For a 16-year-old, Kyle Gray has a old head on young shoulders. In driving rain, Gray kept his composure to win the final at Skegness on Good Friday.
What made the victory all the more remarkable was that it was Gray’s first final win – in any formula.
“I was chuffed to bits because it was my first final win,” Gray says. “I won lots of heats in Ministox but never won a final.”
He first raced “for fun” in karts, but as an Andy Smith fan when he was younger, Gray proved to be too aggressive as he tried to emulate his hero in a non-contct sport. “I always used to get banned,” Gray says. “It was then that dad decided to get me a Mini.”
My dad says he has only a couple of years left in the sport, because he gets more enjoyment watching me race
Gray family have a history in short-oval racing. Gray’s grandfather, John, was a superstar in BriSCAF2, before moving up F1. However, Gray Snr blew up two engines in three meetings which put paid to his short-lived F1 career. Gray’s father Mark competed in motocross and went into F1s, and has one final victory under his belt, scored at Northampton in 20XX. He is due be out again soon at King’s Lynn.
“My dad says he has only a couple of years left in the sport,” says Gray. “Because he gets more enjoyment watching me race.”
Gray competed in Ministox from the age of 12, but a big shunt at Birmingham set him back. “I lost my confidence,” he admits. “It took me two of years to overcome it. Every race I used to pull in to the infield. But I had a good last year in the Minis when I got to superstar.”
Having overcome his demons, on his 16th birthday, Gray took the giant step into BriSCA F1.
He made his introduction to the Big League at Birmingham’s Gal meeting last November. Starting from the back of the grid, Gray finish eighth in his first heat, improved to fourth in his second, and then stated at the front for the final, where he jostled with Courtney Witts at the front of the pack before climbing over her car with his front wheels and in to retirement.
My Tom Harris car is amazing. I have never driven a car like that before.
It was more due to a culture change he made the error. “The Minis are closed-wheel and you have bumpers around your wheels,” says Gray. “But in F1s it is completely different and I have to learn all over again.”
Skegness was his first truly competitive event. He drives a car that certainly has pedigree. It was built and raced by Tom Harris, who won the 2014 European Championship with it. Gray’s father, Mark, purchased the car two years ago and the youngster, resplendent with teeth braces, went out in his heats at Skegness and was immediately on the pace.
“My Tom Harris car is amazing,” Gray says. “I have never driven a car like that before. We bought it as a rolling chassis and Tom has helped us with the car, in the winter it goes up to his place.”
Gray knows Harris well, due to the fact he goes out with Harris’s sister Catherine.
At Skegness Gray revelled in the precipitous conditions.
I looked in my mirror and missed the apex, but then I didn’t realise he was a lap down
“I hated the wet in the Mini but in the F1 I loved it,” Gray says. “In the final I got a bit confused really because I passed Paul Harrison and because he sat on my back bumper for little while, I kept thinking is he was going to hit me and I made a couple of mistakes.
“I looked in my mirror and missed the apex, but then I didn’t realise he was a lap down.”
Having finished secind in both his heats, the first to Frankie Wainman Jnr and the second to Luke Davidson, he expected to come under pressure in the closing stages from the big names. But it didn’t happen.
“I kept thinking someone was going to catch me,” says Gray. “Because in the heats you have got the likes of Luke and Frank out there who were a lot quicker, but I managed to get a break and went on to win it.”
The following weekend at Birmingham Gray, now stating from yellow grade, finished seventh in his first heat and a puncture in the final. He was lying in second place in the Grand National behind Sam Wass when he went for broke on th last bend.
I was facing the pit gate so I thought I might as well stay there and get out the gate quicker
“I went for a stupid last-bender,” admits Gray. “But I still connected with Sam but it wasn’t enough to shunt him out of the way and I ended up spinning.
“I mucked it up but that comes with experience. I was facing the pit gate so I thought I might as well stay there and get out the gate quicker.”
At Hednesford the following afternoon Gray hit a patch of oil in his heat, and after crrecting his car, got collected by the pack and pulled off.
“I thought I had a puncture and pulled off, but it was the oil,” Gray says. “Otherwise I would have carried on.”
He won the consolation, his second victory in F1 in three meeting, but was on the end of a five-car train in the final that ended with him in the fence.
“In the Grand National I spun myself, to be fair,” says Gray. “I carried on but got whacked by Danny Wainman, which made me feel a bit dizzy so let people go past me because I didn’t want to get hit again.”
I’m obviously going up the grades but my concern will be going to red and having no experience on shale
Gary is aware that he still has a lot to learn. He is focusing on Tarmac racing for now, but will make an appearance on shale later in the season.
“I’m obviously going up the grades but my concern will be going to red and having no experience on shale,” Gray says. “I will definitely be out on shale this year at some point, though.”
Gray has a refreshing and realistic outlook for someone of his age. He has his future worked out. After leaving school this summer he has an apprenticeship lined up at Daf.
“I have to get my GCSEs out the way first,” he says. “And then I can concentrate on my racing more.
“I’m not bothered if I win or lose. The important thing is to go out and enjoy myself.”
Neil Randon 2018
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley