The Eastern Canadian Karting Championship made its return to Ontario Saturday as the first round in a Mosport International Karting doubleheader went off under partly cloudy skies just outside turn eight of the nation’s famed road course. The full range of Rotax Max Challenge classes was once again in the paddock, with full fields of twenty-four in Rotax Senior and Junior, and twenty-two in DD2. The day was certainly a calling card for Canada’s Home of Motorsports, as along with karting, the BARC/CASC Ontario Regional Races were running the road course, the Speedway had the Ontario Legends and Thunder Car Invitational drivers prepping for night action, and drifters were in the area, as in those arriving for round three of the Drift Mania Canadian Championship on Sunday at the Driver Development Track.
Karting was the best show on site though, and as the championship began its second half with race four of six the tension in the air was palpable. With each round now cutting the pool of potential champions smaller, many seemed to recognize that the Mosport doubleheader had quickly become a make-or-break situation. There were a scant few who had a ‘drop in their pocket’ through the first half of the schedule, so a solid result at race four was imperative if dreams of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals are to be realized at season’s end. Points are at a premium in the back half of the schedule, and as a result, ECKC drivers showed up with their A-games and rewrote the track record book in the process.
CKN Race of the Day – Rotax Senior
Qualifying in Rotax Senior could not have been any closer, as Marco Di Leo and Austin Milwain posted identical fast laps in the morning session: 54.973 seconds. The Intrepid North America driver earned pole based on his second-quickest lap in the tie-breaker, with Milwain lining up second in his SH Ontario/TonyKart. The laps also continued a streak, one that has seen the Rotax Senior track record bettered in each of the ECKC’s three visits to Mosport. Di Leo did it first in 2010 with a 55.263, Steven Szigeti bettered that mark last year with a 55.238, and on Saturday this year the front three rows each accomplished the feat by going under the old mark. After Di Leo and Milwain, the SH/TonyKarts of Szigeti and Jesse Lazare were on row two, with Kevin Monteith inside row three for REM/Birel and the PSL Ontario/CRG of Sasha Aleksic on the outside of row three in the record-breaking formation. Poster boy Johnny Flute was next, followed by the Prime/Maranello of Luke Chudleigh, Kenneth O’Keefe, and Marc-Andre Levesque in the top ten.
The Prefinal then saw the top five drivers remain the same, but the order was shuffled, especially during the first half before things settled in. Di Leo led the first three from pole, but after slotting second through the opening laps, new championship leader Szigeti took over the lead in the race as well working lap four. Milwain got back to third on the same lap, but one lap later Lazare and Monteith both got by to set an order that stayed all the way to the final flag of the eight-lap heat. O’Keefe was sixth, once again showing his home-track prowess this season, with 2010 Junior winner Bryson Schutte seventh all the way from P19 on the grid. Flute was eighth, Taylor Gates ninth in his new Birel, and Levesque tenth in the prefinal.
In the final the field took green its first time down the straight with Monteith helping Di Leo push through to a one-two going up the hill. Szigeti slotted third ahead of Lazare, Milwain and O’Keefe before the field headed back down, and the race was on with a six-kart pack at the front. Beginning lap two Di Leo guarded the inside line in turn one, but the result washed him wide running up the hill and Monteith slipped inside for his first lead on the day. Milwain then moved inside Lazare at the interior hairpin, turn five, and things at the front were looking fast and furious. Di Leo regained the lead before the lap was out by going inside at turn ten, and Lazare took back fourth at the same spot, with O’Keefe following him through for fifth place. Then on lap three the fireworks went off: first Milwain regained fifth, and as Monteith was moving to the lead for a second time Milwain got by Lazare for fourth as well. Lazare tried to fight back in the bowl and the result was two TonyKarts into the tire wall on the exit and out of the race. Di Leo couldn’t retake the lead in ten this time around, and as they crossed through three Monteith led Di Leo, Szigeti and O’Keefe with Chudleigh all the way to fifth from P14 and looking to also have a say in things at the front.
