World Champion Oli Oakes Reveals His World Championship Winning Karting
When Oli Oakes agreed
to speak to us about winning the Karting World Championship we knew
we had to get your input on the questions. With your questions and
some of our own, Oli Oakes delivered us some hot kart racing tips!
Oli Oakes gave us an unbelievablely
detailed look into the techniques that took him to the pinnacle
of kart racing, winning the Karting World Championship! Oli Oakes
also talks about his corporate karting at Ellough, and what it's
like to race with the worlds best karters!
- Winning the World Karting Championship
is a superb achievement, and is a highlight in any racing drivers
career even if they go on to success in Formula One. What attribute
as a driver do you feel is most important in winning the World
'I think to be honest it requires
a lot, in my particular circumstance I think that we took everything
we had learned from the dramas at the beginning of the season and
turned them around to create a world championship winning combination.
One particular important thing was that we never tried to show our
hand, in testing I was always top 3 in Braga but we never tried
to put together our good engine and perfect setup to get that quick
lap, in qualifying we were unlucky with the drying track on wets
but this meant in the heats I was coming through from the middle
of the pack to catch Ardigo
through the race, instead of trying to push and catch him I just
sat there happy in second trying to look after my tyres.
I think its important that as
a driver/team you always know what time you can achieve, for example
when I won the 2 finals at the last round of the European championships
I wasn’t the fastest but I could drive consistently fast laps
which a lot of drivers couldn’t do, and equally I knew that
for the Worlds we had a few things in the pipeline so it was important
to just knuckle down. I think the most important thing to remember
is that the quickest driver doesn’t always win, I won the
world championships with fastest lap, but the weeks before at round
3 of the European champs I won both races by just being consistently
fast, not the fastest, its an important thing people often overlook,
its not that one lap you can do its about your performance over
the whole race.'
- Kart braking technique
is a favourite talking point on Karting1. Can you describe what
kart braking techniques you used in a Formula A, and how does it
differ from class to class? E.g. do you like to be hard on the brakes,
or more progressive?
'Generally with the Gillard we
have what I call an old school brake! similar to that used in TKM
which Tim designed, however don’t let this fool you, we may
not be the latest on the brakes but we never have any problems with
it and equally its reliable and fast, a vital combination. I think
the biggest thing with the brakes is that it depends on how the
kart is handling, we had some problems in the beginning of the season
and often the brake was at the heat of the discussion however once
we sorted out the chassis imbalances the brakes were fine so I think
its important you take this into account.
My particular technique involves
hitting the brake at 70% power initially then going to max pressure
just to avoid locking up and also this helps you to moderate the
minimuim corner speed better. A lot of people say you need to be
the latest on the brakes to be fastest but this is often not the
case, it primarily depends on the exit you get and when you can
get off the brakes in a corner and pick up the throttle.'
- Daniel Wheldon had Mark
Rose, and Ayrton Senna had Tche as their karting mentora. Did you
have a mentor or a coach that helped you achieve success at the
highest levels of karting? If so, what aspects of your driving,
and performance did they help with?
'To be honest through out my karting
career I had many mentors who all taught me something, these include
Dean Panrucker, Terry Fulletton, Lee Cook, Mick Barrett.
All of whom I worked with at some
point in my career. My mechanic Glenn was a big influence; we had
been together since I was 4 years old that’s something that
is very special, it’s a bond that’s difficult to describe
because there were times when we used to be at each others throat
but equally there were times that will remain with me through out
my life. Most memorable our road trips from circuit to circuit with
his Queen greatest hits CD screaming out from the sprinter van stereo!'
- Sometimes when a young
driver rises through the karting ranks, the fun aspect of karting
can sometimes wane. How did you keep mentally strong, and still
enjoy your karting at the pinnacle of the sport?
'Admittedly there were times when
the fun aspect seemed to disappear, but at the same time you only
got annoyed because it was something that you care about so much.
Driving for PDB was a fantastic attitude and atmosphere, there were
times when we were serious but equally after the day of testing
when we headed to dinner in the hospitality for chicken prepared
by Art and Will, karting is left behind in the tent, often discussions
revolve around Peter’s love life and trying to understand
the Irish mechanics lol. I try to stay mentally strong generally
by trying not to let things get to me, often by just chilling outside
alone or hanging in others peoples awnings chatting to take my mind
I do still enjoy karting even though
I haven’t driven a kart properly since the Bridgestone tyre
test in La Conca after the world champs! I still head down to my
local track; Ellough for a play every now and again when I get the
chance, its something that I can never stop, having it done it for
the best part of my life, I would have liked to come back and do
some races this year and continue on from where we left off but
unfortunately as I begin my first year of car racing I have a lot
to learn but hopefully I can come back soon.'
