It was balmy temperatures and sunny skies at Goodwood Kartways Saturday as the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship took its initial green flag of the 2012 season. The facility was once again dressed to impress, and the paddock was filled to capacity. The vibe produced by the top summer Rotax Max Challenge in America was instantly renewed, and as cars continued to roll in one knew season three was getting off to a special start. A temporary grandstand was jammed throughout the afternoon, and many racing friendships were renewed as the best karters in the country began national campaigns in front of friends, family, and racing fans.
As one might expect with Team Canada berths on the line, Rotax Junior, Senior, DD2 and DD2 Masters drew a bulk of the entries, with the Senior field standing thirty-two strong and absolutely stacked with talent. Seven drivers in the field had been to the Rotax Grand Finals, and five were on Team Canada last year alone. The DD2 class sported another seven drivers with Grand Finals’ experience – with two competing Saturday as reigning World Champions! To stand on the ECKC podium in 2012 will truly be an accomplishment, and if day one was any indication, epic championship battles are about to unfold.
CKN Race of the Day – Rotax Senior
As has become the norm in ECKC competition, the qualifying sessions were outstanding and senior was certainly one of the best. Those who read the CKN Preview knew six drivers to keep an eye on, and they didn’t need to look far to group them as the six timed one-to-six across the stripe! The front four each clocked 36.8 seconds, with Luke Chudleigh leading the way in the first ECKC start for Prime/Maranello. The SH/TonyKarts of Steven Szigeti and Jesse Lazare came next, with the Intrepid of Marco Di Leo completing the quartet. Austin Milwain was fifth for SH Ontario, and REM/Birel driver Kevin Monteith was P6 and just 0.111 off pole time!
In the prefinal Szigeti jumped to the lead from the outside line while Chudleigh slotted second ahead of Lazare, Milwain, Di Leo and Monteith. There was a huge turn five traffic jam mid-pack on the opening lap, but the wreckage was moved well and clear as the leaders raced out on lap two with a definite six-pack at the front. Lazare then moved to second on lap three, before Milwain made it a TonyKart one-two-three at the front when he slipped past Chudleigh a lap later. The front four were then set, while Di Leo came back for fifth after being demoted by Monteith early on. Seventh in the heat race went to Bryson Schutte, looking much more comfortable in his return to Intrepid North America in Rotax Senior, and Taylor Gates was eighth as K&K Racing Kart began its foray into the top levels of Rotax Max competition.
The start of the final was definitely the messiest of the day. Szigeti looked to have some engine concerns ending the formation lap and couldn’t clear the problem by the start line. The result was a great jump for the outside row, and though Szigeti rescued second, the next three karts behind all came from the outside along with Lazare, who had taken the lead at the wave of the green. It all went for naught though, as the back log from the start led to a horrific looking crash in turn one with Reid Arnold being launched into the safety barriers and the red flag waved on the class. With no injuries at the scene, the class was back underway in a matter of minutes and this time they got it right.
Lazare once again timed the start to perfection and was into the lead from the outside with Szigeti second and Chudleigh third ahead of Milwain and Di Leo. By the end of the opening lap the group of five was already jumping clear, and gaps only appeared when drivers moved to pass. Di Leo looked first in turn five but was thwarted, then he made one stick a lap later. Chudleigh then took second on lap four, giving Lazare some breathing room off the front of the field. It was short lived. Approaching half distance Chudleigh had run down the leader and he went inside to take the spot at turn five on lap nine. Lazare tried a scissor attempt on the exit, but that allowed both Szigeti and Di Leo to jump down the inside. Di Leo then went one better in getting inside Szigeti at six, and Milwain went from fifth to third picking both Lazare and Szigeti in the run up the hill to turn seven. In recovering some ground Lazare took third position back beginning the second half, and while Szigeti also got back by Milwain, it was now a two-kart race for the win.
Di Leo took his first peek running to turn one on lap thirteen of twenty and the resulting standoff through turns two and three erased the gap the pair had earned. It looked like Lazare might then have a shot at second, but by lap fifteen he was much more concerned with Szigeti behind than anyone in front. Conversely, Di Leo was concerned with the one thing in front of him: Chudleigh’s Maranello. He looked to have the speed to dive inside in a number of areas around the circuit, the only question was when and where he would come calling. In the end he knocked at turn four, going inside and assuming the lead on the last lap of the race. The move sent Chudleigh wide, and having previously disposed of Lazare, Szigeti then seized the opportunity and took second. Chudleigh completed the podium, with Lazare fourth and Milwain fifth. Marc-Andre Levesque, Gates, Monteith, Schutte and Sasha Aleksic completed the top ten.
