Last week Maranello North America driver Fred Woodley traveled to Valencia Spain to compete in this year’s Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals as a member of Team Canada. It proved to be a successful week for the RMCGF rookie as he crossed the line in fourth position. Here’s a quick summary of the week from his point of view.
By: Fred Woodley
There was a lot of time invested prior to the event to ensure I could have peace of mind while I was at the Grand Finals. As university has to be my top priority when I am at home, it was essential that I finished all my work for the following week before I left. This was a tough one as well since I have final exams starting within only a few days after my return to Canada. I also had to put in a lot of time discussing design and overall logistics of the new Helmet I was getting through Polen Designs in Indiana. To top it all off Christmas is right around the corner and we HAD to have advent calendars because the day after we land is December 1st!
The first flight from Toronto to Paris was not my first taste of a 7-8 hour flight, but it was definitely one of the worst flights I have experienced! First I was deep in the plane and in the middle of 6 seats which meant getting off the plane would be a hassle. Then just as soon as we took off the man in front of me went maxi recline to the point that my tray table was not visible and his hair was tickling my chin. After some words which nearly resulted in a fight and needed the intervention of a stewardess, we agreed that he would lean back only little. As you can imagine, I was not happy about the agreement. Later, the woman behind me was attempting to get up and needed the assistance from my chair. There was no problem initially, but when she reached for the top of my chair she also got a big handful of my ear. Having raisin like fingers in my ear was not appreciated, so once again, I was not happy. To cap it all off at about the 4 hour mark my laptop died. Knowing there would be a plug in the bathroom I did what any person would do, brought the charger to the bathroom and set up camp there for an hour. No it’s not ethical, but it was the most peaceful part of my flight!
We got the karts and everything it came with on Monday afternoon. Trevor was still flying back from the but I was definitely not as far along as most of the teams by the end of the day. However I had most of the big things completed like mounting the seat, mounting tires, setting up the data system, etc.
Trevor’s flight was set to land at 7pm which meant I was supposed to sit on the curb at the track for 2 hours until he could come get me. While sitting there I was approached by a man from the paddock that offered me a ride to the hotel he was staying at. Since it was closer to the airport than the track was I agreed to tag along. I was surprised to find that they had rented a full sized sprinter van and already had 10 New Zealanders stuffed in it illegally to begin with! To make it worse he was driving on the wrong side of the road because in New Zealand they drive on the left side. We went into 3 roundabouts from the wrong direction and were constantly being given the finger. Don’t get me wrong, the ride was appreciated – I made it to hotel safely with the most dangerous part of the week behind me!
Tuesday was the first day for testing and let’s just say it wasn’t going well at all! At the end of the day I think I was in about p15 in my group and probably 40th overall. Wednesday morning was the time we had to turn it around. For our last session before qualifying we were P8 in group and P16 overall. We qualified P14 which was expected at that point.
For all 3 heats I was in line with my fellow Canadians Jeffery Kingsley and Ben Cooper. We had some pretty stellar starts which helped in each heat. The first two allowed me to get in clean air and bring it home in P4 and P5. The goal with the last heat was to finish in the top 10 and CONSERVE TIRES. On about the 4th lap I got into a battle with a slower driver in 5th which allowed a following group to catch up. Now if you have seen me on track before you know I don’t give up easily, but in this situation I did. As one was passing me I went full rain line and let the other 4 go by as well. After that I had 3 laps to make the tires as pristine as possible and simply cruise knowing as long as I finished I would qualify straight through.
Grand Final Saturday:
All week long heavy rain was in the forecast for Saturday. The Pre-Finals got cancelled because of the over-flooding we were experiencing. I have not been great in the rain before which set me on my back foot going into the day. Morning warm up in the wet was atrocious. I was P27 and Trevor said “I don’t want to be seen with you. That was so embarrassing”. I was simply driving way past the limit of the tire. The realistic goal for the final, keeping warm-up in mind, was top 15. The race started and I had to avoid a big accident involving a bunch of drivers in front of me. Coming out of corner 1 in P5 I knew there would be pressure from behind coming quickly. I remembered what Trevor said about not going past the limit of the tire and that’s all I thought about. I felt like I was going so slowly but in reality my pace was good. I caught the driver in fourth and was content to push him so we could both battle for a podium spot. On the fourth lap I was gifted with a large blast of mud coming from the driver ahead of me as he dropped a tire exiting the last corner. At first I thought it would rinse off before I got to the first corner, but I was wrong! I went the whole rest of the race with mud on my visor and a trashed rain suit! A couple laps later I looked behind and realized there were other drivers catching us. I knew I had to pass or I was going to be passed so I made a late dive for P4 and let the other driver deal with the fast approaching pack. Later I looked back and saw there was a huge gap behind me, so once again I just chilled. Every lap coming across the start finish line I was just praying that I could make it the next 7-6-5-4 laps. Everything worked out and coming across the line I was so relieved. However at the end of the race I’m not sure whether Trevor was giving me two the number 1’s with his fingers or something else…
The view from the track was actually one of the nicer parts of Spain in my opinion. It had beautiful mountains that overlooked the track on one whole side of it. We didn’t get to go downtown as Trevor was feeling very ill, but overall it was a nice looking area. On my in lap from the final I made sure I took in every moment. I knew I would most likely never come back, so taking in the view of the mountains was important to me.
I can’t thank everyone involved in this year enough. God was so good to me! My Family has been extremely supportive and helped in any way they could. Trevor was always there to tell me when I was being stupid…which seemed to happen a lot. I need to thank all the mechanics that we went through; Brendan, JP, Curtis, Adam, and Bob. Also Team Canada would not be the same without the great sponsors that stepped up. Canadian Karting News was great for accepting and critiquing my driver diaries all year. My Maranello teammates: Brendan Bain and Stuart Clark were always willing to go on track walks and do some data analysis. I’m sure there are some I forgot but your contributions do not go unnoticed!
Until next time,
PS. Merry Christmas!!!