TEENAGE karter Neo Clarke described it as the experience of a lifetime as he competed in the RMC Grand Finals which were held in the Middle East.
Though the 14-year-old from Hyde experienced a series of unfortunate mishaps, he still finished 27th from a field containing 72 of the world’s top young racers who assembled in Bahrain.
Neo, a pupil at Alder Community High School, qualified for the finals by finishing fifth in the junior Rotax section of this year’s British Karting Championship
It was a great achievement for Neo who is in his rookie year racing as a junior in a class for youngsters aged between 13 and 16.
Neo, whose middle name is Hamilton after the Formula One legend, travelled to Bahrain with his dad Dave.
The first few days were spent building the kart ready to start practice sessions. The 72 drivers were split into two groups, and Neo found himself in the quickest group which is what he had been wanting.
The practice sessions went well, being in the top 10 for most of them. So, when it came to qualifying, he was quietly confident.
Unfortunately, Neo didn’t put a good qualifying lap together, making it difficult for the upcoming heats.
He started 15th in the first heat and made good progress in a short eight-lap race and fought his way up to finish seventh, only to be penalised with a drop nose penalty meaning five seconds added to his final position pushing him back to 19th.
He still had two heats the next day to look forward and needed a good result. Once again lady luck was not with him. Going through turn six three abreast was never going to work, resulting in a coming together and substantial damage to the kart meaning he had to retire.
With nothing to lose, Neo started the third heat again in 16th place on the grid. He produced one of his best drives to come through the pack to finish second only 0.064 seconds behind the leader.
Going into the last day after a disappointing pre-final finishing 20th and another coming together, Neo manged to qualify for the main final right at the back of the grid in 36th place.
Halfway through the race, Neo was looking at a positive result as he had come past half of the grid up into 18th place, not forgetting these are the best junior Rotax drivers in the world.
After a full course yellow bringing everyone back together, Neo unfortunately got taken out on the restart and dropped down to 25th, with another drop nose penalty meaning he finished 27th out of the 72 drivers.
Dave said: “We made so many new friends and we had the experience of a lifetime. We had the speed, but just needed a little bit of lady luck.”
Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and many of the Formula One stars cut their teeth in karting with Neo born in 2007, Hamilton’s debut and breakthrough season in which he finished runner-up to Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers’ championship.
Neo, who is with Tooley Motorsport whose former racers includes Formula One rising star George Russell, began karting on his eighth birthday while on holiday in Marbella and became hooked on the sport.
He gained his racing licence in 2017 and initially competed in novice races.
Neo became a member of Sam Pollitt Racing in 2019 when he stepped up to the Little Green Man (LGM) series.
And in 2020, Neo moved up to the Junior Rotax class in bigger 125cc karts.
Karting is expensive and Neo, a former pupil at Godley Primary, relies on help from sponsors as Dave estimates £25,000 is needed each season.