Montreal’s Justin Arseneau became the second Canadian driver to compete in the FIA Academy Trophy this past weekend when he suited up to compete on the world-famous Wackersdorf circuit in Germany. The FIA Academy program challenges Junior drivers to compete aboard identical race equipment in one of the most professionally run karting operations in the world, and the drivers get to compete alongside the factory race team efforts of the FIA KZ European Championships for all three rounds.
With 51 drivers from 48 different nations competing, the competition is very stout. The weather in Germany was unpredictable all weekend, with rain on and off many times each day. Arseneau is no stranger to international competition, competing often in the USA as well as a member of Team Canada in the 2017 Rotax Grand Finals, but this by far was the most competitive event he’s ever competed in.
Racing an Exprit chassis with a Vortex OK-Junior engine, Arseneau spent some time in Europe before the first race to get up to speed alongside American Luca Mars, his teammate back home with Speed Concepts Racing.
While his results were slightly disappointing, Arseneau was still quite happy with the opportunity and is already looking forward to round two in Sarno, Italy.
“It was a great experience, very well organized event. The level of racing was very high and I think that I should’ve definitely run in the top-15. I was a little surprised by the Qualifying process and did not manage to recover enough places in the heat races under the extreme weather conditions. I feel I have learned a lot this last week and look forward to the next round in Sarno.”
He qualified 40th overall on Friday afternoon, where impressively with the top-47 drivers were separated by less than a second. However, he just wasn’t able to make up the ground in the heat races, finishing 13/18/19 and ranking 38th. With no Last Chance Qualifier and only the top-34 advancing to the Final, Arseneau’s weekend was cut short.
Following his arrival back home, we asked Arseneau a couple more questions about his weekend in Germany.
With everyone on equal equipment, do you think it allowed for a driver to truly show their talents?
“I think so, yes. For sure some drivers still had advantages like knowing the track very well and others had team support and personal coaches but we were all on the same equipment and it was very equal. I feel bad that I was not able to perform to my full potential but sometimes that happens in racing.”
You competed alongside the KZ European Championship. How cool was it to be associated with such a major karting program that featured all the major European factory karting teams?
“It was really awesome to watch those races and those incredible drivers. With the weather conditions that we had, we got to witness a lot of action on the track.”
Heading to round two in Italy, what do you need to work on in order to better succeed?
“I think that I need to focus more on my driving and not worry too much about the rest. Sarno will be a challenge because I will only get three sessions to learn the track before Qualifying when most of the drivers there know the track very well but I will continue to practice as much as possible before the event and learn the track on video and simulator.”
Next up on the FIA Academy calendar is an event at the Sarno International Circuit in Italy where hopefully we will see a better result for this promising young Canadian driver.
Photos courtesy Alex Vernardis / The RaceBox