BIG INTERVIEW: Teen kart ace Chaz Highton on the right track
Thousands of miles away from her Chorley home, Sue Highton racked her brains in search of something exciting and exhilarating to keep her restless son entertained.
The IT consultant had been stationed out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a period of months leaving her family temporarily behind in the UK.
Fortunately, for part of her posting, she was joined by her husband and son, Chaz, who had made the trip over for a holiday.
Little did any of them know that the trip would turn out to be a pivotal moment in the life of Chaz.
Sue hit upon the idea of going to a local kart track.
It proved to be an inspired decision as Chaz jumped behind the wheel and promptly whizzed around the circuit much to his and his parents’ amazement.
Indeed his natural feel for the kart and co-ordination around the bends soon caught the eye of other people, who were watching trackside.
For Chaz – now aged 16 who turns 17 shortly – it was a real lightbulb moment for him and on returning to the UK decided to look into taking the sport up seriously.
He has since gone on to become one of the rising stars of the junior kart racing scene in this country – and perhaps a career in motorsport beckons.
“I had been posted for six months in Malaysia by my company a few years ago,” said Sue.
“My husband and Chaz had come out for a holiday and we had basically run out of things to do.
“So we took Chaz to this racetrack. He had a go and he just seemed to show a natural aptitude for it.
“The people there were saying to us, ‘He’s really good you know’. We were just thinking, ‘Oh they are just saying that to get us to come back’.
“But we did go back – three times more.”
Chaz said: “To be honest, I had never really ever thought about motor racing.
“When I was over in Malaysia, it was just a thing to do while I was out there.”
On returning to these shores, he was keen to get started and the family headed to the Three Sisters racetrack, in Wigan, where they attended an “Arrive and Drive” karting session, which is held for anyone wishing to get behind the wheel and have a go.
The youngster went on to do that for nearly a year before his parents finally took the plunge and bought him a kart. It was from there that Chaz truly fell in love with the sport and as soon as he was old and tall enough, he started to compete in races.
In his first six novice junior races at Manchester and Buxton Kart Club, Chaz was victorious in virtually all of them.
Not only that he was achieving podium placings in the main karting races and finished third in the actual Juniors Championships in that race season.
His success was all the more remarkable considering many of his contemporaries had been racing for a lot longer than he had.
Since then he has moved on to competing at national level, competing at the British Karting Championships.
Last weekend he achieved an excellent second-place finish at Warden Low, in the North East.
“The first year I started karting was all about practice,” said Chaz.
“It’s only the last three years that I have begun to race competitively.
“The first year went pretty all right. I was doing local races and managed to win quite a few trophies So the first year was about getting used to racing competitively and then the second year was more about learning – it was a little bit up and down.
“The third year I moved up in class, which means different tyres, engine.
“It was a completely different racing style and I started to have a little bit of success, podium finishes.
“I suppose I haven’t done too bad. Most people start in kart racing at the age eight or nine as cadets.
“It’s very rare for someone to start at junior class, which is when I joined in.”
The Runshaw College pupil has dreams of becoming a professional racing driver one day and is hoping to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot, which could help him achieve his dream.
“Becoming a professional racing driver is a massive goal of mine,” he said.
“I think the RAF could provide that opportunity – it would be a different way of getting in to it.
“My plans for the future are next year doing the British Championships at senior class.
“That would take me on to Year Two at college which would mean I could then start to apply for the RAF as a pilot which would be dependent on my ‘A’ Level results.
“That would mean that I would have to take a year off from racing, which I wouldn’t really want to do but I would have to do if I wanted to get into the RAF as a pilot.
“If I am being completely honest getting to a level where I could compete at Formula 1, F2 or F3 is unrealistic. It’s not just the level of skill that is required, it’s also the money involved.
“That always has a big part to play in motorsport so realistically, it’s probably not something I could do.
“But I think if I put my mind to it I could do it but unfortunately it’s a lot of time and money, which is something I don’t really have.”