Kid racers burn wheel rubber in London Go-Kart Grand Prix on Isle of Dogs
- Credit: London Play charity
Children got a rush of adrenaline in the first all-London go-kart grand prix racing in knock-together karts they made themselves.
Motorsport legend John Surtees waved the starting flag in the “build and race” event staged at east London’s Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs.
The Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground team were ultimate winners in their coffin-shaped kart, just beating a team from Croydon and pushing Mudchute Farm’s home team into third place.
They left Friday’s competition “in the dust” in their heat—leading to a controversial decision for a re-match between the two finalists.
“The coffin-shaped fuselage helps the aerodynamic flow and makes it go faster,” a 14-year-old Hackney team member explained later. “We made it that shape because I have a model of a Formula One car at home and the bottom is ‘coffin’ shaped.”
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But a team-mate aged 11 saw it differently—“We won because of the chicken mascot!”
The grand prix had 16 creative young teams of potential designers, engineers and racing drivers of tomorrow working together to build old-school go-karts from scratch in just four hours—then race them.
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Surtees lent his support through the Henry Surtees Foundation, set up in memory of his son to nurture youngsters’ potential.
He said: “It’s inspiring seeing the enthusiasm these children get working in a team that has to put heads and hands together to design and build the karts. They discovered how rewarding it is making things and testing themselves.”
The teams had arrived on the field to find piles of wood, wheels, tools and fixings waiting for them, under the gaze of Mudchute Farm’s resident geese, ponies and alpacas.
They soon got hammering, sawing, drilling and painting—some unearthing latent talents in aerodynamic design, precision engineering and automotive aesthetics.
The grand prix was organised by the ‘London Play’ charity which helps children in deprived inner city neighbourhoods experience outdoor play.
The charity’s Melian Mansfield said: “The go-kart race shows what’s possible when you give youngsters a few basic materials, a bit of freedom and space to experiment. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
All 16 karts were deemed fit to race. The young racers were in fierce competition, with tactical manoeuvres, unexpected deviations—and even partial demolitions.
The winning team get an outing to see petrol-powered karting at John Surtees’s Kart Circuit in Kent, where Formula One stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button started their racing careers.