It appeared Jamie Crease’s tilt at winning the World EasyKart 125cc Masters Championship was over before it had even begun.
The 22-year-old Preston speedster travelled to Castelletto di Branduzzo, in Italy, last weekend, brimming with confidence over his chances of fulfilling his destiny and winning a maiden world title.
And everything appeared to be going perfectly for him on the Italian track as he left the rest of the field smelling the rubber of his tyres in qualifying.
Clocking the fastest times around the 1,400m course and winning both his heats, Crease qualified in pole position for the main event.
But with just a minute to go before the biggest race of his life, the kart star’s best-laid plans were thrown into disarray as his vehicle suffered a serious malfunction.
Stuck on the starting grid as all of his rivals drove around him for the warm-up lap, Crease was indebted to his Easykart UK team-mate and double world champion Barnaby Pittingale.
Realising Crease was experiencing difficulties, Pittingale, who had qualified alongside his team-mate at the front of the grid, slowed right down during the warm-up lap – buying Crease valuable seconds to repair his kart.
With just moments to spare and with his rivals returning to the starting grid ready for the rolling start, Crease managed to kick-start his kart into life and maintain his pole position.
Unfortunately, as the light turned to green to signal the start of the race, the Preston race ace’s kart suffered its second mishap as it stuttered into the first corner.
Swallowed-up by his rivals, Crease found himself down in sixth position with the race having barely begun.
At that point you could have forgiven Crease for feeling sorry for himself and accepting that, despite his red-hot form in qualification, this year was perhaps not going to be his time.
However, the determined young racer refused to give in.
He regrouped, refocused and then proceeded over the 20-lap course to chase down and pick-off his opponents, one by one, until he was left with just one driver in front of him – Pittingale. Behind his team-mate until the very last lap, Crease knew he was running out of time if he was to win the title and prevent Pittingale from being crowned world champion for the third time.
Crease, who lives in Saunders Lane, said: “When we got the one-minute board to start our engines before the race began, my engine did not start.
“We had two batteries connected to the kart, so in a panic to try to get the kart to start, we switched to the other battery.
“But I had still left the power on and we ended up blowing the fuse.
“It was thanks to one of the Italian mechanics on site that we managed to use an emergency off-board circuit to get the kart going, which allowed me to regain my starting position.
“It was also thanks to Barnaby – he knew that I was having problems – so he did a very slow lap so that I could regain my starting position at the front because I had qualified in pole position for the rolling start.
“But at the rolling start as I went to put my foot down after the light went green, the kart did not pick-up at all. It just stuttered out of the grid and at the first corner everybody just swamped me and I ended up down in sixth position behind a Scottish driver called Keiran Gordon.
“But I got by Keiran before the end of lap one and I started tracking down the top-three drivers.
“By lap five, I managed to get to a position whereby there was just Barnaby in front of me.”
Despite being aided by his team-mate before the start of the race, there was no room for sentiment as far as Crease was concerned as he cranked up the pressure on his rival and friend at the front of the race.
He added: “On lap 12 I had one move on Barnaby going into the first corner, but he re-took his position on the next corner.
“I followed him around and I picked out a few spots where I felt I could overtake him. But I did not want to show my hand too early in case he fought back. By the last lap it was a case of now or never.”
Crease managed to break his team-mate’s resistance on the first corner of the final lap and then held off any attempts to overtake him to become world champion.
However, there was confusion at the end as, in the heat of the moment, the grid marker had forgotten to hold out the board to signal the start of the final lap.
It meant Crease, who won the UK EasyKart Championship in 2008 as an 18-year-old, took the chequered flag with a certain amount of surprise on his face.
He added: “Normally when you enter into the last lap, the grid marker comes out with the last lap board to let you know that there’s just one lap to go.
“But they were all so enthralled in the race that they forgot to put the board out.
“I thought it was the second to last lap because when I came through the finishing line, I was getting ready for another lap, but then I saw the chequered flag.
“It didn’t sink in straight away that I had won until about 50 yards after the flag.
“I saw the flag, but I was a bit confused because they hadn’t held up the last lap board.
“But then it clicked that I had won it. To be a world champion – it’s a pretty nice feeling.
“It only started to really sink in when I got back home and people were showing me the live feeds.
“Then I saw all the press releases and that’s when it really hit me what I had just done.
“Overall, I have raced in the World Championship three times now.
“In 2010, that was a learning year really and I came somewhere in the middle.
“Last year we did it properly, but things did not quite go our way.
“But this year was third-time lucky.”
Crease revealed one of the first people to congratulate him after the race was Pittingale.
He added: “Considering Barnaby has been so successful in the past, you would have expected him to be a bit moody about it all, but he wasn’t.
“He was very gracious in defeat and that was the first time he had been beaten on that particular circuit.”
Crease, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, first began kart racing around 12 years ago.
Inspired by the epic Formula One battles between Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher in the 1990s, he dreamed of one day following in their tyre tracks and competing as a Formula One driver.
As time has passed, the former Priory Sports and Technology School student, whose brother Peter also races, has realised that particular dream is realistically out of the question.
One of the key factors in being able to have a shot at a career in Formula One is finance.
For drivers like Crease, who are self-funded and only receive limited financial support from a few different sponsors, making it big like Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button is a pipe dream.
“I have watched Formula One since I was a young kid,” Crease said.
“I used to watch people like Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher.
“Basically through that, I learned that all the Formula One drivers start in karting.
“So when I was 10, we went to the Rowrah kart track in the Lake District and we got ourselves involved there.
“I started racing at Rowrah and then got involved in various British Championships.
“But the kind of karting I do is not the same type of karting as what Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button went through to move into a career in Formula One.
“And the only sponsorship help I get is through my dad’s employer and my employer,” Crease revealed.
“We fund it all ourselves. It’s very difficult to get sponsorship in karting.
“That’s why you see a lot of people who are very good in karting, but they will never make it in Formula One and all that because they find it difficult to find sponsorship.
“One of the keys to getting up there is sponsorship.”
Crease’s father Alan added: “There is no doubt that Jamie’s got the ability – his team-mate Barnaby has the ability.
“When you look last weekend, you had 64 of the world’s best karters and he beat the lot of them.
“He was fastest in time qualifying which put him on pole for the heats.
“He won both his heats and even despite having a terrible start in the main event, he got back from sixth up to number one.
“You wouldn’t be able to do that if you weren’t any good at it.
“We realised a long time ago that we didn’t have the funds to take it further.
“With the odd bit of sponsorship here and there, we are basically a lad and dad team.”
Crease is, though, keen to continue with his karting career and plans on defending his world title next year.
He also plans on competing in South America later this year.
The new world champion, whose mum Carol struggles to watch him through nerves when he races, said: “For the next year, I will probably be going back to the World Easykart Championships to defend my title.
“I have also been offered a free entry into the Pan American Championship which is taking place in Venezuela in December, so I will probably do that.”
Away from the track, Crease has just graduated from Blackpool and Fylde College with a B Eng in Engineering.
He is due to start a new job in Reading next week, working for the MOD.
He added: “My long-term goals from a karting point of view is to build on this success and win another world title.
“Work-wise I want to build a long and successful career working for the MOD.
“Obviously competing in karting is time-consuming, but my employers have already promised that they will be supportive of my karting career.”