My trip to Le Monaco started early Wednesday morning as my flight left Winnipeg at 6:45am. I eventually arrived in Montreal around 12:30 in the afternoon and started the journey to my final destination of Trois-Rivières. The drive from Montreal to Trois-Rivières really didn’t have much scenery, but I made it to the town at about 3:30. I checked the event schedule for Wednesday and the gates to the track were only open from 6:30 to 9pm. From the time I arrived in town to the gates opening I drove from my hotel to the paddock entrance about five times to be sure I knew the way and to prevent any problems for the rest of the weekend. When the gates to the track opened I went quickly inside, parked my car, and took a tour of the facility.
Before coming to the event I had only heard very good things about how popular it was. I was told that at the 2010 event, when it was held in downtown, over thirty-two thousand people attended! The facility was quite a spectacle and the grandstands at the GP3R circuit only added to that as they were overwhelmingly large and loomed over the track. I walked the track about three times so I was somewhat familiarized with the circuit and wouldn’t have to worry about any surprises on Thursday. After my track walks I jumped back in my car and headed back to the hotel for some rest and supper. I quickly realized when I tried to order supper to the room that I should have taken French as an extra course at my school. After about 20 minutes of trying, I gave up and left the hotel to eat. When I returned to the hotel I went to bed early to be sure I could be up early in the morning to help set up my pit space at Karts & Parts.
I arrived at track without an issue and quickly found K&P’s team principal Kyle Herder to begin setting up my pit space. There was some kart assembly that needed to be done, but nothing major. When the time came for my first session I was more than ready to get on track. My first session went well as it was just a warm-up and a chance to learn the track. In the second session I picked up the pace a bit, but mainly tried not to wreck the kart as it was only the beginning of the weekend. Before going out for the third session a track worker came up to me and informed me that the track had changed and yellows would be displayed in the area of the change. Upon hearing this I was a bit startled but I was sure it was nothing that I couldn’t adapt to. On my first lap I saw the yellows waving, and slowed down from what my pace had been going into the corner. I started my turn in and quickly realized I was going far too fast and nearly plowed right into the outside barriers! I was glad they had warned me about the change because it was much different, but again, nothing that I couldn’t adapt to. After the final session there was the daily cleaning of kart and helmet. The team put all of our equipment safely away and left for dinner and the hotel.
On Friday morning I picked up the K&P crew and we headed to track. For Friday’s first session I had made a few adjustments and they seemed to make the kart work much better. I was not going to have a mechanic until Saturday morning so it was hard to tell exactly where I was according to lap time. I kept on making changes throughout the day and tried both the 34, and 33 gear sets. The 33 seemed to work better so I stuck with that and tuned the carburetion around that gear set. That was no easy task as I struggled with straight line speed for most of the day. For the final session I threw in a different axle and put on new tires, which seemed to work much better as I seemed to be only a few tenths off of the rumored fast time. I was pleased with my effort, cleaned my equipment and left for dinner. On Friday night my dad arrived and I was happy to have him.
The day didn’t start out the best for me as in qualifying I smashed into the barrier and broke a few things. I ended up qualifying P12, but we got the kart fixed, and made a couple changes I figured would make the kart a little less finicky in the Prefinal. Starting the race from the outside was not as bad as I had thought; there was no crashing until we got into the tight hairpin. I avoided most of it and was about P6 or P7 by the end of the first few laps. The handling on the kart started to go away around mid race and the karts behind were catching me very fast. I knew there was a problem and dropped back to P13 by the end of the race. After evaluation I found that the set screws had come loose in the bearing and the axle began to shift. We fixed the problem made a few minor chassis changes and headed out to the Final.
I had a great start in the Final and was about P10 after the first lap. I knew I had to drive perfect to have a good finish after a poor qualifying and Prefinal. I was catching the two karts in front of me and started to plan a pass. On the lap I caught up the driver in front of me tried to make a move but pushed both him and the other driver to the outside of the corner. I easily went around both of them – but was greeted with Nicholas Latifi looking at me stopped in the middle of the track! I was amazed I made it around the whole mess but somehow I did. The following lap I saw another two drivers collected in the barriers, so by the end of all the crashing I was sitting P5 with a decent gap to the driver behind me. However, I was still pushing my hardest knowing that he was not going to give up either. On the last lap he passed me as I just didn’t have the pace. After all of the regular end-of-day maintenance we took apart the motor just to have a look and found detonation on pretty much the entire top half. After a quick dinner at the Ferrolati Corse trailer we got on to rebuilding with all of the new parts. After a long night of building we headed to the hotel in preparation for the ECKC Finale the next day.
The morning warm-up was an entire session of slowly breaking in the new engine parts. In qualifying it was a bit of a mystery to see if the parts were going to make a difference. They seemed to, as I picked up about half-a-second from Saturday’s qualifying and I felt like I could push the kart to go even faster. The Prefinal was eventful to say the least. I got a decent start and was running P7 until lap four when two drivers made contact in the hairpin. I tried to make a move to avoid the two drivers but it really didn’t work at all. Two or three more drivers piled into the group making the crash that much bigger. I tried to complete one lap but was not close to any other drivers so I pulled off track and began to assess damage. My dad and I basically had to reassemble the entire front end of the kart. We got it done after many trips to PSL and were ready for the final in which I was starting P11.
The organizers had put together an opening ceremony for the Final which was cool. It featured the playing of the national anthem and driver intros. It was a nice touch that the organisers put into the program. At the start I pretty much stayed P11 and slowly worked my way into a battle for P7 with about four other drivers. It was very close between all of us and on the last lap I made a dive bomb pass for P7 into the tight hairpin, to my surprise it actually worked! But only for about half the straightaway. The other two drivers teamed up and worked together to pass me back into the next corner. I made up one more spot before the end and finished P8, which wasn’t the result I was looking for but I still enjoyed my week in Trois-Rivieres and competing in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship.