After months of anticipation and preparation, it was great to arrive in Warburg, AB for the 2017 EDKRA Alberta Summer Challenge. The event was looking better than ever with tickets to the Rotax Max 2018 Grand Finals, cash prizes and tickets to compete at the Canadian Nationals.
We rolled in on Wednesday to setup and get the karts ready to go for the tough racing we had ahead of us in both Junior Rotax and Junior 2 Briggs. Testing took place all day Thursday and half the day Friday before we progressed to qualifying and heat races.
I woke up early Thursday morning filled with jitters and excitement to finally get on the track, but I knew that I had to become focused and determined for the challenges that would be thrown at us. We faced a long day as practice was from 9am until 9pm. I felt confident going into the weekend as I had tested in Warburg earlier in June and I had just been at GMR in Chilliwack, BC for the second round of the 2017 CAN-AM the week prior. We settled in very well getting my Tony Kart chassis tuned by my mechanic, Tom Allen, and ran quick lap times near the top of the grid. Initially we struggled with my Junior 2 Briggs CRG chassis to get enough grip out of the kart as the track had gripped up substantially through the day and would even more in the upcoming days of racing. We threw new slicks on our Tony Kart in a push to end the day strong and that’s what we did going to the top of the charts with a 47.45.
Friday was more about focusing on Briggs as I had my qualifying and heat races. There was not much at all for Rotax except for a few more open practices earlier in the day. We successfully tuned my CRG 1010 chassis as we wound up among the top of the pack in morning warm up. The chassis was a bit loose as a thunderstorm the night before washed away some of the rubber on the track, but knowing we would have new tires on for qualifying we didn’t change anything. I knew qualifying would be tough as I was placed near the front of the grid whereas all the other quick drivers were at the back; therefore, I couldn’t get a good draft with the drivers I wanted. I knew I just had to put my head down and drive hard as the tires would drop off substantially after my first three laps. And that’s what I did – I sat on provisional pole until a train of three drivers drafting each other all jumped me onto the leader board. I arrived in the pits and saw my result which was starting P4, but only 0.035 seconds off pole position. It was bittersweet to know that we had the speed to get pole, but couldn’t quite snag it or the $500 super-pole.
My first of three heat races started off not as planned as I got hit from behind and shoved into the grass, falling back to 16th and far from the pack ahead. I worked up to 13th then passed three karts the next lap, but it would not count as there would be a red flag to cancel that lap and call off the race three laps early. The second heat I ended up finishing in fourth. We made some adjustments for Super Sunday where we would have one more heat then our final. We then sat back and relaxed to watch some DD2 racing to finish off our day.
Saturday was all about Rotax qualifying and heats as we wouldn’t have Briggs all day. I felt quite nervous before the start of qualifying, but once I got on track that all went away. I ran the quickest lap of qualifying on my first lap before Griffin Dowler went one tenth better than my initial time. On my second lap, I was three tenths up on my best of the session, but because I was trying to carry as much rolling speed as I could through each corner, I went too hard into the off camber Corner 10 and missed my apex. At that moment, I knew that lap and my qualifying was over as I qualified P2. At the start of my first heat I fell into third place and the front two drivers would gap themselves from me. I found out later that I had finished second as one driver’s rear width was over the maximum. For Heat Two we dropped our tire pressure substantially as my best lap was lap two in heat one. I finished third but much closer to the leaders and my times got better and better throughout the race. That sealed another second place start in Sunday’s final.
Super Sunday turned around the corner super quick. We were fastest in Junior Rotax and second fastest in Briggs in the morning warm-up. Going into my third heat for Briggs I knew I needed a good finish to start up the grid for the final. By the midway point of the race I had moved into first place, but I had Connor Peet, a tough competitor, right on my tail. As I tried to pull away, he stayed with me so for the last two laps of the race I went defensive. I attempted to make it as tough as possible for him to pass me and he wouldn’t, finishing side by side at the finish line where I edged him out by less than a tenth.
Next up was my Junior Rotax final where I would be starting off pole. I had a great initial start staying ride beside the pole sitter going into turn one, but a bit of contact behind him rubbed us both out wide and I fell to fifth and a few seconds behind the leaders. I tried to work my way up through the pack and navigated myself into third place. From there, I worked at chasing down second place lap by lap, but it was too little too late as I would found myself finishing 0.3 behind him in third place.
It was now time for my Briggs 18-lap final where I’d be starting in fourth place. As I had predicted, there was chaos into turn one as karts collided on the inside of the race track. I swerved and had to cut the track so that I wasn’t involved in the incident. I had to hand back three positions on the back straight to provide fair racing and ensure I didn’t get any penalties. I found myself in third place right behind the leaders and I knew I had to drive smart since it was such a long race. I moved into second and pushed away from the rest of the pack so that James Altamirano and I could duel it out for the win. I started to feel like I was faster so I tried to get by him and I did with 8 laps left. From there I started to pull the gap on him setting down personal best after personal best and won the race with a margin of 2.1 seconds and setting the fast lap of the race. The feeling was indescribable when I stepped on the top step of the podium.
I’d like to thank a few people: My dad who helped me get up to speed by wrenching and always being there for me; The rest of my family for coming down to support me; Coltin McCaughan for driver coach, chassis advice and motivation; Overdrive for giving me a rocket engine; Kevin Dowler and EDKRA for putting on this awesome event; All my friends and competitors for making it such a competitive and intense weekend and the biggest race in Canada so far; And of course, CKN for doing all the coverage of the weekend and coming down west.
It’s been a blast!