Race three of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship was cleared for take-off Sunday as the series visited Le Circuit ICAR for the first time in its history. Just shy of one hundred Rotax Max Challenge racers were on hand as the schedule hit its halfway point for 2012, and quests for Team Canada seats continued in earnest. Those sitting on top after strong opening weekends hoped to maintain the status quo, while many others were looking to resurrect championship plans and thoughts of spending a week of Canadian Fall in Portugal at the Grand Finals.
Heat on the concrete was soaring on Sunday, and following a number of altercations in turn one many in the paddock had internal temperatures to match. What became painfully clear through the race three finals was that the entire field could get into turn one – but it was rarely going to get out, and the chances decreased as kart count went up. Only the fine nine of Micro-Max managed the feat in final action, with all other Rotax classes making a right mess of things. Only the aging DD2 Masters were granted two tries to get it right, and outside of that it was a no-holds-barred free-for-all, with fields regularly being rocked. Just twice on the day was an eventual winner lower than third exiting the opening hairpin, and one of those had the fans on their feet.
CKN Race of the Day – Rotax Junior
Qualifying in Team Canada classes was epic at opening weekend and nothing changed at ICAR. In fact, the only thing closer in Junior would have been a dead heat as the SH/TonyKart of Tommy Lemaire-Ouellet clocked 46.333 seconds and Tyler Kashak posted 46.334 for Intrepid North America! Championship leader Parker Thompson was third, also at 46.3 seconds, and the Birels of Olivier Bedard and Jeffrey Kingsley rounded out the fast five, each timing in at 46.4 seconds. With nothing to spare between them, the prefinal was then paramount for those with podium hopes but the twenty-seven kart field had karts into the tire wall on the exit of one. Fortunately for them, the front end of the grid raced out unscathed with Lemaire-Ouellet leading Kashak, Thompson, Bedard and the Energy Kart of visiting American star Santino Ferrucci. The front four then began slipping away as early as lap two, before the gloves were totally dropped on three.
First Kashak took the lead at the turn one hairpin with Thompson following through as well. Bedard then moved to continue the trend at the top end of the track, but it all went dreadfully wrong. Sticking his nose in heading to the right-hand turn seven, Bedard looked to have second thoughts but he was already in too deep. The result was the right rear tire of a TonyKart going up and over the left front of the Birel and two karts were left to limp to the sidelines. The lead pair then had a gap they would take to the end, with Thompson taking over top spot along the way. Kashak was second and Ferrucci third. Kingsley improved on his qualifying spot by one in taking fourth, and from tenth on the grid came the PSL/CRG of Samuel Fontaine, lapping faster than he had in qualifying and faster than anyone else in the field. It was a definite sign of things to come.
The field took the green on its first attempt in the final but there was little room to manoeuver at the apex of one and karts were stacking like grocery wagons when Ferrucci led the way out followed by Fontaine, Thompson and Kashak. Thompson had second before the lap was out, and the lead train stretched near ten karts long through two and three before action at the front intensified even more. Thompson kicked things off going inside for the lead at one, and Fontaine followed him through before taking the lead himself at the same spot beginning lap six. Others diced behind, setting up a two-plot storyline: the leaders slipped away coming in, leaving a trio of others to squabble over the final podium step. Kashak and Kingsley diced their way through laps seven and eight before staying in line to run down Ferrucci in third. Kingsley had his first look at the hairpin beginning nine, but Ferrucci scissored the exit and the pair drag raced to-and-through the top end of the track before Ferrucci recovered the spot in turn seven with Kashak following him through. Kingsley took the fourth spot right back beginning lap ten, and by twelve was ready for another shot at third, getting by the Energy Kart into the hairpin. Kashak went by Ferrucci himself one lap later, but by then all eyes were returning to the front.
Thompson had set the fastest lap of the race on thirteen and on fourteen took over on the point running through the turn one hairpin. Fontaine took a peek at getting the spot back in turn seven before actually pulling a move off at the hairpin beginning lap sixteen. They stayed that way to the Last Lap Board to cue a dramatic final tour. Fontaine hugged the inside heading to the hairpin the final time but Thompson responded by swinging left to set up a quick getaway. It worked, as he won a drag race to turn two and capitalized with the inside line, scoring a gap big enough to maintain through the top end of the lap. He saw no challenge from there to the checker and scored his second win of the ECKC season. Fontaine was P2, and Kingsley third. Ferrucci took fourth with a pass of his own on the penultimate lap, and Kashak was fifth in putting five different chassis in the top five positions: Tony, CRG, Birel, Energy and Intrepid. Bedard was sixth in his second-straight recovery run, and Lemaire-Ouellet seventh ahead of Nicholas Dore, Trevor Rancier and Kami-Moreira-Laliberte.
