The 2012 Eastern Canadian Karting Championship hits its halfway point this coming weekend with Race 3 at Le Circuit ICAR, in Mirabel, Quebec. Once again featuring the strongest Rotax Max Challenge fields of North American summer, race three on Sunday will follow the third round of the Coupe de Quebec on Saturday and two days of practice at the Jacques Villeneuve-designed facility. The event will mark the first time the championship has visited ICAR and will be the fourth venue to host a race in la belle province. Racing begins at 1pm each day, with ECKC finals scheduled to begin at 3pm on Sunday. For the most up-to-date information from trackside be sure to ‘Like’ Canadian Karting News on Facebook and follow @CKN_Live on Twitter.
Rotax Team Canada classes will be front and centre once again and through opening weekend at Goodwood Kartways four different Team Canada veterans lead the way with four different marques. Intrepid North America driver and two-time defending Champion Marco Di Leo leads Senior; reigning ECKC and World Champion Pier-Luc Ouellette has PSL/CRG on top in DD2; Western import Parker Thompson heads Junior with SH Karting/TonyKart; and Stuart Clark has Prime/Maranello at the head of the line in DD2 Masters. Other Rotax point leaders include Alex Murphy in Mini-Max, and Matthew Latifi in Micro-Max. Christopher Proietto is the point leader in Briggs&Stratton Junior after sweeping through opening weekend while Simon Rousseau is in the same position in Briggs&Stratton Senior after taking both finals at Goodwood.
Race three already has developing storylines for a number of different reasons, one being how the Quebec rounds always add quick talent holding over from the Coupe de Quebec. Jean-Francois LaFontaine stumped the Senior field last year in just that situation, and others will look to do the same this year in their first ECKC starts. While some drivers feel perfectly comfortable in their current position, many others will be looking to quicky right their championship hopes as they hit the halfway point. In highlighting a few drivers to keep an eye on this weekend, CKN presents its three-class roundup version 2.0, CKN – Three to See.
Rotax DD2 – Three To See
Pier-Luc Ouellette, PSL Karting / CRG
Much of the focus prior to round one was on the head-to-head match-up between a pair of reigning Rotax World Champions and Ouellette delivered in spades at Goodwood, taking the outright track record for the facility with him when he rolled out of town and the point lead in the championship as well. Ouellette won both finals at event one, and was first and second in a pair of prefinals to collect a near perfect 495 points. He was mesmerizing in running down a win on Saturday, and outstanding in fending off all in what became a four-way dice over the final lap on Sunday. The karting superstar showed once again that he is an immediate number-one threat whenever he takes to the track, and delivered the form that led to 2011 ECKC Championship, Canadian National Championship, and Rotax Max World Championship in DD2. With race three at the home of PSL Montreal, the deck is stacked and Ouellette’s holding the cards.
Ben Cooper, SRA Karting / Birel
The other half of the fast-becoming-famous ECKC showdown, Cooper was all but equally impressive in his first starts in Ontario. The reigning World Champion in Rotax Senior took the Saturday pole in record-setting fashion, and after winning the prefinal looked to be large and in charge until he was run down in the back half of the final. Sunday he looked even better with a full day of racing behind him, yet was held just shy of the mark with second in both the prefinal and final. His 455 points are 40 shy of the leader, and that’s the exact difference between first and second in a pair of ECKC finals. Cooper will look to cut into that margin this coming Sunday, and since he’s already headed to the Grand Final in Portugal on the strength of his Florida Winter Tour Championship, the goal for the two-time World Champion is simply to find the top of the blocks for his new team this weekend.
Nicholas Latifi, PSL Karting / CRG
As if two weren’t enough, another champion will be on the ICAR grid as Latifi has returned home following the third event of his Italian F3 rookie season. Having raced nine races through Valencia, Budapest and Mugello, the sixteen-year-old racer will now slide back into a much more familiar seat, one that won him the 2012 Florida Winter Tour DD2 Championship. It followed his winning the 2011 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas title, a ticket that nearly led him to the Rotax World Championship himself. Latifi posted the third-best time qualifying in Al Ain, won his first heat with Ouellette in the field and also led in all three of his heat races. After being knocked around and forced to start ninth in the prefinal, Latifi was on the front row by the end of it. He then ran in both third and second in the Grand Final, and even had a bid for the World Championship before being punted from the track. He was 7th in the Rotax World when the dust settled, but he’ll be looking for much more than that at ICAR.
Also have an eye for:
Christophe Boisclair, SRA Karting / Birel – third in points and on the podium at Goodwood.
Daniel Burkett, Karts & Parts / LH Kart – third on Sunday after a Saturday retirement.
Brendon Bain, Prime / Maranello – among the quickest on the grid at opening weekend.
Rotax Senior – Three To See
Marco DiLeo, Intrepid North America / Intrepid
Through the first event of 2012 at Goodwood Kartways one stat remains in tact and it simply became even more impressive: no man has won more than once in the history of ECKC Rotax Senior with the exception of Di Leo, who now has six wins from fourteen starts in the series and nine total podiums. The back-to-back series champion swept the Goodwood finals for the second straight season, and has now taken five of six starts on his home track. His 475 points top the table by thirty points, and as he looks to extend that point lead he’ll also be looking for his first win at a Quebec round. He’s been second at both PSL Karting and Le Circuit Karting Mont-Tremblant, and though he’s ever aware that championship points are like life blood in the uber-competitive Senior class, the wily veteran would like nothing better than to keep a winning streak alive on Sunday.
