Malpas finds true calling on the race track
Jaden Malpas has tried his hand at most sports — motorcycle racing, gymnastics and volleyball to name just a few.
It is karting, however, that has fuelled his interest the most, with the 15-year-old Saltus Grammar School pupil in the midst of his second season racing in the Tag Junior class.
Malpas, by his own admission, is more cautious than gung-ho, but is slowly closing the gap on Jorja Thomas and Ashley Horseman, the runaway leaders, as he becomes more comfortable behind the wheel.
“It’s very an interesting sport,” said Malpas, who was named Rookie of Year last season.
“There’s a lot of controversy and it’s fun. Everyone’s friends [in the class] and what happens on the track stays on the track. It’s definitely my favourite sport.”
It was Thomas who introduced Malpas to karting, encouraging him to take her kart for a spin around the Rubis Southside Raceway in St David’s and experience the thrill of the sport. Malpas, who claimed his first podium during the previous race day, was immediately bitten by the karting bug.
“Jaden was racing bikes, which his mom didn’t like — she’d sooner four wheels,” his father, David Malpas, said.
“He’s slowly coming out of his comfort zone, as he’s quite a cautious driver. He’s getting to the point where a lot of the experienced drivers are saying that he’s improving and definitely on the next step.
“I’m trying to get him to be a bit more aggressive and assertive, but his mom is like, ‘No, he’s just fine the way he is!’.”
His mechanical knowledge might be rudimentary, but David has embraced his role as Jaden’s engine tuner and says the past 1½ years have been just as steep of a learning curve for him as it has for his son.
“I can only do so much, as I’m not a mechanic per se,” he said. “I often go to Mike Corrado, Mikey Lopes or Reggie [Horseman for advice].
“At the beginning, it was a bit stressful because I was new and didn’t know what was happening. It’s got a lot easier and a lot more fun. It’s a family-oriented sport and everybody is really helpful and willing to point you in the right direction, especially when it comes to the kids.”
It is certainly a family affair for the Malpas’s on race day, with Jaden’s mother, Gloria, volunteering as a scorer in addition to being in charge of checking that each kart is not underweight.
“After watching the first race, I realised I was not cut out to simply watch,” Gloria said.
“My anxiety is in overdrive when Jaden’s driving. That’s why I got into volunteering; I can’t just sit there and watch!
“It not only gives me something to do, but it shows Jaden and his sister [Maya] that it’s fun and interesting to help out. You also get to know what’s going on in their lives.”
Despite her jitters, Gloria admits she missed the camaraderie and family atmosphere generated during race day and was delighted when the season opener came around.
“We’ve made a lot of friends at the track,” she said. “Believe it or not, I did miss it in the summer. Every two weeks, it’s something we’re guaranteed to do together. Each driver has their little camp site and pit area. Everyone comes down and congregates: you have the aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. It’s a whole big camp site for families and everyone intermingles and gets along with each other.”
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