Qualifying in the paddle-shifting class was dramatic for the SRA/Birels as one was first – and one was last. As incredibly tight as the Junior session, Christophe Boisclair, Nicholas Latifi and Pier-Luc Ouellette each pegged 44.7 seconds on their second flying laps. Boisclair was tops by just 0.017 over Latifi, with Ouellette even closer than that to his returning PSL/CRG teammate. Meanwhile one of Boisclair’s teammates was mired in P18 and last after a cracked exhaust prevented Ben Cooper from turning a lap in qualifying.
The prefinal was opened with contact and karts into the wall, worst of which happened to be Latifi who retired on the spot. As the last prefinal of the day, Latifi’s fate more than confirmed an alarming trend, but it was good news to Cooper, as he jumped many of the staggering karts and was already P6 at the end of the opening lap! Two laps later he was past PSL Atlantic’s Alan Rudolph and his Birel teammate Zach Robichon, and by five he’d nipped past the Prime Powersports/Maranello of Brendan Bain at the hairpin and was into third. By eight he had created a trio at the front, and Ouellette got his first taste of the lead that lap in turn seven, only to have Boisclair scissor and take it back in turn eight. All then hit the reset button and waited for the Last Lap Board. Ouellette then went inside at turn one and Cooper followed him through to establish the same front row for the final as it’s been in every round thus far. Boisclair was third, Bain fourth and Robichon fifth.
The same five were active at the front of the final, and they were the only five. The rest of the field was tangled in the opening hairpin and only those five emerged. They were cut even further before turn three, as Robichon tried to surprise Bain running to the first left-hand turn and certainly did so when he went up and across his bow. Both retired on the spot, and the podium trio was all but set in the first half lap: Ouellette leading Boisclair and Cooper. Noone else was in the same area code, and noone was going to get there. If he didn’t have it before, Ouellette certainly had a little gap once Cooper got inside Boisclair for second beginning lap five and the trio spread briefly through six and seven before Cooper came calling on eight. He closed in over that lap, and took the lead on nine with a move in turn one. Boisclair tried to get involved as well but Ouellette kept the spot.
Falling to second was a concern for the CRG driver, and he had other issues just one lap later. First he lost his rad support on ten, then Cooper set his best lap of the race on eleven – the same lap Boisclair demoted Ouellette to third. By twelve Cooper was dialling up his first ECKC win of the season, with the pair behind left to settle second. Nothing changed through fourteen, fifteen or sixteen, then on seventeen Ouellette took second back with by darting inside at turn seven. Boisclair responded with a scissor move heading to eight, just as he had in the prefinal. The next round came on the final tour. Ouellette sprung a new locating in jumping past the Birel between turns four and five, then blocked the inside line to turn seven, leaving nothing in terms of speed on the exit. Boisclair moved right to go inside at turn eight, and as he sliced across the back of the CRG his nose turned it sideways, leaving Ouellette escaping across the infield after a half spin. Boisclair had the spot, and SRA/Birel a one-two after Cooper had taken the win. Ouellette was third, his teammate Latifi fourth after a strong recovery, and Tyler McEwan fifth.
Jesse Lazare scored pole in Rotax Senior as the only driver to dip inside the 46-second bracket. He turned a 45.911 on his SH/TonyKart while the REM/Birel of Kevin Monteith was second at 46.084. Steven Szigeti and Luke Chudleigh were on row two, with Fritz Leesmann and Marco Di Leo on three. The field took the green flag on its first try in the prefinal before contact led to karts into the tires once again. Most of the trouble was in the middle of the twenty-three kart field, while Lazare led out of turn one followed by Szigeti, Monteith and Chudleigh. Szigeti then took the lead himself beginning lap five, and Chudleigh took third at the same time. Lazare took the lead right back one lap later, and that move stacked the front four with Chudleigh and Monteith closing in. Chudleigh then got Szigeti himself beginning ten, and the Prime/Maranello driver made a move for the lead himself on eleven. He got it in the hairpin, but Lazare recovered with a scissor move on the exit and confirmed the spot in turn two. They did the same thing on twelve before Lazare scored the prefinal win ahead of Chudleigh, Szigeti, Di Leo and Monteith.
