Quite possibly the best year for CKN yet! I captured and covered 31 races this season all over Canada, the USA, Europe and even South America. So I thought I would recap each of them with a quick memory from each event and a key personal moment that I recall.
Enjoy and thanks for a great season!
Florida Winter Tour Round #1 – Palm Beach Karting, Jupiter, FL
A new era of the Florida Winter Tour kicked off our year with Rok Cup USA returning the popular winter karting program to a single-weekend format. Gone was Rotax Max after more than a decade of being in the FWT spotlight. Indycar driver Robert Wickens bested BirelART factory driver Marjin Kremers in Qualifying and took the race win after Kremers was accessed a penalty following the finish.
Key Moment: Won’t lie, it was kinda weird only being in Florida for one weekend after so many years doing back-to-backs. The shifter racing was phenomenal with a huge grid of racers.
Challenge of the Americas #1 – PKRA, Phoenix, AZ
The Rotax Max program on the west coast was also replaced by Rok Cup USA as the Challenge of the Americas started a new chapter of their book. Beautiful sunshine in Arizona and a good turnout helped make it a great debut for the engine program that was rarely seen on the west coast in 2017.
Key Moment: COA picked the perfect weekend to be in Phoenix. I was able to catch an NHL game as well as attend Supercross on Saturday night…if only we could get karting to the level that is Supercross at. Could you imagine a proper stadium kart race with 5000 fans?
Florida Winter Tour #2 – Ocala Gran Prix, Ocala, FL
The first CKN road trip of 2018 saw me jump in my Dads Chevy truck along with Grandma for a two-day journey to the sunshine state. Following the SKUSA Winter Series, the FWT rolled into OGP and put on their show where Antonio Serravalle sent a second Rok Shifter victory back to Canada.
Key Moment: For sure one of the best weeks of my year. Enjoyed every minute rolling down I-75 en route to Florida with my dad and Grandma, sharing conversations, laughs and getting to show them how far my career has come, something that they’ve both supported since Day 1.
Challenge of the Americas #2 – CalSpeed Karting, Fontana, CA
No rest after Ocala, I boarded a plane in Orlando and travelled back to the west coast. Visiting CalSpeed Karting at Autoclub Speedway for the first time, it felt awfully familiar to Homestead Karting…a semi-permanent parking lot circuit next to a Nascar oval, but it provided great action. Add is a cool custom car show and slalom course in the parking lot next door and it became one of our favourite events of the year.
Key Moment: Neelan and I found an awesome sandwich shop, in which we cannot wait to return to. It was also freaking cold and I needed to wear my winter jacket in California…so Sean Buur decided to take a photo of me looking like a beached whale. I also got a tour or the PCH with my buddy Jake Craig and felt like I was on the set of ‘The OC’.
Florida Winter Tour #3 – Orlando Kart Center, Orlando, FL
After three seasons away, the FWT returned to Orlando during March Break. Thomas Nepveu scored the race win in Rok Junior and closed the championship in third place. Ryan MacDermid also finished third in the Rok Senior Championship, while young Jordan Di Leo made his Rok Cup debut, taking the track in Micro Rok.
Key Moment: PSL Karting enters only three drivers for the FWT finale and for the first time in a very long time, they did not set up their big team tent. That didn’t stop them from taking the Senior Rok Championship and the Junior Rok race win though.
Challenge of the Americas #3 – Simraceway Performance Karting Center, Sonoma, CA
After a week off to celebrate my 30th birthday, CKN was back in the air en route for California. The COA ended their campaign with the highest turnout of drivers and Wine Country provided the perfect location for a thrilling season finale. Seriously, Sonoma may be the best location for a kart track!
Key Moment: Spending the day Thursday touring out the city of San Francisco, taking photos with a great friend and then capping it off by watching the Maple Leafs playoff game in a California restaurant that had only one TV and a number of people requesting to watch the baseball game, only to be denied because I got there first.
Coupe de Montreal #1 – SH Karting, Mont St-Hilaire, QC
Alas, the Canadian Karting Season was underway and so was the CKN Summer Tour. SH Karting was back on the Quebec karting scene, joining the Coupe de Montreal and hosting race 1. It also marked the return of the Coupe de Quebec, while the separation began between Karting Quebec and the APKLQ. A number of new helmets on track meant growth for the sport in the region that I easily consider the most passionate for motorsports.
Key Moment: Mathieu Demers switches back to Briggs Senior and shows the young guns how it’s done, cruising to victory.
Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge #1 – Goodwood Kartways, Stouffville, ON
Our first home race of the year. The first Rok Cup Canada race of the year. The first of many races at Goodwood Kartways this year. Perfect weather and excellent grids made for superb racing. One of the best races of the year.
Key Moment: There is nothing better than sleeping at home for race week and that very well could be the reason I enjoy races at Goodwood. David Patrick taking the win in Briggs Masters was awesome to see as well.
Pfaff Kartsport Cup #1 – Goodwood Kartways, Stouffville, ON
The Ontario replacement for the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. While it attracted a few extra Rok Cup racers, the Briggs 206 numbers declined as the two-day event seemed a little too much to handle for the four-strokers. Rain interrupted Saturday’s Qualifying sessions, but the sunshine returned on Sunday and two Finals for everyone was a nice change and a lot of racing.
Key Moment: Mackenzie Clark flying through the air and crashing hard into the timing building. Thankfully he was A-OK.
Western Canadian Karting Championship #1 – North Star Raceway, Strathmore, AB
The much anticipated Western Canadian Karting Championship raffled off their Rotax Max engines and held race one in Alberta. A few hiccups for sure, but overall a great start to the new venture for Scott Campbell, Scott Sinclair and Blake Choquer. The presence of Rotax Max reps Steven Chapman and Michel Boisclair was very appreciated by the racers as well.
Key Moment: Disappointment in the host Calgary Kart Racing Club as they chose to run their own event, with their own trophies, within the WCKC race weekend. Note to clubs, support these ventures!
Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge #2 – Canadian Mini Indy, Hamilton, ON
As the calendar turned to June I’ve come to realize there were A LOT of tracks and series that welcomed the return of an old track. Trevor Wickens and his crew did a great job preparing the Canadian Mini Indy for the first CRFKC event not at Mosport or Goodwood, and the karters loved it. Except for having to push their kart stands through loose gravel, but that will be fixed with time. It had been a long time since a major event took place at Hamilton, but we know it will be back in 2019, maybe with more than one major race?
Key Moment: Seeing and hearing all the memories that the karting community remembered from races at Hamilton, including when the track hosted the ASN Canadian Karting Championships.
Waterloo Regional Kart Club – Flamboro Speedway, Flamborough, ON
Getting back to my roots, CKN supported a club race day at the Waterloo Regional Kart Club, the club that I turned my first laps with way back in 1999! While plenty has changed, including track locations, the vision of club still remains the same and it shows with such a loyal club membership. A fun day for sure.
Key Moment: Having a father-son duo approach me and share that after following the sport on CKN for a while, they decided to buy a kart and race at the WRKC! How cool is that?!
Canadian Karting Challenge – Innisfil Indy, Gilford, ON
Always a fun day at the Innisfil Indy when Shifter Karts are on track and Rose is cooking in the kitchen. Seeing the next generation of Launi’s hitting the track as well shows the love and passion the Launi family has for karting.
Key Moment: Watching Marcello Paniccia, the smallest driver in Junior, wheel around a shifter kart was impressive. He could barely hold on but took next to no time getting up to speed!
Valley Karting Series – Le Circuit Quyon, Quyon, QC
A bonus race on the CKN Summer Tour. I added this one last minute and won’t lie, I barely made it. After spending the prior evening celebrating with a different karting family, I hit the road at 3:00 AM and rolled into Quyon just before drivers meeting. The race day flew by and before I knew it, I was back on the road for my 5-hour journey home.
