A Kent councillor admits urgent government intervention is required in order to save one of the UK’s most famous karting circuits from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic .
Buckmore Park, an outdoor racing track located in Medway, will remain shut to the public even when Step 3 of the country’s lockdown restrictions come into effect on May 17 – despite it already being closed for more than 250 days.
“I am hoping that a solution can be found for the site,” representative for Chatham Central’s ward, Harinder Mahil, explained.
“Having grown up in Medway, I enjoyed going to Buckmore Park with friends – there really isn’t anything else like it and it’s miles better than other tracks in the region.
“Given its importance in the karting world, and in particular to grassroots karting, you would have thought there was support in place from government.
“Efforts from the industry to lobby the government to support Buckmore Park at least would have been an option too, as it’s a real asset to the area.
“Something like this needs to happen in order to keep it as a karting destination.”
The track has not shied away from its difficulties since coronavirus swept its way across the UK, having announced back in March that a permanent closure was not out of the question for the site that first opened back in 1963.
Yet despite enduring a loss of more than £1 million in revenue in the nine months prior to November 2020, circuit director Richard Martell says that ensuring its long-term future remains his top priority – even if that means remaining closed in the weeks ahead.
The 32-year-old said: “Whilst we could have got going again on April 12, as a large karting venue it just doesn’t make sense to do that when we can wait instead until June when all restrictions look set to end and we can host things properly.
“We are still doing our best behind the scenes, but we’ve had to cut costs and make some people redundant and that’s not made it realistic to reopen.
“Even though other circuits across the country have opened up, we’re working towards our own plan and of course every time we open and then close it becomes more difficult.
“So it has been pretty dire since November, especially when some people in certain positions also can’t always see the bigger picture.”
We are aware of recent speculation around Buckmore Park's future on social media due to the recent planning application we have made for the paddock. The decision was made that under the circumstances, we have to look for additional income streams to support the circuit …— Buckmore Park Kart Circuit (@BuckmorePark) March 7, 2021
Mr Martell believes the constant changes regarding restriction dates have also played their part in not allowing the circuit to reopen.
“It’s hard when things keep changing so quickly,” he added.
“The perfect example is us having to make our staff redundant back in January, before we received information just a month later that things would be opening up again soon after.
“So therefore as a whole, whilst we could have opened on April 12th, it wouldn’t have been feasible to have done so from a commercial point of view.
“We are used to catering for big events, and that’s why opening on June 24th, with no restrictions, that’s what we’re aiming for.
“So that’s what we’re working towards, and that’s why we’re trying to protect the long-term future of Buckmore and to make sure we ultimately stay in business – salvaging 2021 is still the goal when everything hopefully gets back to normal.”
The circuit is arguably most associated with developing Formula One star Lewis Hamilton during his early years in motorsport.
The 36-year-old has regularly praised the karting venue for allowing him to have honed his skills as a youngster, with the likes of Jonny Herbert and Jenson Button also some of the track’s most successful graduates alongside the seven-time world champion.
Lewis Hamilton has been one of the most successful drivers to have used the circuit to progress through the motorsport ladder