The start of the final was arguably the ugliest of the day with even-side starters suffering in turn one. Chudleigh was squeezed from the field, race over, while the odds took control: Lazare leading Szigeti, Monteith and Bryson Schutte after they started in positions one, three, five and nine. Di Leo was fifth as the first even-numbered starter, followed by Intrepid Quebec’s Chris Ernst all the way from P17 on the grid. Di Leo had fourth back before the opening lap was out, and everyone stayed in line from there to half distance. Szigeti took the lead on eleven, then set the fastest lap of the race on thirteen as he solidified the spot. Nothing else would change. Szigeti leading teammate Lazare to the line ahead of Monteith, Di Leo, and Marc-Andre Levesque. The win was the second for Szigeti in ECKC senior, making him just the second person alongside Di Leo to win in the class more than once.
Rotax DD2 Masters
Stuart Clark was in prime position after qualifying as the Maranello driver was on pole by nearly two-tenths from Luc Sauriol. Next in line was Marc-Andre Bourgeois followed by Paul Carvalho and Martin Verville. The elder statesmen had a clean getaway in the prefinal as Clark led the CRG’s of Bourgeois, Sauriol and Carvalho. By five Martin Verville was catching on in his Haase and a five-kart train was at the front. By lap ten, Clark and Bourgeois had a little breathing room and on eleven things got dicey. Bourgeois took the lead at the hairpin but Clark countered with a scissor on exit to take it back at turn two. Carvalho got by Sauriol at the same time, and the prefinal order was set: Clark, Bourgeois, Carvalho, Sauriol and Verville.
In the final Clark and Carvalho turned their one-three starting positions into a major lead on the field as the rest tangled with each other in turn one. They were free and clear exiting turn one, but the red flags went up and all were called to try again. The second time through none were detained, but many were cautious and the result was a massive lead for Clark – one he would turn into the eighth victory of his ECKC career twenty laps later. Sauriol got to second by lap three and set the fastest lap in the field, but it was already too late. The fight for third was much more interesting, as at times it involved Carvalho, Bourgeois, and Francis Mondou. Each took a time at the head of the line, before Mondou took a knockout on lap nine. Bourgeios then ran from Carvalho to the line and the final podium order was set.
The Rest of the Show
Gianfranco Mazzaferro and his new Zanardi kart swept the day in Mini-Max competition. On pole by nearly four-tenths from Thierry Cote and Natael Cantin, he then jumped off the front right away in the prefinal and won by nearly three seconds. Cote was second once again, while race one winner Alex Murphy climbed up to third ahead of Charles Robin and Austin Riley. In the final the karts clogged up in turn one but it was of no concern to Mazzaferro after he once again ran clean through the opening corner and had a huge lead from there forward. Joe Soranno was the kid on the hot seat, as his Karts&Parts/LH Kart was at the head of a line stretching seven karts long. Cote worked his CRG to second and got free of the rest to secure the second step, but the third was definitely up for grabs race long. Murphy had the spot early, then Samuel Lupien took over on lap six, and from lap six to ten a four-pack of karts ran a different order each lap. That was because Soranno was coming back in the picture after being trained out of second early on, and by ten he was back in third. Things were settled for good on the last lap when Lupien slipped back past for the final podium spot behind Mazzaferro and Cote. Soranno was fourth, and Cantin fifth.
The sweeps continued for Matthew Latifi in Micro-Max as after taking pole by seven-tenths from Matthew Barry and Alexandre Soma, he was uncontested in the prefinal in winning by six seconds from Thomas Simard and Soma. In the final, Simard had his Birel in a drag race with Latifi’s CRG up the inside exiting turn one, but Latifi carried more speed with his wide exit and confirmed the lead heading toward two. From there he ran well and clear for his third-consecutive ECKC win. Simard was second all the way, while Soma, William Chayer and Barry diced away to settle third spot. Barry got Chayer first, then got Soma in turn seven to take over third. Soma chased him to the checker, but the pass had created the podium and Barry kept the spot. Briggs&Stratton classes were once again combined into one field, as the series proved unable to lure Saturday’s Quebec Cup racers to stay an extra day. Simon Rousseau had no repeat of the drama at Goodwood in winning Senior, Sarah McKay made a successful return to ECKC action in winning Junior, and Russell Kroon was the winner in Masters.
The Eastern Canadian Karting Championship resumes in two weeks with a twin bill at Mosport International Karting. Races four and five will follow an Official practice day on Friday, June 29th, and the championship will be taken to its brink. For more information, please visit eckc.ca