Darren is back in the fast lane ...

Darren Stapleton with the Mazda car he raced in at the Croft circuit.
Darren Stapleton with the Mazda car he raced in at the Croft circuit.

A Morpeth man has returned to motor racing after a gap of more than 15 years.

Darren Stapleton used to compete in kart racing as a child and teenager and he was regularly at the front end of the grid in regional races.

He was Northumbrian Junior Karting champion in 1990 and two years later, he finished second in the Northumbrian Senior Karting Championship.

In 1995, he was Northern Universities Karting champion.

Darren then went on to complete an intensive race course at the Silverstone racing circuit in 1998. He was awarded a drive in a Vauxhall Vectra saloon car race at the circuit as a prize for being chosen as the top driver on the course by the instructors.

Due to finances, the Loansdean resident had not raced at all since the 1990s until a few weeks ago when he competed in a round of the national BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire.

He hired the car off the Cheshire-based BLiNK Motorsport team and took part in three races, all of which consisted of a grid of 25 identical Mazda MX-5s.

He acquitted himself well, although car trouble and incidents hampered his progress.

The 39-year-old said: “I qualified sixth for the first race, but in the wet conditions got too much wheel-spin and made a bad start.

“However, I was able to fight back through some of the field to finish seventh.

“The finishing position in the first race determined the starting position for the second race so I was due to start seventh on the grid, but on the warm-up lap the gear lever came off in my hand.

“I returned to the pits to have it fixed and rejoined the race a number of laps down. This led to me starting at the back of the 25-car grid for the third race.

“By half distance, I had overtaken a number of cars and got into the top 10.

“However, someone spun in front of me and I had to swerve off the circuit to avoid a collision, which resulted in me dropping to the back of the field.

“I then overtook a number of cars and fought back to finish 12th.

“I’m hoping to hire the same car for a few more races next year and then hopefully buy a car for the 2017 season.”