- Driving a Formula A kart
is a wonderful, and challenging experience. What was it like driving
a Formula A kart for the very first time?
'I did ICA in 2003 so its pretty
similar to be honest engine wise, the only difference is your up
against the legends of karting such as Davide
Fore, Alessandro Manetti, Sauro Cessetti, at first you’re
a bit cautious knowing that they are the big boys but equally overtaking
them becomes the most fun! '
- Keeping smooth is an essential
part of being quick. How did you keep the kart balanced under heavy
braking, and what other techniques do you think are important to
improve the smoothness of a karters driving?
'The general rule is to brake in
a straight line to avoid flicking the back round and locking up.
I tend to just not stamp on the brakes rather hit them hard then
push them a bit more. The biggest thing in being smooth I think
is your driving position its important you can feel the steering
and can reach it properly otherwise you will just jerk the steering.
I tend to try and be smooth in the fast corners but you need to
attack slow corners in a structured manner – such as braking
deep, turning then sometimes having to hold the lock in the middle
or corner or maybe turn a bit more to get the wheel to jack and
go round, the trouble is it depends on track conditions and the
type of corner.'
Senna once said he was a couple of car lengths ahead in his
mind to where he actually was using a technique called ‘looking
further ahead’. What importance do you place on ‘looking
further ahead’, and how do you focus your mind to do this
technique e.g. using reference points etc…
'I try to focus before I drive by
watching other drivers, often I run several scenerios through my
mind before the race so that when it happens in a race I can react
quicker, and prepared for it. One example was in the final at the
world champs, starting 6th I knew the start would be tricky and
there was often first corner crashes at Braga, so I backed everyone
up coming out of the last corner onto the start line to allow the
front 5 to filter in, I wasn’t worried about making up a place
because I knew I was fast enough and there was 28 laps in which
to overtake in, thankfully it paid off! I think after having done
racing for several years a driver instantly gets into the ‘zone’
as soon as he puts his helmet on without even thinking about it.'
- Setting up a kart is of
huge importance, and at the CIK Karting World Championship it is
even more vital. With the pressure on, what set up tips and techniques
would you give someone who wants to achieve the same success as
'I think its important that you
don’t go radical, a lot of teams came to the World Champs
with radical new chassis’s we turned up with the same one
from La Conca just with a slight alteration near the seat. That
way you don’t need to spend ages changing heaps on the kart
you just have to dial it in to the track. The biggest tip I could
give someone is to not try and be too smart, it;s very easy to loose
yourself by going too radical or trying too many things…simple
is always best!'
Questions from Karting1
James - What was it like
crossing the finish line in first place to become world champion
'It's something difficult to describe, once I crossed the line I
couldn’t believe it but I knew at the same time that I was
going to have to leave karting if I wanted to make it to the top
of motorsport which was quite saddening as its something I had done
for almost 10 years. The image which remains most in my mind was
looking up and seeing everyone on top of the PDB truck….cheering
and waving next to the Tonykart truck whom I used to drive for in
my Junior days it was nice because everyone was clapping…it
had been a good race, I led from lap 5 and after all that had happened
that year everyone knew it was an amazing achievement for a little
team from Holland. Its something that makes me smile still when
I look back on it and will do for the rest of my life.'
D’arcy Fenton - How much do you attribute your karting
success to the Gillard chassis? Do you think that the chassis makes
a big difference, or is it the team and the set up? Could you have
done it on another chassis?
'I attribute a lot of it to Tim Gillard, he did a tremendous job,
we had struggled in the early part of the season with the chassis
and the new compounds of the special tyres, however after that test
in La Conca when we tested the new karts by Tim I was so impressed,
he really had hit the nail on the head….i guess the only problem
is he now cant make enough! The team at PDB did a great job with
the setup although a lot the credit goes to my mechanic glen, who
understands exactly what I mean.
To say I could have done it on another
chassis is not fair because winning a world championship isn’t
something that can just be done overnight it takes time, to understand
the team the equipment. Most importantly it’s about having
a good combination, a good chassis alone can’t win you a world
championship, it all comes down to the package. I don’t know
if I could have one it on another chassis its all about how it goes
on the day, I do know I’ve won on every kart I’ve ever
driven in my life but to win a world championship isn’t quite
as simple! '
JSJ - Do you ever play driving simulator games? If so, do
you feel it can help you as a driver in anyway?