Most in the paddock had their eyes on the Rotax World Champions each time DD2 took to the track and they didn’t disappoint in qualifying as in his first visit to Goodwood Kartways Ben Cooper put his SRA/Birel on pole ahead of the PSL/CRG of Pier-Luc Ouellette. Behind pole at 35.725 seconds, the next four karts each timed in at 35.8. After Ouellette came the SRA/Birel of Christophe Boisclair, Prime/CRG of Brendan Bain, and Intrepid of Enrico Menotti. Little changed in the prefinal, as after twelve laps Cooper, Ouellette and Boisclair were still one-two-three. Menotti upgraded to fourth, and while Bain crossed fifth, he soon found himself at the back of the field for having the improper carb needle. That upgraded the third SRA/Birel of Zach Richard-Robichon, and the Karts&Parts/LH Kart of Winnipeg racer Daniel Burkett.
PLO had a good jump at the start of the final but Cooper fought it off and Boisclair capitalized on the situation to scoop a spot. Then on two, Ouellette took second back, Boisclair responded, and when Ouellette finally made one stick at turn six with Menotti following him through, Cooper had fled the scene. The CRG was leading a six-kart train in pursuit, but Burkett retired on three, Robichon on five, and before long it was a tale of only two. The reigning World Champion in Senior was starring in DD2 and throughout the rest of the first half he continued to inch his way from the reigning DD2 Champ, who was creating his own comfortable space in second. Then, in the second half, the story began to change. While it looked initially that Ouellette was creeping closer, by fifteen it was apparent he was definitely erasing the gap and by eighteen he was on the bumper of the Birel. He bid for the lead on nineteen at turn five, and while Cooper tried to counter with a scissor move on exit, Ouellette had the inside line when they reached turn six side-by-side. Four corners later he raced under the Last Lap board, and thirty-five seconds after that his first checker of the season! Cooper was second, each matching pole time with a 35.7 second best lap. Boisclair completed the podium having taken third back from Menotti, and Hugo Ouellette was fifth. The top ten was completed by Fred Woodley, Bain, Alessandro Bizzotto, Tyler McEwan and Blake Reith.
Rotax DD2 Masters
On pole position from qualifying in the Master class was 2011 series’ Champion Stuart Clark for Prime/Maranello. Marc-Andre Bourgeois was second for CRG, National Champion David Ivichek third, Paul Carvalho fourth and Martin Verville rounded out the fast five. Nothing had changed at the front when the prefinal was said and done, as Clark was still on pole with the fastest lap, Bourgeois was second and Ivichek guided his MS Kart to third. What had changed was those moving into contention: Luc Sauriol advanced his CRG to fourth, Francis Mondou was fifth for Intrepid Quebec, and the Pserra/Tecno of Ryan Horses was sixth. Each would factor in the final.
With Clark having the field covered in terms of outright speed, Bourgeois did what he had to and stole the point at the drop of the green. Clark took up chase followed by Ivichek and Sauriol. Change came in short order, as Sauriol took third by turn six, and on lap two, Clark made his first bid for the lead in turn four. Bourgeois resisted the move, contact followed, and as both ran to the sand on exit a majority of the field sped past. Sauriol then had the lead and Ivichek was second. Clark, conversely, was second last – but with sixteen laps remaining. If qualifying and the prefinal had showed anything, it was that Clark was the fastest man in the field. While Sauriol continued to lead and Horses picked his way onto the podium, Clark was coming from ten spots back. He methodically worked to sixth, then took fifth and fourth on consecutive laps in turn nine. On fifteen he moved into podium position getting Ivichek in turn four, and duly closed on Horses for second. The laps ran out before he got there, but it was a powerful statement nonetheless. Sauriol took race one, Horses was second and Clark third. Carvalho had a strong drive from the back to fourth after trouble in the prefinal, and Ivichek crossed in fifth.
The fourth and final class with a Team Canada berth available to the series champion had a pair of Team Canada veterans on the front row as Alberta’s Parker Thompson edged Olivier Bedard’s Max Karting/Birel by just 0.024! Gustavo Bandiera was third, and the next four karts each clocked in at an identical 37.1 seconds: Jeffrey Kingsley, Tyler Ripani, the K&K Kart of Trevor Rancier and the Intrepid of Tyler Kashak. The reigning class champion was mired in P24, after Zachary Claman DeMelo lost the clip on his chain guard in qualifying and unaware of any problem, passed under a meatball before stopping on track. The result was loss of his best lap and last lap, and many, many spots in the field of twenty-nine.
