The weekend started out with Thursday practice where it was up to me to learn the track and its characteristics in order to go fast. The ICAR Circuit has one main characteristic to get used to: the curbs. They take some getting used to because there are ways to go over the curbs at ICAR and there are ways not to. And there is a lot of time to be gained if you get them right. Once I got comfortable with the track we moved on to finding the setup for both the engine and kart. Since it was my first time at the track I had to make sure I used my time effectively so we could dial the setup with the two test days given. Overall Thursday was good, as we looked competitive early on in the weekend.
Friday was another day testing and fine-tuning. It got to the point where we were in the hunt but were searching for the one to two tenths to put us above the field. By the end of the day my mechanic and I were pleased with the performance of the kart and our pace on track.
Saturday, even though considered as a race day for most drivers in the field, was a test day for me since it was not a points race for the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. It was a separate series called Coupe de Quebec. I was not in contention for this Championship because I have not yet raced it, so Saturday acted like another test day for us. It showed us where we sat with our competitors in a race and how the new tires, heat and grip on the track affected our race setup. For qualification we were P4, a couple tenths off a Birel one-two-three. When it came to racing in the Pre-Final we had what I thought was a winning setup and that proved to be right as we took the checkered flag in first.
“Then, during the race, my mechanic and I had some miscommunication and this led to me thinking I had a problem. It almost made me pull into the pits! “
In the Final we changed the setup a bit to see if we could get more out of the kart since to us the entire race was testing. Turned out in the race we went a little bit wrong on the setup and this cost us some time. Then, during the race, my mechanic and I had some miscommunication and this led to me thinking I had a problem. It almost made me pull into the pits! We lost a few positions and that put us fifth, from the third position that I was in when I almost pulled in. When the checkered flag dropped to finish race we were in fourth but due to penalties given out we finished third. My apologies to everyone on the podium on Saturday. I went to watch the podiums because I was only aware of being fourth and there were no time sheets posted due to protests. I would have worn my suit if I would have known I was third.
Finally, Sunday arrived. The day all the hard work by my mechanic and I would be put to the test in ECKC Race 3. The day started off good, as in morning warm-up we were at the top of the sheets with an acceptable time, but in Qualification I was disappointed with myself. I had the kart to take the pole position but my track positioning was poor and on the last two laps of the session when my kart was at its maximum potential to put in a quick lap I dealt with traffic that I thought wouldn’t be a problem getting through. It’s not that I had trouble passing them, it’s that the laps that I passed them were the second last and last laps. So my fastest laps were trashed because of passing, which was a minor setback because we qualified P3. It was still good though because it was on the inside row for corner one. In the Pre-Final we started off in third after the first corner, then dropped to fifth in the early laps. When I was in fourth, an accident involving drivers in positions two and three slowed me up as I just missed the collision. This let first place get a nice gap ahead of me, which was second position after the accident occurred. I hunted the first- place kart down and passed him in the final laps and had just enough to pull a good enough gap that he couldn’t regain first on the closing laps. I took first place in the Pre-final. Then it was time for the final, what all the Junior Rotax Category drivers had been waiting for all the days of testing.
“As I saw the Last Lap Board come out I knew if there was ever a time to make a pass happen it was now or never.”
I was very focussed for the Final; I wanted everything to go perfect just like the Pre-Final. On the start I fell to second as the third-place kart overtook me in corner one. In the opening laps I retook the first position back and put my head down and focussed on pulling away. Nearing half way it was evident to me that pulling away was a lost cause. I had lost the main pack but one driver had my pace. He overtook me and was very fast. I prepared myself for a battle to the finish. I gave a couple attempts to overtake him to regain first but I did not want the pack behind us catching up and I did not want to thrash my tires either because that would leave me in a very bad situation. I decided to play the waiting game. As I saw the Last Lap Board come out I knew if there was ever a time to make a pass happen it was now or never. Going into the first corner he blocked heavily and I knew he would wreck his exit speed onto the straightway so I took my normal line and timed it perfect to enter the straightaway much faster. I pulled this manoeuvre off and took first position. This gave me a three to four kart gap on the last lap which was just enough of a cushion to take the win and sweep the day of points.
I must give huge thanks my SH Karting/TonyKart team, and my sponsors: RLV, Tillett Racing Seats, OMP, Courtney Concepts and Sylvan Lake RV.