'I’ve played Toca 3 a little
bit on my little brothers PSP, it did teach me the way round Thruxton
for my BMW race to some extent, I think they do help to teach you
the layout of tracks but that’s about it really to be honest
other than being good fun...although I must admit I’m not
the greatest at them lol!'
Ramo - How to get in the right frame of mind before going
to kart? I always have a problem that sometimes I am just too good
and other times I am a big flop. How can I break this consistency?
'I think the important thing is
to work out how you get in that right frame of mind and then do
it every time before you drive. I find going off away from people
and watching drivers on track before my race helps me focus, however
its more a natural thing now that whenever I put my helmet on I
get into that frame of mind, often going through the race in your
head helps or thinking about what you need to improve for this race
can often help to get you in the right mindset.'
Shawn Campbell - What would
you say the key to driving fast, consistent laps is around any kart
'I’ve found the key is not
too push at 100% for 20 laps…instead drive at 80% for a 20
laps that way you don’t overdrive and miss apexes, bringing
your braking points back to a more controlled manor will increase
consistency and also…it wont effect your lap times because
you wont screw up the exits out of corners like you would trying
to drive at 100% to the limits because your bound to make mistakes
if you do. I always think on bringing it back a peg or two for racing
Michael - Is the correct
posture in a kart important for you? If so, what posture do you
use in the kart, and what tips can you give someone who wants to
improve their posture?
'It really depends on the driver
to be honest and his height etc, my posture is to sit quite upright
and nearer the steering wheel than most this is because I like to
have control over the front end on the Gillard that is often quite
strong, I think posture is something that really depends on your
driving style and what you find comfortable.'
Will Hulaki - What tactics do you use to stay focused when you are
out front on your own or anywhere in the field, just on your own?
'I tend to just focus on trying
to pull away and not make mistakes, its easy to push too hard and
make mistakes so again I tend to try and drive not at my limits
just near them to avoid making mistakes. One thing that has helped
this year is something that George Olendrum told me, it involves
letting go of the steering wheel in the straight to give your hands
a break and avoid wrist cramp, also taking breathes on the straight
helps because often your focusing so much you tend not to think
about breathing. It sounds silly but its true!'
Henry -Do you have any rituals
before you start a race?
'Not really to be honest, I always
try and go to the toilet several times because you drink so much
when its hot and with the whole pre-grid on track thing that take
ages the last thing you want to do before you drive in need the
loo. I always check my fuel cap is tight I don’t know why
I just do! '
Carla Wellings - Imagine
you’re starting a kart race at the back of the grid in say
20th place how do you manage to overtake as many people as possible
in 8 laps without knocking them all off?
'It's difficult to plan something like this a lot of it depends
on luck…one thing is for sure you need a good start…going
round the outside is risky but often the rewards are greatest then
it’s a case of picking people off one by one and not messing
around, you have to think like once you’ve done him its time
for the next, obviously you have to be pretty fast in the first
place to pull it off, some people use the rule you shouldn’t
be stuck behind them for more than 2 corners.'
- Some drivers like to practise karting to keep their driving sharpness
like Dan Wheldon, and Antonio Luizzi. Do you ever find the time
to jump in a kart, and do some laps?
'I do but not as much as I’d
like, I often go to my local track Ellough and play in the rental
karts when I get a chance. Actually yesterday I did a fun race there
but typically I got stuck with the not so good tea. Thankfully though
we managed to come second and someone in the team got fastest lap…I
wonder who! '
- Will we see you racing karts again?
'I would have liked to do
the World champs this year with PDB and carry on where we left off
but unfortunately I have to focus on my car racing this year. They’re
doing well though and it’s nice to see that the other drivers
have carried on from where I left off. I will hopefully do a race
soon though especially as I never got a chance to race with the
No1 plate on!'
- How is your championship going in Formula BMW, and
what are the plans for the rest of 07 and onwards?
'It started off very well
with a pole and win in my first race, then I had a second at the
next round. However I had a crash in testing at Oulton park and
sustained concussion which I’ve only just stopped getting
headaches from. I currently lie 4th in the points, mixing it with
the 2nd and 3rd year drivers and leaps ahead of the other rookies
so it’s pretty good. We had a test last week at Snetterton
I was fastest in the morning and afternoon so hopefully things are
back to normal now.'
Here is some video of
Oliver Oakes winning a round of the European Formula A Karting Championship
at La Conca, Italy -
What a fanstastic interview,
and we thank Oli for the answers he has given us. He has obviously
taken much care to make sure you are given the best advice possible.
We wish him all the best this year in Formula BMW, and for the future.