Each day, Ben will do his best to provide us with a blog post from what has happened. As Captain Canada, Ben is working with all of our drivers to help achieve the best results and bring our great country of drivers together as one. Follow along each day.
In Closing – The Rotax Grand Finals is Still The Best Event in the Karting World
The Rotax Grand Final is over for another year and as I am writing this, most people including myself, are back home or on their way to Las Vegas. So what can we say about this years GF’s? It is still by far the best event in the world of karting. A lot has been said about Rotax over the last couple of years, but no one can argue that the GF’s is spectacular. The Olympics of Karting. I guess those who would disagree with that point, would be people who have never been before or people who have attended and not done well. What else can be said? This year was a tough year for North Americans, but I think that can be put down to the teams being filled with drivers attending for their first time. That alone is a good thing.
This year it was our Senior Rotax’s that really stood out, which has not been the norm since I have been part of the Canadian set up. Apart from ZCD (Zachary Claman DeMelo) in 2014, we have struggled to have success in the category. This year three out of our four drivers made the Final and in all fairness to Logan Cusson, it wasn’t down to him as to why he didn’t make it. If it wasn’t for some idiot coming from nowhere and driving over the top of him whilst he was already in the middle of a corner, things could have been very different and we could well have had all four drivers in the final.
Ryan “assistant captain” MacDermid continued on from his strong performance last year in Junior Max. He qualified second overall and went on to finish a solid eighth in the Final, which I think was his best race of the weekend. Marco Signoretti aka “Mr. Consistent” continued on from his strong showing at last years GF’s. Every session on track he moved forward in the times and that continued in the races. He was in and out of the top 10 during the final, but unfortunately, a bumper penalty sent him all the way down to the back of the field. That, however, can not take away from his strong performance all week. Kellen Ritter has to be the most improved driver by far. At last years GF’s he really struggled and was nowhere near making the final. This year it never really looked in doubt except for a bumper penalty in one of the heats (that wasn’t his fault) made the pre final a little nail biting. If it wasn’t for that penalty he would have been fighting for the top-10 with Marco and Ryan.
I had the opportunity to try the new ROTAX THUNDER E KART. This wasn’t the first time that I have tried an electric kart, but this was the best one that I have driven. The developers know that there is a lot of work to do still and are very much emphasizing that this is still a prototype. One thing that can be said though, it is quick. The power is instantaneous and that was even with the long gear ratio. I would love to see what it feels like with the short gear ratio. Obviously, the weight is an issue, especially when it comes to stopping the kart and the handling of the kart, but that will change when the technology improves and the batteries improve. The coolest thing would have to be the boost button. A 5-second boost that gives you an instant 10kph, then after 15 seconds of recharge, its ready to be used again. What racing enthusiast doesn’t want a boost button?!
Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone involved in this year’s Team Canada. First to the drivers and their parents. If it wasn’t for those drivers and parents being committed to racing the Rotax brand, we all wouldn’t be there. Patrick Moreau is the unsung hero behind this team, just as I said last year, he works his butt off to organize all the clothing, registration and race suits. If it wasn’t for him it would be a lot more difficult for everyone. A big thanks have to go to ASN Canada, Paul and Cherie Cook. They supply each of our team drivers with a free international license for that event. I am almost sure that they are one of the only ASN’s in the world to do that for their drivers. Of course, huge thanks must go out to Rotax and all their partners for putting on, once again, an incredible event.
Last but not least, to Michel Boisclair. He just like Patrick is, an unsung hero. Everyone knows who Michel is, but not many people realize the hard work and effort he puts into this program. His constant motivation to do what is right for the sport is inspiring, especially when things have been difficult for him and Rotax in North America.
Finally, thank you Cody for letting me write my thoughts down and editing them to make it look like I know how to write.
Bennys Blog out for another year.
Day 5 – Good Qualifying and Mixed Heats, But I don’t like the push-back Bumpers
Over the last two days, we have seen qualifying and the heats take place. As usual, we have had some ups and downs all over the place.
