By: Luke Chudleigh, Exclusive to CanadianKartingNews.com
The ECKC has really grown up in the last few years, stepping foot back onto the race track felt as natural as ever and the competition is nothing to underestimate!
It’s been two seasons since I finished the finale of the 2012 ECKC championship in Trois Rivieres, Quebec on the temporary circuit GP3R. That season had been a crazy campaign in Rotax Sr. between DiLeo, Szigeti, Lazare and myself. We had all battled together through the Florida Winter Tour, and it felt as if the same program lasted all year between the four of us. It was a lot of fun, the year was full of a lot of little tricks.
The last kart race of that year was in Las Vegas for the 2012 SKUSA SuperNationals. It was probably the highlight of my karting career. Although it wasn’t a win – or even a finish – it was one of those race weekends where my driving was on point throughout and I was always in the mix at the front. SuperNats is a long race weekend and you never knew what the track could throw at you!
“…and with the lower horse-power, lap times are incredible competitive! I don’t think I’ve ever been 11th place and under a tenth of a second from the lead…. like, thats insane.”
It was quite nostalgic throwing on my karting suit to go out for practice for the second round of ECKC at Goodwood last weekend. Although it hasn’t been too long, I haven’t been in a kart since my first test in Formula Renault 2.0 at the start of 2013. Since then, the last two seasons with Tech1 Racing team and the Formula Renault community have gone by in a blur of excitement. Racing in a class as competitive as FR2.0 really pushes you to your limits and helps you improve to be the best you can be. The car is just wicked! Just two weeks before, I enjoyed a career best finish as Spa-Francorchamps with a 4th place in the main event.
A small break in the FR2.0 schedule allowed me the opportunity to come home and see my family and friends, a little vacation goes a long way when you’re dealing with so much stress, and when Trevor [Wickens] offered up a spot in his Maranello North America tent and a special engine package how could I say no to PrimePower?
It took about one lap in the Briggs & Stratton kart to realize I had gotten myself into deep water and unfamiliar territory! The relatively new LO206 category has gained a ton of traction in the community since I left the karting scene and Trevor is beginning to become more and more invested in it. Him and I took the opportunity to learn the new chassis and engine combo so that his other customers could enjoy top-level equipment. The LO206 is an engine which has considerably less horses than I’m used to…I knew I was in for a heavy learning curve as soon as I got dominated by a 5-kart-long draft train that blew by and left me laughing out loud in my helmet during the first official practice session!
“I think seeing Paul Cooke scoot by at 3km/h in a raised club-car was worth the trip back home! (Some things never change) hahahaha.”
The next two days were full of making friends with the awesome guys and gals that make up the Briggs and Stratton Senior category, asking for some set-up help and figuring out the rules to this highly competitive class. There is a very minimal list of things you may change on the kart, and with the lower horse-power, lap times are incredible competitive! I don’t think I’ve ever been 11th place and under a tenth of a second from the lead…. like, thats insane.
The atmosphere at ECKC is even better than I remember (if thats even possible). European racing is cut-throat aggressive. No room for fun there, and at times the spirit of racing can get a little lost. So it was very nice to come to the track and have some great conversations with fathers and sons whom are now in categories higher than I remember them being in. I think seeing Paul Cooke scoot by at 3km/h in a raised club-car was worth the trip back home! (Some things never change) hahahaha.
Maranello North America has also grown a lot since I raced. We were a three-kart team in FWT and one kart in SuperNats so it was absolutely awesome to see the 40ft long, 20ft wide red and white Maranello structure that occupied the paddock. The love for racing and good karma that is found behind those walls is infectious and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Forget the racing and just enjoy the atmosphere. Being able to help the new-comers to the sport and offer advise is something I take very seriously. I don’t consider myself to know too much about racing – I’m still learning every time I hit the track – but I find it a great honour to be able to offer help and stories from my own mistakes.
“I wish I had more time to come to the kart track and see everyone from ECKC and the karting community.”
The racers on the grid in Briggs weren’t looking for any of my advise, though! These guys were so tuned into their karts and the track it was amazing! The heat during the weekend had me really guessing for tire pressures and setup. P1 in morning warmup was a little bitter-sweet as I knew it meant I was going to be a little bit tight come qualifying. Qualifying didn’t end-up meaning very much though because the racing was as close as the lap times suggested! The style of racing was something I really wasn’t used to! Unlike in a race car, where you have gear ratios and front brakes to complete passes and manage traffic, these karts lacked all of the above! Keeping momentum and moving through the field like fluid is an acquired skill and it was a lot of fun learning the little tricks.
Beautiful wether all weekend made the second race day less of a struggle and we were all able to really dial-in on the setups. My Maranello felt incredible on Sunday, only making a few adjustments to help come off the corner a little better. The racing was more of the same draft and pass type racing which I was starting to get used to. I loved every minute of it! The races were so exciting and in the end, to finish 4th amongst those guys wasn’t so bad. It was cool racing with a couple of the same guys I raced with in 2012, it felt like nothing had changed!
I wish I had more time to come to the kart track and see everyone from ECKC and the karting community. European Formula car racing can be a very time consuming effort and making a commitment to relocate to Europe is really the only way to do it properly. I cant explain how glad I was to see all of you, keep racing hard! I’ll be watching on CKN LIVE!
This weekend I head to Monza for the 5th round of Formula Renault ALPS 2.0 championship which I’m pumped for! Building on a string of good finishes I’m looking to get my feet onto the podium this weekend! I hope I can carry over some of the draft-and-pass tips I picked up at Goodwood.