We are back on Canadian soil after an excellent week in beautiful Italy for the Vortex ROK Cup International Final. Our first chance to take in the ROK Cup event in their fourteen year history and what a race it was. Starting off wet with rain showers interrupting both days or practice, it continued through most of the qualifying as well with temperatures dropping like it does in late November. Every day the conditions were a different challenge and drivers from around the world had to fight through adversity just to keep their wheels on track, let alone battle the best Vortex ROK racers there is.
The racing was stellar with the home-country Italians not only showing up in large numbers, but also controlling most of the top results. Junior ROK endured a photo-finish in unusual fashion as the lead three drivers collided at the finish line and into the line of photographers all hoping to get the victory celebration on the sidelines. Thankfully nobody was hurt.
Along with the five Canadian drivers in attendance, a large group of drivers from the United States took part in Italy with four of them having performances worthy of invitation to the podium celebration.
An impressive week by Austin Garrison saw him rank second overall after the heat races and finish fourth overall in the ROK Cup Final. In Mini-ROK Jak Crawford scored a heat win and ran tight with the leaders in the Final finishing an impressive third.
With no last chance qualifiers, the ROK Cup also awards those who win the B Finals and two USA drivers claimed their respective categories as Jagger Jones used late race speed to win the ROK Junior T-Kart Trophy while Morgan Healey used a last lap desperation-type pass to erupt as the winner in the ROK Senior Sparco Trophy.
Dominic Legrand, ROK Shifter, 20th position in Main Final
We were very impressed with Dominic this past weekend, competing in his first ever European event. Challenged by the ever-changing weather conditions, Dominic posted the fourth quickest time in his group and with the second group having much better conditions, his time would earn him the eighth place overall and an excellent starting position for his two heats.
With very little dry practice under his belt, the racing saw Dominic manage all he could to maintain position, but quickly finding out how cut throat the racing is in Europe, often losing multiple positions at a time. However he managed the two heats well enough to transfer to the main event, the only Canadian driver to do so.
Racing with the best on Saturday, Legrand held his own after starting the PreFinal from ninth. Although he fell down the order to 22nd in the Prefinal, his pace was much better in the final, coming home in 20th position.
“I really appreciated my week at Lonato. The weather was hard for my mecanic but we were able to run top ten until the pre-final. Saturday we got a problem with the sun because we dont know how the kart will react on a dry track.”
– Dominic Legrand
Lachlan DeFrancesco, Mini ROK, 4th position in Petronas Cup
It was a roller coaster of emotions for young Lachlan Defrancesco in Italy. Up and down the time sheets in practice, he entered qualifying having posted the second best time in his group in final practice in wet conditions. As the final group of Mini Rokkers to hit the track Defrancesco blistered off his best time on his final circuit, finally finding some open space and not battling his fellow competitors, posting the seventh best time out of 116 drivers, only to lose out in post-tech with his engine being deemed marginally illegal.
Starting each heat from 29th position DeFrancesco charged forward, placing 16th, 7th and 10th in each of his three 8-lap heats but came up just short of advancing to the 30-driver final, ranking 34th overall.
Starting fourth in the Petronas Cup B-Final Defrancesco was pushed wide on the start falling down to eighth before a full-course yellow that lasted four laps. With only four laps remaining, he was able to recover to fourth place at the finish.
Kris Hoffbeck, Super ROK, 6th in Bridgestone Cup
Of all the categories at the ROK Cup, the Super ROK category was plagued the most by weather. For some of the drivers, including Hoffbeck’s Formula K teammate Jake Craig, their first laps in actual dry conditions came in the first heat on Friday.
Hoffbeck had a trying weekend. For a driver making only his second start of the season, he managed his own and had it not been for some bad luck in his second heat he would have advanced to the Main event.
Instead, Hoffbeck lined up fourth for the Super ROK Bridgestone Trophy. Erupting with the lead exiting corner three Hoffbeck was involved in an intense battle for the lead in the opening laps until he became plagued by a leaking tire. Struggling to hold on to third place, the tire went completely flat and Hoffbeck limped around to finish sixth.
“I had never driven any direct drive engine before this event. First time driving it was in the rain and the top end power is incredible compared to the Rok GP I normally drive. Pushing the kart and jumping in while moving makes things a lot more interesting on the grid. Overall I think the motor is strong and I hope to see a class of DVS here in Canada soon. My third time at the ROK Cup thought maybe I’d have a little advantage with the track previously using the original ROK motor. Unfortunately the weather played a factor for me where my first dry session was in qualifying. At the end of the event on Saturday we had the right setup and my pace was there even with a issue with my tire but just three days to late. Maybe next year if I get to go, I plan to hit the race weekend before and get everything worked out.”
– Kris Hoffbeck
Michael Marjaba, ROK Shifter, 8th in South Garda Trophy
For Michael Marjaba this year has been full of ups and downs. Jumping back into a go-kart after an eleven year hiatus, he quickly came back up to speed in a new-age shifter kart.
His week in Italy felt a bit short as rain challenged him in practice and hampered his learning of the challenging track, racing against many drivers with a great knowledge of the South Garda circuit. Add in some tough luck and cut-throat racing and before Marjaba knew it, his weekend was over.
“It was definitely a tough week for me. Haven’t been on the rain in 11 years, so took a little while to get up to speed. In qualifying my gas pedal wire came lose, which explains the three seconds off the pace. Heat races I had a lot of battling to do to make the main. First heat didn’t go so bad. Running 17th (from 31st) Igot punted off, but managed to get back to 22nd. Second heat we had too many restarts and I burnt my clutch. With a DNF and a 22nd that was the end for me.”
– Michael Marjaba
Michel Legrand, ROK Shifter, 14th in South Garda Trophy
Like Marjaba, Michel Legrand had a very trying weekend. Competing as a Master against the entire ROK Shifter grid was a large challenge and while the racing in North America is quite tame, Legrand learned that it is the opposite in Europe, finding himself caught up in trouble in both his heat races, ultimately bending his chassis. Doing all he could in Saturdays South Garda Trophy, Legrand came home in 14th and has added yet another high profile racing event to impressive CV.
“Everything was good during the week even on rain. I really liked the track and the team was awesome with our promoter Andre Martins. I only have one problem during the race. I bent my chassis on the second heat. After that, the kart was really difficult to run and I was not able to make the final!”
– Michel Legrand
To recap all of the results from the weekend, be sure to visit our Event Page.