As the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016 a year ago, the name Ryan MacDermid was known more for the funny little kid running around the paddock and making friends than he was for his results on the actual race track itself. But after two weeks back in January in Homestead, Florida to start the year, followed by the hard hitting waves of results he scored all year long, the name Ryan MacDermid is now a driver to watch at every single race he enters.
Learning the hard way may be how MacDermid earned many of his successes this season, but there is no disputing he put in the effort thanks to the group that was around him and earned the respect of his competitors along the way.
No less than three times in 2016 MacDermid came painstakingly close to a major success, only to have it stripped from cold his hands, sometimes his fault, sometimes not. And on all three occasions, MacDermid immediately put it behind him and delivered a major result shortly thereafter.
Only a few know that MacDermid failed to qualify for the Florida Winter Tour Rotax Junior Final at Homestead in 2015 before he qualified on the pole-position, won heat races and finished second at the same race a year later. That injection of confidence turned MacDermid into the threat that contended for international championships all year long.
After a heartbreak finish to the Florida Winter Tour Championship in March that saw the young Canadian withdraw from the final race whilst leading with a engine issue, he returned to Canada to dominate. He swept the opening round of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship at Goodwood and continued the winning in round two at ICAR.
Back in the USA in early summer, MacDermid took to the US Open by MaxSpeed Entertainment. At the second round in Utah, he was once again out front and earning enough points to put him in position for the Rotax Grand Finals ticket. But there was another moment of heartbreak as a crash while racing for the lead ended with MacDermid pointing the wrong way and another missed opportunity to qualify for Italy.
A month later he delivered another ECKC victory and a heads-up runner-up finish at Mosport to finally secure the ECKC title and his first invitation to the Rotax Grand Finals to represent his country.
Recovering from the hardest of losses may have helped MacDermid the most when he arrived in Italy for the Rotax Grand Finals. Competing against the best Junior Rotax drivers from around the world, MacDermid stepped up and delivered in Qualifying, putting Canada on the pole-position for the first time ever in category. Given the hurricane of weather changes that occurred in the following days, MacDermid’s speed held him back from showing his true potential at the race as slick tires in a rain-showered PreFinal ended his chances of making the Final event and taking a shot at the world podium.
Only two weeks later, MacDermid was back in action at the US Open of Las Vegas and while he came up only a few feet short of the overall race victory, his second place finish and string of consistent top-finishes in the heat races was enough to crown him the US Open Champion.
And now with 2017 just around the corner, MacDermid has joined Canada’s most powerful karting team, PSL Karting, for a big season of racing. However he has also moved on from his long time mechanic and driver coach, Wesley Schindel. Only time will tell how the adjustment goes.
Continuing our conversations with Canada’s top drivers in 2016, we had a chat with Ryan about his entire race season.
Looking back at the first race of the year in Florida, what were your goals for the 2016 season?
RM: At the end of 2015, racing at the US Open in Las Vegas I was edging in to the top-five, which made my goal for the Winter Tour to get into the top-five. After getting the results I did in Florida Winter Tour showed me that my goal for ECKC should be top-three. But my most important goal was to earn a ticket to the Rotax Max Grand Finals in Italy, earning that would be a huge achievement for me.
Describe the feelings you felt in West Palm Beach after the heartbreaking loss of the Florida Winter Tour Championship?
RM: The feelings that I got in West Palm were very tough to deal with, up until that point I’ve never felt so upset with my racing. However all those emotions made me want to win everything. We cut our losses, took it as a learning experience and moved on to the future races with no doubt in our minds we would be right back out front. I knew we could make a strong comeback after the fluke that cost us the championship at PBIR.
After a very impressive winter season, what changed when you returned to Canada for the ECKC season?
RM: The experience I gained at the Florida Winter Tour was a huge turning point in my driving career. I went from that previous year, where I was not qualifying well and battling mid-pack every race, to having a great chance at winning a championship. After proving myself over the winter in Florida, I had more confidence then ever coming back to racing at home and I really believe that made biggest difference for me.
If there was one trait you learned in 2016 that has made you a better driver, what was it and why?
RM: I have learned that I must be confident in my driving. If I am not confident going ontrack I will not perform to my maximum capabilities. Nothing else will come together for you if you don’t believe from the start that you can win.
ECKC Champion, US Open Champion, Pole Position at the Florida Winter Tour and the Rotax Grand Finals. Which highlight of your season stands out and why?
RM: The highlight of my season was qualifying on the pole position at the Rotax Grand Finals in Sarno, Italy. It was the greatest feeling to see the efforts of my mechanic, my family, and my hard work pay off at one of the biggest races in the world. Even though we did not finish the weekend the way we wanted, it was still an honour to be the first Canadian to qualify on Pole at the Rotax Max Grand Finals in Rotax Junior. It was an experience that I will never forget.
Planning ahead for 2017, you joined PSL Karting late in the season. How was that transition for the final two races of the year?
RM: My first two races with PSL were fantastic! I instantly felt great on the chassis. We had very good results in US open and in the SKUSA Supernats. I’m looking forward to the start of the Florida Winter Tour, at that point I will have plenty more time in the seat of the BirelART chassis and with the progression they have had in the past year I have no doubt we can pull a few championships as a team together.