Back out of retirement again, Ben Cooper is in the race seat this weekend. Competing in the opening round of the Florida Winter Tour, Cooper is teamed up with PSL Karting and BirelART to race in ROK Senior and he has three of his BCR Academy drivers competing alongside him.
Matthieu Cousineau, Laurent Legault and Lucas Pernod have all stepped into the ROK Senior division this weekend with their coach, creating a very unique opportunity to learn directly alongside their world champion coach.
They all have their work cut out this weekend as Senior ROK features more than 30 entrants and is full of talented drivers from North and South America.
On Thursday the boys had their first taste of the temporary circuit set up at the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, Florida, as well as their new BirelART chassis and LeVanto Tires.
After a year and a half out of the seat, Cooper had some rust to shake off but was happy with how the day went. Speaking to CKN, he was all smiles when asked how his first day went.
“I felt pretty good, to be honest. It’s fun to actually get in a kart that is set up for me, as normally I jump in my customer’s karts for a few laps here and there. I feel like I will improve over the course of the weekend as the rust wears off.”
The LeVanto tire is new for all competitors with this weekend being the debut in North America. It will be the official tire of the ROK Cup program and received positive feedback from the drivers we spoke to, including Cooper.
“The new tires feel good. We are having to adapt a little in kart set up and driving style but overall they feel good.”
Touching base on his fellow BCR drivers, Cooper liked the idea of racing alongside to provide direct references, especially on a circuit that will continue to change as the weekend progresses.
“It’s good to be on track with my customers. Apart from Mathieu, this is Lucas and Laurent’s first big event. It’s a huge step up for them so it’s been important for them to have a reference. I am proud of how they have all improved today and I am really looking forward to seeing their progress over the weekend.”
Friday will see the foursome endure two final practice sessions before the all-important Qualifying session. Friday will also feature the first heat race of the weekend. On tap for Saturday is two more heat races and the PreFinal to set the grid for Sunday’s Final.
We also caught up with Laurent Legault to get his reaction to day one on track in Florida. No stranger to the FWT as Legault was a race winner last year in the Briggs 206 Junior class, this weekend is a major step up. It is his first race as a Senior, graduating from Rotax Junior and learning quickly the differences between the two engine platforms and the level of competition.
“It was a tough first day in ROK Senior. I was struggling quite a bit in the first few sessions as I just couldn’t get the gas down at the right time.”
“It is a big step up from Junior and I feel the biggest challenge is the strength of the competition. Every driver out there on track has a lot more experience in the kart and it’s a little more than what I was expecting. For me, big events like these bring me a bit more stress than other races back home, so I hope I can quickly get to grip with these kinds of major events and feel more comfortable.”
“It also helps a lot to have a very experienced and talented coach side by side with you on track. With someone like Ben on track, he understands a lot more to help us to correct from our mistakes and show with his examples.”
Follow the live timing of this weekends event on the ROK Cup USA website, http://rokcupusa.com/live-timing/