Starting with qualifying, Justin and Ryan had very strong qualifying sessions with fifth and second overall. It has to be said that Ryan’s lap and performance was great going on from last years pole position in Junior. Prior to Ryan’s session, Rotax had attached a live feed camera to his kart for the previous two practice sessions. It just so happens that Ryan struggled for pace in those sessions, therefore, those of you who know Jason, Ryan’s dad, started to get his panic on. Here at the RGF’s, you cannot refuse a live feed camera from going on your kart, so no matter how much they tried, Ryan had to have the camera on his kart. Turns out that is wasn’t the camera’s fault why Ryan wasn’t so quick in the practice sessions before qualifying.
Another quick note has to be said about Qualifying. I was asked a lot during the qualifying sessions as to why everyone on the grid waits once the session starts. I explained that no one wants to be the rabbit at the head for the field especially when the draft is so important. If you do decide to head out first, by the time you start your quick laps, you get held up by everyone else coming out of the pits. If you do decide to wait, you get a maximum of two quick laps and you run the risk of getting held up in the big drafting pack.
Your damned if you do and damned if you don’t in qualifying.
Moving onto the heats. I would have to say that after the first set of heats it seemed like the Micro and Mini drivers were the smartest drivers in the paddock. They were using their brains and working together in the race to break the draft. When it comes to the rest of the categories, I think other parts of the human body took control. 17 drop down bumper penalties in one of the Senior Max heats. That’s almost half the grid. Logan Cusson received a bumper penalty and ended up finishing in the same spot. Keep in mind a bumper penalty is 10 seconds.
As for heats 2 and 3 for the rest of the categories, our Canadians had a mixture of results. Once again this year just like last, Marco Signoretti has impressed me. Steady away all week, one of the slowest in practice, but he and Darren White have methodically improved, resulting in a fourth-place finish in the last heat. I believe he and Ryan will start fourth and sixth, together in one of the Pre Finals tomorrow. Hopefully, they can hook up and move forward.
DD2 is normally where you would say Canada has been really strong in the past few years, but this year has been a different story. It’s been tough for the guys out there this week. The field is so tight that you cannot afford any errors out there. ZCD has been setting fastest laps out there but is stuck back in 18th as everyone else is pretty much in the same tenth. Its hard to move forward when there are hundredths between everyone. It also doesn’t help when you receive three bumper penalties in a row.
The racing here two years ago was carnage, especially the Juniors, like always.
Moving onto the bumper penalties. Now I understand why it was developed and introduced. The racing here two years ago was carnage, especially the Juniors, like always. This time last year the racing had improved a lot and although this year the racing is “cleaner” than two years ago, it is nowhere near as good as last year or as good as it should be. This leads me to think that the track is part of the issue. With the draft being so big, we are getting huge trains of karts racing together and when I analyze the track, we have three significant bottlenecks. Now, this is where the guy in front brakes, which leads the guy behind to brake a little earlier to stop running into the back for the driver in front. When you have this situation with a 10-kart train, obviously this driver in tenth has to brake a lot earlier, which in some cases is a 100m before the corner. With fields of 36, this makes it very hard for drivers not to make contact.
Ultimately, however, the drop-down bumpers are not the solution in my eyes. The way to solve our contact issues in racing is by teaching our drivers how to race properly and cleanly. Drivers need to show more respect when out on the track and realize that damaged parts cost their parents a lot of money. I remember in 2008 when I first won the GF’s I cried because in one practice because I bent axle and my dad was going to have to pay for it. I don’t see many drivers crying when they have cost their parents a few hundred euros.
Day 3 – More Practice and I Went for a Ride with CKN!
Two more practice sessions in the books on Tuesday. Things finally get real Wednesday with official qualifying and one heat race.
Like I said on CKN Live with Cody and Neelan, I see a lot of similarities in our team this year when I compare it to last year. We have the potential to have some good consistent finishes all throughout the weekend, possibly even a couple of podiums here and there. I also feel like, within reason, everyone is roughly where they should be. That may sound harsh but we have to at everything realistically. They are racing against 72 other champions from across the world, on the same equipment as those drivers.
