A 13-year-old from Lincoln has been ranked as the number one go-kart racer on the planet, as his quest to forge a path into the world of elite motorsport moves to the next level.
Lewis Wherrell, 13, received an award from motorsport’s primary governing body, the FIA, in Nice, France as he fought off competition from more than 1,400 racers and topped the sport’s ranking system for karting in 2023.
It comes after a series of race and championship victories in the United Kingdom, as well as on the continental and international stage, for the Lincoln-based Sir Robert Pattinson Academy student.
Lewis first took an interest in the world of karting just before turning six years old, and within a year he was racing competitively. His dad Aron says it was around the age of seven when he first started to show signs of promise.
Lewis and his Forza Racing team boss Jamie Croxford at the FIA Karting Prize Giving in Nice, France. Photo: Aron Wherrell
“We started out for a bit of fun, dabbling in it as a father and son activity to do on the weekends, and it just grew from there really. Around seven years old he looked like he had something about him, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect him to reach this level.”
That level in question is competing — and winning — at both European and global levels. In October 2021, he won the X30 Mini World Championships in Italy after coming 2nd in the British Championships, which saw him make the step from the Mini class to junior levels.
After a “learning year” in the juniors in 2022, Lewis has again been making a name for himself in 2023, winning big championships and ultimately earning the attention of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) — the governing body for many autoracing events, including Formula 1.
He is becoming more used to that top step of the podium with each passing race. Photo: Aron Wherrell
In 2023 the FIA introduced its karting rankings, similar to that of the world rankings on the ATP Tennis tour, where results from skilled and recognised karting racers contribute to an overall score and ranking position.
In its inaugural year, Lewis Wherrell put Lincoln on the map by finishing 1st in the rankings, making him not just the best go-karter in the world for his age, but also pound-for-pound amongst all age groups.
Remember the name. Photo: Aron Wherrell
His dad Aron explained: “His goal and our goal is to take him as far as we can in motorsport. We can’t do any type of car racing until he reaches 15, so the next couple of years will be in karts, but there are talks of fast-tracking him, so he will be competing in the senior class with adults for 2024.
“It’s a big step up for him, but he loves it and has a natural talent. Mentally and physically it will be difficult competing against adults, and the sport is very cut-throat, placing a lot of pressure on the kids, but he enjoys competing at the pinnacle of karting.”
There is a defined and clear pathway to the top for Lewis if he maintains this momentum. He has seen racers a few years older than him progress through the karting ranks and now ply their trade in Formula 2 and 3, the steps below the bright lights of Formula 1.
Photo: Aron Wherrell
However, achieving success in motorsport comes at a cost, perhaps more so than any other sport, so Lewis and his family have had to face limitations off the track, but that hasn’t stopped him grinding our results.
“I’d say 90-95% of the kids Lewis races against come from wealthy backgrounds,” his dad says. “For us, tucked away in little old Lincoln, we are of average wealth really, but that gives you an extra drive and reward in your heart when you beat them.
“It’s every kid’s dream to make it to Formula 1, but any career in motorsport would be amazing. We come from a very similar background to Jack Harvey, and are from the same area of Lincolnshire, and look at the career he has made for himself.
“Lewis has the talent, but the finances will be a stumbling block. He is on the radar of academy driver programmes and the sport is ultimately results-based, so the more he shines, the more likely that someone will stand up and back him.”
Motorsport is a packed field and a cutthroat industry, but Lewis continues to stand out from the crowd. Photo: Aron Wherrell
The life of a kart racer might well be the “life of Riley”, but it presents fresh obstacles that not many children have to endure, namely spending large portions of time outside of school and away from his friends.
Aron says of this: “He lives for his karting, but he misses a lot of school and every other week he’s in a different country competing, so he isn’t going to parties or hanging around with friends as much. Nine times out of ten he’s on his own with his team and away from his parents as well.
“When you really step back and analyse his achievements it is fantastic, but there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep grounded. It’s a crazy sport but because we’ve done it for seven years it almost becomes like a day-to-day norm.”