Key Moment: I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, even with only a couple hours sleep in my system. Quyon has such a dedicated group of racers and with a little luck, their club will continue to grow in future race seasons.
CKRA Summer Fest – East Coast Karters, Dieppe, NB
Family road trip number two, once again featuring my Grandma, but this time swapping in my Mother and leaving Dad at home. Embarking on a journey out east, many incredible laughs were had and sights were taken in. The two-day CKRA Summerfest was a blast, where weather played a huge factor. I also jumped back in a kart and was reminded once again why I’m still better off being a photographer. Zachary Hitchcock, Danny Chisholm and Aaron Kennedy took home the race victories. Hopefully, in 2019, a few more drivers from Quebec and Ontario can make the journey as well and be a part of this spectacle!
Key Moment: The East Coast hospitality is something I’ve come to look forward to and I’ll never forget the look on my Grandmothers face as we crossed the bridge to Prince Edward Island, or the conversations my Mother had with Rhonda Kelly, owner of the Apothic Inn and mom of Nathan Kelly. If you are ever considering a weekend away out east, be sure to look into the Apothic Inn for an exceptional Bed and Breakfast experience!
Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge #3 – Mosport Kartways, Clarington, ON
The first stop on the Summer of Mosport and boy was it a heatwave. Temperatures soared well into the 30’s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for two days. Marco DiLeo came out of “retirement” and scored a last lap victory in Rok Senior while Zain Ikram earned Pfaff Driver of the Day after his victory in Briggs Junior.
Key Moment: Unfortunately the Briggs Senior Championship lost a contender when Marco Signoretti was forced to withdraw from the Final with heat stroke. Walking to the grid shortly after his Senior Rok race, the Energy Corse driver collapsed and required some medical attention and cooling. His fellow racers were kind enough to allow him some time to recover, but making the ultimate decision to sit out was the smart decision by Signoretti and his team.
Rotax US Open of New Jersey – NJMP, Millville, NJ
Under the guidance of SRA Karting, The United States Rotax Max Challenge hosted their only event of the season. Raffled engines helped draw a great turnout of drivers, with Mini, Junior and Senior nearly selling out. Canadians Thomas Nepveu and Samuel Lupien put on a show in the Finals, taking the Junior and Senior race victories and punching their tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals in Brazil.
Key Moment: I thought I ruined my camera on the morning of Qualifying. The heat and humidity were so high that all my lenses and even the camera sensor fogged up, so I decided to try and manually dry it with a towel…bad idea. Folks, don’t do that.
OVRP Rok Cup Festival – Oakland Valley Raceway Park, Oakland Valley, NY
Although it conflicted with the second stop of the Pfaff Kartsport Cup, I chose to attend the OVRP Rok Cup Festival in Eastern New York. Putting more mileage on my Chevy Equinox, it was one of the only events I may have regretted attending. The attendance was sub-par and I couldn’t believe only two Canadian drivers entered, given it’s close proximity to both Ontario and Quebec. But I guess that’s what happens when race dates conflict.
Key Moment: Regardless of the number of entries, the Rok Cup USA staff is like family to me and always a pleasure to work with. I really love attending and supporting their events.
Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge #4 + Briggs Summer Festival – Mosport Kartways, Clarington, ON
The best-attended Canadian event of the season! Saturday may have been the most unpredictable weather Mosport has ever seen, and Sunday proved why the CRFKC could work as a two-day race weekend format with additional entries rolling in just for the standalone Briggs 206 event.
Key Moment: I almost spoiled the surprise visit by Briggs & Stratton technical members David Klaus and Dan Pellizzari before the event. The two continue to recognize the Ontario karting scene as one of their biggest competition sectors and provided an elevated level of technical inspection after the largest turnout of the season.
