From Swineshead to Monte Carlo ... former Boston-area kart team members set for Formula 1

Lando Norris (left) and Alex Albon during their days with Swineshead-based Mick Barrett Racing.
Lando Norris (left) and Alex Albon during their days with Swineshead-based Mick Barrett Racing.

A Boston-area kart team is celebrating after it was confirmed that two of its former drivers will be lining up on the Formula 1 grid next season.

The owners of Mick Barrett Racing (MBR) have watched proudly as both Lando Norris and Alex Albon were named as new drivers in the prestigious sport for 2019.

To see both of them racing in F1, which was their dream when they were with us, will be a special moment for us all.

Norris, who will be one of McLaren Renault’s two drivers next season, began his motor racing career with the MBR team between 2009-2011 while Albon, named last week as a driver for the Torro Rosso Honda team, kicked off his journey karting in Lincolnshire, also with MBR, at various stages between 2003 and 2009.

MBR team owner Mick Barrett has seen his former protégés go from strength to strength in the years since they moved on.

Mick runs the family-owned business with his son, Dan, himself a former European and British champion, from workshops at Swineshead, where photos of Norris and Albon adorn the walls – along with a host of other former drivers and Dan’s trophies won during a career which saw him race against the likes of current F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen.

During their time with MBR, London-born Albon was crowned the 2009 British Champion in the KF3 class, while Norris, who hails from Bristol, won the O Plate British cadet championship and was placed third in the overall British Championship.

And Mick, who has clocked up more than 50 years in motor racing, said he was delighted to see his former charges earning their place at the pinnacle of world motorsport.

“I remember taking Alex for his first ever day karting at the PFI kart track here in Lincolnshire,” he said. “I can’t help smiling at the fact that that was in a Honda kart and here we are, years later, and he’s got his chance in F1 in a Honda-powered car.

“Lando was another driver who we spent a lot of time with. He was a good driver and we managed to help him improve while he with us. He achieved a lot with us and has kept on achieving great things since he left.

“Both of them have kept in touch with us over the years and Dan and I have enjoyed watching their careers progress. But to see both of them racing in F1, which was their dream when they were with us, will be a special moment for us all.

“They have done brilliantly to get this far and they deserve their chance. I would say we’ll be watching their first race in Australia next year – but to be honest, we’ll probably be too busy watching our latest drivers competing somewhere here in the UK or in Europe!”

The team currently runs around half a dozen young drivers racing in events across the UK and in Europe. Just last month, Mick was with team member Sean Butcher as he was crowned club champion in the Senior X30 class at Lincolnshire’s Trent Valley Kart Club (TVKC), while fellow MBR driver Matthew Hudson finished 3rd in the Junior X30 category.

The team has also notched numerous championships and race wins at various levels of the sport in the past two decades and, as well as seeing Norris and Albon reach F1 as drivers, has also seen many other former team members move onto to have successful careers in motorsport in technical and engineering roles as well.

Former driver Ben Barnicoat is now a GT driver for McLaren but returned to race for MBR and win the British Kart Grand Prix in August this year in the senior X30 class, held at the PFI circuit at Grantham. He also remains a driver coach for the team when not racing, currently working with Singapore-based karter Alex Huang.

Other former MBR drivers who have gone onto motorsport careers include Charlie Robertson, who now drives for the factory Ginetta team, while another MBR old boy, Tom Gamble, now racing in Formula 3, won the 2018 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award earlier this month.

Mick said: “Like most sports, people always dream about competing at the highest levels and it’s great when some manage it, but that’s not what karting should be about. First and foremost, it should be about having fun and learning. It’s a great sport if you approach it that way.

“Dan and I will carry on doing this for as long as we can. It’s our life. Our focus is now on helping our current drivers be the best they can.”

Current MBR drivers include Senior X30 drivers Sean Butcher, Alex Huang, Matthew Hudson, Cole Kilner, Rufus Hunt and Callum Barnett, while the team also have Oliver Duffell racing in the Junior X30 class.