Everything happened very fast on this particular trip. It was confirmed that I would be driving for Energy Corse and moving to Italy only three days before I had my first test with the team. That didn’t leave me much time to take it all in and prepare myself! But as always, every time I strap the helmet on its just another day in the office. You have to do business as, in order to be successful.
As soon as I found out I would be testing three days before I pounded out homework and packed as fast as I could. I knew going into the test it would be hard; I have never driven on the very soft Vega tires, nor have I driven the KF3. And I had barely gotten my feet wet with the Energy Chassis at the Supernats. Then there’s the brand new team and the language barrier. I went alone on this trip as I felt comfortable enough I would be fine.
I flew out of Calgary at night on December 15th to Frankfurt, Germany, then on to Bergamo, Italy. For this test only being a weeklong and then I fly back to the family for Christmas we decided not to move me into my flat. So I stayed with Mick Panigada, the Energy Corse team owner. I can’t thank him enough for the hospitality! He picked me up from the airport late on December 16th. From there we went and had dinner and it was off to bed. The next morning it was off to the Energy Corse factory to familiarize myself with everyone in the operation and to get fitted for my testing kart.
The factory by no means was large, but very nice. Everything was clean and well organized, this team might not have the humongous budget as other teams do but it has the right people lined up to win just as much as the other large budget teams. All the members of Energy Corse were very welcoming with me. The language barrier wasn’t to bad with Energy Corse; everyone had English down pretty well! But outside the factory, there was very minimal English. Which is understandable, it’s Italy they speak Italian. Once we put the chassis together according to my likings the day was coming to a close. After a full day at the factory it was off to dinner. At this point I was getting a pretty good feel for Italian culture, I actually liked it quite a bit. Everybody likes to look good in Italy; it’s a very fashionable place. The people are really nice and in Italy karting is known and respected as in Canada everyone thinks its bumper cars. The food is incredible; I miss it already and haven’t even been away from it twelve hours.
First Test Day
The first test day was a bit nerve wracking. For me it was a new track: South Garda Karting in Lonato, new tires, new chassis, new engine, new mechanic and it was a damp track. I know that Energy Corse expects a lot out of their drivers, as they expect a lot of themselves. I knew I had to learn quickly if I wanted to impress them through this test. It sounds easy but there’s a lot learn in one day. South Garda Karting in Lonato was a tight small track, with a moderately technical section, nothing too hard but at the same time it wasn’t easy. My first impressions on the KF3: it was fast! Off the bottom it was average, nothing special, but when you hit mid-range to top the thing screamed.
With that being said its all fun until you realize how much work it is. There are three temperatures that you monitor on every straight, under braking and exit of every corner. Exhaust temperature, water temperature and main jet temperature. They are controlled by tape on the rad (water temperature) and your needles on the carb. Then there are sector times you have to look at, and of coarse overall lap time. Then there’s driving, the easy part! For the first day I was moderately fast! In my opinion I adapted very well to all my circumstances. My mechanic was awesome, he taught me an enormous amount about how to place the kart into the corners and how to drive the Vega tires with the KF3 engine package. It was a pretty good first day and I looked forward to learning even more in the next day of testing.
Second Test Day
The second test day the team wanted to see a competitive time put down by me. We also did a lot of engine testing because this year there is a new homologated KF3 engine. This particular test day went smooth, every session we were fast and always made progress. This is the best thing you can ask for. With the Vega tires it is insane how hard you attack corners. With Mojo’s you brake really easy, roll the kart into the corner and exit smooth. With the Vega’s you attack the corner under braking. You brake stupidly deep, close to the apex of the corner. At first I didn’t think you could do that, but its like jumping off the monkey bars for the first time, once you do it becomes natural. You have to still roll speed with the Vega tires, and to be fast you actually have to be smooth with the wheel. Once I got it figured out how to drive on the soft tires, it was really fun! You get to attack as hard as you wanted! At the end of the day, we had a very competitive time to work with and I was really happy. It was at the end of the second test day started to feel really comfortable with Energy Corse.
Third Test Day
I had a lot of confidence going into the third test day due to a great day before. There were a couple decent KF3 drivers and teams also testing and this was a good chance to see where we sat. In the morning is when the track was at its best and everybody laid the best times down then, however we struggled due to a faulty wiring harness. In the afternoon we were right on pace, even better then most. We used this day to do a lot of testing with the engine. So our session pace was inconsistent. One session the test was good and pace was there, next session the test was bad and the pace faded. All in all, the third test day was successful. I got even more familiarized with my variables, and we knew that if we touched the chassis setup and put our best engine settings forward that we would be just fine if it was a race.
Final Test Day
The Final test day was wet. Honestly I was ecstatic about this. I knew that going into the first race in Europe my Achilles heel would be the rain. I hadn’t raced in the rain in close to a year and especially not at a high level. I knew it would be a day all about learning with the soft Vega tires in the rain with the KF3. My mechanic for this Final Test Day is a very respected rain racer, he taught me a huge amount about what to do with the kart and how to manipulate it through corners in the rain. It’s amazing how hard you can drive in the rain with the Vega rain tires! The time at the end of the day was very good and my mechanic and I were happy after putting a long day of well over 100 laps in the rain.
After four successful days of testing with Energy Corse factory team at Lonato I was quite happy with the team, and I think the feeling was mutual. The team seemed quite confident in my abilities. Huge thanks go to the mechanics that helped me this week! They taught me more in four test days then I had learned all last season. I can’t thank them enough; they treated me like family the moment I walked in the factory door. I really look forward to officially moving over in the first part of January with Energy Corse and can’t wait for the first WSK Masters race at La Conca!
Now I will spend a nice Christmas with the family and prepare my self for the busiest racing season I have ever had. Stay tuned on CanadianKartingNews.com for more Driver Diaries to come on my progress of racing on European soil. Thanks to the partners of Parker Thompson Racing for all their support, Energy Corse, TM Racing Engines, Bell Racing Helmets, Tillett Racing Seats, RLV, CanadianKartingNews.com, and Sylvan Lake R.V.