Competitors‎ > ‎Karting‎ > ‎

Dean Warner

Dean is a one armed 250cc contender - Story courtesy of KARTING Magazine - Sept 2003
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.

Dean Warner is another one armed 250cc contender whose karting career has followed a similar pattern.  Living in Stroud, Gloucestershire, with his partner Myrn and 3-year-old son Charlie, he is a member of Rissington Kart Club and first started racing in Rotax MAX before moving up to 250cc National.

 “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.”

Dean obtained his competition licence in 2001 and went into the Rotax MAX class initially using a BRM kart before switching to Birel.  “I live about 40 minutes from the Little Rissington circuit and so the majority of my races have been on this particular track,” he points out.  “I had a lot of fun racing in Rotax MAX and enjoyed some good results.  Last year I was lying 7th in the club championships and my overall performance gave me some satisfaction.  However I was a bit handicapped in the MAX category and I’m not talking here about driving with just one arm.  The biggest obstacle to success was without doubt my size.  I’m 6’2” and weigh almost 15 stone which wasn’t really a problem in the wet as my results proved.  In dry conditions, however, I was always struggling for speed.  At first I couldn’t get a licence to race in 250 National but the MSA relented last year and I’m now the proud owner of an Anderson/Honda.  I’ve adapted a slip gear change mechanism operated by my foot while the clutch is engaged by hand so it isn’t really a problem.”

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. 
My best result so far has been at Donington earlier this year when I finished 10th and claimed the award for first Novice.  The best race I’ve had though was during the British Championships at Pembrey when I came through from 18th to finish 6th in my first heat.  Contrary to popular opinion, the 250 National class has attracted quite a lot of talented drivers and I’ve made some very good friends.  The driver I enjoy racing against most of all though is Kevin Busby who is a close rival both at Rissington and on the longer circuits such as Donington.  The competitor who has been my greatest inspiration is obviously Lee Shepherd, without whose example I wouldn’t be racing at all.”

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. 

Apart from being an enjoyable sport to participate in, I think karting can have greater spectator appeal.  Certainly, people I know who have watched a kart race for the first time always seem amazed at how exciting it can be.  Perhaps the organising bodies ought to be taking a look at ways of publicising karting a little more.  Apart from attracting more spectators and sponsorship, it would also introduce competitors who might never have thought of taking up the sport.  I also believe that a lot more could be done to make our sport accessible to disabled people.  I would love to think that this particular article might encourage some other disabled person in much the same way as Lee’s story inspired me.”

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