He doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet, but when William Exton gets behind the wheel there are few better.
Last month Marlborough’s top kart racer claimed his first national title, winning the rotax junior section at the Kartsport New Zealand championships in Hamilton.
The Marlborough Boys’ College Year 11 student, who at 15 is too young to sit his NZ driver’s license, is now ready to step up in class after reaching the pinnacle of the top junior grade.
He competed in his final junior event, the Jason Richards Grand Prix last weekend in Nelson, proudly sporting the 1NZ plate on his kart. Now he will move up to take on the senior racers in the rotax light division.
Although he has previously won six South Island titles and a national schools championship, his path to the much-prized NZ crown, the highlight of his burgeoning career, was not always smooth.
The competition consisted of three heats, a pre-final, then the rotax junior final, the largest grade nationally in terms of participation.
William won two heats and finished third in the other, but had a potentially serious mishap in the pre-final.
“My wheel fell off on a fast corner,” he explained. “It wasn’t to do with the mechanics, just wear and tear on the axle and the hub slid off.
“Luckily the points I got from the heats put me in a good spot for the final and Dad quickly fixed the wheel in the pits.
“[The wheel mishap] made me a bit nervous for the final … but I was in position five, not too far back.”
On the first lap of the title decider he improved to third, sitting behind two front cars who were working together. William managed to pass the front cars but then the race was halted for 10 minutes by a red flag. He was on pole for the re-start and led all the way to the finish, providing an “awesome” feeling as he took the chequered flag.
“It was pretty heart-stopping to finally get the 1NZ,” he added.
William has been on a fast track to the top of his sport since buckling himself into a kart, aged just seven.
Describing his son as a “methodical, perfectionist” driver who pays attention to detail, William’s father and mechanic, Gareth Exton, said William was initially “very slow” around the karting circuit but gradually grew in confidence and speed.
Now the teen streaks around the track at almost 120kph, sitting just 10 centimeters off the tarmac. As with any motorsport event, there is always a chance of an accident, but William is not the nervous type.
“When you first start off you are a bit scared … but once you get into it and get your confidence up it is easy.
“I like the racing the most, the competitiveness and the whole scene at the kart track. The speed is awesome as well, I like going fast, always have, but I always want to go faster.”
While William feels he has improved his “race craft” over the past 12 months he admits he still has areas to work on, including his “data reading”, the immediate utilization of information collected by an on-board computer as he speeds around the track.
His immediate plans include some senior X30 races in Australia later this year, William’s on-going motorsport ambitions being fuelled by recognition from Aussie karting legend Dave Sera and the Erebus V8 Supercar Academy, who have named William as their junior driver, offering on-going support with race karts, equipment and travel – including work on a racing simulator.
Long term, he plans to feed his need for speed by becoming a V8 Supercar driver, alongside the likes of Kiwi star Scott McLaughlin, who was on hand in Hamilton to see him win his national kart title.
“It would be awesome to make a living out of [motorsport], that’s the goal anyway,” he added.
Next event on the local calendar is race two in the Sunbelt Series, to be staged at the Kartsport Marlborough track on Sunday June 2.