In one of our most detailed interviews
yet, Junior TKM Intermediate British Champion Matt Bell reveals
the step by step process of becoming a karting champion. So
make sure you note all this down - it's golden!
You won the Junior TKM Intermediate British
Championship class in 05. The competition was very high with
the likes of Martyn Lyell, Ayrton Pankiw, and Mark Hobson
all competing for race wins. What aspects of your attitude,
and driving do you think helped you win the overall championship?
The whole attitude to every s1 weekend
from my point of view was to finish every race as highly placed
as I could. After all, points mean prizes. The aspect of my driving
that I feel helped me throughout the championship has to be my overtaking.
Being able to overtake a kart whenever you want is a serious advantage
and gets you to the front a lot quicker. However with 3 wins and
3 thirds in the 6 rounds (something that no driver has done in the
last 2 years) matched with my true pace made me come out on top.
You say it is important to be able to overtake
when you want, how do you go about practicing and improving this
Overtaking is all about confidence in yourself
and the kart. To overtake quickly so you don’t get held up,
your timing has to be perfect. This means knowing exactly where
you’re going to overtake someone before you get there. When
I go round a track I see the person in front and I am thinking ‘when
I reach him where I am going to make the move’. When I get
within four kart lengths, I would have decided where I’m going
to overtake him a couple of corners before. This means I’m
going to be 100% committed, if not the move will fail.
What you have to understand is a late braking point in a race is
not the latest braking point possible to overtake, it’s just
the latest braking point possible
to be fast!! To improve, you must practice. The main point is to
think about what you’re going to do before you get there.
If you do this, you’ll find yourself getting through traffic
a lot faster and that’s what separates the good from the greats!
You competed in the Super Libre (Formula A) Winter
Series and finished 7th out of 40 of the UK best drivers, and you
were also extremely quick at the Champion of Champions event. Can
you describe your experience of driving a Formula A kart for the
first time, and describe how it compares to the TKM power and grip
Oohhh, the Super
Libre was awesome! in testing, it was the acceleration that
you had to get used to. Its incredible in comparison to the TKM
and obviously the grip levels meant my driving style had to change
quite dramatically. You couldn’t just ‘chuck’
the kart into the corner. Everything had to be much more controlled.
However, these were just basic difference's that, as a driver, you
should expect. The shock to me was in racing conditions. Due to
the vast increase in speed, everything appeared a lot quicker and
you felt like you had only milliseconds to figure out if your going
to make a move. But as time in the seat progressed everything settled
down and I felt at home again, but physically you had to be fitter
and mentally you had to think more, due to things happening around
You have raced both Rotax, and TKM. What skills
and techniques have you learned from either of these two classes
that you feel have helped you drive a Super Libre competitively?
I’ve learnt more in TKM driving
wise than I think I would’ve in any other kart class.
For this basic reason - if you cant drive a TKM you won’t
be quick in any kart. I know this goes for every class but the lack
of grip in TKM hones your driving skills unbelievably and punishes
you severely for small mistakes. In a class such as Super Libre,
little mistakes can cost you valuable time and when you're racing
against some of the best drivers in the country it’s hard
to regain that time. Not only this, I have always regarded myself
as the last of the late brakers in TKM, and when you go
into a class that has more grip like Super Libre it makes braking
so simple its beyond belief.
When driving a kart fast, describe what driving
techniques you feel are essential to have perfected, and how do
you go about perfecting them?
When driving a kart fast you have to balance
smoothness and aggression. I feel smoothness into, through, and
on the exit of the corner is essential (however this does depend
on the kart class), but going into the corner you have to stamp
on the brakes as hard as you can. To perfect smoothness it’s
easier to get someone to video you so you can physically see your
hand movement when analyzing the video. It’s very difficult
to watch your hand movement when your driving round a track, so
video is the best solution, for me anyway!
However braking for me is trial and improvement,
I analise my surroundings and pick a point on the side of the track
to brake. I then continuously brake later and later until I will
eventually run off track or run wide, this is ok with me as it’s
called finding the limit. If you don’t make mistakes your
not pushing hard enough!
And finally the mind! This involves analysing
the tracks technicalities, like kerbs. Getting on the right lines
is essential, and if you can find 10 kerbs that give you half a
tenth each, you’ll have found half a second immediately. It’s
all about trial and improvement and then analyzing your performance
every time you go out. But on most occasions SMOOTHNESS is a must.
After all you don’t see F1 drivers chucking it into corners,
but man do they stamp on the brakes!
You have also tested T-Cars and Formula Renault.
Can you describe how these cars drive compared to driving a Formula
There completely different. I felt like a
beginner again first time out. A kart is a kart, no suspension and
no gears (apart from ICC). When driving a car, every little movement
has a dramatic affect on the cars balance due to the suspension.
In karts this is not very apparent in fact, even unnoticeable. The
suspension affects the balance of the car so much that if you have
not got the weight ratio near as 50/50 going into every corner you
can lose seconds easily, whereas in karts the kart is almost always
balanced due to no suspension. Not only do you have the balance
of the car into the corner to contend with, you have to brake as
late as possible and change gear (NOT EASY)! But like everything
with practice I improved, and in my second test I got within 2 tenths
of the lap record around Croir in France on old rubber! The only
similarity between the two is they’re both very very fast
and you have to be part of the car to be fast, just like
a kart. The T car however was easier to drive but the gears
were so close it was easy to miss a gear completely. What karting
does, and in particular Formula A is improve control over a vehicle.
The more control you have the faster you go!
What driving techniques do you think you can take from karting that
could help in racing cars, and what techniques do you think should
stay in karting that couldn’t be transferred.
The main driving technique that can be transferred
from karting to cars is under braking. In both, you need to stamp
on the brakes as hard as possible. Also, in karting you have to
be very smooth, especially in Formula A. This needs to be progressed
onto cars. You never see an F1 driver throw the car around simply
because its slow. Other techniques such as slip streaming are also
effective. Even more so in cars due to the down force, and the pocket
made in the air due to this.
Techniques that cannot be transferred from
Karting to cars are things like braking way off line in the wet,
although very effective in a kart it tends not to be so effective
in a car!
Competing in Super Libre you’re automatically
competing against the best kart drivers in the world in the shape
of Mark Litchfield etc… How did you find the level of competition
compared to what you were used to in Formula TKM? Did you find yourself
having to approach your kart races with a different attitude, and
The level of competition in Super Libre was
amazing. Each class, even TKM, has a high level of competition,
but Super Libre brought it to another level due to the fact that
the standard of driving skill was very high and mistakes very rarely
occurred. This made it difficult to catch and overtake people, which
is why the first lap is so critical. The only approach that
was different was the goal at the end of each race. In TKM, every
aim was to win, although that was my aim in Super Libre, the approach
was to get within a tenth of Mark Litchfield, which believe me was
You are at a stage of your karting career when
you will be thinking about moving on to different classes. Sponsorship
will be a key part of your future success. What advice would you
give a young driver looking for sponsorship? What are the key factors
do you think a kart driver must consider when approaching businesses
Advice for a young driver? Well for starters
don't refer to them as you sponsors but more so as you partners.
They’re your partners from the aspect of that you
work together and are a team. You have to make yourself
stand out among everyone else, that means good presentational skills
and your appearance has to be first class. It’s not
what the partner can offer to you, but what you can offer to the
partner. That’s the hardest thing to convey into
You will be competing in the Formula TKM British
Championship, British ICA O' Plate, European ICA Qualifiers, and
the Super Libre TV Kartmasters in 2006. The competition is World
Class. How are you preparing yourself for the challenging karting
year ahead regarding fitness levels, and mental attitude?
My fitness levels generally are very high
due to the fact I am very active everywhere. I will when my GCSE's
are finished however, attend the gym at least 2 times a week in
preparation for the European qualifier. Mentally I just have to
make sure I get enough sleep and drink enough fluids in order to
maintain concentration. Unfortunately I can’t predict the
future so I’ll take it how it comes and hopefully come out
on top in each competition, most of all in European championships!
What is your future career plan? Is the plan
to move onto cars? If so, which root do you plan to take?
I do plan to move onto cars. What root however
depends on the budget I have. At the end of this year I will be
trying to get my Formula BMW license, which will then enable me
to compete for the scholarship. That is one option for next year,
another would be Formula Renault UK. This however requires an even
bigger budget, which is hard to obtain. If all goes right it will
be single seaters for sure.
Just like any brilliant karter, Matt Bell
knows exactly how to drive a kart quickly, and how to describe it
in candid detail, which is great news for us mere mortals as we
can try to copy it!
Alan Dove - 06/03/06
All Super Libre Pictures by Tom