Race week began early Wednesday as I had to get to the Calgary International Airport and catch my direct flight to Montreal. I was really excited about this race from everything that I had heard about it. After a really long flight we arrived in Montreal and it was straight to Trois-Rivières and into the hotel. Then we went for a quick bite to eat and off to bed to prepare ourselves for a very important day ahead.
Before we got to go on track, we had to assemble our kart, get checked-in for practice, and make sure everything was ready. Then there was a drivers’ briefing and finally we got to get on track. Thursday practice was detrimental in my mind. We had four practices to learn track and that’s it. If you do not develop your set-up on the chassis and do not pick the track up, you are going to be lost all weekend. Then again, in every Junior Rotax session but one on Thursday, practice was red flagged. I think I literally walked the track more than I got to drive it on Thursday! On top of that, when they had the lunch break they made a big change to a flat-out section of the track so that wrote off our set-up work from the first two sessions, and only the people who were paying attention to what the organizers were doing knew to not take the section flat out anymore. So we got no laps in the first session after lunch because half the drivers went flat out into a section that you now had to heavily brake for and smashed into the barriers and hay bales. One red flag later we were all back in the pits wondering when we could actually put some laps on the track. Anyways, I actually really liked the track once we got going. It was very fast and you had to have some guts if you wanted to go fast or pass anyone.
For Friday practice my goal was just getting some laps on the track. You can’t do much with the chassis when you have had only about ten laps on a really green track. It seemed the Junior Rotax category smartened up on Friday though, as I don’t think there was a single red flag! I wanted to leave the track on Friday feeling like we had potential and we had a set-up that put us in the hunt. We got the chassis figured out to a point where we knew what we had to do for the race day on Saturday and we knew what I needed to improve in my driving. I was happy with where we were going with our program and excited for Saturday and racing.
I’m no crybaby, but it was pretty mangled and actually quite painful.
For me the Coupe de Quebec race was not important – Sunday was the day to be fast. I viewed it as nothing but a test, but it had a bit more drama than an average test day. What a day! Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the day to go the way it did. In morning warm-up we were third, which was the best session we had all day – and that’s saying something! It just went down hill from there. Qualifying was a train wreck with all the traffic on the track and after not getting a clear lap we were eighth. Then, the Prefinal. From starting eighth I was around fifth and moving up fairly quickly when I entered the hairpin. I was right behind a competitor and was going in deep to get a pass done. As soon as I pulled out there was a spun-out kart in the passing lane! I smashed him, then smashed the concrete wall, and then got run over! Under impact my hand was jammed into the steering wheel; and even with all the adrenaline I could feel it so I knew when I got my helmet off and the adrenaline wore off I was going to have a sore hand to deal with. The ambulance came out for me but I knew couldn’t be hospitalized for a hand when the Championship for ECKC was the next day.
The kart was totalled, or at least thought! My mechanic came up to me on the sidelines and, knowing he had a lot of work to do on the chassis, asked me if it was drive able. We had to get it back to the pits to immediately to start working on it. So while the race was going I got back in and limped it into the pits. We didn’t have enough time to switch chassis. Never in my life have I seen so many guys jumping on a kart to straighten it. Most importantly though, it worked! Then it was up to me to drive her from the back. One problem I had though was my hand. I’m no crybaby, but it was pretty mangled and actually quite painful. I couldn’t put any pressure on my thumb or lower palm, but after the way my team got my kart ready in time for the main I wasn’t about to let them down. I duct taped it up the best I could and got on the grid. My start was really good. I avoided wrecks and made some good passes. My hand hurt for the opening laps but once my best friend ‘adrenaline’ kicked in I was on top of the world. I fought back to eighth, which considering the position my team and I were in, we were happy with that place and glad the day was over!
If I wanted any chance of a Championship I needed to rip to the front in the Final.
Finally Sunday was here! The team and I made a decision Saturday night to continue using the chassis from Saturday even after the crash. My hand still hurt quite a bit so I continued to wrap it for every session. Morning warm-up arrived and we were a couple tenths off, nothing too serious to worry about as we saw the day before just because you’re fast in morning warm-up doesn’t mean you’ll be fast in qualifying. Think again – I qualified ninth, Right in the thick of the field. I knew for the championships’ sake I needed to make up ground very fast and on the start of the Prefinal I did. I was sixth, but they red flagged the race and did a complete restart because of a crash. On the restart I was not so lucky, getting involved in a small crash which lost me a lot of positions and valuable points. I came back to finish sixth, which again wasn’t very great. If I wanted any chance of a Championship I needed to rip to the front in the Final.
At the start of the main it was really good, I was in second in no time. There were a couple problems though: I had karts behind me in my draft that I had to hold off, all while trying to catch the leader that broke away quickly at the start. I only completed one task, and that was holding the drivers behind me off. It wasn’t the end to the series we were hoping for as I took second in the last round and in the ECKC points. SH Karting worked very hard to put me in the position I was in along with my parents, mechanic, and sponsors. I can’t thank them enough and although we didn’t come out with first we came out with the next best thing. So huge thanks to SH Karting, and my sponsors: Sylvan Lake R.V., RLV, OMP, Courtney Concepts, Tillett racing seats, Tony Kart and canadiankartingnews.com for a supporting me.