Stephenson siblings love of racing
Stephenson siblings love of racing

On the eve of the 2020 British Karting Championships the UK went into lockdown. Two of those drivers that were about to take on the challenge of a national championship for the first time were brother and sister Riley and Poppi Stephenson, this was their time to show off their talents.

The elder sibling Riley having won a number of championships during his rise up through the Junior ranks, at Kent circuits Lydd and Bayford Meadows.

He was due to race in the Senior Rotax class after a successful first year in 2019, where he managed to run at the front of the field, even winning outright on occasion as he did so.

Poppi was due to drive in the Junior Rotax class, having shown a good turn of speed in her first year having progressed forward from the Junior Subaru UK class.

Both will have to wait now for the delayed start to the year when hopefully the Motorsports UK series runs its revised calendar.

Here is the story of how both began in the sport, through the eyes of their mother.

The karting life of siblings.

It wasn’t too long after Rileys 6th Birthday, that my Dad took him to the Buckmore Park circuit for his first karting experience. He loved it and we started going to as many Bambino track days as we could.

Poppi was only 4, but after just a couple of visits of watching her brother, had also decided when she was old enough, that she would like to have a go and so the countdown to her 6th Birthday began.

Nearly 2 years later Riley was invited to go to a junior club day, which fell on his 8th Birthday. We went and had a good day, but Riley decided afterwards that he didn’t want to go karting anymore.

Three months later, Poppi turned 6 and we did the same thing all over again, but with Riley just spectating for the next 2 years.

During this time we were introduced to a whole new side of karting, that we never even knew existed. As Poppi approached her 8th Birthday and having spent a few days at Bayford Meadows with Paul Janes from Ambition Motorsport, my Dad bought her her first kart.

It was also the same day that Paul talked Riley into just having another little go, initially just for a few minutes. Well, the rest, as they say, is history.

September 2013 at Lydd kart circuit, was our first race weekend. I think it’s fair to say I was the most nervous of us all, but we made it through race day without any incidents and went back, month after month adding the Bayford Meadows kart circuit to our calendar too.

Since then we have been to around 150 race meetings and had over 110 podium spots. Added to that Riley has won 8 championships and achieved 6 lap records along the way.

Over the last couple of years, we have been to Clay Pigeon, Forest Edge, Mansell Raceway and PFI, too, mainly in preparation, to follow the dream of entering the 2020 British Kart Championships, which sadly was cancelled just days before Round one, as the nation prepared to go into lockdown.

Being on this journey with them both from Honda Cadets, to Junior Subaru and now the Rotax classes, has been phenomenal.

Although there have been quite a few moments when I have thought, why didn’t we opt for football and ballet?

But those moments are fleeting and usually when they are flat out, heading into turn one. Even standing on the sidelines, the adrenaline kicks in and it’s exhilarating, watching them both with pride, doing what they love. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Karting isn’t just a hobby, it’s a passion that as a family we share. On a Sunday evening when we are heading home, we are talking about the next race weekend on the calendar, it almost becomes an obsession to be honest.

Riley is out to win and Poppi is out to enjoy the thrill of the sport, every time they go on track. Two completely different reasons and neither of them can understand each other’s perspective, but the love of karting is the same. The passion to be racing.

None of this would have happened, if it wasn’t for my dad, who is as passionate and obsessed as we all are, in truth. We are thankful every day for what he has done for us and even more so, since being in lockdown.

The frustration of not being able to spend time with each other at the circuits, playing the waiting game, really brings home, just how fortunate we are to have such a luxury to look forward to, when we are allowed out again to participate in this amazing sport.

Images courtesy of Paul Babington