Luke shows true potential on World stage

October 21, 2019

Karting

Although the happy ending was not quite reached, Luke Watts could only leave Le Mans proud after putting on a fantastic display in the IAME International Final. It was a week of many firsts for Luke, his first race in the Junior X30 class, his first outside of the UK and his first time competing in an event of such stature and endurance which sees all drivers tested to the limit over the course of ten days.

Luke was one of 108 drivers who had qualified to race in the Junior X30 class, with all the best from around the World gathered. Having earnt their place on merit, the standard of drivers was nothing like Luke had ever experienced before. After four days of practice the meeting would officially get underway on Tuesday with qualifying practice. With so many drivers in the field a good qualifying was crucial to give yourself a chance to be one of the 34 who would race in Saturday’s final.

After days of mostly wet conditions when the track went dry for qualifying, there was no doubt it was going to be a big challenge for someone of Luke’s experience. But he showed no signs of nerves at the first hurdle and put in an impressive time to put him 28th overall. With Luke, just 0.3 seconds away from pole position it highlighted the quality of the field and would put Luke on row five for all of his heats.

Over the next three days Luke would race in five heats and the aim was to qualify straight into the A Final and avoid the traitorous B Final where only the winner progresses. To do this Luke would have to be in the top 33 in the standings after five heats which would require a consistent set of the results. One bad result and your weekend is effectively over!

Despite his lack of experience Luke showed no signs of nervousness in going toe to toe with some of the best Junior drivers in the World finishing just outside of the top five in his first two heats in difficult conditions. But like many Luke would unfortunately pick up front fairing penalties in both giving him a 10th and 15th place finish on day one.

Things got worse in the third heat on Thursday with two incidents dropping Luke to 20th giving him a lot of work to do in his final two heats. But Luke accepted that challenge and put on two impressive performances to finish 5th and 8th which would be enough to send him straight into the final.

That in itself was a huge achievement with some very respectable drivers having to take part in the B Final on Friday afternoon which Luke could watch from the side-lines knowing he would be racing in a highly anticipated Junior Final the next day.  

Before the Final would be the Pre-Final which would set the grid. Going off 30th this gave Luke a chance to make some ground and put himself in a decent position for the Final. With the conditions changing every lap it would be a huge challenge for all the drivers with the track often different every single lap.

Luke had no problems in adjusting and quickly settled into the race gaining four places on the opening lap. As is required in a race like this, Luke was wasting no time in making moves and was doing so convincingly gaining him a lot of momentum which saw him climb to 22nd on lap three.

With an incident ahead on lap four, Luke had risen to 17th with a gap behind and he was now looking in a strong position with five laps remaining. But on the next lap Luke was one of many to get caught out in the slippery conditions dropping him to 21st. Luke did not let this get to him and got straight back on the move to finish in the race in an impressive 17th place.

It put Luke in a strong position to challenge for the top ten and with the track dry he was confident he could get there! After a week of over achieving Luke’s confidence had sky rocketed and he made an impressive start to the final calving his way through the chasing group to run 14th after three laps. Next up was Tasanapol Inthraphuvusak and Luke pulled off a fantastic move into turn 16 catching the Thai driver by surprise.

Despite another 13 laps to go the Thai driver refused to accept defeat and an over ambitious move into the final corner saw him colliding into Luke, eventually ending the race for the pair of the them. It was a bitterly disappointing end to what had been a fantastic experience and perhaps cost Luke a top ten finish in the World Final.

When Luke and the KMS team arrived to Le Mans it was hard to know what to expect. Often drivers of Luke’s age and experience can get caught up in the size of an event like this and make mistakes costing them any chance of a result. But Luke seemed to do the opposite and his nothing to lose approach helped him line up 17th out of 108 of the World’s best for the World Final! It will give Luke a lot of credit not only in the UK, but Worldwide.