Deaf Sports Stars7th May 2015

Caleb Avoids Near Disaster to Achieve Best Result to Date

Taking place in the second round of the MSA Bambino Championship, Caleb drives with maturity and improved speed

by SLFirst Sports Team

Deaf 7-year old Caleb McDuff, or Silence Racing as many of us fondly know him wasn’t enjoying a relaxing May Day Bank Holiday like the rest of us. Now in his second year of karting, Caleb had been driven to the Little Rissington Kart Circuit in Gloucestershire for Round 2 of the MSA Bambino Championship. Hot on the heels of Round 1 in Llandow, Caleb and the other competitors had enjoyed little time to practice and fine tune their engines. It was Caleb’s first visit to the track, so a lot to take in and learn at such a tender age.

Set in the countryside, the track at Rissington is 1.1kms with lots of fast-flowing corners.  Setting Caleb out on his first practice run on the Saturday, dad Ian and the Wix Silence Racing team were more hopeful of a good weekend of racing than full of expectation.

Learning the new track with every lap completed, Caleb did all that could be asked of him, getting faster and faster each time. Learning more and more about the preparation of the kart for each track and different race conditions, Ian was also able to make small tweaks here and there to help Caleb reduce his lap times.

Increasingly confident as the laps whipped by, Caleb was able to improve his lap time by 6 seconds throughout the day, triggering hopes of a top ten placing. Smiley, happy and having fun, Caleb is growing in confidence, and that is showing in his driving performance.

In typical Bank Holiday fashion, the Sunday race day was graced with heavy rain in the morning and a miserable day of inclement weather followed.

Like the drivers in Formula One, wet weather changes the race track completely, breaking points, top speeds and racing lines all changing when the track is wet. In effect this meant that Caleb was once again driving on a brand new track, having to re-learn all over again. Defiant against the weather and with the adults around him thinking his lap-times would fall back down the order, Caleb donned his wet weather gear, put his race face on when he disappeared inside his helmet and took his place on the starting grid.

What followed, showed Caleb’s remarkable driving skills and increasing maturity behind the wheel. In his total silence and unable to hear the traction of the tyres or the sound of the engine, Caleb felt for the performance of the kart, as described to us last year by ex world karting champion Bas Lammers who is also Deaf. Not pushing too hard in the conditions during Race 1, Caleb found grip when other drivers were hitting the gravel traps and spinning, securing a much improved 7th best time in the class, just 2 seconds off the fastest times.

Race 2 brought a further change to the track conditions with a drying track, but some wet and slippery patches. It is quite amazing really how these young drivers cope so well with these conditions. With all of the drivers getting faster on the drying track, it was important for Caleb to improve too, and all concerned were happy when that happened, Caleb finishing that heat with a time 4 seconds faster, securing him another highly credible 8th place finish. 

In the third of the four race competition, Caleb maintained his improved performance, with fine margins now deciding the placings in amongst the pack, however, a 9th place meant that a top 10 finish was well in sight, all Caleb needed was to maintain this consistency in the final race of the day.

With expectation and excitement building and a huge confidence boost just around the corner, Caleb’s final was to quash hopes quickly, the harsh reality of a Did Not Finish (DNF) suddenly on the cards. Making a good start Caleb looked well placed to embed his position in the Top 10, but moments after leaving the starting line and on the approach to turn 5 everyone involved with Wix Silence Racing saw his kart slow, a technical hitch clearly affecting the kart and bringing Caleb to a grinding halt.

A powerless dad commented afterwards, “Caleb was absolutely flying, I was sure he was going to get a personal best, then before he could even get one timed lap in he began to slow down. I felt absolutely heartbroken, he worked too hard over the two days to get a DNF in the final.”

The ever-present marshals were on hand to ensure his safety but also to try and get Caleb back in the race. Dad Ian best describes what happened. “After several minutes most of the marshals gave up, but one continued and eventually I saw him push the kart back onto the track and Caleb was moving again.”

With the clock running down but probably calmer than all of his supporters, Caleb got himself back into racing nick, just having time to complete a couple of timed laps meaning that he achieved classification in the final race and finishing in his best position overall to date, 9th place.

Elated with his improvement, Caleb was also awarded a trophy for ‘Top Novice’, rounding off a fantastic race weekend. 

A relieved dad commented on the race weekend afterwards, “What a roller coaster weekend. We arrived at Rissington completely new to the circuit, not knowing what to expect. Caleb demonstrated a whole new level of maturity and dedication to his racing, and also proved his developing knowledge of chassis handling, giving good feedback with changes to set up.”

“The last round was so emotional, I can't explain. He deserved a good result, and seeing his engine fail I just wanted to run on to track, scoop him up and hug him. But thanks to the help of others on track, and Caleb’s natural race instinct, the day was saved! The trophy was just the icing on the cake, he fully deserved it. He's done us all proud. I've since been told that it was the Dad of another competitor, Richard Senner, who rescued Caleb’s chance in the final. I can't thank him enough for that, that's true sportsmanship!”

So where next for our intrepid kart racer. He is off to the Shennington Circuit in Banbury on the weekend of the 20/21 June, and we hope to be there in support.

Article by SLFirst Sports Team

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Stars

7th May 2015