CKN Driver Diary: Parker Thompson @ Varsity Speed Park
Race week started off Wednesday as my dad and I loaded the karts. We knew it was going to rain Thursday, so we decided to drive down late in the afternoon because there was no use testing in the rain when the race would be dry. Going to Calgary I had the mindset to win. I wanted to take the championship in style with family and friends watching me race because this was my closest race of the season to home. Thursday we drove down to Calgary and headed straight to UPS to collect our shipped engines from Trois-Rivières, the last round of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. Bad news struck when only one engine box had arrived. They lost a very important engine, and without it I would not have a decent back-up engine.
The day of Practice for us was all about dialing into the track. I had to get used to driving it and had to give feedback to get the kart to where I liked it. In my opinion, everyone says Calgary is an easy track, but I strongly disagree. This is a track with many tricks and it’s deceiving. To be fast here you have to have the full package: a driver who is precise on line choices and a kart that is fine tuned to the track’s changes. That’s what we were looking for during Friday practice and we didn’t find it. We were about as fast as everyone else, but we were still weak with the chassis, only having a day on the track compared to a lot of the home-track drivers. Other than that the day was good, and we were ready for the first race day ahead.
The first race day of Calgary was tough in the beginning as our only engine that arrived from UPS let me down in morning warm-up. Even with cool temperatures in the morning and the radiator flap open the whole session it overheated a lot. We then reverted to an older engine that we had only used once this year, and when I say we had to brush the cob webs off it, we literally did! It’s sat in a bow and never been touched since the first round of Florida Winter Tour, and even there we only used it for a couple of sessions. This was potentially a huge game changer going into Qualifying – essentially we were winging it! We rolled the dice and things worked out as we put it on the front row, off pole, with much to do in order to improve the new engine.
In the Prefinal we were again rolling the dice trying to fast-track the engine to being quick. We fell back on the start due to the first corner, but throughout the race I made my way up from fourth to second and stayed in second for the checkered flag. For the Final, again we made more changes to the engine and to chassis, still searching for the perfect set-up. At the start of the Final I again tried to hold the outside and again that didn’t work out well, I ended up fourth. One of the major passing zones was the following hairpin, and I decided I wanted to redeem myself for the start, so I went for a risky three-person pass and successfully completed it. I then led every lap, even though second place and I exchanged passes back and fourth a few times. I came to the checkered flag with yet another win in the series.
My performance Saturday pretty much sealed up the Championship, but I still really wanted another win. Morning warm-up ran smoothly this time around as on Sunday our barely-used engine proved to be decently fast and more reliable! We moved to Qualifying where we just didn’t have the kart dialled with the new tires, and put it in P3 on the grid. Disaster then struck in the Prefinal when the outside row got a really good jump. So good that I fell from third to eighth on the start! The off-pole driver was later penalized, but that didn’t help at the time. I made my way up by making some very nice and dicey moves through the field and finished first. Then, on the grid for the Final, my engine would not fire! My mechanic had 30 seconds to miraculously figure out the problem and get it fired. While the karts were on the warm-up lap, my mechanic got the kart fired – the air filter in the air box was logged with fuel, causing the problem. I just made it in time to regain my pole spot. The kart at this time was bogging, and they waved the start off twice because whenever I would crack the throttle the air filter, logged with fuel, would bog the engine down and this would cause off-pole to always get a jump on me. It was very frustrating but finally it took off and the flagmen threw green. I could still feel the engine bog in the slowest corner of the track, the infield hairpin, but towards the end of the race the filter cleared out and I was back to maximum performance.
The race was tight in the first half, but in the second half everyone started to battle and I had a nice clean drive to a three-second lead and another win in the Western Canadian Championship. This confirmed I would be the Western Canadian Champion for two years in a row and that I would be representing Team Canada for the World Finals for two years in a row as well. I cannot wait for this year. After tough luck last year I want to redeem myself in Portugal. I could not have taken the Western Canadian Championship and win five out of six races without the help of my team, Apollo Motorsports, and the sponsors who continue to support me: Sylvan Lake R.V., OMP, RLV, Courtney Concepts, Tillett Racing Seats, Tony Kart and canadiankartingnews.com. I thank them once again for all their support through the championship.