ASN Canadian Karting Championships – Mosport Kartways, Clarington, ON
While I don’t agree that the event should be held at the same track in successive years, Mosport, like Tremblant, is a spectacular host for the event. The racing is top-notch, the vibe on Sunday in special, and the emotions shown at the podium are real, regardless of who is in attendance and where they came from.
Key Moment: While it is incredible to see the celebrations of victory, I will remember this day for what happened to Robert Wickens in the Indycar race at Pocono. A friend not only to me but the entire karting industry, Robert’s injuries were felt throughout the paddock and we all wish him the best in his long recovery.
Western Canadian Karting Championship #3 – Greg Moore Raceway, Chilliwack, BC
From the east to the west, I quickly wrapped up my Nationals reports and flew out to British Columbia for the WCKC finale. Chilliwack is known for its crappy weather and it showed with cold and rain on and off all weekend. The racing was great, but a number of protests and appeals after the final checkered flag flew kept many people at the track much later than needed before the podiums were finally completed in the dark.
Key Moment: Sorting photos on the plane from Nationals, I stopped on my drive to Chilliwack to find wifi in order to upload the digital photo packages. Boston Pizza came through in the clutch. Unfortunately, a memory card and hard drive issue after the race weekend caused me to lose all of the photos I took on Friday/Saturday in BC. #LearnedMyLesson
Rotax Canadian Open Championship – Jim Russell Karting Academy, Mont-Tremblant, QC
Visiting my third province in as many weeks, I made my first stop of the year in Mont-Tremblant. While the Canadian Open didn’t quite attract as many drivers as I expected, especially given the Rotax Grand Finals tickets that were on the line, the competition was still fierce. Aboard raffle engines, Senior Max stood out as the feature event and even a wild rain storm on Sunday couldn’t take the wind out of the sails of another great event in Mont-Tremblant.
Key Moment: Those that know me, know that I take advantage of an extra day in Tremblant to play a round of golf or two on their pristine courses. If you like golf and karting, I suggest moving to Mont-Tremblant for their summers.
Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge #5 – Goodwood Kartways, Stouffville, ON
Two races in one day? Sure, why not! The annual doubleheader at Goodwood was by far the fastest pace kart race of the year. Crowning the CRFKC champions in the morning’s races and then flipping the track direction, turning on the lights and going to battle at night was for sure a highlight, even if my fingers froze and my camera batteries died a little quicker than normal.
Key Moment: Seeing the drivers that have put in the work all season long to get better score their best results at the final major race of the year.
CAN-AM Karting Challenge – Pat’s Acres Race Complex, Canby, OR
It was the end of the era for the CAN-AM Karting Challenge as the final event of the series before being rebranded by IKF was held at the coolest circuit in the USA. Pat’s Acres Race Complex, owned by the Egger family, is a uniquely located racing facility with a river flowing around the back half of the circuit, trees inside and outside the tight corner complexes and just about the perfect flow for both four-cyle and two-cycle racing.
Key Moment: I look forward to visiting Oregon every year, as just like the East Coast, my karting family in the Pacific Northwest are so fun and accommodating. Never a dull moment in Oregon!
Coupe de Montreal Championship Finale – Jim Russell Karting Academy, Mont-Tremblant, QC
With a snap of my fingers, it felt like September was over. It started and ended in Mont-Tremblant with both races featuring completely different crowds. An excellent turnout of drivers from the province of Quebec helped cap off their stellar season with the crowning of the Karting Quebec and Coupe de Montreal Champions. The Boisclair family does a lot to host great events and boost the morale and it’s obvious by the vibe in the paddock.
Key Moment: The sheer number of people that surrounded my table just waiting for their chance to view and order photos was exhilarating. I’m so thankful for the support of the industry and those that help keep me in business.
