PONTEFRACT-based kart racing stars Luca and Ayrton Hirst made history when they became the first-ever brothers to qualify on the front row for the World Championships.
Younger brother Luca, 17, went on to be crowned world champion with Ayrton, 20, finishing in fifth position in the tenth Easykart World finals at Castelletto di Branduzzo, in Italy.
It was a role reversal after it was Ayrton who previously won the UK Easykart Championship after a series of rounds on British tracks throughout 2011.
Both are following in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton, who made his name in karting before going on to the Formula 1 world title and would like to one day race cars themselves.
For now, the Hirst brothers supplement their passion for karting by working as instructors at Raceway Karting, which is based on Skinner Lane, Pontefract, and owned by their father, Andrew.
They are sponsored by Lockyer Insurance, of Normanton, who stepped in to back the racers when Luca explained to them that he had been crowned British Junior Easykart champion in 2010, but could not raise the funds to go to the World Championships, for which he had qualified.
Together with another local firm, Advanced Profiling Services, they contributed to both Luca and Ayrton’s racing costs in 2011 and the duo have gone from strength to strength.
In the UK Easykart Championship this year Ayrton produced some eye-catching performances in a competitive class and went on to clinch the crown with a brilliant drive in round eight at Llandow, edging out rivals Joe Patterson and Elliot Rice, with who he had been neck and neck all year in the title race.
Luca had to overcome initial technical difficulties after moving up into the lightweight senior class and finished fourth, but this qualified him along with his brother for the World Championships.
The World Finals took place over five days in Italy and saw the Hirst lads make into onto the front row of the grid for the final, but an accident on the first corner meant the race had to be stopped. Upon the restart contact from behind knocked Ayrton back to ninth with Luca holding his position to end the opening lap in second.
The younger Hirst soon took the lead and gradually increased it with a superb drive until a substantial gap opened up by the time the chequered flag greeted him as the new world champion.
Ayrton’s hopes effectively vanished with his unlucky start, but he did battle his way through the field and despite being bumped and nudged into almost every corner he finished in a highly creditable fifth place.
He explained how the championship successes had come after a decade for each in the sport.
“I’ve been karting since I was ten and Luca since he was seven,” said Ayrton.
“We started at Batley before Raceway Karting moved to Pontefract around four years ago.
“We obviously want to follow our dreams and progress into race cars. The original dream as a kid was to follow in the footsteps of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, but that seems the unlikely option as budgeting for such a thing is substantial and will cost millions, which we do not have. Our goal now is to try get to touring cars nationally or worldwide or we both would love to compete in the Indy Car series in America and hopefully get to race in the Indy 500 as the late, great Dan Wheldon did and won twice.
“The aim for the future is to progress as far as possible and 2012 will most likely see myself and my brother race in karts in the British Championships of Easykart UK and Super One.”
Ayrton thanked local companies Advanced Profiling Services and Lockyer Insurance for their help this year, but said more sponsors would be welcome to spread cost.
He added: “Money is everything in a sport that has such demand on the best equipment to be used. Talent can only get you so far.
“The support we have had has been great, but hopefully if people want to sponsor some upcoming talent, it would be a great pleasure to speak to them.”
Any sponsors who can help Ayrton and Luca can ring Raceway Karting on 01977 600030 and ask for either Andy Hirst or Ayrton Hirst.