People familiar with the local karting scene will know the name Dick Yu Ka-po. He may be a teenager, but no one would dare to challenge his mastery in the sport.
The 16-year-old, who has been in the sport for a decade now, is known as one of the most experienced and talented go-kart drivers in the city.
After Dick’s father brought the him to the now-closed karting track in Tuen Mun when he was six, he instantly fell in love with the high-speed sport, and he hasn’t taken his hands off the steering wheel for more than two weeks since then.
“Karting is obviously a very exciting sport, it’s almost like a close quarters battle,” Dick told Young Post recently.
Dick added that go-karts have higher mobility than race cars, so drivers will overtake other drivers more often in races, which makes the sport more compelling to watch.
The karting pro explains that the thrill of driving a go-kart comes from feeling the movements of his vehicle. He said it almost feels like he’s become a part of the go-kart when he skillfully whizzes past his opponents on the tracks. Such precision requires strong muscle memory, which can only be consolidated through practising in the vehicle every week.
“Karting requires very interesting muscle strength, it’s not the kind you can train by working out in the gym. That’s why we can only improve our muscle memory through driving all the time,” he said.
While Dick’s love for cars was what drew him to the sport at the beginning, he quickly saw that it could be more than just a hobby for him. Now he races on the Hong Kong national team.
The teenager had a flying start in his career, when he topped the podium many times in his first year competing in tournaments on the mainland in 2011. But just when the budding go-karter thought he could ace all his races the next year, he had trouble maintaining his winning streak.
“I’m not sure what happened, but I just didn’t win races like I did in my first year. As a kid, I began to lose interest in the sport when I started losing.” Dick recalled.
It was the young driver’s first slump, but it taught him an important lesson: that there would always be ups and downs in his career. Bearing that in mind, Dick was able to handle his second major setback in a more mature manner.
In 2017, during his last year racing in the junior category at the IAME International Finals, Dick attained brilliant results in the preliminary races and secured an advantageous starting position in the finals. It seemed like he was all set to win, but a car crash before the race forced the teenager to withdraw from the race.
“I was crushed, and it was such a pity that I couldn’t even participate in the finals. But that frustration didn’t last for too long, I was soon able to get back on my feet,” he said.
Now with a strengthened mindset and the racing experience he accumulated over the years, Dick is full of confidence even when he takes on older drivers in the senior category. He has been promoted to the senior events after he turned 15 last year, which also prompted him to join the student athlete programme offered by the Hong Kong Sports Institute and Lam Tai Fai College, which allows him to pursue a professional career while studying.
Even though he is not able to dedicate as much time to his studies and friends as training, it is a sacrifice Dick is willing to live with, as nothing can deter him from taking his thriving career to the next level. The teen go-karter is hoping to race to the top in Asian and international competitions.
“I’ve finished in third place in Asian senior competitions before, but it is not the highest [place] on the podium. It feels like a goal that has not been fully accomplished yet,” he said.
“When I’ve successfully made a name for myself, I can consider the pathway of becoming a karting coach.”