It was that time of year again. The time of year that brings the finest kart racers from across Canada to compete in a solo event. An event held at one of the most beautiful karting circuits in North America. It was time for the 2014 ASN Canada FIA Canadian Karting Championships.
Although it was no longer my first time in Quebec, I was in for a treat at this race venue. The event was held in beautiful Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, an area known for its ski hills and outdoor activities. Compared to most events, this event was really good for families and friends who are normally just spectators. Hands down, it’s one of the best places to hold a national karting event.
This year there were some additions and changes to the schedule. New for this year was a Teams Cup similar to the Nations Cup at the Grand Finals, as well as a Team Relay Race where two unlicensed people from each team would split a 10-lap shootout in rental karts. It was a great way to increase the level of competition and overall morale between race teams. Also new was Super Pole Qualifying, where the top-6 drivers in the regular qualifying session would have to re-qualify. Each driver had two laps with no drafting allowed. This made for an interesting twist in the qualification of the top 6 drivers. Another change this year was a progressive heat format for classes with less than 30 karts and no pre-final. That meant, wherever you finish is where you start in the next heat. This made it extremely important to finish each heat race with no breakdowns.
Now down to business, I’ll talk about the track. The Jim Russell Karting Academy sets the bar high in regards to a racing facility. There is a lot of pit space, a nice reception building, and to top it off, a beautiful 16-turn racing circuit. Unlike previous years, the track would be run in the counter-clockwise direction. Fortunately for me, it was my first time at that track, so I wasn’t going to be worried about starting with less practice than my competitors. However, it did turn out that way, thanks to limited “AirMiles” availability of flights. So, I would only have one day of practice before Super Pole Qualifying on Thursday. No biggie I thought, but that certainly wasn’t the case.
“I would take the win in heat three and a huge confidence boost going into Sunday’s final. The feeling was amazing, indescribable. I was ready for Sunday.”
Wednesdays practice was at best, painful. The day went by way to fast, and by the end of the last practice my times were not looking good. It definitely left me feeling uncertain about qualifying the next day. During Thursday’s first practice, the kart felt much better thanks to a few changes we made the previous night. By no means did I post a flyer lap, but I was definitely confident that with some new rubber I could make the Super Pole qualifier. And that I did, posting the fifth fastest lap. I was incredibly relieved and happy that I had reserved my spot in the top 6. At that point I wasn’t too concerned about Super Pole, especially since there isn’t much a driver can do in two laps, but drive his best. Somewhat unhappy, I qualified 4th which in the big picture is one position gained. However, in my perspective I just went from the inside row to the outside row.
After a good night’s sleep (and some bacon and eggs) it was time for Friday’s warm up. Content with the chassis and engine, I posted the 7th fastest lap. I approached the first heat nervously because this was my first race on this track. As the race began I was able to maintain 4th position though turns 1+2, but after making a few crucial mistakes, I would fall like a pinball down to 9th. After tech inspection was completed, I would gain one position placing me in 8th. I was pretty embarrassed about my performance; I knew that I could do so much better. But as blown away I was, I had to regroup for the 2nd heat.
Starting 8th didn’t get me very excited, but I felt that I was ready to race. Immediately after crossing the start finish line, I moved up to 4th and not long after to 3rd. The rest of the race was a fight to maintain my position and in the end that‘s where I would finish. I was still disappointed about the first heat, but relieved that I could make up for it. Overall, I was excited to start third for the final heat.
“Sometimes you overlook how far you’ve come because of where others finish. But that happens in racing, it’s part of being in a competitive sport and it’s part of who we are. Setbacks happen…”
Saturday arrived and brought with it a very short schedule. In the warm-up my kart felt great even though my time didn’t show it. We believed it was due to the worn-out tires I was running on all weekend, but either way I was pumped for the final heat. As the green flag dropped, the inside row had the jump earning me one more position right off the hop. Making an early move, I passed for the lead going into turn 4. To my luck, I would gap the rest of the pack giving me a really good chance at winning. Unfortunately, that gap wouldn’t last long allowing many challenges for the lead. In the end, I would take the win in heat three and a huge confidence boost going into Sunday’s final. The feeling was amazing, indescribable. I was ready for Sunday.
Super Sunday. The day where nine champions would be crowned and four drivers would be added to Team Canada’s roster, although it didn’t really feel that way. I guess the weekend just went by way too fast. During our final practice session, I elected to run new right side tires as we would in the final. Luckily the kart accepted the new setup and gave me the fastest lap time.
With nothing left to do but wait, the anticipation began to build. As I arrived on the grid, I could feel the stress of every driver. But it didn’t come without reason, it was afterall the Final and for everyone on that grid it was make or break time. After baking in the sun for 15 minutes during the opening ceremonies, we hit the track. With all my points added up, I would start in fifth place. I knew that if I wanted to win the race I would need a good start. As the green flag dropped, the inside row would again be dominant in turn one and I would gain two positions. After another quick pass I would sit in second with the lead in my grasp. The next lap I made my move jumping up to first. But that lead wouldn’t last long after I made a costly mistake going into turn 10. Originally falling back to 4th, I was knocked around and lost another two positions. But I wasn’t going to give up, eventually taking back three positions to where I would finish. I wasn’t happy, I had the lead and I screwed up, what if…. I guess in the end third place is still something to be proud of.
Sometimes you overlook how far you’ve come because of where others finish. But that happens in racing, it’s part of being in a competitive sport and it’s part of who we are. Setbacks happen, but it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to let it hold you back, or use it as fuel. With that said, I’d like to thank everyone that has supported me this year. Your support will not go unnoticed! I‘d also like to thank Alex, Sacha, and the entire crew at SH Racing for helping me get to where I am today. Finally, a huge thank-you to Canadian Karting News, Coldstone Creamery, Bell Helmets, Polen Designs & Freem Racewear for the sponsorship. You have played a major role in my achievements this year!
Next up: The final round of the ECKC in Mont-Tremblant
See you guys next time!