By Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance Times
Levi “Leadfoot” Klatt has plans to be a professional race car driver.
“I am really dead set, it is my ultimate goal to make a living off of racing,” said the Langley teen.
Levi, who is starting Grade 11 at D.W. Poppy Secondary this fall and has been accepted into Aldergrove Community Secondary’s Young Training automotive program for the second semester, started in quarter-midget racing, but now he drives two cars in two different classes – restricted and open mini-sprints.
So far, he’s on the right track… a lot of tracks, actually.
And later this year, one of those tracks will have his father, Jeremiah Franklin, on it. They’ll be racing against each other in Placerville, Calif. this November, shortly after Levi has his 16th birthday and qualifies to race in his dad’s class.
“It’s amazing. It’s going to be a great time,” said Levi, “I’ve always wanted to run against him.”
Asked if he thinks he can beat his dad, Levi answers, “It’s the plan.”
And then he adds, “I hope.”
But Dad, who has been racing since he was 18, is on a mission to win that race: “I’m hoping to [beat Levi],” said Jeremiah. “Otherwise I’m going to eat a lot of crow. I’m hoping that the experience is going to overtake the youth and enthusiasm.”
He knows it’s not necessarily going to be easy to cross the finish line ahead of his son.
“He’s full-bore,” said Jeremiah of Levi. “He’s out there working on the car every day. He basically lives and breathes it. I think he loves it even more than I do, and I like it a lot.”
The competition is definitely friendly, however. The two will be heading south together for the race, and they’ll be able to lighten the load of necessary spare parts – from tires to tie rods – by sharing between their two cars.
And they are also members of each other’s pit crews, as is wife and mother, Dolly Klatt.
Sharing is a part of the racing culture, in the circles they travel in anyway. Even at races closer to home, “everybody knows everybody,” said Jeremiah, and they’ll help each other out in a pinch.
“Somebody will have stuff to help you out if you run into trouble,” he said. “It gets pretty cutthroat when you get out on the track… [but]… Everybody helps everybody. You’d rather beat them on the race track than have them break down.”
Levi, who has been racing since he was seven years old, has enjoyed all the benefits of his father’s 20 years of racing experience – and his mother’s, too.
Dolly used to race against Jeremiah back in the day. And years ago, her mom and dad both raced at Langley Speedway, at Kent Raceway, (now Agassiz Speedway) and at some of the Washington and Oregon venues where Levi now races.
He has difficulty explaining just what it is about the sport that he finds so attractive. “It’s hard to describe… it’s just amazing. You get out on the track and there’s nothing like it, it’s hard to explain. I just love it. It’s been in my family for years.”
The six-foot-two-inch teen practically has to fold himself into the small but powerful cars he drives.
He’s “slim enough to squeeze in, so it’s quite comfortable, actually.”
Once he’s in the driver’s seat, he’s in control of up to 100 or more horsepower that can achieve 70 miles per hour.
And if his dad has any say in it, Levi will need every ounce of that power on the track in California in November.
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