Following three excellent rounds of Eastern Canadian Karting Championship competition in which Samuel Lupien (SH Racing/FA Kart) secured three wins and six podiums out of six races, the championship was all but decided entering the final round in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. But with Lupien also securing the Canadian title and with it an invitation to the join Team Canada at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals earlier this summer, the race for the ECKC Rotax Junior vice-championship became that much more important with three drivers all having the chance to join Lupien on Team Canada.
For the second straight year, Rotax Junior provided one of the best championship ending crusades that literally came down to the final laps of the season as Joe Soranno (Energy Corse), Roman DeAngelis (KoeneUSA/TonyKart) and Alexandre Lacroix (SH Racing/FA Kart) all entered the weekend with the intentions of winning the ticket to the Grand Finals and finishing the season as Vice-Champion to Lupien.
Lupien continued his impressive on Saturday with the pole-position and the PreFinal win in dry conditions. But everything changed when the weather became very unpredictable with Rotax Junior on the Pre-Grid. A sprinkle here and a light drizzle there wasn’t enough for rain tires and the Juniors left the grid on slicks.
But shortly after the green flag waved the skies opened up and the track became more and more wet challenging drivers to not only keep all four wheels on track, but seek out as much grip as possible.
Natael Cantin (PSL Karting/BirelART) was back in ECKC action and managed the tricky conditions perfectly. Muscling his kart for all of the eleven-lap shortened race, Cantin crossed with line with a 7.3 second victory for his second win on the day (taking the Briggs & Stratton Junior win in very similar conditions).
Lupien and Lacroix exchanged the second position with Lupien taking the upper hand at the finish line while DeAngelis surrounded the fourth position in a drag-race to the finish line with Raphael Forcier (SH Racing/FA Kart), giving up ten much-needed points.
Soranno struggled to a ninth place finish as his troubled second half of the season continued to plague him after such a strong start to the year but he still entered Sunday with an advantage in the championship.
For the second year in a row Lacroix was making a very late-season dash in the championship and on Sunday he kicked it off with the pole-position and the win in the PreFinal with Ryan MacDermid (SH Racing/TonyKart) showing great pace to finish second and Cantin third while Lupien, DeAngelis and Soranno were further down the order.
After a delay for officials to discuss protests, penalties and the starting order for the Final, the Rotax Juniors finally took to the track under picture-perfect conditions.
A mad scramble at the start saw Lacroix lead down the long back straight with DeAngelis on his tail and American Trenton Estep (Ben Cooper Racing/BirelART) third, while MacDermid fell well down the order after a tough start. Soranno and Lupien took advantage of the start to advance up the order early.
Lacroix came under pressure from Estep as he and Cantin disposed of DeAngelis early on but it wasn’t until lap seven that the lead changed as Cantin drove to the front leaving Lacroix to battle with Estep while Lacroix as Lupien and DeAngelis skirmished for fourth and Soranno maintaining seventh.
For the second day in a row Cantin delivered a big victory with Estep getting the better of Lacroix for second while Lupien finished fourth in the only race of the season where he didn’t finish on the podium. DeAngelis was fifth, MacDermid sixth, Soranno seventh and everyone at the track was waiting for the call over the PA to announce the vice-champion.
On the microphone after a short silence to calculate, Rotax Max Canada’s Michel Boisclair announced that behind Championship winner Lupien, Soranno claimed second-place by a mere nine points over Lacroix, who came up one position short for the second straight year, with DeAngelis only another nine points further back.
A very emotional Soranno kept his celebrations to a minimum as he received handshakes and hugs from his fellow competitors after the announcement and later had this to say to CKN when asked how he felt to earn the opportunity to represent his country at the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal.
“It feels surreal, I still can’t believe that I get to represent my country. After all the hard work I put in this season with my team I hope that I can do Canada proud in Portugal. It feels awesome to be on Team Canada with all the experienced drivers that are going as well. I hope that with all the experience that we have, we do really well and show the world how fast we are.”
– Joe Soranno
Lupien and Soranno will pair as teammates in Portugal as the lone Canadians in the Rotax Junior category at the Rotax Grand Finals.