The Motorsport Ireland Karting Championship gets underway this weekend at KartWorld Adventure Centre in Watergrasshill, Co. Cork.
In what is seen as a predominantly male sport, 11-year-old Alyx Coby from Newbridge has already shown that Karting is not just for the boys.
The fifth class student from Gaelscoil Chill Dara will be embarking on her first full season in the IAME X30 Junior class after three years in the Cadet class. The opening weekend of the season will also see Alyx make her 50th Championship race start.
The IAME X30 Junior class was introduced in 2015 and already boasts one of the largest entries in the Championship with as many as 20 drivers expected to be on the grid for the season opener. The class caters from drivers up to the age of 16, with Alyx being the youngest driver on this year’s grid at just 11. She will also be the only girl on the grid. With a 125cc IAME engine these karts can reach speeds of up to 100km/h. This is a big step up from Alyx’s first three seasons in the Cadet class and she has spent the winter trying to adapt to it with test sessions and also taking part in various club races around the country.
Speaking about the new kart Alyx said: “The kart is bigger and more powerful than the Cadet one I’ve been used to since I started racing and the tyres have so much more grip. I struggled for the first few races over the winter as it takes a lot more effort to get through the corners and my arms were really sore after long runs, but I’m getting used to it now and have been doing extra training to build up my strength. I have recently taken up Karate and train four nights a week to try to improve my fitness and I’m really enjoying it. The biggest challenge with the higher speeds and heavier kart is learning the braking points all over again as they have all changed. It’s going to take a while to adapt fully to the new kart but I’m looking forward to the challenge and will have fun doing it.”
Last season was Alyx’s most successful to date. She became the first female driver to win a national final at Cadet level in Ireland and went on to win a total of three finals and set six fastest laps. At the midpoint of the season Alyx was sitting in second place in the Championship, just three points off the leader, but a growth spurt over the summer resulted in her being too tall for the kart, making it difficult to be competitive in the latter half of the season. Despite this Alyx still managed to finish in fifth place in the Championship and was one of only three drivers to win more than one race in the season.
Alyx is not the first member of the Coby family to race karts competitively. Her father, Gary, raced for many years when he was younger and her uncle Aaron still races in the IAME X30 Senior class. Alyx says that her father is her racing hero and her ambition is to be just as successful as he was. She even races using the same number 99 as he did.
The prize on offer to the top five finishers in the Championship this year is a trip to Le Mans in France to compete in the IAME World Karting Finals in October. Alyx went to watch her uncle Aaron compete last year and hopes to be able to race there herself this year.
“The racing is all very close and the grids are huge,” she said. “It was amazing to watch and it would be a fantastic experience to take to the track against drivers from all over the world.”
The Motorsport Ireland Karting Championship consists of 18 races over 9 weekends from March until the end of September and visits counties Antrim, Cork, Galway, Louth and Meath.
Images from Marc Quinlivan.