Young go-karting prodigy from Leeds dreaming of Formula One future after being tipped as next star
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Thirteen-year-old Sam Stoner first got into a kart aged just nine for a birthday party.
Having loved the day and been spotted as having a natural talent, Sam - with the help of support from his dad Paul, 45 - spent hundreds of hours developing his track craft and beating all competitors before him at TeamSport Leeds.
Just four years after his first sit in a kart, Sam - who competes at both indoor and outdoor tracks - has now developed into one of the fastest of his age and is dreaming of a life in racing.
Sam's dad Paul has set up and manages social media accounts for his son.
His journey - which includes hundreds of GoPro action videos live from his kart - has attracted many followers eager to track his progress.
Sam, from Rothwell, is now at an age to be able to step up into the junior ranks and with potential investment from sponsors to help fund his career, Paul thinks his son could make it to the very top.
Paul, speaking exclusively to the YEP, said: "We booked him a day at the track for his birthday when he was nine, just to give him an experience of what it was like.
"He absolutely loved it and that was it from that point on."
Will Lockwood, 35, area manager for TeamSports in the North of England, was manager of the venue in Leeds at the time Sam first attended.
He told the YEP Sam is one of the most naturally gifted youngsters he had ever seen.
Sam was setting record lap times at the track and his talent was spotted 'immediately' by staff, Will said.
The track, on Accommodation road in Leeds, is very demanding with a high grip surface - usually favoured by expert drivers.
However, at just nine years old, Sam was breaking records by up to 'half a second' a lap.
Will said if Sam gains sponsorship and is supported through his teen years, it was 'unquestionable' that he could become a future F1 star.
Speaking to the YEP, Will said: "It was absolutely off the scale when he first started.
"We saw his talent straight away, he took to it like a duck to water.
"We get so many people come down who love it, but not many have the natural talent he showed.
"He knew about racing lines, where to be and how to drive fast.
"Since then he has stuck at it because it has become his passion.
"To be able to set lap records, you really can't make any mistakes or each lap is over.
"Sam can do the same lap over and over again, he is special.
"He just needs moulding and supporting to achieve his dream.
"If he was to be sponsored and carries on as he is, for me, it is unquestionable he could become a Formula One champion.
"He has it in him to be a star."
Sam's dad Paul has supported his son every step of the way so far, both financially and mentally.
Before Covid, the pair toured the country competing in track days - with Sam gaining valuable experience along the way.
In 2019, Paul invested in a 'Cadet' kart for Sam to race in outdoors.
Since then, Sam has competed against hundreds of drivers on race weekends across the UK.
He has made many friends through the sport, Paul said.
Becoming an F1 driver would be a huge dream to fulfil for Sam - who idolises world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Paul added: "Sam loves Lewis, he thinks he is so fast but he is accurate with his driving ability too."
Sam is now looking to attract sponsors for his return to the track once restrictions are listed.
He is due to start entering junior competitions and will need a bigger kart - becoming one of the youngest in the field in the process.
Paul said: "He will progress this year, we just need some support.
"If he continues to compete and win competitions he will keep moving up.
"He is very eager to get back in his kart as soon as he can, he misses it.
"It is a big year for him and he can't wait to get on the track and compete.
"He has been one of the fastest cadets of his age and he is now ready to step up.
"It is a bit of a cliche but Team Sport is where karters are born and now he is outdoors, he can continue doing what he loves."
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