A speed-loving Ballymena youngster has landed the biggest success of his career to date in the high-octane sport of ninja kart racing
Eight-year-old Aaron Ward recently claimed victory in the prestigious Stars of the Future event, held as part of the Ipswich Spedeweekend promotion in England.
The St Brigid’s Primary School pupil emerged in top spot from a line-up of 30 of the top ninja kart drivers from England, Scotland and Ireland.
Having started racing when he was just six years old, Aaron has already been immersed in motorsport since a young age.
“We all went to the stock cars every week without fail and his sister Shannon and his cousins Adrian and Kate raced Junior Rods,” explains Aaron’s father Adrian.
But it was when the Ninja Kart class was introduced at Tullyroan Oval, in Tyrone, having initially taken off in England, that Aaron’s interest levels hit top gear.
With the help of local racers Stephen Gilmore and Davy McKay, Adrian and Aaron sourced and prepared their first kart for competition.
It wasn’t an instant success with Adrian admitting: “He struggled to keep up with the other racers in the early days - he was quite often lapped in his early races.”
However, Aaron’s performance level steadily improved and his first major breakthrough came at the Ipswich meeting two years ago when he secured two excellent finishes.
“He had gone from not being able to keep up to finishing sixth and fourth at a race in England in a short space of time, recalls Adrian.
Having upgraded his machine on a couple of occasions, with results continuing to improve, Aaron approached this year’s Spedeweekend event in positive fashion. The random draw for grid positions in the opening race saw Aaron start 20th of the 30 drivers.
“I explained to him that he was 10 rows back against some of the best drivers in Britain and that to even finish in the top 10 would be an achievement but he just told me he was going out to win,” says Adrian.
A third place finish in that race boosted Aaron’s confidence for the Stars of the Future event and with the grid reversed, he started from 11th position. With three laps to go, he was on the leader’s tail then with a lap to go, Aaron made his move, taking a lead which he held until the end - to rapturous applause from the crowd.
“He’s pretty popular at the meetings we go to, probably because he’s so young, but he’s well clued in for all the age of him - he cleans the kart and helps me change the tyres. He even knows what the right tyre pressures should be for different conditions.
“He wants to race National Hot Rods when he’s older but he was watching the British Formula One Grand Prix the other week and said ‘I wouldn’t mind a go at that!” laughs Adrian.