Nothing changed over four, but on five Di Leo went inside Monteith running up the hill through turn two and after a side-by-side run toward three he took over the point with a little help from Szigeti, who also followed through and took over second. Chudleigh got past O’Keefe on the same lap, and through the first five the podium pieces were in play: Di Leo, Szigeti, Monteith and Chudleigh up front with Schutte and O’Keefe just off the back hoping for some scraps. Monteith was looking for a way by Szigeti through six and seven but when he washed a little wide in turn two Chudleigh got him instead and the Maranello was up to third. One lap later Szigeti got Di Leo at the interior hairpin, and after a pod-to-pod bump Di Leo fell all the way to fourth. Schutte and O’Keefe were in the action then, and the six-pack was back in line at the front – but not for long.
Szigeti got a little breathing room when he took over the lead on eight, and he got a little more on nine. When he set the fastest lap of the race on ten, it was apparent noone was going to catch him on this day. He ran it from there to the house and built a three-second margin in the process, aided by a continued fight for the remaining steps of the podium. On lap nine Di Leo got back to third going inside Chudleigh in turn five, and two laps after that he got Monteith in turn ten. Chudleigh got Monteith in the same spot as well, but despite all the passing back and forth, the trio remained locked in a nose-to-bumper line. The last lap settled it: Di Leo guarded through one and ran a tight line up the hill. Nothing changed on the top and on the way down Chudleigh was more concerned with Monteith behind him than Di Leo in front. He ran a mid-line into turn five, but Monteith went inside anyway, and consequently washed wide on the exit, dropping his left-side wheels. Chudleigh took the spot right back and the podium was set: Szigeti, Di Leo, Chudleigh. Monteith was fourth with Reid Arnold fifth after fighting forward all the way from P12 on the grid.
Restored to the sport while his potential one-year banishment enters the appeal and litigation stage, Zachary Claman DeMelo scored pole in Junior with a 55.008 second lap – an incredible half-second better than the previous low mark. The top five were all in record setting fashion, as Olivier Bedard had his Max Karting/Birel second, SH/TonyKart driver and championship leader Parker Thompson was third, Tyler Ripani was fourth for ZCD Autosport and Tyler Kashak was fifth and the last to go under the old lap record. In the prefinal Claman DeMelo, Bedard and Thompson were always the first three. Claman DeMelo led each time across the line but lap four, the single time Bedard had the point. After that he had more concern with Thompson, and the TonyKart driver took second on lap seven, setting the first three spots on the grid for the final. Ripani and Kashak went the distance in fourth and fifth.
The start of the final was one nasty mess. Theories abound on exactly what went down in turn one, but for certain as Kashak veered right to get clear of it he nosed Bedard’s rear tire sending him into Thompson and Ripani. All three were then turfed, as they fell to positions nineteen, twenty and twenty-one. As the field raced back down the hill on the opening lap it appeared the podium could have been already set. Claman DeMelo had a massive lead as a result of the mess, Kashak was equally isolated in second and all the way from starting the day last after trouble in qualifying, Nicolas Dore was third. But that’s why they run the races. Dore’s bumper was falling off and within a lap he was in the pit lane after taking a meatball. Anthony Tolfa then had third for Prime/Maranello, and his prospects brightened further when it was apparent Kashak was having engine issues. While ZCD was cruising out front, Kashak was falling to clutches of a line of karts that included Tolfa, Samuel Fontaine, Trevor Rancier, Cameron Morrison and Jeffrey Kingsley.
