Tracking down a class of his own

Clubmans Class C winner and driver of the year, Anthony Carstens, shows off some silverware.

Pawing over his sizable haul of trophies and accolades, Edgemead’s Anthony Carstens, 28, admits he was never chasing any silverware when he first climbed into his car and pulled it onto the track, yet he stands, reflecting on a year that surpassed all expectations.

A personal trainer by trade, Carstens says he was always attracted to the track and since first falling in love with the speed and roar of the engines while sitting in the spectator bays at Killarney Raceway as a child, it’s a love that never waned.

However, he never had the opportunity to test his own skills on the tar until a chance encounter with one of Killarney’s most decorated stalwarts, André Johnson, saw him piecing a car together, learning some tricks of the trade, getting his hands dirtied under the hood and ultimately walking away with the Clubmans championship’s driver of the year, team of the year and Class C overall winner awards to add to the trophies he racked up after landing multiple podium finishes throughout the year.

“When I initially approached André, I told him I had a car that I wanted to convert into a race car. We did that and got the car on the track but it was just a bit slow and underperformed. André had a different car in mind for me which we then got working on.

“The Golf that he sourced had been standing for three years, so we weren’t sure what to expect from it. Our basic goal for the year was just to figure the car out and work on it as we went.

“It was great to have a mentor and to be racing alongside Andre and his son Alex, who are both experienced Clubmans racers.

“The advice I have received from them, as we went along, was extremely valuable, whether it was what to do with the car before the race, what to look out for during the actual races or even just simple life advice. That was all part of the process that went into winning the Class C division this year,” he said.

His progression this year is a slightly complex one. The Clubmans championship is divided into graded divisions based on lap times, in which drivers are classed from A to F, based on the speed at which their cars are able to complete the circuit. Classes A to C fall into the senior division, while D to F are classed as junior divisions.

Having started out as a Class E driver, this being his first time classified on track, Cartsens quickly progressed through Class E, D and onto C, racking up considerable points in multiple class divisions as well as across junior and senior ranks.

In a way, he inadvertantly sabotaged himself from being able to win overall championship titles, crossing over between the various levels midway through the year.

“This year was my first season and we basically won everything. You get points per race and event that you take part in, but because those points were earned in different classes and across junior and senior divisions, they count only in those divisions, unless you achieve a certain percentage in either.

“However, because I classed up twice and then crossed divisions, my points were split. I was still able to win the C Class, with the amount of points I was able to earn there towards the end of the year, but if I hadn’t crossed divisions, based on the amount of points I earned in the year, I would have won overall categories as well.

“I did, however, as part of team Executive Motorsports, earn the team of the year award and the driver of the year award, even though i didn’t win overall championship titles,” he said.

A former provincial level and semi-professional soccer player, Carstens knows all about the nature of teamwork and though many feel racing to be an individual sport, he believes differently.

“Of course, it’s me that is out on the track doing the racing, but anyone who competes as a driver knows that this is a team effort.

“Getting my car on the track, I rely on my mechanic, Alistair Joshua, my suspension is sorted by Speedy Webb and Malcolm Pheiffer, and I have my pit crew of Jaco Barendilla and Glen Miller. Without them, and without the sponsors that have helped me along the way, none of the racing would happen.

“I also work on the car myself, so this has been a huge learning curve. It does take time to figure out the set-ups and I feel like we really only did that halfway through the season. I am excited to see what the new season brings and to see how far I can go in this sport,” he said.