SGMW Sue Baker Memorial Karting GP: annual karting event speeds into 2024 to raise money for WOMAC

The Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ (SGMW) annual Sue Baker Memorial Karting Grand Prix made a triumphant return, with the 2024 race proving to be a close fought one brimming with excitement. 

Since its inception, the SGMW Karting GP has raised over £30,000 for charity. For last year’s race, the event was renamed in honour of Sue Baker, the long-standing SGMW member and former chairman, who sadly passed away in November 2022 after bravely battling Motor Neurone Disease. It is held annually to celebrate Sue’s contribution to the world of motoring and the SGMW. 

Southern Group Happenings: March 2024

For 2024, the SGMW’s chosen charity is Woman On The Move Against Cancer (WOMAC). This fantastic charity raises money to support the fight against cancer, including providing funds for vital research. WOMAC has a number of female motoring journalists and PRs among its patrons, including several members of the Southern Group. 

The SGMW Sue Baker Memorial Karting GP pits motoring PRs against each other in a two-and-a-half-hour endurance race at the Team Sport Karting venue in Crawley. A formidable 750-metre-long indoor circuit that spans three floors. 

While several of the returning drivers were familiar with the indoor circuit, there was one major change from last year with the introduction of a new fully electric go-kart, the BIZ EcoVolt GT. According to Team Sport, these new electric karts are capable of similar performance to the outgoing petrol-powered ones, with a top speed of 40mph and a claimed fastest lap time of around 46 seconds. 

A total of twelve teams entered, with a highly competitive field consisting of Honda, Hyundai, Ineos Automotive, Lexus, Nissan, PFPR, Stellantis, and Toyota. This year’s beneficiary, WOMAC, also fielded a team, which included SGMW member Trinity Francis on driving duties. Several other group members teamed up with their PR counterparts to race as well, with Tim Pitt, Stu Bird, Rich Gooding, Phill Tromans, Chris Rees, Chris Manning, and Jonathan Musk making up the numbers across the Subaru, Genesis, and Kia teams. 

With an all-new go-kart to get to grips with and a very competitive field, the practice session gave a preview of the exciting action that lay ahead. From the start, every driver gave it their all, with the new go-kart proving to be as formidable as the old petrol models. Aside from a few spins, though, the only real drama was the testing of the electronic red and yellow flag system to ensure the drivers were ready for the race ahead. 

In the practice session, Honda, Hyundai, Genesis, and Toyota showed the fastest pace, with lap times of around 48 seconds. WOMAC, Nissan, and Subaru were not far behind, with Ineos, Kia, PFPR, Lexus, and Stellantis sitting towards the back of the field. 

After practice ended, the drivers immediately lined up for the start. From here on out, the early pacesetters at the front were Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai, with Subaru, Nissan, and Genesis swapping fourth, fifth, and sixth spots behind the leaders. In the middle of the field, Stellantis, PFPR, and Ineos were fighting to get ahead of one another with little separating them. Meanwhile, Lexus, WOMAC, and Kia found themselves slightly off the pace towards the back of the field.

The top three positions remained largely unchanged for the first stages of the race, with Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai all continuing to show consistently quick pace for the first 50 or so laps. The middle of the field continued to swap positions as well, with consistent lap times making it difficult for any of the teams to carve out an advantage. At the back, however, the story was slightly different. Kia and WOMAC found themselves occupying the bottom two positions, with an ever-increasing gap separating them from the top ten.

As the race continued with an array of driver changes and more red and yellow flags, Toyota was the first team to complete 100 laps, with Honda and Hyundai sitting a single lap behind the leaders. In the middle of the field, things were still closely matched, with Subaru, Nissan, and Genesis all sitting on 96 laps apiece, with Stellantis and PFPR behind by a single lap.

In the final stages of the race, Toyota showed frantic pace at the front, gaining a two-lap advantage with 136 laps completed. In second and third spots were Honda and Hyundai, sitting two laps down on the leaders. In the midfield, Nissan, Subaru, and Stellantis were having a mini GP of their own, with all three teams closely matched with 132 laps completed.

Of course, the SGMW Karting GP wouldn’t be complete without some late drama. Which is exactly what happened. After 147 laps and with a little under 20 minutes remaining, the Toyota team received a 30-second stop/go penalty for an infringement. The resulting enforced pit stop allowed Honda to take the lead, moving Toyota down to 2nd place, with Hyundai in 3rd. 

Shortly after taking the lead, Honda quickly established a one-lap advantage ahead of their nearest rivals. There was further drama happening behind them, though. With 150 laps completed, Hyundai moved up to 2nd place, pushing Toyota back into 3rd.  

By the 159th lap, with 10 minutes of the race left to run, Honda was firmly holding onto their lead at the top. There was still time for a little more position swapping in the final minutes of the race, though, with Toyota upping their pace in the final moments to pass Hyundai to retake 2nd place. As the chequered flag fell, the top three teams remained the same, with Honda finishing in 1st place with 172 laps completed. Toyota came in 2nd place, one lap behind, and Hyundai finished in 3rd, two laps adrift of the winners. 

The final standings:

1st: Honda – 172 laps

2nd: Toyota  – 171 Laps

3rd: Hyundai – 170 laps

4th: Subaru – 169 laps

5th: Nissan – 168 laps

6th: Stellantis – 167 laps

7th: PFPR – 167 laps

8th: Genesis – 163 laps

9th: Lexus – 160 laps

10th: Ineos – 159 laps

11th: WOMAC – 155 laps

12th: Kia – 152 laps

The fastest lap of the day was completed by Andy Jenner for Toyota, who managed a scorching time of 46.316 seconds. Not far behind were Hyundai, who recorded a time of 46.437, while the winning Honda team managed a fastest time of 46.596 seconds. Notably, all three of the fastest times were set by the top three teams, and all beat the fastest lap time set in the 2023 event, when former SGMW member Sean Ward set a time of 47.648 seconds at the wheel of a petrol-powered go-kart. 

Traditionally, the slowest drivers of the day have also received the legendary SGMW wooden spoon award. This year, though, in the spirit of mixing things up, this highly coveted award would go to the team that incurred the highest number of yellow and red flags during the race. The winners of this prestigious title were Ineos, who somehow managed to commit nearly a third more infringements during the race than several of the other competing teams.

At the end of the event, the SGMW’s Chris Manning and Chris Rees handed over a cheque for £2,385 to Georgia Fox, the Chair of WOMAC. 

At the end of the race, SGMW Secretary Chris Rees said: “Everyone had tremendous fun at this year’s SGMW Sue Baker Memorial Karting GP. We were very fortunate in the Grand Prix’s 10th anniversary year to receive such generous support from our friends and colleagues in the motor industry. As a result, £2,385 was raised for our chosen charity for 2024, WOMAC. The total raised in the first decade now exceeds £32,500. Sincere thanks to everyone who took part, and congratulations to the winning teams. Now we can’t wait for next year’s Karting GP!”

To learn more about WOMAC’s fantastic work visit

All photos: Richard Parsons for Sims Images.