Xenon kart – The official X30 World Champions, how it all happened…

So everyone’s already seen Ashley Sutton, the BTCC 2017 champion went and won the X30 Shifter World Championship in LeMans, but the story behind it is even more far fetched than the race itself.

About a month before the finals, Ash was sat in his ‘hovel’ at Xenon HQ saying how he wouldn’t mind jumping in a shifter kart for ‘a bit of practice’ before his final round of the 2019 BTCC champs at Brands Hatch. Head honcho, Nick Jest jokingly said why not do the shifters at LeMan too. It really was a passing comment, who would really want to jump out of BTCC racing on the Sunday, drive down to LeMans Monday morning and enter the hardest Iame competition in the world… stupid idea!

Anyway, Nick and Ash built up a shifter kart, John Mills of JM Racing (PFi) couriered down an engine and the Xenon kart was ready for action. The next Tuesday afternoon the kart sat on the tarmac at Rye House and Ash went hooning, in the way that only Ash can hoon. Watching him at Rye is a pleasure, to be fair we could watch him race round in a dustbin and he’d still probably still be quicker than most! By the end of the day he hurt and Ash would be the first person to tell you kart fit is a completely different level of ‘being fit’!

Back at Xenon HQ, Nick again did the remark of LeMan, surprisingly Ash kind of said maybe. I say kind of because he hadn’t finished the sentence and Nick was on the phone to Millsy at JM’s. The reply from John… “just get him there, we’ll supply the engines and tyres, you supply the kart!” In the space of about 2 minutes Ash was going to LeMan… after a day in the kart! What a stupid idea!

To be fair, even the week before Ash still took the ‘lets go to LeMan and race’ idea with a pinch of salt. It wasn’t until Nick said “Yes, we’re doing it, c’mon, it’ll be a bit of fun!” that he realised and said he’d better book a hotel!

Race weekend…

So Ash was racing at Brands on the Saturday and Sunday (congrats for finally getting on the podium!) for the final rounds of the 2019 BTCC.  For most other drivers they would finish the weekend and then take the arduous trip home, put their feet up and recover from a hard weekends racing… but not Ash is NOT an ordinary driver. Thankfully for him, home was up the road. He grabbed ‘forty winks’ before Neils picked him up in the early hours of Monday morning and drove him all the way down to LeMan… on 4 hours kip!

Iame World Finals

So he made it for Monday testing… everyone else had been there since Thursday before and had already practiced a fair amount, but he’s there, with his little smile, blinkered eyes and fuzzy mess of gingery blonde hair… oh well, just remember, it’s only a bit of fun!

Monday afternoon’s session went well for a whole lap, before BANG, cough, splutter, stop… bugger. Some head scratching, some frowning and a few choice words and the engine is diagnosed by Nick with “hmm, it’s not well is it!” The spare comes out, Neils (Ash’s mechanic) goes into full on Glaswegian mode (to be fair it’s hard enough to understand him at the best of times, but a stressed Neils… best to keep away from) spare engine is bolted on and Ash is ready to hopefully do more than one lap in the next session. Then it rains and rains and rains and rains and testing is abandoned… bugger. Oh well, it’s only a bit of fun! At least Ash will finally get a good nights sleep!

Tuesday testing is amazing, someone ‘up there’ flicked the sunlight switch on and the day is glorious, Ash has one test session before qualifying. He finally did 11 whole laps, no issues, no problems apart from the fact he’s done 12 laps of LeMans in a shifter kart and qualifying is next… but remember, we’re only here for a “bit of fun!”

Well the rest as they, is history. He won, many people have said, he shouldn’t have won, you can’t win the Iame World finals without testing, it’s nearly impossible. Well Ash did and is the exception to the rule. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people pass on honest congratulations to a driver for winning a race the way he did.

So the morals of the story… a- listen to Nick Jest, he knows what he’s doing and b-remember, it’s only a bit of fun!

That ladies, gentleman, boys and girls is how Xenon Kart became the 2019 Iame World Champions. A special mention To John at JM Racing and to NEK seats for your awesome help and support, you guys are awesome 😉