x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai's Eliot Jones headed to Paris for Sodi World Series karting event

Eleven-year-old Dubai resident ready to channel the spirit of Lewis Hamilton as he looks to convince his father a karting career is worth the investment. Gary Meenaghan reports.

Eliot Jones, 11, won twice and finished on the podium four times to qualify for the international karting event in Paris. Sammy Dallal / The National
Eliot Jones, 11, won twice and finished on the podium four times to qualify for the international karting event in Paris. Sammy Dallal / The National

The famous phrase of "fast or last" is particularly apt and accurate when it comes to motorsport, where not only do you have to be quick on track, but you also have to be quick to show an interest. Otherwise, you might as well not bother.

In Formula One, careers tend to start before drivers reach their teens.

Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion and poster boy for starting early, was six years old when he raced a go-kart for the first time. He was signed by McLaren when he was 13. He now races for Mercedes-GP and is undoubtedly one of the most famous drivers in the world.

Over the next two days, at a circuit in Paris, an 11-year-old boy from Dubai will be competing in his first international karting finals, hoping to prove promise worthy of Hamilton and show his father that his hobby is worth further investment.

Eliot Jones, who was born in the Emirates to British parents, qualified for the Sodi World Series after taking two wins and four podiums from eight races in Dubai Autodrome's Junior Cup at the Kartdrome.

He sits top of the Autodrome's standings, but more impressively also heads the international standings, which include 176 drivers between the ages of seven and 14 from nine circuits across Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

On Wednesday evening, Eliot and father Adrian travelled to Al Ain Raceway for what dad called "a bit of sneaky practice".

Eliot had never driven on any circuit other than the Autodrome and the intention was to give him some experience before tackling France's Racing Kart de Cormeilles.

Not that Eliot has any fears regarding the task at hand this weekend.

"I think I'll be OK with the track, but not OK at the same time. It's probably 50/50 whether I finish first or third," he said of the five-race finals that will feature 20 drivers.

"I'd like to take pole position and just disappear into the distance."

Adrian, keen to downplay any pressure on his son, is looking at the weekend as an indicator of Eliot's natural talent.

Eliot says it is his dream and called Hamilton his favourite driver.

"He's British, he's very good and my daddy has met him before," he said, shyly.

"Absolutely," Adrian added when asked if F1 was the ultimate goal.

"That's what it's all about. The Junior Cup at the Autodrome is the first step and has been a very cheap way of getting into it and finding out, first, if this is what Eliot wants to do and then also, obviously, if he is actually any good."

Each race at the Autodrome costs Dh400 and the karts are provided by the venue, which keeps the initial outlay to a minimum in what is one of the most expensive sports in the world.

"I could have gone out and bought Eliot a kart only to find out he's no good, so this has been great," Adrian said.

"It looks like I will need to do good on my promise and get him one for next year, though, so I'll be digging down the back of the sofa."

The next step is a 125cc Minimax kart that Adrian expects will cost around Dh25,000.

"Each step is an increase in cost and an increase in challenge, but that's what he needs at this stage: experience at new tracks and with new machines.

"He's quite professional when he is behind the wheel; he doesn't get flustered. In fact, in his very first race, he put his kart on pole position. That blew me away."

The biggest fear this weekend will be adapting to the new environment. Eliot has never raced in wet conditions and forecasts do not make for pleasant reading.

Additionally, officials at the Autodrome have been at pains to stress that some of his competitors in Paris not only will know the circuit exhaustively, but will also be more likely to fight for track position harder than he is accustomed to.

"It's a fairly tough gig for him," Adrian said. "To sit in a machine he has never driven, on a track he has never raced at before and against kids who know the circuit well.

"We've also been told to expect a bit of argy-bargy, which he is not used to - the racing at the Autodrome is all very polite."

Eliot, dad and the rest of the Autodrome delegation are due back in Dubai on Sunday evening.

"Hopefully," Adrian added, "with a nice big trophy".

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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