Steven Szigeti, SH Karting / TonyKart
Much as Cooper chased Ouellette to the line both Saturday and Sunday in DD2, Szigeti was second on the podium in both starts at Goodwood and won the Saturday prefinal. His 445 points have him second overall, and now the reigning Canadian National Champion is headed to his home province closer to the lead than he’s ever been through two races. And make no mistake, Szigeti has been near perfect in his home province this year. In the Coupe de Quebec opener he started last and crossed first with the fastest lap in the field, and after taking pole in round two at SH Karting he was on the top step at the end of the day. The ICAR event will bring the two series’ together, and with his consistency and race craft Szigeti could well prove to be the second person in ECKC history to put a second stroke in the win column.
Luke Chudleigh, Prime Powersports / Maranello
If there is a driver in the senior field that has earned a break that will lead to a breakthrough win, Chudleigh is it. Through the first two races of this year and even parts of last, the two-time Junior winner has definitely shown he owns the skill set, but things have seemingly all but clicked. In race one at Goodwood, five drivers qualified within an exact tenth-of-a-second, and Chudleigh was on pole with a new track record. He was fourth in the prefinal, but worked back toward the point in the final and took in on lap nine. He still had it on lap nineteen, only to be knocked back to third by the checker. He then lowered his track record in Sunday qualifying and won the prefinal, but was knocked around again in falling to sixth and working back to fourth in the final. His 415 points have him tied for third in the championship and very much in the title hunt, but Chudleigh wants a win, and he’s definitely paid his dues.
Also have an eye for:
Jesse Lazare, SH Karting / TonyKart – bagged a podium while dialling in new TonyKart.
Austin Milwain, SH Ontario / TonyKart – never outside the top five at opening weekend.
Kevin Monteith, REM / Birel – championship hopes will be made or broken at ICAR.
Rotax Junior – Three To See
Parker Thompson, SH Karting / TonyKart
Few in Eastern Canada may have been truly familiar with Parker Thompson prior to Goodwood, but all are now after the Alberta racer arrived at the opener and headed back home with 470 points and the championship lead. Arguably the most active Junior in Canadian karting having completed both Gatorz and the FWT prior to beginning both the Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, Thompson made an immediate mark on Saturday in taking pole and sweeping the day. He started P2 on Sunday, finished third in the prefinal and was back to second after the main event having set the fastest lap in the field. Thompson also leads the WCC through its first round after taking both poles in British Columbia and scoring a win and a podium. He had the fastest lap in five of the six sessions, and was only slowed by rain. Thompson wants another Team Canada seat, and he’s going coast-to-coast to get it.
Zachary Claman DeMelo, PSL Karting / CRG
The reigning champion had a win and double podium at Goodwood but he certainly had to work for it. After trouble with his chain guard led to a miserable opening qualifying session, the new CRG driver quickly went to work getting matters in order. Starting from P24, he was eleven spots better after the opening lap in race one and was into the top ten through five. He set the fastest lap of the race on six, and ended up sitting P6 by the end. In the final, he went five-four-three on the first three laps, and although he had nothing left for the leaders, he’d made the most of the situation and was on the blocks. Sunday he qualified fourth, but wasn’t there long. He had the lead by turn four of the prefinal, and after winning it, capitalized in the final by emerging from a penultimate lap scrap for the win. His weekend effort led to 440 points, and he’ll be looking to slice into a forty-point deficit on Sunday.
Olivier Bedard, Max Karting / Birel
Arguably the king of Junior qualifying after taking half of them last season, Bedard missed pole on Saturday at Goodwood by just 0.023 seconds and finished second the entire day. Returning Sunday he established a new track record in taking pole and followed by winning the prefinal – only to be sent to the back because of an airbox issue. He worked back forward to take tenth in the final, but if he is to book his return trip to the Grand Finals from ECKC competition he’ll have to right the ship beginning Sunday and definitely get back on the podium. A year ago Bedard caught fire in the middle of the schedule and followed a Coupe win with an ECKC win at Mosport, then became Quebec Champion after winning the season finale. He’d surely like to win in either series, but he knows full well which one awards a Team Canada ticket.
Also have an eye for:
Tyler Kashak, Intrepid North America – ready to take his new ride to the podium.
Jeffrey Kingsley, SRA Karting / Birel – reigning Mini-Max ECKC and National Champion.
Gustavo Bandiera, PSL Karting / CRG – Brazilian ran five-four in the Goodwood finals.
CKN staffers Cody Schindel, Tanya Beaudin and Jason Holland will be on hand at ICAR this weekend for the second edition of CKN Live! Be sure to ‘Like’ Canadian Karting News on Facebook for comprehensive updates and photo galleries throughout the weekend, follow the team on Twitter @CKN_Live for the latest information from trackside, and visit canadiankartingnews.com for in-depth race reports on quests for Rotax Team Canada following the race weekend!