The past two months have been quite the whirlwind for me after the sudden loss of my mother, Suki Nadesan. The aftermath of her passing meant that I had a lot on my plate during my university holiday, before returning to start the winter semester. In the middle of this time, I was fortunate to be invited to the first round of the Florida Winter Tour in Homestead. Reflecting now, I have realized just how karting fits in my life, and how it’s almost always been there.
To this day I still remember the first time I went to Goodwood Kartways in the summer of 2001 to see Lon Herder, from whom my parents bought my first kart. The Thursday after (Yes, people, I remember it was a Thursday) Lon set us up with his son, Kyle, for a day of driver coaching. In all honesty, it was a miserable, rainy day at Goodwood and Kyle tried everything to get me to take the correct lines, even bringing chalk and drawing on the track. At the end of the day he advised my parents to keep taking me to the track for practice days, and that eventually, I’d improve.
“…and it wasn’t about the wins anyway. It was simply the best of times.”
From that day on, ‘karting’ was what my parents and I did nearly every weekend of the summer during my childhood. We were at the track either practicing or racing while spending time together as a family. My first year racing in Cadet at TKC we had a minivan with everything needed stuffed inside. As the year went on I won a few races, and eventually the club championship. It was the beginning of six consecutive seasons behind the wheel, with some more wins and another club championship, an OKRA Bear and some specials here and there. Now, I won’t say I was ever the best on the track or close to it, but I did an alright job, and it wasn’t about the wins anyway. It was simply the best of times.
The worst came following the 2007 season, as a family separation and divorce made continuing behind the wheel impossible. My dad ended up moving a few hours away for the job he had at the time, meaning it was just my mom and me until I graduated from high school four years later. Through these years we still headed to the tracks regularly so we could maintain karting friendships, and I’d occasionally race here and there, with gracious help from Kevin and Wendy Monteith. Going to the track during this period was a blessing in disguise for me because it helped me escape during what were often sad times in my life.
Heading to the summer of 2010, I sold all the old karting equipment I had and pulled together enough money to race one last season before university became my prime focus; a last kick of the can if you will. The Brian Stewart Racing Karting Championship was still running then, and while I wasn’t fast enough to be where I might have liked, I had pretty consistent results and wound up third in the Senior Heavy Championship, admittedly aided by most of my competition racing only select events. Then, a few weeks after the final race at Innisfil, even better news came as I got a fantastic text message from Kevin saying that I’d won a raffle to race in Brazil at the Granja Viana 500 with WR Motorsports and Team MG Tires!
The trip to race in the Granja was an opportunity of a lifetime for me and looking back, I am very happy that I was able to share the experience with my mom. I got to race in one of the most unique karting races in the world, and I was on the same grid as motorsport legends, like Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan and Christian Fittipaldi. My teammates Greg Rempel, Steve Lyons and Brian McHattie, made the trip even more memorable as we spent a week together in Brazil. At the end of the weekend the four of us finished the race P17 of 60, and P6 in our class, meaning we got to bring home some hardware as well. And that’s how my karting career behind the wheel ended, or at the very least, was put on pause.
“It helped me realize that one place I can always find happiness is at the track, and it’s always been so, I now know.”
In the season that followed I only made it to the track a couple times, as my main focus was school, and the beginning of Automotive Engineering studies at UOIT. In fact, I don’t know that I’d be at the track much at all now, if it weren’t for Cody messaging me to help him out at Mosport during his re-launch of CKN, a message I’m now grateful I received. You see, in all honestly, my CKN work has rekindled and maintained my relationship with karting. I’ve been able to experience different aspects of the sport as a media man, and return to the places where I enjoyed spending my childhood as well. Most importantly, it’s provided the means for me to keep in contact with everyone I know in the sport and make new friends along way.
To come full circle back my main point, the week I recently spent in Homestead was therapeutic, a much needed break for me to escape my recent troubles. It helped me realize that one place I can always find happiness is at the track, and it’s always been so, I now know. The truth is, it’s where I have the fondest memories of time spent with my family, and where I’m proud to say I’ve developed a very extended family. I thank you for your recent kind words and gestures, and I’ll see you at the track again soon.
A photo posted by Neelan Nadesan (@neelan_nadesan) on