WRKC Oktoberfest Grand Prix – Flamboro Speedway, Flamborough, ON
We don’t often have a fog delay in karting, but it was needed at Flamboro on this race day. A low setting cloud decided to eliminate visibility, even on the small kart circuit inside the Flamboro oval, but it did provide a very cool photo op! Rain also challenged the WRKC racers on this day and I crowned each of the race winners as CKN Drivers of the Day!
Key Moment: Since I started racing in 1999, I haven’t missed too many Oktoberfest GPs. This is one race each year I do my absolute best to attend and support, for many reasons, but one of them being that it was the first ever kart race I attended in 1997!
Rok Cup International Final – South Garda Karting, Lonato, IT
One of the reasons I like the Rok Cup program in Canada is that each year Rok Cup Champions and racers get the chance to compete at South Garda Karting in Italy, unofficial home of karting. A spectacular circuit, a massive event with over 450 entries, and the city of Desenzano only minutes away make this a personal favourite of mine as well. OTK always pulls out all the stops for this event and as long as there are Canadian drivers competing in this race, I will be in attendance.
Key Moment: When the idea hit me to bring back the CKN livery kit, I had a hard time picking which driver to use it. Full props to Dale Curran for not only showing the Rok Cup world how fast he is but also representing the CKN brand up front all week in Italy. The Final may not have gone how it should have, but the world still took notice.
10 Hours of Goodwood – Goodwood Kartways, Stouffville, ON
When Daniel DiLeo first pitched this idea to me, I wondered what the result would be, come race day. Months later, with inches of snow on the ground and only minutes before the drop of the green flag, I wondered why the heck we chose to race at Goodwood in October. And later that evening as I sat at the airport getting ready to fly to Las Vegas, I concluded that the ’10 Hours of Goodwood’ was one of the coolest races of my year!
Key Moment: The snowy morning became the great equalizer and for sure added to the excitement. I do feel bad that I had to leave with three hours left in the race, but Las Vegas was calling my name and I’d had enough of being frozen in the scoring tower.
Rok Cup USA Rok the Rio – Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Viva Las Vegas! Canadians control Rok Senior all week long with Zachary Claman DeMelo qualifying on the pole position and Ryan MacDermid scoring the win on the final lap. It felt great to be back at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and with over 200 entries, it was an action-packed week of racing on a simple yet effective temporary track layout.
Key Moment: There was no shortage of walking in Las Vegas as I trekked 117,000 steps and 88.5 KM during the Rok the Rio week.
SKUSA SuperNationals XXII – Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Deja Vu. With one weekend in between, I headed back to the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for SKUSA’s SuperNationals 22. While the location was the same, just about everything was different and with over 500 drivers on track throughout the week, it surely was a long one. Delays after delays after delays made for very long days at the track for everyone from drivers to team managers to members of the media. But come Super Sunday, that vibe we’ve all come to love about the SuperNats was in full effect.
Key Moment: By far one of the highlights of the season for me was seeing Ben Cooper take the checkered flag in IAME X30 Senior. Having not raced in two years, Cooper was persuaded to race the SuperNats and it paid off with a supreme drive to the top of the podium!
Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Paladino International Circuit, Conde, Brazil
Capping off a hectic end to the season that featured more than 50 hours of flying to different race events around the world, I arrived in Conde, Brazil for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. Won’t lie, this trip almost didn’t happen, but thanks to the support of BRP Rotax, I made it and I’m so happy I did. The track was phenomenal, located on a huge hill. I got my steps and stairs in that week! The event each year is a reminder to me how unique the Rotax Grand Finals is compared to every other kart race. The kart raffle of nearly 400 brand new karts and engines, the massive tent home to every driver and the straight up equal opportunities the drivers and mechanics are presented, making it a race that stands out annually from the rest.
Key Moment: While security was a big concern going into Brazil, it wasn’t once I arrived. Joao Pessoa was a beautiful beach region for all the drivers and families to stay and while the security guards at the track may have looked scary, they were just doing their job and were always willing to crack a smile.