From last to first: 13 year old Lewis Hamilton wins kart race from back of grid

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Lewis last to first karting

Lewis Hamilton began his motorsport career, like so many other top-level racing drivers, in the highly competitive world of go-karting.

In this particular race from 1998 he pulls off a miraculous drive, with one particularly incredible overtake, to go from last to first in only a few laps.

Go-karting: Where it all begins

Go-karting is one of the most competitive forms of motorsport in the world, for drivers young and old. The margins between karts absolutely miniscule, meaning you can have massive grids where any one of a dozen or more drivers could each win the race.

That makes for incredibly close racing and zero margin for error. With so many karts all competing for the same pieces of tarmac, racers have to be fully switched on when planning and executing their overtakes throughout a race. They have to work together to catch cars in front and be smart with their defending.

It’s the ultimate way for young drivers to learn and improve their racecraft and car control.

Lewis Hamilton go karting

Pretty much all racing drivers at the top levels of motorsport, whether in single-seaters, rallycross, endurance or sports car racing, will have started in go-karting. And I have no doubt that their experience in karts helped them hone their skills from a very young age.

Hamilton's go karting success

Lewis Hamilton started out in go-karts when he was just 8 years old, in 1993. But it didn’t take long for his talent to shine through and for his skill to get him noticed.

At just 10 years old, Lewis became the youngest ever driver to win the British Super One Cadet championship in 1995. Super One was the most competitive karting series for youngsters in the UK, so to win it so young was an incredible feat.

Lewis karting 44

He went on to win the 1996 Kartmasters Grand Prix and the Super One series again in 1997, before taking the European Championship title in 2000. Those were just a few of his biggest victories amongst many others.

By 1998 Ron Dennis, the McLaren Formula 1 boss, had seen how talented Lewis was, and was ready to make Lewis a lifechanging offer. Dennis called Lewis and gave him a place in the McLaren young driver programme. The rest, as they say, is history.

Champions of the Future

Super One was an incredibly competitive and popular series for young drivers to try and prove themselves in.

Seeing its popularity, Ron Dennis, Norbert Haug (head of Mercedes Motorsport) and Martin Hines (ZIP karts owner) started their own series called Champions of the Future.

With TV coverage and a clearer path to the upper levels of motorsport, the series quickly became popular.

It ran three classes of karts. In 1998 Lewis Hamilton was contesting the Junior Intercontinental class A (JICA) after having won the Cadet class in the series’ inaugural year.

Lewis karting 44

Who was Lewis racing?

This particular JICA race was held at Buckmore park in 1998.

Lewis was competing against some other young hot-shots who you may have also heard of including Alex Lloyd (IndyLights champion, IndyCar racer) and Christian Bakkerud (F3, GP2, DTM and LeMans racer).

JICA Buckmore 1998

Last to first

It was the final race of the day and Lewis was starting last after his kart broke down in one of the previous heats. There were 8 other racers ahead of him and he’d have to pull off something pretty miraculous to get to the front in this short race.

As the race gets underway, Lewis capitalises on some argy-bargy in front of him and is up to P6 before the first lap is over.

Lewis Hamilton karting at Buckmore Park

Lewis then wastes no time in making his way past some other karts. First up is the number 47 of Alex Lloyd, who he sqiftly dispatches.

Lewis Hamilton JICA karting

The driver ahead of Lewis then overtakes the #16 kart of Christian Bakkerud, and Lewis seizes the oppourtuntiy to sneak past as well, which puts him up to 4th place.

lewis Hamilton champions of the future

A lap later kart 26 tries a late move on car 17, which slows both drivers down right in front of Lewis.

Go karting JICA

Hamilton sees this as a great opportunity. Anticipating that the two karts ahead of him will exit the corner slowly, he takes a wide line in to the right hander to maximise his exit speed.

The other two karts do indeed run wide and slow each other down. Lewis’ smart thinking pays off; he cuts back to the right of both drivers and his better speed out of the corners means he’s able to squeeze past just before they arrive at the next corner, jumping two spots in one go and taking him up to second.

Champions of the Future

Lewis is then right on the back bumper of race leader Holman, whose kart suddenly gives up. Hamilton is promoted to the lead and has to drive definsively for the rest of the race to keep the second place kart behind him.

Lewis karting

Lewis holds on to take a momentus victory. His talent was undeniable but I don’t think many people expected he could actually win from the back of the grid. Definitely the drive of a future champion.

Watch the whole thing for yourself here.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport guides based on my own experience as a racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who want to learn more about racing.

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