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CKN Driver Diary: Erica Cassidy @ Florida Winter Tour Orlando

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CKN Driver Diary: Erica Cassidy @ Florida Winter Tour Orlando

Point Pelee Karting Club’s Erica Cassidy of Windsor, Ontario recaps her first international karting venture after she competed in the Florida Winter Tour as part of the Briggs & Stratton LO206 Senior class in Orlando, Florida.

Small Town Girl

Being a small town girl and a new addition to the karting community I didn’t understand how big the Florida Winter Tour really was. I went down there with the understanding that the newest addition, the LO2O6 Briggs Senior Class, would be all arrive and drives and competition wouldn’t be as intense compared to the tag classes. I’ve been karting now for almost two years and previously I had no idea this karting world even existed. Point Pelee Kart Club is where we call home in Leamington, Ontario and on average the senior Briggs class usually has about 11 regular drivers. You can ask any male and they often don’t like to admit they got beat by a girl. You can ask any girl and their main goals in a male dominant sport is to beat the boys. The adrenaline that ran through me all weekend was something I’ll remember forever.


When we pulled into the pits on the Thursday of the FWT, we unloaded, set up our pit and when I walked around to check out the track that would be home for the next four days, I got cold feet and was ready to leave. Seeing all the teams like CRG, Praga, and Birel who had NASCAR transports attached to them, I realized I didn’t fully understand how huge this tour really was. I quickly learned that this was a serious event with people who have travelled across the world to race.

Spontaneously practicing on Thursday we got a feel for the track, understood how the kart was going to work and settled my nerves. Slowly gaining confidence throughout the day Thursday one thing lead to another and it became official practice day on Friday where we could really see where we stood in the rankings. Surprising myself we were running top-five on average for practice but I knew there was half of our class that hadn’t showed up yet. The mornings were cold and the afternoons were scorching so the two test days were used to learn the track and learn how the kart was going to react with the temperature changes, and what we would have to do throughout the course of the day to ensure we were running to the maximum potential.


Saturday morning rolled around and my nerves were shot. I sucked it up, focused and realized I would get no sympathy from these boys and buckled down. The class had grown from the previous day and we had about 20 drivers total. Warm ups passed, qualifying passed and it was our first time we had to grid up all together for a race. Although we had been driving together for two days previously, nobody knew what to expect going into turn one. To trust and respect 20 strangers is probably one of that hardest things I had to do that weekend, but I quickly found out that you have no choice. There is always one in every crowd that ruins all the fun for everyone else. The CRG racers, Margay drivers, Victory Kart drivers and the Masters that were meshed into our class were some of the cleanest, most spectacular drivers I’ve ever watched. It was nice to go out there knowing that a majority of these drivers aren’t going to purposely take you out or wreck you. It was good, clean racing and once everyone established their positions after lap two we settled in and officially started racing and gaining.

I have never had as much fun as I did racing a Master in the back of the pack. It was clean, respectful driving and we were both battling for the position. That is what racing is all about! Coming across the scales I was handed a Stewards Office paper, something no racer wants to receive. I did the walk of shame all the way down to the office signed my paper already knowing what mistake I made, and my 10-second penalty made sure I would never make that mistake twice. Although I received that minor penalty I had the biggest smile on my face feeling “honored” to be the first and only girl that had been sent to the Steward that weekend.


Going down to Florida, we didn’t know what to expect. Many emotions ran through me throughout the course of the weekend. Stress, nervousness, excitement and anger all interchanged usually every hour. By Sunday, I was exhausted and as much as I was still competing I was out there for fun and not because I had to be but because I wanted to be. We ended up coming in fifth after there was an unfortunate, unsportsmanlike event that someone displayed and literally “knocked” us out of fourth. After fine-tuning all weekend, trusting other drivers, trusting my kart and trusting my instincts, I had to come off of the track after the accident because my kart has been shaken during the wreck. I had never been so discouraged and angry ever in this sport. After congratulating the winners in both Senior and Master classes we carried on to our pit after a brief second trip to the Stewards office. I calmed down, grabbed a drink and relaxed reflecting on the weekend. When the official final sheets got posted and I saw that I finished fifth out of 20, I was ecstatic and I still don’t have the words to describe the feeling. A small town nobody, started to feel like she belonged there and that she was good enough to be there.

Thank You

A HUGE thank you goes out to my mechanic Grieg Howe of team GHM for dealing with my sudden mood swings, my slight bossiness at times, and sharing the happy and down times with me down south. I couldn’t have done it without you and I wouldn’t be where I am without your knowledge and patience. My lovely family who surprised me down south to see me race in the tour, and my aunt who travelled down and kept me fed and hydrated. Also Jason Papp, Festival Tents, CAW Local 444, Barettes small engines and everyone back home who watched and followed us along the way. Thanks to the Florida Winter Tour for an amazing weekend filled with serious fun. We are looking forward to next year.

-Erica Cassidy

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