LEWIS Hamilton's Formula One heroics have triggered a karting boom across the region.
Throughout Cheshire, young people are hoping to emulate F1 phenomenon and former kart star Hamilton by taking up the daredevil sport.
Hooton Park Raceway, lying between Ellesmere Port and Eastham, had just 40 entrants to its first race when it opened four months ago. At the last race meeting there were 80, while about 2,000 test sessions have been booked at the track.
The increased interest the sport has been credited to Stevenage sensation Hamilton, identified by McLaren team boss Ron Dennis aged 10 and funded to the tune of an estimated £4m through karting, single-seater racing categories and GP2 before he burst onto the F1 scene this year.
The 22-year-old rookie leads the drivers' world championship after claiming successive victories in Canada on June 10 and at the US Grand Prix a week later.
Hooton Park boss Bob Wilson, also chairman of Cheshire Kart Racing Club, said: 'Lewis really is exceptional, but it was not so long ago he was still karting at Three Sisters Raceway in Wigan. His progress has been rapid.
'Since he started in F1 we have noticed a rise in inquiries about the sport.
'Now in order to allow people to try karting we are having a fleet of karts delivered to meet the growing public demand.
'You can compete in karting from the age of eight and we also help people who want to compete seriously get their race licences.'
Hamilton is not the first F1 driver to make the leap from karting. Fellow stars David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson and Hamilton's world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso all came from karts, as did Michael Schumacher and the late Ayrton Senna.
'It is the number one way to get into F1,' said Bob. 'But it requires dedication because it is very tough.
'Getting into karts can cost as little as £1,000 but you can spend a lot more.'
An affordable way to get into karting is offered by Tarporley High School, which has a proud karting heritage stretching back to 1987.
An after-school club allows adult privateers to become members and teaches engine and kart maintenance as well as race skills.
Tarporley Karting Club's team leader Richard Percival said: 'Every time Lewis is on TV his karting is mentioned, either by commentators or the man himself, so we have seen more pupils taking an interest as a result.
'We have a number of club karts which are available to our 48 members if necessary and they are very competitive. If people want to buy their own in order to spend money on improving performance further they are still welcome.'
For further information on Cheshire Kart Racing Club contact Bob Wilson on 0151 355 7513 or 07738 718686. To read more about Tarporley High School's karting team, visit www.tarporleykarting.co.uk