Changes began on lap six as Fontaine took over third at the hairpin. Kingsley got Morrison for sixth at the same time, but got a whole lot more on the next lap. The train had run down Kashak and Fontaine went inside for second at the hairpin. Kashak tried to respond to the move on exit, but the nose of his Intrepid touched the right rear of Fontaine’s CRG and he was popped up and over the back end and out onto the grass. While Kashak fell to the back of the line, Fontaine was delayed as well and everyone had changed position. The line was rocked even more in turn eleven when Tolfa was hit from behind and knocked out of line, leaving Kingsley all the way from sixth to second over one lap, followed by Morrison, Rancier, Fontaine and new to the group Aidan Landauer ahead of recovering Tolfa and Kashak. By lap ten Claman DeMelo was into the turn five hairpin as the chase crested the hill, and he was over eight seconds up at the final flag. Kingsley was equally comfortable in second, while things changed behind. The crucial moment proved to be Landauer getting Rancier on lap eleven, because after going from there all the way to P3 and the podium, he was subsequently docked two spots for contact. That left Morrison third, Fontaine fourth, and Landauer fifth. Tolfa was sixth ahead of the K&K of Rancier, while Thompson and Bedard rebounded all the way to eighth and ninth ahead of Kashak, who completed the top ten.
Yet another record-setting performance had Ben Cooper’s SRA/Birel on pole in DD2 with teammate Christophe Boisclair second and Intrepid’s Enrico Menotti third, all under the old track record time. Zach Robichon posted fourth and Nicolas Latifi fifth, while all the way down in P20 after problems in the session sat championship leader Pier-Luc Ouellette. In an eight-lap prefinal Boisclair got the jump from the outside line and when Robichon jumped Menotti as well, a Birel one-two-three was in formation. They stayed that way to lap seven when Cooper took over the point and Boisclair had big problems – a deflating left front. He was still second across the line and under the last lap board, but when he came to the first pair of right hand turns the train chugged past. First Latifi and Menotti, then Ouellette and Tyler McEwan, leaving Boisclair seventh. He got one spot back when Ouellette was issued a three-second penalty for a start violation, but still left thinking what could have been.
The final got started in unusual fashion to say the least. After a first installation lap, the field did a hot parade lap behind a Scion FR-S that left all the safety-conscious people in the paddock shaking their heads, then did a second installation lap after the car sliced right and onto the grass just past pit lane. The first start attempt was then waved before the field took green on its second try. At turn five the first time down Cooper led from Robichon and Latifi with Boisclair, Menotti, and Ouellette in tow. Contact running up the hill beginning lap three saw Menotti fall to fifth in the line, and a lap later the order changed again when Boisclair got Latifi running up the hill himself. Ouellette got his teammate as well, that pass coming at the turn five hairpin, and through four Cooper led a Birel one-two-three once again with Robichon and Boisclair behind him. Ouellette was fourth and Latifi fifth. Boisclair then got Robichon in turn one beginning lap six, and two laps later Ouellette went by as well, his pass coming at the turn five hairpin. Nothing changed the rest of the way, as the ICAR podium was repeated: Cooper, Boisclair, Ouellette. Robichon crossed fourth and Latifi fifth, ahead of McEwan, Eric Gerrits, Alessandro Bizzotto, Menotti and Fred Woodley.
Rotax DD2 Masters
Just five karts were in the Masters field but that didn’t detract from the storyline much at all. Championship leader Stuart Clark began the day by whipping the rest in qualifying, his 54.486 second lap for Prime/Maranello over a half second better than the PSL/CRG of Marc-Andre Bourgeois. PSL Ontario/CRG driver Paul Carvalho was next followed by Luc Sauriol and John Cariati. In the prefinal Bourgeois and Carvalho were one-two through the first flying lap before Carvalho took the lead himself on three. From there he never wavered, and took pole for the race four final. Clark worked back to second for a lap on six, but Bourgeois took the spot in the end to set the front row. Clark and Sauriol came next, with Cariati starting fifth.
