Fresh of his 2013 Western Canadian Championship Rotax Senior title, Skylar Dunning hasn’t lifted since the event in Warburg, Alberta. Even after earning his ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals in November as part of Team Canada, Dunning still plans to compete at this years ASN Canadian National Karting Championships in Toronto, Ontario, and with that on his mind he continues to prepare for the event. Stepping out of the seat for a bit, CKN caught up with Dunning for this instalment of CKN Chatter.
Name: Skylar Dunning
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Years Racing: 9
Chassis Raced (to date): CRG and Lewis Hamilton
Favourite Track: Jim Russell Karting Circuit, Mont-Tremblant, QC
Racing Idols: Sebastian Loeb
Supporters: My parents, all my friends and family, and my girlfriend
Accomplishments: Winning the Western Canadian Championship in Senior Rotax (2013), Briggs & Stratton Senior (2012) and Mini Max (2009), CKRC Driver of the Year, Multiple club championships
Education Aspirations/Job: Obviously the goal is to make it professional in racing, but I’d like to study mechanical engineering
To start, can you quickly recap your week at the 2013 Western Canadian Championships?
The week was spent constantly chasing my teammate Zachary Scalzo. We were looking for one or two tenths all week. In qualifying I knew I had to secure myself a good starting position for the three heat races due to the difficulty of passing on the Warburg track. I qualified fourth, which was good enough to give me a shot at the lead every heat. The prefinal I got a lucky break and set myself up with pole for the final.
The final was one of the most exciting races I’ve been a part of. There were exciting passes every lap and the action didn’t stop all race. Another lucky break with a few laps left set me up with a chance at a final lap pass for the win. The rest is history.
Who was supporting you through the event?
Firstly, I’d like to thank Kevin Glover Karting for supplying an amazing motor and chassis that gave me what I needed to compete for the win. As well, I’d really like to thank my parents for everything they do for me. They both work full time so I could race and I really appreciate it. Running as a low budget team without sponsors against racers with large budgets is difficult, but we make it work. Also, my dad is my mechanic and my mom volunteers at the track every weekend. Finally I’d like to thank all my friends and family that support my racing, and my girlfriend and her family for coming out during the weekend.
How was the feeling on the podium when you received your ticket to join Team Canada at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals?
The initial feeling after crossing the finish line was pure excitement but on the podium I felt relief. So much practice, time and effort all came down to 20 laps. It felt as if a massive load had been lifted off my shoulders in winning the race. It meant all the hard work my parents and I had put in and all the sacrifices we had made had paid off. Competing in the Grand Finals was always one thing that I needed to check off the racing bucket list and not doing so would have lived with me forever.
I was also very thankful that I would be representing my country and club at the World Finals. It’s truly an honor.
With your ticket already secured, do you still plan on racing at the Canadian National Championships? If yes, has your game plan changed now?
I will still be competing in the Canadian National Championships. As I mentioned, a massive load has been lifted off my shoulders by already securing my ticket, so the weekend will be a bit more relaxing. Although, the game plan has always been to win, and will continue to be just that. I am excited for the level of competition in preparation for the RMCGF.
What type of preparation will you be doing to get ready for the Rotax Grand Finals?
I will use the Canadian Nationals as preparation for the tough competition I can expect at the RMCGF. As well, the Rotax Pan Am race will be at NOLA a month before the Grand Finals, but if I will compete in that has not been decided.
Does travelling to New Orleans, USA excite you, or are you a guy who focuses solely on the event and task at hand?
I aim to focus on the task at hand for the weekend, but there will be a few days before and after the race to take in the New Orleans culture which I will enjoy. I plan to enjoy myself in the city as well as at the track.
How did you get started in karting?
One day we accidentally stumbled upon Stratotech Park and I instantly fell in love with karting. My racing started with a cheap used go kart in Junior 1 Honda and I immediately showed speed. As I improved, we got more serious as the years went on.
What is your most memorable karting moment?
The most memorable moment has to be winning my ticket the RMCGF in New Orleans. It will be an experience that I will remember forever and is the peak of my racing career so far. Not many people can say they’ve been to the World Championships in anything.
What is your favourite thing about racing?
I like the fact that racing is a team sport as well as an individual sport at the same time. You must work with your mechanic and team to make the car as fast as possible, but everything comes down to you on the track as a driver.
Also, the pure speed and adrenalin rush racing provides is like none other. I am addicted to speed.
Who is your favourite person to race against and why?
At my local club (EDKRA), Adam Dowler and I have a fun love/hate relationship. Every weekend we start as best friends, but by the end of the weekend will rarely talk to each other. It’s a weird competitive relationship but I enjoy every minute of it. Without him, the race weekends would be dull. We provide competition for each other and improve as drivers.
If there is someone from another generation you could race against, who would it be and why?
Hands down the best driver from another generation would be Ayrton Senna. The man was an unbelievable driver in an era where F1 was much purer racing. To be on the racetrack as the same time as him would be an honor.
When you look at karting from a fan/spectator point of view, what do you see?
Unfortunately from a spectator’s point of view, unless you are a parent or a racer yourself it’s hard to understand what’s happening. When someone that doesn’t understand karting watches a race, they think it’s easy. You just sit there and turn a wheel right? TSN’s coverage of the Nationals opened many people’s eyes to the sport and the excitement it can bring.
From my point of view, karting is one of the purest forms of motorsports and a good race can have me on the edge of my seat which races like F1 or Indy fail to do. Karting showcases some of the best racers on the planet.
What is your current perspective on Canadian Karting and how do you think we could improve it?
As a driver that is funded by his parents hard work, I think karting is becoming too expensive. I can race cars for similar prices. Drivers like me can’t afford to buy a new chassis every three races or build an $8,000 motor, which at the national level really helps. There is no real way to stop that unfortunately. If Rotax could follow a system similar to Briggs and Stratton, it would help bring the costs down.
What we can do to improve karting in Canada is to make it publically supported as a sport. The only spectators at a race are family and drivers, we need to find a way to broadcast the sport to a wider audience. Showing up to a track with hundreds or thousands of spectators is every drivers dream and I think it would be an easy sell. The sport of karting is much more interesting than F1 or Indy in my opinion. We must use the full capabilities of social media as a tool to broadcast it.
If you could win one race, and only one race, then retire, what would it be and why?
Winning the RMCGF would mean the world but I don’t think I would like to retire after, instead continue with my career. Winning an iconic race in any professional series of motorsports would be enough for me to retire: the Monaco grand prix comes to mind.
Realistically speaking, I would never like to retire. Racing is in my blood and I am addicted for life.
Finally, what is something that karting community doesn’t know about you?
I am very serious about my mental and physical fitness. I have played soccer all my life and work out in the gym three days a week. I believe a racer should be in peak condition. I also attend an academic high school.
Next up, the 2013 Western Canadian Championship Rotax Junior Champion checks in for a quick chat.