In the prefinal Thompson had his SH/TonyKart off to a clean getaway followed by Bedard, Bandiera and Kingsley, and the front four were already working clear on lap two. So tight were they, that when Bedard moved into the lead at turn nine, Thompson fell all the way to fourth. Kingsley took second in the run to turn one shortly after, and when he moved to the lead himself beginning lap five, Bedard fell all the way to fourth as well. The dicing saw Kashak and Rancier catching the lead group, and they were there before the next two laps were out. Thompson took second back before the field hit half distance, and a major shuffle occurred when Bandiera tagged Kashak in the second half. It sent Thompson free of all, Bedard back to second and Kingsley alone in third. Rancier was fourth, and all the way from deep in the pack Claman DeMelo was sixth, eighteen spots better than where he started.
In the final Thompson held at the start for the second time while Bedard once again slotted second with the entire field running cleanly through turn one. When the line settled, Kingsley was third, Samuel Fontaine fourth, Claman DeMelo fifth and Kashak sixth – but the movers were going early. On lap two Claman DeMelo grabbed a spot in turn four while one corner ahead Bedard was into the lead running through the right-hand turn five. Kashak then looked to get Fontaine in four as well and he pulled it off, but a half-spin on exit collected both and the lead trio was gone: Bedard leading Thompson and Claman DeMelo with a big gap behind. Thompson took the point back at half distance, and by fifteen it was just him and Bedard as head shakes from Claman DeMelo let you know he no longer had what he needed. The Birel was a strike away in the final quarter, but Thompson created a little gap on nineteen and was then unchallenged for the checker a lap later. Claman DeMelo cruised to third, Kingsley was fourth and Bandiera fifth in the final order. The top ten was completed by Rancier, Chase Pelletier, Gavin Reichelt, Kashak and Taegen Poles.
The Rest of the Show
Matthew Latifi was making his ECKC debut on Saturday and he did it in dazzling style in sweeping the day. After putting his PSL/CRG on pole by a half second, he then matched the time in the prefinal scoring a four-second win from Matthew Barry and Xavier Harris. He turned an even better fast lap in the final, and was free and clear in a nine-second win. The remainder of the podium, however, saw much more transpire. Barry got wide at the start, and that allowed Harris to pass through. Barry then ran him down to battle for second, but couldn’t stick a move on the first attempt and fell back down the track all over again. Running him down again, Barry made the move stick on second attempt and then cleared the spot for second on the podium. Harris was third in the end, with Yuga Furutani fourth, Max Horbik fifth, and Jeremy Tallon sixth
Gianfranco Mazzaferro was on Mini-Max pole from Alex Murphy, but when the pair were two quick on repeated attempts to start the prefinal, Matthew Thomas and Austin Riley upgraded from the second row to the first. Riley made the most of the situation then, as he jumped his Praga Kart from the outside line to the lead and ran wire-to-wire for the prefinal win! Thomas did much the same in keeping second himself, while Murphy finished third. Jacob Ewaniuk advanced to fourth and Brady Dylan was fifth after a contact penalty dropped Mazzaferro to the tail of the order. In the final Thomas took the lead at the green with Riley second and Murphy third. Just before half, Riley then bumped his way to the point in the turn nine hairpin and Murphy followed him through for second, the three at the front remaining a tightly packed trio. Murphy then looked to make the lead his own in the dying stages, first trying to nose in at turn nine before making one stick on lap sixteen running through turn four. Nothing changed from there as Murphy took it to the house, Thomas was second and Riley third. Alexandre Lacroix was fourth, Ewaniuk fifth and Mazzaferro’s comeback attempt topped out in sixth.
So ended the opening day of Rotax Max Challenge action in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. Briggs & Stratton four-stroke classes were also on the docket, but much as was the case in the Western Canadian Championship a week earlier, they were for the most part dead on arrival in a National series. Nevertheless they gave it a go, with Junior and Senior blended into a single class of seven karts. Simon Rousseau was the fastest Senior and Christopher Proietto topped Junior. Teams and drivers filed to podium presentations just past 6pm, and all then hunkered down for evening work, some teams with much more to do than others, and race two just hours away.