The start of the final brought a wild opening lap. Carvalho held the point while Sauriol pushed Bourgeois and the pair slotted two-three ahead of Clark, but he then slid wide going up the hill and Clark had third position right back. Clark then got Bourgeois at the turn five hairpin on the opening lap, but both ran wide on the exit and Sauriol jumped them both! On lap two Clark went back to second at the hairpin again, and on three Bourgeois also got by Sauriol after a little touch running up the hill. Things stayed that way to lap six, when Clark and Bourgeois flip-flopped between turns two and three, and a lap later the PSL driver finally made one stick entering turn ten. They flip-flopped again on lap nine, and on eleven the field was getting feisty. Bourgeois gave Carvalho the chrome horn in turn twelve while taking the lead, and a lap later Clark also got past for second. That’s how they crossed the line, but Bourgeois was given a one-position penalty for the contact in twelve prior to the race winning pass. Stories were then told and retold, not necessarily the same each time, and in the end Bourgeois had first place back and the one-position penalty was replaced by a $100 fine. Clark was second and Carvalho third.
The Rest of the Show
Intrepid driver Matthew Barry earned the Micro-Max pole in just edging Matthew Latifi by less than a tenth, and his teammate Xavier Harris was third. That was the entire grid, but what they lacked in number they certainly made up for in drama. Harris flipped the script in the prefinal as he won from Latifi and Barry, and he held from the point at the start of the main event as well. Latifi came calling for the lead on lap two at the hairpin, but he overcooked it and fell to third instead, well back of the lead pair. Barry then looked for the lead himself the next time through the hairpin, and though he couldn’t make it stick the first time, he did so the second and took over the lead on four. Over the next six laps, Harris chased Barry while Latifi inched his way back. He got there on the penultimate lap, and when Harris finally found a way by Barry, Latifi followed him through! They then raced under the Last Lap Board, and the final time down the hill Latifi repeated his move for the lead and had it – until he also repeated overcooking it, and fell to a distant third once again. Harris had his lead back instantly and scored the win half a lap later! Barry was second and Latifi third.
Rotax Mini-Max had Gianfranco Mazzaferro on pole ahead of Roman DeAngelis and the Lewis Hamilton Kart of Joe Soranno, but Soranno made good in the prefinal in coming forward to edge Mazzaferro at the line. Austin Riley brought his Praga Kart to third, hinting at things to come in the final. The drama began on the warm-up lap as Mazzaferro retired his Zanardi Kart between turns three and four, a spit chain appearing the culprit, and Soranno then grabbed the lead as the green flag waved and Riley took up chase. It lasted to lap six, when Riley took the point entering turn ten, and Jacob Ewaniuk made the same move in slotting his Sportality/Intrepid third just moments later. The podium order stayed that way until the very last corner of the very last lap. It appeared Soranno wouldn’t get a shot at the win, but through the bowl and the two chutes that followed, he moved right to the back of Riley’s Praga – and produced the winning move in the final turn, the first ECKC win of his career and a first for Karts&Parts/LH Kart as well. Riley was second, Ewaniuk third, DeAngelis fourth and Tyler McCullough fifth.
Briggs and Stratton Junior, Senior and Masters combined for thirteen karts at race four, with at least a podium full in each class for the first time since arriving as part of the ECKC bill. There were seven in Senior, Cory Cacciavillani being the fastest in qualifying at 1:03.857 seconds. Andre Oliver was the fastest in Masters, while Dylan Brady was the fastest in Junior. The trio repeated as the fastest three in prefinals, with two continuing on to sweep the day in class. Cacciavillani was first across the line with Mathieu Demers and Tyler Frederick completing the initial podium. Three Masters then crossed in less than a second, Kroon completing a back-to-front day in winning from Steve Durkac and Oliver, and the Juniors rounded it out as Brady took a big win from Braeden Alexander and Christopher Proietto.
The paddock then had just over twelve hours to be ready to do it all over again, with race five running on Sunday. Potential thunder storm calls had been moved to later in the week, and with warm temperatures overnight and into Sunday the record book remained open and awaiting new entries. ECKC drivers didn’t disappoint, and the day brought surprising events from beginning to end. Be sure to check back Tuesday for CKN’s race five report.
Please feel free to discuss Saturday’s race below in our comments section, we’d love to hear from you.