Deutsche Kart Meisterschaft Round #1 – Amphing, Germany
Straight after the WSK Masters in Sarno race it was back into reality with training and working at the Energy Corse Factory. I had to help my mechanic prepare the race material for the German DKM due to such a short distance between the two races. Coming off of a strong run in the WSK Masters series round two in Sarno we were quite prepared for the German DKM opening round in Ampfing, Germany. I was confidant we could run up front without a problem, but if you looked at the entry list there was a lot of competitive drivers in the field that usually run the WSK events. Then on top of that you have the German competition that has the “home track advantage” if you will.
With 50 karts for the KFJ category, I knew the weekend wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Yet another disadvantage to me was Energy Corse arrived Friday for testing, when most teams and drivers have been testing since Tuesday for the event. This meant I had to learn the track at a fast pace if I wanted to be competitive for the Qualifying and two heats on Saturday.
Kartbahn Ampfing was a tricky configuration of a track. It had a lot of tight hairpin sections and one tight chicane section that could make or break a fast lap. With only four test sessions given Friday, and two out of four in wet conditions I was unsure about our pace. It wasn’t where Energy Corse and I would like it to be.
Saturday would bring a new day and a change in chassis material to better suit the track. I got to sleep on the track as well. As a driver in my opinion I always find when a driver can fall to sleep thinking about the newly presented track, they will most always turn up the next test day faster. Saturday’s morning warm-up was rained out, this would mean our first session on the new material would be qualifying. I had no doubts about the chassis setup, I know my mechanic is dead on when it comes to estimating certain setups and he was very confident about this one. We went out for qualifying and posted a pretty decent time, enough to put us fifth overall. I was quite pleased with the result, knowing we still had room to improve the new material and weren’t far off compared to competitors.
In heat one I would take the start third. On the start I came out second. Through the ten-lap heat I stayed in second until four laps to go where I pulled a perfect passing maneuver getting me a huge gap. Within the last four laps I set quickest time by two tenths and took home the win in heat one. Heat two was difficult with the outside start position of fourth. The first corner in Ampfing is a tight hairpin with a big advantage to the inside row. On the first corner of heat two I was shuffled back to sixth where in the ten laps given drove back to second for a finishing position. With a first and a second for heat finishes I would find myself starting second for Final 1.
The German DKM Series has two finals each round. Each final has its own podium ceremony and both hand out the same amount of championship points. The finishing position in the first final ultimately sets the grid for the second final. The first Final we had fantastic pace, but due to a disastrous start on the outside first row falling back to eighth, first and second we’re out of reach. I had in my opinion a good drive from eighth back to third by half way of the 19-lap final, but first and second were checked out by that point. I made the decision to make a good enough gap between me and fourth and then conserve the tires and engine as much as I could for the second Final. This proved to be crucial, as first and second we’re pushing each other for the win and using up their tires.
Final 2 I wanted to redeem myself from my disaster start from the outside in Final 1. My team Energy Corse and engine builder GFR Engine have worked extremely hard to see me on top of the podium and that is just what I had to do. The start of Final 2 I made a brilliant maneuver and made a pass going into the first corner for first. This gave me a comfortable gap early and from there I was able to consistently stretch my lead out until I reached a comfortable enough point where I held it. I knew around half way of the 19-lap Final I had to conserve the tires for the end. In the end I resumed pushing hard with the conserved tires to ensure a gap in the closing laps. This is one of those races I was really on my game.
Ever since I’ve been racing in Europe I have been getting better at the concepts, but this race I put it all together. I made close to no mistakes, carburation was perfect, tire conservation was very good and consistency was good. This is what enabled me to come home with the win for Energy Corse and lead green flag to checkered flag. It feels absolutely incredible to win my first race in KFJ and to do it in such a fashion. Everything is starting to come together; I feel my driving is improving immensely every race along chassis feedback, data, carburation, and everything else it takes to be successful in European racing.
WSK Euro Series Round #3 – Sarno, Italy
Coming off of a huge career victory for me and my team in Ampfing, Germany for the German DKM, my confidence was up. I am no longer searching for juristic better ways to drive the kart; it is to the point where it is more about fine-tuning my driving style for the soft tires and KF engine package. I am really pleased with this, because I am confident I can go to any track with this new driving style developed by me through racing in Europe and run a competitive pace. A driver confident in his ability to do what he does best is a driver who will always be fast in my opinion. The most confident drivers are the fastest drivers, if you have no confidence the speed won’t be there and neither will you’re “never give up” race craft.
