LEFT HAND DRIVE
Dave Bewley talks to Dean Warner
I used to be a big Hockey fan, even though the idea of belting balls around with funny shaped sticks has never really appealed.
Older readers might guess that I’m referring to Dave Hockey, a slightly built kart trader from Shepton Mallet who was, nevertheless, a real giant in the sport. 40 years ago Dave and his wife Rosemary were formidable competitors on the 100cc scene, racing Tecno/Parilla karts.
Several years later he started appearing in long circuit events with a Dale Phantom/Montesa, later progressing to 250cc Bultacos, Suzukis and Yamahas. Dave’s most noticeable characteristic as a trader was his undoubted integrity and feel for the sport. At race meetings, however, he was instantly recognisable for the fact that he competed with only one arm. His death three years ago was a great loss to karting generally.
“It’s rather odd that you should mention Dave Hockey,” he exclaims, “I used to live in Shepton Mallet and my dad actually worked for him at one time.” However, it wasn’t Dave Hockey’s example that encouraged Dean to take up karting but rather Allison Lock’s article about Lee Shepherd published in this magazine over three years ago.
“I had a rather nasty motorcycle accident eight years ago,” he explains, “and sustained a Brachial Plexus injury which resulted in my right arm being paralysed. There was no hope of ever being able to use this arm again, so I took the decision to have it amputated two years ago. Both my father and grandfather were motorcycle competitors and I’d done a little bit of road racing on a 500cc Kawasaki. After my accident I looked at karting as a possible alternative but was discouraged from taking it up by someone at the MSA who told me that it would be very difficult to get a licence.
However I started subscribing to Karting magazine and read about Lee Shepherd in the June 2000 edition. Despite being permanently in a wheelchair, Lee still managed to compete using hand controls for throttle, brake, clutch and gear changes. I thought that if he could cope with all that, there was absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to compete myself. Whilst out in Australia, I hired a 100cc Yamaha kart and was hooked from that moment onwards.”
All maintenance work on the kart is carried out by Dean himself, a task which, with his motorcycling background, he quite enjoys. “The main problem is manhandling the kart once I’ve got to the circuit but usually I find plenty of people who are willing to help with the lifting,” he acknowledges. “I had a lot of fun racing in Rotax MAX and certainly wouldn’t knock this particular class. Even so, I find 250cc a bit more challenging and especially like competing on long circuits where the speeds are obviously that much higher.
Dean’s father Alan was a seasoned TT competitor and you can tell that motor racing runs through Dean’s veins. “Winning races isn’t that important to me but I like to think that I’m capable of competing,” he declares. “Long circuit racing is still pretty new for me and I think my results will improve as I gain more experience. So far I’ve attracted two sponsors. Intamark Awnings have provided me with a free awning and R3 Racing has supplied laser alignment equipment at concessionary rates. This has proved especially useful to me as I’ve always had difficulty in tracking my own kart. Away from karting my other hobby is fishing. I have a prosthetic limb for this activity but it’s just about the only time I ever wear it.”
Keen enthusiast though he undoubtedly is, Dean would still like one or two improvements made to his favourite sport. “I think karting deserves much more media coverage than it is currently getting,” he claims. “In gearbox classes especially, the TV coverage is practically nil. This has an adverse effect on sponsorship opportunities which seem much harder to obtain than in other sports.
Talk at length to any anglers and they’ll regale you with tales about ‘the one that got away.’ Kart racers are also notorious for their hard luck stories. Oiled plugs, wrong tyre pressures, dodgy fuel, dirty driving, red flags and even rabbits running across the track are all excuses which are readily trotted out to explain poor results. Talking to Dean was a refreshing experience
as he never once complained about the obvious disadvantage of competing with only one arm. 250cc racing and particularly long circuit events have never been great favourites of mine but I hope that he will continue to have many successful years ahead in this branch of the sport.
Perhaps in Dean Warner, the spirit of Dave Hockey still lives on.
Photos courtesy of photo-news.org