It was a superb week of racing at the Rok Cup International Final in Italy, the 15th year of the event. By far the largest turnout of drivers the Rok Final has ever seen, over 400 drivers from around the world took part, including a dominant Italian contingent that brought home victories in three of the five categories. Among the massive list of entrants was seven Canadian drivers, spread across the Junior, Senior and Shifter Rok platforms. There was also one very happy half-Canadian who delivered the biggest victory of his young career, as Connor Zilitsch, who now calls North Carolina, USA home, stood atop the Mini Rok podium with the championship trophy, topping a massive 162 drivers in the category.
Here is how the weekend broke down for the Canadians in Italy, who no doubt will be pushing to return to this spectacle in a years time.
Category: Rok Junior
Team: BirelART Junior Team
Qualifying: 81st of 97 Entries
Heat race ranking: 41st
Final result: 13th – Bridgestone Trophy B-Final
As we highlighted before the race, young Mackenzie Clark enjoyed a pretty impressive rookie season in the Junior category and this week his growth of a driver was well on display.
After getting to grips with the track along with the Pantano Racing Team, who manages the BirelART Junior Team, Clark was posting times inside the top-30 in official practice and heading into qualifying looked strong. However, after putting down his first flying lap, Clark wasted the next few laps slowing on track, hoping to join the faster group of drivers. Waiting too long, Clark built up a large amount of rubber on his tires and with only one final chance to put down a lap at the end of the session, he was unable to find the grip he needed and qualified well down in 81st.
Having to start all of the heats from nearly the tail of the grid, Clark was collected in a crash in the first heat with nowhere to go in turn three. A three-lap slow period allowed him to catch back up and then gain a few spots before the race ended, it wasn’t the first heat he needed. The next three were better for Clark as he cut through the groups, making up at least ten spots each time. Returning on Saturday morning, Clark has one final heat left and an outside chance at making the main event. But a crash in front of him in the very fast turn two forced him to the grass with some evasive action needed to miss the karts stopped in the middle of the track. Pushing hard to the end, Clark finished the heats ranked forty-first overall and 10 points too high of making the Rok Final.
Starting P7 in the Bridgestone Trophy B-Main, Clark had a great start and was knocking on the door of the top-5, but after opting to use his fresh set of tires in the final heat, his opponents and their new tires tracked down Clark as the race wore on and he struggled to stay in line from there, eventually crossing in thirteenth.
It was an eye-opening weekend for Clark who kept an open mind all week, absorbing any and all information he could from the team and his fellow racers.
He now has one final race of the year on tap, as Clark will compete the SKUSA SuperNationals in Las Vegas this November.