A farming photographer has renovated a race-winning 25-year-old kart, put together an agriculture-backed team and is chasing track triumph. Tim Relf reports.
Getting back in the kart was like pulling on a pair of old boots,” says Chris Myers.
He’s talking about his first competitive outing last month in the 100cc vehicle which he’s painstakingly restored in spare moments between visiting farms around the Midlands, as part of his work as a rural photographer and filmmaker.
It has involved countless hours of effort at evenings and weekends – dismantling, cleaning, renovating and replacing parts of the 1994 chassis, resulting in a transformation from, in his words, a rusty metal concoction to a gleaming array of finely fettled parts.
“It’s a beauty to behold now,” says Chris, with its two-stroke engine running on unleaded fuel and racing castor, which can hit speeds of over 80mph.
The endeavour was sparked by a desire to introduce his five-year-old son, Francis, to the sport he so loved taking part in as a child.
“I came home from a race meet with Francis and started reading more about the topic, only to
discover the kit I’d had mothballed in the garage for more than two decades is now much sought after,” he says.
“There’s a real desire to get back to what many consider the golden era of karting with lightweight,
direct-drive machines that are lighter, nimbler and more responsive than their modern-day counterparts.
“As a result, a new class has been created catering for precisely the type of kart that I’d had in storage for 22 years.”
Chris chose the track at Stragglethorpe in Lincolnshire as the venue for his first competitive
drive last month.
Getting behind the wheel and firing up one of these ‘highly strung’ engines that can generate 26hp and rev to 20,000 was ‘awesome’, he says.
Given the combined weight of machine and driver was less than 150kgs, it’s no surprise it can pack quite a punch.
He says: “It was an incredible buzz, but I was aching for days afterwards. I’m 44 and two stone heavier than when I last raced.”
Chris’s passion for the pursuit developed when he was in his teens – at a similar time to when he
acquired his love of agriculture.
“We went on a holiday to North Yorkshire and became great friends with the farming family who ran the campsite,” he says.
“We went back year after year and I became more and more involved with the farm. I absolutely loved it and for a long time wanted to be a farmer.”
Despite inquiring about jobs in the sector when he was at school-leaving age, Chris’s career ended up taking him down a different road.
After completing a degree in design and technology at Nottingham Trent University he worked in the corporate world, developing and managing websites.
But the lure of the land never left him and, about eight years ago, he swapped urban Sheffield for rural Nottinghamshire and a cottage in a village near Retford.
“I made it my mission to get to know all the local farmers – partly because I was fascinated by what they do and partly because I’ve always loved taking pictures of farms,” he says.
He started sharing shots online and through social media and, interest in them snowballed.
He bought a drone and realised the potential that offered. Soon this leisure-time hobby had morphed into a business and Chris launched Pro Horizon.
It allows him to combine his creative, design and technical skills – this year’s trip to Lamma, for
example, brought the opportunity to build virtual-reality experiences for Chafer Machinery and Grimme, with headsets and screens allowing visitors to experience the machines even though they weren’t even there.
“I got sick of city life,” he says. “Now I can’t wait to get up and get out into the countryside. The only thing I miss is the camaraderie you get from having colleagues, but a lot of the farmers I’ve met have
When he first conceived the idea of a karting comeback, he soon realised it wouldn’t be cheap, so talked to some customer-friends at Chafer, Difuria Contractors, Beetroot UK and Peacock & Binnington about putting together an agricultural-backed team.
“I was taken aback when they said they would support me,” says Chris.
Karting is, however, one branch of motorsport that is accessible for everyone, he reckons.
While you’ll need cash for a suit, helmet, gloves, boots, tyres, engine rebuilds, tools and transportation, you can pick up a second-hand chassis and engines for around £500.
“This may not get you a podium result, but it will certainly get you some fantastic action,” he says. “It’s totally different to driving a car.
“You’re close-fitted in to the seat so how you move your body directly influences how the kart handles, as leaning to one side pushes your weight onto that wheel.
“It’s an intensely physical experience that pounds your whole body. It’s just as well I do so much tramping around farms, as that keeps me fit.
“I am more aware of the dangers now than I used to be, because when you’re young you think you’re invincible. But when you’re out on the track, you have to expel such thoughts from your mind.”
He admits to being nervous before the Stragglethorpe comeback last month, but he put in a fighting performance, leading for three laps in one of the heats, and ending up fifth in the final.
Motorsport is similar to farming, in that it’s often a family affair, with a love of it passed from generation to generation, according to Chris, who as a teenager travelled around the country with his dad, Steve.
He raced in the F100 Britain class, competing in the Super One Series and local competitions,
winning various events and championships.
He says: “When I was a senior, Jenson Button was in the juniors, so we’d often see him. It was amazing to have witnessed his talent from a young age,” he says.
“Now I’ve got a son of my own and seeing his face as he gazed at the karts whizzing past instantly moved me. I could see how it must have felt for my dad when he did the same with me all those years ago.
“That made me realise how important it is to grab as much quality time with loved ones as
possible. My dad had some health issues recently and this was a key factor in me wanting to return to the seat and make some family memories to treasure.
“My dream would be for my lad to start racing so we can experience it over three generations.
“I love creating things, whether it’s restoring the kart, or taking pictures of harvest. Farming is such a photogenic business and there’s no better way of highlighting to the public all the great work farmers do.
“I was a little apprehensive when I posted the first picture of the kart on social media, but having so many people on farms show interest has been really inspiring.
“I suppose a lot of farmers are petrol-heads so perhaps it’s no surprise they’re fascinated by it.”