Alyx Coby. Picture: Marc Qulinlivan
Newbridge kart racer Alyx Coby headed off to Le Mans in France at the weekend to compete in the IAME International Finals.
She qualified for the event after finishing in third place in this year’s Motorsport Ireland Karting Championship.
The 13-year-old has just completed her fifth season racing, and her most successful one to date, with one victory, twelve podium finishes and setting fastest lap six times - including setting the lap record around the new Mondello Park junior karting circuit.
Alyx started racing karts at the age of eight. Her father, Gary, and uncle Aaron had been racing from before she was born, so some of her earliest memories are of traveling the country with the family’s race team, Coby Motorsport, watching them race.
“Even when my mam was pregnant with me she was at the racetrack!”, she jokes.
It was therefore inevitable that the youngster would end up racing too. She even races with the same number 99 on her kart that her dad and uncle used during their racing days.
Alyx is racing in the IAME X30 Junior class, which caters for drivers aged 13-15. Powered by a 125cc engine, these karts can reach speeds of over 110km/h on the Le Mans International Karting track.
She has traveled to the UK to race several times, but this is her first major international competition.
At the French circuit she will be joined in her class by 139 of the best drivers in the world – from Europe, the USA and as far afield as Hong Kong, Singapore, Peru and Argentina.
After visiting the circuit two years ago when her uncle Aaron competed at the event, Alyx was already familiar with the layout of the track, but Sunday morning was her first opportunity to drive it herself.
Speaking about the experience, the Newbridge school girl said; “I always get excited in the days before a race and a bit nervous too. Coming to a big event like this was a bit daunting at first, but now I’m here and in the kart, it’s just like any other race.
“It’s a fast track with lots of technical sections so I need to focus on learning the circuit over the next few days and doing my best when racing begins.
“Eight days in the kart is going to be tough, but I’m ready for the challenge and can’t wait for racing to start on Wednesday. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, so it’s great to finally be here.”
The length of the event will be one of the toughest elements for Alyx - spread over 8 days it will be the longest period she has spent in a kart.
She has been building up her strength and fitness over the last 18 months with Newbridge Kenpo Karate Academy where she trains five times a week.
She earned her brown belt just last month and also attended the International Karate Championships in Portugal earlier this year, coming home with two gold medals and a bronze.
With three days of testing under her belt, Alyx will take part in timed qualifying tomorrow evening (Wednesday) where she will have a single ten-minute session to set her fastest time to determine her starting position for all 7 heats.
Thursday and Friday will see Alyx take part in two heats per day with her final three heats taking place on Saturday.
Sunday will be the main day of racing at the event. The day begins with the C final for drivers who finish the heats in positions 66-100. The winner advances to the B final consisting of drivers who finish in positions 34-65 with the winner of that race joining the top 33 drivers in the main final to battle for the title of IAME International Champion.
Alyx will also be competing for the coveted X30 Lady title, awarded to the highest placed female racer at the competition. She is the first Irish girl to qualify for the event and will be vying with 12 other girls to take that trophy home.
Having recently started in first year at Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara, I asked Alyx what they made of her extra-curricular activities at her new school.
She replied “My principal told me she has been reading about me in the Leinster Leader all year, so at least when I said I was going to France for a week she knew I wasn't’going to Disneyland!”