On Saturday afternoon at the South Garda Karting circuit in Lonato, Italy, Joe Crupi became part of history at the 2018 Rok Cup International Final. For the first time since the events inception, the Expert category competed in their own race and when the checkered flag flew, Crupi crossed the finish line in fourth place and earned himself a spot on the podium.
While the Expert category isn’t new to the event, it is the first time it crowned more than just the victor.
For Crupi, easily one of Canada’s best Karting talents over the age of 32, the trip to the podium was another step in his career towards his ultimate goal.
“Bring on the podium in Italy is so amazing! I keep setting higher karting goals for myself and being on podium internationally was the next one. it feels really special to have achieved this one.”
It was a wild race for Crupi, and he was actually in the running for a better finish early on until a setback. He started from P11 on the grid, had an incredible start to move up to sixth on lap one and was pressuring for fourth only a couple laps in. His intrepid kart was hooked up as he made the pass for position, but the driver countered back and contact was made. Crupi slipped back to seventh and had to claw his way back forward.
A retirement of the driver in second, followed by a great pass out him back in the top-five. As the laps wound down in the 20-circuit final, Crupi closed back in on the driver he tangled with earlier, but didn’t have enough in the end to make a pass. Crossing the finish line in fifth, Crupi would wind up fourth in his division and confirm a trip to the podium.
“We had a great start and I just put my head down with third as my goal knowing Zajac and Castro would check out. Ultimately we finished fourth as I ran out of laps but I’m super stoked about the fourth place finish.”
The finish also completed a great comeback for Crupi, who endured a number of challenges throughout the week in Italy.
“Thanks to Brian and his coaching and tuning we got up to speed fairly quickly and felt really confident coming into the event. Unfortunately my qualifying didn’t go as well as I’d hoped so the heats were difficult, as the racing is next level and all the drivers are so good. I missed the third heat entirely due to a carb issue. After that I felt pretty defeated. We knew we had the speed all week so I was trying to stay positive for the final.”
Positive he was, going on a charge and putting Canada on the podium in front of the Rok Cup world.
Two drivers from Rok Cup USA were also on the Expert podium, as Magno Gaia finished second and Erik Jackson was third
Also in the Expert Rok Final, Adrian Donkers and John Cariati moved up from their respective starting positions, crossing the finish line eleventh and twelfth.
In the other Finals on Saturday, our Canadian drivers weren’t so lucky.
Dale Curran turned a lot of heads during the event, Qualifying fifth in Rok Junior and ranking sixth after the heat races. Starting the Final from row three, something wasn’t right on the pace lap, as his nosecone was noticeably active.
It turns out that both of the clips holding the bunper became dislodged and on the opening lap, the nosecone completely fell off, earning Curran a meatball flag. It was a heartbreaking way to finish a race that Curran had the pace to race for the win.
Isaac Marritt was the lone Canadian in the Rok Shifter Final and he admitted after the race he was a little nervous and overdrove his BirelART kart. He would finish the race ranked twenty-fourth, which is still a decent accomplishment at this talent-filled event.
Finally, in the Trophy Cups, also known as the B Finals, we saw Marco DiLeo charge up thirteen spots to an eighth place result after starting deep in the field. He mentioned he switched motors on Saturday morning and found some speed, albeit a little too late. Xavier Harris was also in the Rok Senior Trophy Cup and he had a great drive while competing in the most intense battles he endured throughout the week. After slipping back at the start, he recovered a few positions to cross the finish line in fifteenth.
Finally, Mackenzie Clark finished seventeenth in the Rok Junior Trophy and Justin Luik finishes tenth in the Shifter Rok Trophy. Unfortunately for Frankie Esposito, he did not qualify for the Mini Rok Trophy Cup race.