Bill Carne meets up with talented young Haverfordwest karter, Ryan Edwards, to chat about Ryan’s splendid start in such a high speed sport . . .

Ryan Edwards is rapidly making a name for himself in the world of karting, with his cool driving skills and his ability to analyse conditions and distances giving him an edge over most other 14 year olds who are involved in this mechanical sport, where speed is of the essence.

Ryan hails from Haverfordwest and started his karting adventure at the age of 10, after watching a race at Llandow in Cowbridge, near Cardiff. Once Ryan, mum and dad saw the competition, they all had the bug and were hooked! His dad Alex thought back to when Ryan started driving a pedal kart at the age of three round the yard like a mad man, but at the same time, avoiding every obstacle and showing great skill - and Team Edwards was perhaps already up and running!

We let Alex take up the story:

“We started to make enquiries in December 2009 at Llandow Kart Club’s ‘Racing Academy’, which is a racing school held over six weekends, or more if required, to learn the skills to pass an ARKS (Association of Racing Kart Schools) test and obtain a racing licence. Ryan showed early promise and really shone amongst his peers.

“Within four lessons, it was decided to buy Ryan his own kart and everything else needed to race so we bought a second hand kart on eBay and went to Dunkerswell, Nigel Mansell's race track in Exeter, to pick it up. Unfortunately it was too small, so as you can imagine, we were disappointed!

“Fortunately, the staff at Dunkerswell allowed Ryan to have a drive on the track in one of their spare karts. We were delighted that the journey was not made for nothing, and Ryan put a helmet on and set off, on a track he couldn't see, and had no idea what lay beyond the 25 metres visibility afforded by monsoon rain, bouncing a good six inches off the track as he drove away.

“Within seconds we lost sight of Ryan in the rain. We could hear karts racing round and every minute or so, got a brief sight of them, but we were worried for Ryan as he didn't know the circuit and drove round until he eventually found the exit on to the pit lane. The funny thing was, he would have never found the exit unless the marshals had flagged him down and opened up some barriers to get him off the track. He loved it!

“The journey home was sad, however, because we had no kart so we ordered a brand new kart from ‘Project One’ in Kent. It was beautiful, with gleaming graphics, new engine and brand new tyres. It was a shame to put it on the track it was that nice to look at!

“Once Ryan’s seat was fitted and adjustments made, it was time to get a feel of the kart; we were very excited and couldn't wait to get on to the circuit!

“When Ryan approached the pit lane there was a sudden realisation that we were sharing the track with the full racing grid! We thought we would have the track to ourselves, but we were wrong! Ryan had to share the track with the full grid of 30 experienced drivers.

“Ryan had only driven corporate 'arrive and drive' karts until now, and we feared for Ryan's safety but he wasn’t fazed at all, despite being passed, pushed, and shoved from all directions.

“He had been thrown in at the deep end and when Ryan eventually returned, the beautiful kart looked like it had been to hell and back. Welcome to karting!”

Now armed with a competitive kart, they couldn't compete until Ryan had a licence, and one day whilst at Llandow practicing, the father of a competitor asked Alex "Have you applied for his ARKS test yet?" It turned out that Ryan was only two-tenths off leading pace!

So the family applied, and waited patiently for a date. Ryan shared the track with senior drivers, one who was in his 40's, on a quicker kart. Alex told Ryan, "don't get in anybody's way and concentrate on consistent lap times and good lines, (part of the criteria). Ryan acknowledged his words, but clearly didn't listen because he got fed up after a lap stuck behind the senior driver and overtook him through a corner! Alex naturally thought Edwards Junior had blown it, but the examiner called the drivers in when he had seen enough evidence of driving standards and called Ryan over to speak to him personally. Ryan thought he was to receive a telling off but the examiner said, “Well done! That was a nice clean manoeuvre when you overtook that kart.” Relieved Ryan passed the test!

Ryan soon got his confidence and became very competitive, very quickly. In his five races as a novice he won best novice three times. His first race without novice plates came in December 2010, when the driving conditions were frosty and very slippery, Ryan's favourite, and he won the Celtic Challenge, to everyone's surprise.

Alex said, “Our dream was seeing Ryan competing at club level, following that to receive a trophy. Success takes you to the next challenge, and your dreams become bigger than you ever imagined.”

Since 2010, Ryan has become a big name in karting. He has had tremendous highs and many disappointments along the way. Ryan has dealt with an engine failure leading the last lap of the South West Championship, but been Celtic Champ and Welsh Champ twice! In the NKRA he suffered a blowout whilst battling for the lead. However, Ryan has been seen applauding drivers over the finish line after losing to mechanical failure, evidence of maturity on young shoulders!

Ryan has over 40 trophies, awarded driver of the year 2012, accolade for sportsmanship and achievement. Ryan continues to achieve massive success and recognition at the top level! He has won the Celtic Challenge twice, Llandow club championship and proudly claims first Welshman home after becoming seeded 13th in the 2013 Super 1 British Kart Championship in his first year.

Ryan is registered for the 2014 British Kart Championship, and aims to become the 2014 British Junior TKM champion! Ryan said, “I wish to thank my mum, dad, friends who have helped along the way and especially STP school for all the support in allowing me to compete at national level. I hope to make Wales proud with the British title.”