CKN Driver Diary: Parker Thompson @ Winter Cup South Garda Karting
Right after my podium in La Conca at the WSK Masters opener it was back to Canada to write my midterm exams for school. Then it was back to Italy on the following Monday and arriving in Bergamo, Italy Tuesday night. From there it was straight to Lonato, Italy where South Garda Karting is located. It was a tough travel experience, I caught a bad cold and was heavily jet lagged compared to the other times I completed the trip. The next morning was Wednesday, which was the first official practice day of the Winter Cup. Due to heavy snowfall the days prior to the event, the track was very wet. Some teams tested while most of Energy Corse stayed off the soaked track, to save the race material for the estimated dry race on the weekend. It proved to be an excellent idea as the following test day on Thursday was sunny. Only problem is the sun melts the snow, causing a half dry / half wet track all practice day long. Having only four test sessions left until qualifying, it was crunch time and we without a doubt made all four sessions on the final test day. Things did not go exactly how we wanted them to, it was tough with the half dry half wet conditions and the green track. As well South Garda Karting is the nearest track to many of the major factories in karting. This being said the drivers and mechanics know exactly what to do to go fast, where as this was my first race at the track. At the end of the day we were top ten in our group of thirty drivers, but there was three groups in total so we would need more to be competitive.
Friday started off fantastic with me posting the second quickest time overall in morning warm up. Going into qualifying I was confident we would do well, but I did not realize how much the track had changed. It went from a very green track in morning warm up to being quite gripped up in qualifying. Our chassis was set up for a green track, and we were a couple of tenths off. But in Europe when you’re a couple tenths off you qualify at the back. Out of close to 100 karts I qualified twenty-fourth. Which isn’t bad considering I would start all my heats from eight on the grid, but it is far from perfect. At the end of Friday I had my first heat. From the outside on row four I managed to take over third on lap one, but another driver made unnecessary contact with me causing me to fall to around fourteenth, I would manage to get back to seventh but could not catch the lead pack. Disappointing after such a fantastic start in the first heat.
In the second heat I really wanted to make up for yesterday. The start was good and by the first lap I was fifth from eighth, from there I advanced to third by the third lap. I had fantastic pace and was catching the leaders when the engine started to cut out. Frantically I richened the needles in the carburetor. We still have not figured out exactly what went wrong, because the needle temperatures were normal at the time of the problem indicating it wasn’t to lean. By the end of the lap the engine had regained being stable and not cutting out. The problem put me back to ninth. I gained one position before the finish to come in eighth, really disappointing for how fast we were. The third heat was a cluster from the beginning. I got slammed off the track on the start, then lots of contact by other drivers all the way through the race lead me to a twelfth-place finish. The fourth heat was also tough, because many fast drivers were in the group. On the start I managed to hold my position and then throughout the heat I advanced to sixth place for a finishing position. In the final heat I knew it was crunch time, and I would have to place high or else I would have an out of top-ten starting position for the pre-final. It started fantastic as the first lap as I was up third. Later in the race my engine started to run lean as it heated up, it had a constant pop in the top end range. Drivers started taking advantage of me for it and in one lap I fell from third to sixth. I fixed the problem but lost my progress, so to gain it back and I started to take risks I normally wouldn’t have. This proved to be the wrong choice, as I pulled on a driver I went to stick my nose in on him in a high-speed corner and he closed the door. We both crashed, I fell into the twenties and managed to find my way back to seventeenth. A poor choice on my part and I’m sorry to my whole team and people supporting me. With a combination of heat finishes I would start seventeenth for the pre final.
I knew the pre final was going to be messy, but I had no idea what I was getting into. On the start it was good, as I advanced to just outside the top ten. All was going well until a massive crash happened right in front of me. Nearly ten karts piled up in a very tight section of the track and there was just no time for me to react. I got driven over, which caused the chassis to bend. I did a few laps after the crash to gain positions from the drivers that could not resume the race after the behemoth crash. But I was so far away from anyone that I came in to conserve my tires for the final. Starting in the 25th position in the final I knew it would be a tough race, but I just had to avoid crashes. On the start I made my way up to fourteenth and from there was on a mission to the front. I was in eighth when a driver drove me off the track. Back to twelfth I had to regain my progress. It was around five laps to go when I got back to eighth. I made a gap from the drivers behind and took home the second top ten of my KFJ career in my second race. It was a tough weekend with a decent end result. I can assure everyone that my team and I are not happy until we are first, and we are pushing very hard in order to do so in the future. I look forward to the WSK Euro in La Conca, stay tuned for my upcoming CKN Driver Diary from there. Thanks to all the partners of Parker Thompson Racing, Sylvan Lake R.V, RLV, Panigada European Transport, Racing Against Cancer, Bell Racing Helmets, Tillett Racing Seats, Douglas Wheels, Energy Corse SRL, and GFR Engines.
To follow Parker Thompson and European adventure, be sure to check out his website, http://parkerthompsonracing.com or follow him on Facebook (http://fb.com/ParkerThompsonRacing) or Twitter (@ParkerTRacing)