Paralympian Grant “Scooter” Patterson has traded pool laps for racetrack laps as he pursues a new sporting challenge in 2022 – competitive go-kart racing.

The self-confessed ‘adrenaline junkie’ from Cairns says he’s always had a need for speed and will be a fierce competitor behind the wheel.

“With karting, the fear factor is there, the adrenaline…I love going fast,” Patterson said.

“As an athlete I am very competitive, competitive in any sport like table tennis or spearfishing, swimming.

This motivation helped him win silver and bronze medals in swimming at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, which, along with his larrikin persona, catapulted him to cult hero status.

Patterson won silver and bronze medals at the Tokyo Games last year.(Supplied by: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia)

Karting racing is often the training ground for ambitious Formula 1 (F1) drivers, and although the 32-year-old admits he may have left his race a bit late, he still has big ambitions .

“I think maybe I’m too old and not rich enough, but we’ll see what happens.

“Everyone has to have goals. If you don’t have goals, there’s no point in doing anything.”

Build a custom ride

Getting in a car and on the track was no small feat for the little dynamo either.

It took 12 months to build his bespoke speed machine.

“It took us a little while to put the kart together because I’m different. They don’t make cars for dwarves,” he said.

Custom built kart with chrome pedal extensions and green and red racing decal
Patterson’s go-kart took 12 months to build and was specially modified with pedal extensions and other custom features.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

Patterson has formed a partnership with Michael Peake, a kart track veteran with more than 40 years of experience as a race car driver and kart mechanic.

Mr Peake said building a car to accommodate Patterson’s dwarfism had been a unique and rewarding experience.

“He’s a little short, so it was all about getting pedal extenders, getting the seat in the right place for him, making pedal boxes close enough for him to work on,” he said. .

Scooter Patterson looks off camera
Patterson works on his car in the pits at Mako International Racecourse at Mareeba, west of Cairns.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

He has been impressed with Patterson’s progress in the sport so far and sees his commitment to improving as the driving factor.

“It’s what you put into what you get and the potential he’s showing right now with the speed he’s progressed in such a short time, I think he’s doing extremely well,” said Mr Peake.

“So we have a bit of work to do so there will be a lot of talk on track and off track and I think by the end of the year he will be there or thereabouts.

Go karter on race track
Patterson races down the straight at Mako International Racecourse.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

Family support is a driving force

Despite the obvious challenges of living with a disability, Patterson possesses enormous self-confidence and credits his parents for his positive outlook on life.

“A big thank you to my parents for giving me a solid foundation when I was a little guy, I’m still little,” he said with his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Scooter talk with his mom
Patterson says her parents encourage her to pursue her dreams.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

“I always strive to do my best and I think I’m energized by people who say, ‘you can’t do that. [it] makes me want to do more and go harder and faster.

“I tell everyone to give 158% and that’s all you can do, as long as you try.”

While Patterson’s accomplishments and antics at last year’s Tokyo Paralympics won him a legion of supporters, his mother Shelley Patterson says his family are his biggest fans.

“We’re very proud…we have great respect for him and I’m sure other people have as much, but we’re absolutely so proud of all of his accomplishments,” she said.

Patterson scooter sitting on a quad on the beach
Patterson plans to represent Australia in swimming later this year. (ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

Ms Patterson admits to having had a few heart-to-mouth moments watching him on the track, but she says her son’s new racing adventure is typical of his inspiring and spirited approach to life.

“I think he likes the adrenaline rush and the speed,” she said.

“If you set goals and try everything, that’s all people can ask of anyone, isn’t it, that you’re trying.”

While Patterson hopes to make his mark as a racing driver, he won’t give up swimming and is training with the aim of representing Australia at the World Para Swimming Championships in Portugal later this year.