One mistake on a qualifying lap could cost you 20 positions. These are the margins we are talking about!
Yesterday at the end of the day, I took Logan Cusson and Natael Canton on two half track walks. Basically through the technical sections. Logan was really struggling in the second to last corner. It’s the last time you slow down before the long straight, so if you’re not great there, you’re going to get eaten alive down the straight. Let’s hope he has sorted that today.
Natael wasn’t exactly struggling in one specific area. He was missing a little everywhere in the technical area. After walking a few corners we soon found, we think, a tenth or so in each. Let’s see how he goes.
Everyone needs to remember that qualifying isn’t super critical. Especially at a track like here where the draft is huge. Obviously qualifying up the front is great but finishing the final at the front is better.
Day 2 – Kart raffle, fitting and first practice
Since my last blog, two days have passed, the kart raffle and the first 2 practice sessions.
The kart raffle is something that impresses, I think, everyone. To see 360 karts lined up on track is insane. If you take an average cost of $10,000 per kart with a Micro being roughly $6,000 – $7,000 and a DD2 $12,000. Do the math and it works out as $3.6 million. Ridiculous!
The first couple of sessions for me are kind of nothing sessions. We only have transponders on for the second session so that is where we really see how everything is going. So the whole day everyone is in the dark until after session 2. Then either the panic sets in or the happiness sets in.
Previously when I have raced at the GF’s, I would only complete a handful of laps on day 1. The first session I would maybe do 5 laps then another 7 or 8 in the second session. You really have to try and manage your tires, just like Tyler was saying yesterday on Facebook live. You need to keep your tires good towards the end of practice as you don’t want to set your kart up as the tires are wearing out. Keep them fresh so it relates more towards new tires like in qualifying.
This year we had one difficulty which I don’t believe we have ever had when it comes to the kart fitting.
Justin Arseneau as we all know is kind of small. This year the Mini category is using a full-size kart whereas last years, like back home we used the cadet kart. So trying to get Justin to fit in the kart was very difficult.
Lucky enough Marc, his father, and Wes his mechanic had got everything prepared back home on what they would need to do, to fit Justin in the kart. We just needed to get everything approved by the chief technical inspector.
One of the problems was that Justin couldn’t fit in the kart with a full-size gas tank. Basically, his legs cannot fit around the tank. Therefore we needed to have the small gas tank approved, which it was.
Now the next problem.
Marc and Wes had brought the small Birel tank with them to use, which is perfect. One small little detail, however, was missing, they forgot the gas tank cap. Now we had to get another type of gas tank approved. After lots of running around by Marc, everything works out and Justin fits in the kart very well.
Let’s hope all that hard work pays off.
Oh, and he wasn’t the only driver to need pedal extensions…
Day 1 – It’s that time of year again
So it’s that time of year again where the Rotax world comes together for their showcase event and where Cody asks me to do Benny’s Blog again.
A lot can be said about Rotax, positive and negative, but I truly believe that there cannot be much negativity spoke around the Rotax Grand Finals. There is no event in the karting world like it. You cannot just buy your way here, you have to earn it. You can’t bring your rented engines, you’ve got the same as everyone else. You cannot change axles and seats, you have to adapt and make do with what you’ve got. This event is the driver’s event, where they make all the difference.
This year’s Team Canada, I guess you can say has a lot to live up to, having won the Nations Cup last year. We have 14 drivers representing Canada this year, slightly less than last year, but the interesting fact here is that we have more drivers racing at their first RGF’s than drivers who have previously raced here. Out of the 14 drivers, only 5 have been to a RGF’s before, so that leaves nine newcomers. This is going to make for very interesting viewing, to see how those new comers will fair during the week.
The RGF is such a hard event to predict, as I mentioned before, everyone is on the same equipment, so it really does come down to the drivers. We saw some great performances last year and I truly see the potential for the same this year, hopefully with a little more luck this year when it comes to the Pre Finals and Finals.