In 2016, Montreal’s Zachary Claman-DeMelo made the jump from karts, past the entry-level junior formula cars and right to Indy Lights, a feeder series for Indycar. He even tested an Indycar for Schmidt-Peterson Racing.
It came as little surprise to many as those who have watched Claman-DeMelo rise through the karting ranks have known him to take on challenges far bigger than most can chew, usually surpassing expectations in the process.
However this coming week Claman-DeMelo, who is only 18, is jumping back into a kart for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Italy. His invitation to compete in the world finals for Rotax Max Challenge competitors comes courtesy of his results in the Florida Winter Tour at the beginning of the year and to Claman-DeMelo himself, it came as a bit of a surprise.
“I didn’t know I qualified until about a month ago, so to get a call telling me I have a seat to race in at the Grand Finals was amazing news,” explained Claman-DeMelo. “I can’t wait to go back and aim for another good result for Team Canada. Obviously it is a great feeling, it’s always nice to attend one of the biggest karting races, let alone be able to compete.”
DeMelo has been to the Grand Finals before and knows it’s no easy task to be competitive, but he has a third-place effort in Rotax Senior from 2014 to remind him that victory is possible. He has also teamed up with the group that helped put him on the podium in Valencia, Nigel Horner and Martin Reuvers, who now work for the factory CRG race team.
“I’ve been quite a few times to the Grand Finals now and every single time me and my team have been competitive. So to be going with the same people I finished on the podium on in Valencia, I feel confident again that we should be able to score another podium. But if you know me it’s obvious my goal is gonna be to win.”
Given his busy testing schedule in Indy Lights, DeMelo hasn’t been in a kart much this summer, making only two ECKC starts, but that isn’t holding him back from preparing, staying healthy at the gym and watching as much video as he can of the Sarno Circuit in Italy.
He is also hoping to have the opportunity to reunite with a very close friend of his while in Italy. Through his development in karts, Mike Wilson helped coach Claman-DeMelo into the driver and man he is today and now living in Italy means there is a chance they could reunite for the Grand Finals.
“I have nothing planned other than spending time with other members of Team Canada and focusing on the job I’m there to do. The only thing I really hope to get a chance to do is to visit my old coach Mike Wilson, who lives in Italy. He’s quite far from Sarno, I believe a six-hour drive, but I was hoping he would come up for the race or I could get down to him to see him and speak about everything as he’s one of the biggest role models in my life and I look up to him.”
The Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals runs from October 16 to 22 in Sarno, Italy. Team Canada has qualified 17 drivers to compete in the event and CKN is the official media partner for Team Canada covering every aspect of the event. Tune in often as we preview members of the team travelling to Italy.