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The Tillett Story

The Beginning

Steve Tillett started in karting in 1978. The arrival of new sticky tyres gave him and others many problems with bruised ribs, caused mainly by badly fitting seats.

A vintage and veteran car upholsterer by trade, Steve's father Alec, covered the first ever "Tillett Seat" by sticking a fabric used in motor vehicle floor mats as a lining on to the seat. It seemed to work really well, not only holding the driver secure but it stopped the continual sliding around. By taking the hard edge off the hard fibreglass shell, it made the karts aggressive cornering speeds less damaging to the body.

Design Evolution

When the padding was introduced underneath the cover, bruising became almost non-existent and the large lumps that were accepted as normal after a days racing had disappeared. Not long after that, seats were being covered for friends, all of them instantly feeling the benefits. Then while assisting his friend, Richard Weatherley in various European and World Championship races, Steve acquired experience in an arena with even higher levels of grip and demands on the drivers' bodies.

Now Steve was starting to sell the covering service to traders and local competitors. Fibreglass shells were designed to give more support and strength, and the first Tillett Seats were born.

Success in Japan

Towards the end of the 1986 season, Richard, racing with the help of ex World Champion Terry Fullerton, both went to a major race in Japan, taking the special covered seats with them. After the meeting, the enthusiastic Japanese bought the seats and the largest Japanese dealer in karting equipment, placed an order for 100 seats.

The time was now right to split from his father's firm and set up Tillett Racing Seats as a separate company. Since that time the seat range has grown into at least 60 separate shapes and sizes, with a choice of colours, and from 1990, three different rigidities have been available. Altering the rigidity was found to change the handling of the kart and can bring about significant differences in lap times.

Innovations and Race Service

Tillett Racing Seats also pushes ahead the development of the products by competing and testing amongst the World's top drivers. Steve and his daughter Laura travel all over Europe to develop the products in the most competitive arena possible. Along with this they have constant contact with the top international race teams, manufacturers and drivers. This keeps the product up to date with the latest chassis trends and ahead of the competition. Over the years the list of drivers helped and sponsored by Tillett Racing Seats reads like a who's who of the current motor racing elite. Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Hekki Kovalinen, Robert Kubica, Jenson Button, Paul Di Resta, Anthony Davidson and the late Daniel Wheldon; these are just some of the drivers who used Tillett seats while racing karts.

Out of this racing development program came the Ribtec rib protector range, once again the effect of this company's innovation changed forever the design of this product worldwide and now all effective rib protectors have their roots in the original Tillett products.

In 1996 innovations in the RTM process were to significantly speed up production and improve product quality and in 2000 a cutting robot was acquired to further mechanise the process, speeding up production and increasing the accuracy of the finished parts.

The Business

Tillett Racing Seats has now grown from a one man operation in a garage, to a company comprising of six factory units totalling 14,000 square feet with a current workforce of 25. There is now a Tillett dealer in most karting countries throughout the world and the product has the distinction that all covered kart seats, even the copies, are called a "Tillett", in the same fashion as a Stanley knife, Hoover and Philips screwdriver.

Almost every single kart seat being sold today has its origins in a Tillett shape.

New Ventures

Developing the technology to produce carbon composite kart seats accurately and efficiently has opened doors to other industries. Tillett Ltd. is now producing many carbon parts and seats for Caterham cars and now has a new range of lightweight carbon fibre car seats named from B1 to B7.

Tillett seats are always open to other uses for the seats and they have been used in many different applications over the years, from racing power boats, autograss racing, auto gyros, cross Atlantic rowing boats, horse carts, microlights, paraplegic sailing, ski bobs, rocking horses and were even used in James Bond's ice racer on Die Another Day, the tank in Goldeneye and the attack sub in the Gi Joe film.

However, Steve Tillett will never let the business loose sight of its racing roots. He is regularly with his son Archie karting and daughter Laura, now racing cars, testing and developing the products.

You can see Laura's web site at www.lauratillett.com

Laura Tillett at the 2009 Super KF World Championship in Macau

Laura Tillett was the first British girl to ever compete at the World Championship of karting in the premiere class. (photo by Chris Walker)

Steve and Laura Tillett
Steve and Laura Tillett


An early Tillett Seat


The first Tillett Order


2014 World Champion Lando Norris

Laura Tillett
Laura Tillett

Archie Tillett 2014
Archie Tillett