A local bus operator is giving a young driver the opportunity to develop his racing career and build on his early achievements in the 125cc British Superkart Championship with a new sponsorship deal.
Stagecoach North East, which has its head office in Sunderland, has backed Andy Connor, a 21-year-old kart racing driver from Ashington in Northumberland with a deal worth £1,000 and the talented racer is already making a name for himself on the circuits across the UK and Ireland.
During the week, Andy works alongside his Dad, Steve, for S Connor Contractors, providing domestic and commercial ground work, building and maintenance services in the north east. But when Andy is not helping his dad lay a tarmac car park for an office or replace water mains, he is out with his kart, racing at such well known circuits as Silverstone, Donnington and more locally, Croft, with grids of 40 to 50 drivers.
Andy began his racing journey only two years ago, and following a new engine and racing outfit this year with engine developer – Red Speed in Stockton – he is already having a great season. Only expecting to reach around ninth or tenth in the races, this year he has achieved top positions including a second at Silverstone and a fourth at Bishopscourt in Ireland, and is currently sixth in the Championship overall.
However, racing is notoriously expensive and therefore requires sponsorship deals to help with the costs of running in the championship, which are around £10,000 with race entries, tyres, fuel, travel expenses and general running costs.
When Andy’s Dad, who has worked with Stagecoach North East for their groundwork services for over 25 years, contacted the company to see if they could help, the bus firm was only too happy to get involved.
Steve Connor, who also used to race, said: “This is the grounding for most motor sport in the UK, with champions such as Nigel Mansell and Jensen Button progressing from karting. It’s a massive sport and these guys are superstars abroad.
“I am a very proud Dad, as two and a half years ago; Andy had never seen a kart before. Last year he was placed where I was expecting him, so this year I thought maybe ninth or tenth with the new kart. But he is now getting positions as high as fourth and now second, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. He has maintained it too.
“However, it is very expensive and time consuming in terms of travel and preparation. Steve Walker, the Stagecoach boss, was kind enough to sort something out, so we are thrilled with the sponsorship deal from the bus company. It is such a well known brand and we are really pleased with the support.”
Despite putting in a hard day’s graft with his Dad, in the build up to the race each month, Andy and his father work on a night time to prep the kart, which can reach speeds of 130mph.
This includes stripping it down, cleaning it and putting it all back together before testing on a track in a bid to build on the time and position from the previous race. Andy said: “Last year I was in an older kart and spent my time just getting used to it and the circuits. This year we have bought new kit and it’s going well, shooting up to the front end and so now I am trying to be consistent and will see how it goes, but I think I have surprised everyone!”
Each month Andy and his father travel and stay in the caravan as they take on the race as part of the Championship. It is Andy’s main goal to make it into the top ten this year and then aim to win the 125 Championship. The ultimate ambition though is to progress to the twin cylinder class of super karts, the 250cc Championship across Europe.
Steve Walker, Managing Director, Stagecoach North East, said: “We were delighted to offer this sponsorship deal and be able to help towards the running costs for Andy and his Dad, who has worked with us for many years. We wish him the best for the rest of the season and beyond.
”Andy’s talent and skill on the track after only two years are clear to see and we look forward to sharing some good success together. This is an exciting partnership and we hope it turns into a flourishing career for Andy, which we will be watching with interest.”
For further information about Stagecoach North East please visit www.stagecoachbus.com