Alastair Flynn, Capital Karts
Ellen Forster

Britain’s largest indoor motor racing track gears up for £2m turnover

After transforming a derelict factory in East London into Britain’s largest indoor motor racing track 18 months ago, Capital Karts is on track to turnover £2m this year.

The former insulation factory near Barking had stood empty and unloved for three years before being totally transformed into the venue for Capital Karts – with a circuit larger than the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

Around 500 visitors now pour through the doors every weekend and the track plays hosts to many high flying corporate away days.

But just two years ago it was a very different story with the site being regarded by many east Londoners as something of a blot on the landscape.

Its location by the side of the A13 meant it was seen by thousands of passing motorists every day and it had even become a venue for illegal parties and rave style events.

Since the previous occupiers had moved out around 2010 the 110m by 75m shell had fallen into disrepair with holes in the roof and graffiti adorning the outside walls.

Yet it was exactly what friends Matt Holyfield and Alastair Flynn were looking for as they searched for a location for their new business in 2013.

The pair, both motor sport fans, had spent six months scouring London, looking for a possible site to build the UK’s biggest and best state of the art indoor karting circuit.

But despite investigating several possibilities they always found reasons not to proceed – until they found the site in Barking.

Matt said: “We both love motor sport and go-karting but we felt there was a real gap in the market for a large, professionally equipped indoor circuit in London.

“We knew our site had to be close enough to the City and Canary Wharf to appeal to corporate clients, but we also needed it to be close to a major arterial road and have plenty of car parking space.

“We looked closely at several possible venues but none was quite right until we found this one.”

At the time both men were working in full time jobs and had no track record of setting up or running their own business.

Matt said: “When we found the site it was in a horrendous state. The roof was falling in and the whole place was in terrible condition. There was no electricity, no utilities whatsoever. But we knew we could make it great.”

Matt and Alistair faced three major challenges to make their dream a reality. First they had to convince the landlord to lease them the building at a commercially viable rate, then they had to convince Barking and Dagenham Council to approve a change of use, and then they had to raise the cash for the refurbishment. What’s more they had to tackle all three issues at the same time.

Matt said: “There was some skepticism at first which was understandable. After all we are two youngish guys with no history of running a business and the plan to open a huge indoor race track in what was then something of a dump did sound a little far-fetched.

“It must have sounded like something of a pipe dream when we first presented our plans, but we stuck at it and people could see we were serious.”

By August 2013 the pair had managed to raise half a million pounds to fund the project without the help of the banks. The landlord agreed to the deal and the planners came onside with a change of use permission.

Matt said: “Barking and Dagenham Council were brilliant and very willing to accommodate us as we tried to create something new and vibrant which would bring people into the area.

“That was when the hardwork really started. I quit my job to project manage the build and had up to 28 different contractors on site at any given time.

“Converting a warehouse into a track was a real challenge especially when you consider that its floor space is bigger than the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

“It was three and a half months of extremely tough work with both Alastair and I working seven day weeks to get the place converted.

“We had a committed team working with us but there was absolutely no question of us not rolling up our sleeves and mucking in.

“We threw everything at it and totally transformed the place opening in November 2013 although we still didn’t have electricity and had to use a generator for the first three months.”

Getting the business open was just the first stage in a process, which required continued investment.

Matt said: “All the profits for the first year were driven back into the business. We were constantly fine tuning and improving.”

Matt said: “Looking back it was a hugely stressful process but it was all worth it in the end and the feeling of seeing the place full up with hundreds of people all having a great time is hugely rewarding.”

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