May 28, 2023

Sadie puts the pedal to the metal in Bermuda Grand Prix

Eleven-year-old Sadie Hocking was all for it when her parents suggested she take part in the Lindo's Grand Prix.

She had, after all, been karting since January with Scott Barnes’ 9 Lives Racing club.

But when the two-day event in North East Hamilton dawned on April 22, the nerves hit.

To make matters worse, a friend who’d promised to race alongside got too anxious and had to pull out.

"Then I really got scared," Sadie said.

It left her as the youngest of the 35 competitors. The only other female, Jorja Thomas, was 18.

Sadie's mother, Anna Laura Hocking, gave her a pep talk that helped her get the butterflies under control but it was clear that it would not be an easy ride.

The racetrack formed a half-mile cross which covered portions of Court, Dundonald and Princess Streets. Some of the turns were quite sharp.

Sadie shrugged off any concern about the difficulty level. "That's what makes it a race," the Bermuda High School student said.

Karts in the higher classes travel 60 to 90 miles per hour, Sadie's modified one hits a maximum speed of 40.

Her fastest lap around the track was about 40 seconds.

She was thrilled to hear screams from her fan club whenever she neared the finish line: "Go Sadie!"

On the second day of the race she went around a particularly difficult bend and did not reappear.

It was an anxious moment for her mother, who was watching from the sidelines.

"From my vantage point, I could not see what had happened," Mrs Hocking said. "It happened at a place where a lot of racers had crashed."

A message from a spectator on the other side of the course allowed her to exhale: "She's fine. Her kart just broke down."

Said Sadie: "I couldn't get it started again. Oil was not pumping to the engine."

The heat was scuppered; a team of mechanics readied her kart for the next one.

"It was really fun," she said. "It was a great opportunity to get out and do go-karting in the streets."

Mrs Hocking is glad her daughter overcame her fear.

"She had so much fun and she learnt a lot because it was a challenging course," she said. "It was a great event to be a part of and there were a lot of spectators out there."

Sadie got interested in karting a few years ago while on vacation in England. Her brother Trystan and her father, Jacob Hocking, tried it but she was too young to do it at the time.

"I thought it looked like fun," she said. "I knew when I was older I wanted to start go-karting."

She had the chance, here in Bermuda, when her friend's dad invited her to come along with him last year.

"The first time I drove I was a little bit scared, but I got used to it," Sadie said. "I knew that I wanted to do it more. I really like going fast. Sometimes I go as fast as the kart can go, but only on the straightaways."

It didn't completely put her off that most of the members of 9 Lives were boys.

"They can be annoying," Sadie laughed. "They tease me sometimes because they are faster than me. But they have been doing it for longer."

The first time one of them bumped her with their kart in a practice, she jumped.

As "you are allowed to nudge" she sometimes does it back to them "accidentally" as "it is part of the sport".

Speed, which is also part of the sport, is what she believes scares girls off.

"But once you get the hang of it, you know where to put your foot down, and let it off a little bit," she said. "Then you probably won't crash as much."

Given that they don't go very fast as beginners, crashing can be fun sometimes, Sadie insisted.

"One of the first times I drove I hit a barrier and knocked it over," she said. "I got over it."

The drivers wear safety gear including a rib protector, a neck brace and a helmet. There is also a fireproof suit to protect them from the burning rubber that comes off the tyres when they fly around the track. The suit can take some getting used to.

"During the Grand Prix it got really hot," Sadie said.

That is one of the reasons the club doesn't meet over the summer. It resumes in October; members race all winter.

The club meets every Sunday at Southside Race Track in St David's.

At the moment Sadie uses one of 9 Lives’ go-karts. Her dream is to have her own, which she would build with the club from a kit. Pink, she thinks, would figure heavily in the colour scheme.

Cost is an issue. Tyres have to be replaced frequently; two sets cost around $3,000.

The Hockings are weighing their options and considering sharing with someone else.

Sadie is already looking forward to taking part in next year's Lindo's Grand Prix. She is also happy that her friend who backed out at the last minute has promised to do it with her.

"More girls should do this," Sadie said. "It's fun. I would love to become a professional race car driver when I grow up, maybe a Formula One driver."

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