver to complete the vision of Marsden and Turton to assist a young driver in graduating from the kart tracks into the V8 Supercar Championship.

"If it wasn't for the KartStars Series I definitely wouldn't be where I am today. KartStars provided me with the opportunity to make a career out of motorsport," said Winterbottom.

"To race a V8 Supercar is something most go-karters aspire to and thankfully I have been able to reach the top level with the support of some great people."

As Winterbottom and his Orrcon Racing team-mate Jason Bargwanna take to the start line in their Orrcon Racing Falcons the next generation of V8 drivers will be contesting the Motorsport News KartStars Series and the Pettaras Press CIK Karting Championships at the adjacent Eastern Creek International Karting Raceway.

From the 34 drivers taking to the grid this weekend in Round Four of the 2005 V8 Supercar Championship at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway there is only a handful of them who didn't start their careers aboard a go-kart.

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