Sarno was a track where speed was important no doubt, but race craft was extremely important. When you make a pass at Sarno, or defend the racing line to avoid passing it would lose you a behemoth amount of time due to the short sprocket you run for the long straightaway. This meant you had to really pick the best moments when to pass, so you didn’t clog up a group of karts and start an absolute dogfight between drivers. This was an extremely important concept in my heats. All practice sessions went very well in my opinion, we were always fast but we did an incredible amount of testing. Even if we were fast we would test something new. When I say new, I mean new. We tried stuff with chassis and engine that I didn’t even think was possible. This is the kind of stuff that wins races in my opinion. The out of the box thinking is the fastest way to the tune the chassis. And it proved as I put my car P2 in my group in official qualifying and advanced to Super Pole where I put my Energy/TM on pole! I can’t even describe how amazing that felt, it was kind of a personal thing. Everyone on my program knew I could race, but didn’t think I had the raw speed yet in qualifying. Before I went out, the last words I was told were, “I know Superpole isn’t your thing, so just aim for top five.”
Getting the pole was my way of saying I can be fast. Another thing about Superpole was I went out by myself, no one to chase or to draft. I was just really happy with my performance and my teams performance to bring home Superpole. Although it came with a price, starting on pole in Europe is not easy. There is a finesse to it, and it comes with experience. In three out of four heats I came out of the first corner in second or worse. European driver’s are tricky, you have to play head games with the other drivers, like on the formation lap when he’s formed up beside you, you run him in the marbles. You have to get in his head before he gets in yours. Then you have to slow the grid down enough to make all the engines rich, but at the same time lean you’re needles down just enough to where It’s clean but not lean or it won’t go. It’s quite a process, but I’m glad I got the opportunity for all the experience starting first in the stiffest competition.
The heats went fairly well. The first heat I took second. I thought I drove really well, and the finishing position was quite good. The second heat I was just not on my game, my decisions I made throughout the race we’re terrible and I apologize to my team. We had the kart to win the heat but I ended sixth. In the third heat I had the motivation within myself to go get the well deserved win for the team and me. I did just that and drove a really smart heat start to finish. The fourth heat I really wanted another win, and the kart was so fast! But due to a competitor making contact with me I fell to last in the third corner, really disappointing but I got refocused and drove from last to twelfth which was not bad at all coming from dead last.
With the combination of really good heat finishes and poor heat finishes, we lined up fourth for my pre-final. Starting the pre-final fourth would be tough, due to the fact that the outside line in Sarno wasn’t optimum for getting good starts, and especially not second row outside. However I have a knack for starts and that’s one thing I have always been quite good at. On this particular start of the pre-final I fell to about eighth and from there just focused on making my way back up the field, which at Sarno is really difficult due to losing so much time when making a pass. I got into fourth and gapped myself from the group behind. On the last lap, last corner I had a go at third but it didn’t work out and I resumed fourth to take the checker flag. We had unbeatable pace in the pre-final, but just due to the outside start position there wasn’t much I could do, everyone ran close times and when you are far behind the leading group, it is near impossible to make up ground when they are drafting and you are alone.
I knew the Final was going to be a hard fought battle. Now I was starting eighth on the outside due to the fourth in my pre-final. I knew I had to make a miracle on the start or else that lead pack would get away, so I found a gap on the inside of the start and squeezed in. I came out around seventh and from there made my way forward. Again everyone had near identical pace, so when we all got spread out we basically maintained the gaps we had until the last couple of laps when the lead group started to fight, I was able to catch up and battle for a top five finish. On the last lap I was in fourth and had a really jaw dropping battle with another driver. In the end he got the best of me in the final sector and I came home with a fifth place finish adding yet another top five to my already fantastic year so far.
I just want to say a huge thanks to my program Energy Corse, GFR Engines, TM and Tillotson. Everyone worked their tails off for this race, and I’m sorry we couldn’t have had a better result in the final. We had the pace, just not the luck. I think for sure we could have challenged and took the win if we we’re given a chance in the final. But past the fact of the final result, I was most happy with our speed and my learning this weekend. Both points were at a maximum. The speed was good enough to take Superpole in the toughest karting grid in the world and I learned so much this race due to me being at the front always. It’s one thing to start further back the grid and come up through the field, but it’s another to start at the front and stay there. That’s what I experienced this weekend, was how to stay at the front in the most stiffest karting competition in the world. As for Energy Corse, I thank them for all the developing they did with me this weekend. This weekend threw us a curve ball starting first, something I have not experienced before but Energy Corse went through the experience with me and taught me everything along the way to succeed starting and the front and now I am very comfortable with starting pole. This is important, because with how we are starting to perform at races I think learning how to start on pole will come in very handy in our upcoming races! Big thanks to all the partners of Parker Thompson Racing, this result couldn’t be possible without them! Energy Corse Factory Racing Team, GFR Engines, TM Racing, Tillotson Carbs, Racing Against Cancer, Panigada Transport, Tillett Racing Seats, RLV, Douglas Wheels, Newline Racing Products, Bell Racing Helmets, Sparco, CanadianKartingNews.com and Sylvan Lake RV.