Celebrating circuit that put King on track to F1 glory
Mr Karting is celebrating 15 years in business - but its owner shows no sign of moving out of the fast lane.
The Harbury Lane circuit is marking the milestone with an event which will see many of the professional drivers who learnt their craft on the Warwickshire track return to their roots.
Owner Alan Lettis estimates that more than 300,000 customers have been around the track since he took over the business 15 years ago.
The story began in 2001 when Lettis was leafing through the businesses-for-sale magazine Daltons Weekly looking for a new opportunity after selling his garage in Woking.
Lettis moved to Warwick from Surrey with his son Andy before the deal was even complete but it was not a straightforward decision.
He said: “After we made an offer I came up with my son to spend an afternoon with the owners at the track. When we got back in the car to drive 120 miles home my son didn’t speak until we got to around Oxford.
“I finally asked what he thought and he said ‘don’t buy it dad - it’s awful’.
“I told him I could get it sorted in six months - but it took us three-and-a-half years to get it up to scratch and we’ve lived and breathed it ever since.”
According to Lettis there has been a karting track on the site for more than 28 years but the last 15 years under his management has been a time of constant evolution.
He said: “The building and the phone number are the same but apart from that there’s nothing we haven’t changed.”
“Two months ago we replaced all the karts with a fleet of BIZ karts which are the best on the market, so we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the experience of our customers whether they’re regulars or visiting for the very first time.”
Away from the leisure side of the business, Lettis is particularly proud of the karting champions who began their careers at the track.
Talented youngsters progress to the regular Junior Open Grand Prix - which is where GP2 and Manor F1 development driver Jordan King made his mark.
The 22-year-old from Harbury - who is tipped for an F1 drive in 2017 - recently returned to the track to take part in the ‘100-lap challenge’ where he completed 101 laps in a 30-minute session, setting an adult track record of 17.569 seconds in the process.
King said: “I first went to Mr Karting on my 11th birthday and I really have to thank - and blame - them for introducing me to karts.
“In the early days I spent so many afternoons annoying my parents to take me to the track that it brings a smile to my face to think that’s where it all began.”
Mr Karting will be holding a special 15th birthday event on May 29, with 2015 British Super One Champion Matt England, multiple kart champion and team boss Jack Dex and Michelin Clio Cup racer Sam Randon set to return to the scene of their first motorsport successes.
Lettis, meanwhile, is keen to continue supporting charities, having raised more than £10,000 for the Air Ambulance alone through events at the track.
“I am in the envious position of enjoying every day of work and I know not many people can say that,” he said.