The Eastern Canadian Karting Championship is set for its season finale this week as drivers and teams head to Quebec and the 14th Annual Monaco de Trois-Rivieres. Kicking off GP3R race week for the second-straight season, ECKC drivers will face a 1.2km temporary layout at Exposition Park in deciding the 2012 Champions. The venue had a trial run last season as a stand-alone event, and following its success Le Monaco is now set to host the Coupe de Quebec on Saturday and the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship finale on Sunday. The finale also brings a unique schedule, as after moving in Wednesday night and Thursday morning, drivers will run four rounds of practice Thursday and Friday before race days consisting of Warm-Up, Qualifying, Prefinals and Finals.
While the prize package is the lightest its been in the three-year history of the championship, there is no denying the lure of the top awards: four Rotax Max Challenge Champions will earn berths on Rotax Team Canada for the 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portugal this November. The same four will earn three-month personalized training programs from P1 Fitness as they prepare, and The Decal Zone will award those four drivers along with the five other ECKC Champions $250 Gift Certificates. Briggs & Stratton will award its Champions 2013 event registration and a set of tires at each round, along with its $100 contingency award to drivers that contested at least four championship rounds. A final award issued Sunday will go to a 15-year-old driver chosen by the ECKC board to represent the series at the 16th Annual Skip Barber Racing School Karting Scholarship Shootout, the winner of which starts up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder program by contesting the Skip Barber Racing Schools National Championship.
One driver sure to collect an award Sunday is Matthew Latifi, as the Ferrolati Corse/CRG Micro-Max driver will confirm his championship by participating this weekend. Currently sitting with 1205 points, Latifi will be champion even if his closest pursuer races perfect on Sunday. The other five Rotax titles are much different situations, and just as it has over the first two ECKC seasons, Rotax Senior remains the closest of the bunch. It, along with Junior and DD2, will be outlined below, while in DD2 Masters Prime/Maranello driver Stuart Clark and PSL/CRG driver Marc-Andre Bourgeois are set for a head-to-head showdown with Clark leading by twenty points going in once drops are factored. Noone else can catch him, and there are three Prefinal/Final scenarios to watch for: If Clark goes top four/win he is champion. If Bourgeois goes win/win he is champion. And Bourgeois must win the final to have a shot at the title and must do so after finishing first, second, or third in the Prefinal. In Rotax Mini-Max another Ferrolati Corse driver heads the table, as Gianfranco Mazzaferro leads Praga North America driver Austin Riley and here, again, no other driver can win the championship. Riley will need to be running at the front to apply any pressure while Mazzaferro is in the driver’s seat leading by 47 points with one race left to run.
In Briggs & Stratton classes Russell Kroon is set to secure the Masters Championship this weekend while Simon Rousseau will confirm the Senior Championship title. In Briggs Junior, Dylan Brady sits at 950 points after his drop is applied while Christopher Proietto has 915 headed to the finale. Racing begins at 1pm Sunday, with Finals scheduled to begin at 3pm. Rotax Micro-Max and Mini-Max classes will run fifteen lap Finals while all other Rotax classes will race twenty laps. For the most up-to-date information from trackside be sure to ‘Like’ Canadian Karting News on Facebook and follow @CKN_Live on Twitter. As you ponder the championship scenarios at the finale, CKN is here to help with its three-class roundup version 4.0, CKN – Three to See.
Rotax Senior – Three To See
Marco DiLeo, Intrepid North America / Intrepid
In the inaugural ECKC season Di Leo emerged champion after besting Pier-Luc Ouellette at the Tremblant season finale. Last year after being thumped to retirement in turn one at the finale, he ended exactly tied with Kevin Monteith and took the title based on wins. This year he heads to Trois-Rivieres in a third-consecutive showdown holding a ten point drop-adjusted lead over Steven Szigeti as he looks for a championship three-peat. Di Leo has created the slimmest of championship leads based on two wins at Goodwood and another at the latest Mosport round. He also finished second in the opening Mosport start, fourth at ICAR, and his lowest point-scoring run of ten so far was fifth in a Prefinal. Di Leo has 1140 points overall through five races, and his drop at the moment is 195 scored at ICAR. With the difference between first and second being twenty points, Rotax Senior is a head-to-head competition, and it’s nothing new for the reigning champ.
Steven Szigeti, SH Karting / TonyKart
Any race not won by Di Leo this season has been won by Szigeti, and the Tony Kart driver is the only driver besides Di Leo to have won more than once in the Senior history of ECKC. After scoring a Mosport win last season, Szigeti cruised to victory this year at ICAR and made it back-to-back wins by taking the opener at Mosport. He was second twice on opening weekend, and after being forced to start at the back of the pack in the latest race, stormed through the field to finish fifth. His season’s work has him sitting at 1085 points, and in dropping 150 points from Mosport he moves to within ten points of the title. Szigeti may well have won it last season but for a Mosport monsoon, and this season was first or second in every final before having to start at the back last time out. With the title coming down to a head-to-head scenario this week, it’s clear which of those two spots he’d choose.
Jesse Lazare, SH Karting / TonyKart
There’s no award for it, but if there were one the Senior Rookie-of-the-Year would certainly be Lazare. He’s been fighting at the front since the season opener at Goodwood and has made three trips up the podium steps. In his first four finals of the season Lazare went fourth, third, second, but the string ended at Mosport when he retired from the Saturday Final. On Sunday he was back looking for his ‘first’ to complete the run, but settled for second once again. He put a win on the board in his first Senior season at the Florida Winter Tour; put a win on the board this summer in the Coupe de Quebec; and now would like nothing better than to put a win on the board in the Eastern Canadian Championship. He’s won Prefinals at both ICAR and Mosport on the season, and though he can’t overthrow the point leader to take the title, he can make his way to the runner-up spot which could lead to a Grand Finals trip when National and International scenarios play out later in the season.
Rotax Junior – Three To See
Parker Thompson, SH Karting / TonyKart
Thompson could easily make a name for himself being one of just two drivers contesting both the Eastern Canadian Championship and Western Canadian Championship, but he’s doing so much more than that as he currently leads the points tables on both sides of the country. Out West he’s won three Prefinals and three Finals to be very much in control, including a sweep at the latest round in Saskatchewan. In the East he was doing much the same right up to the Mosport round, as after sweeping races one and three, and putting a two-two in the books in between, Thompson had his charge derailed at Mosport when he was taken out of action on both days. The resulting charges from the back saw him gain enough points to maintain his overall lead, but once drops are applied he falls to second by 41 points. In the East it’s coming down to the wire in Junior, but the competition has no room for error.
Zachary Claman DeMelo, ZCD Autosport / CRG
The competition has no room for error, because Claman DeMelo is dropping a zero from the third round at ICAR. That zero on the card means the standout Junior is counting the points he earns at Le Monaco, good, bad, or somewhere in between. Much like the leading pair in Senior, Claman DeMelo and Thompson have won every race in Junior, but they’ve gone a step further in sweeping the day with each win. ZCD leads in that category 3-2, meaning once drops are applied – and he drops nothing – his edge heading the finale is 945 points to 904. He may have the pressure that comes with no room for error, but be it known Claman DeMelo knows how to get the job done. He’s one of only four drivers in ECKC history to score a win in each season, and he’s third on the ECKC all-time wins list. He was the Mini-Max Champion in 2010, and the Junior Champion last season, a title he fully intends on defending this weekend.
Jeffrey Kingsley, SRA Karting / Birel
There has been no better rookie performance in Junior this year as the reigning Mini-Max Champion has stood on every step of the podium but one – the top one. If Kingsley were to get there this weekend, or even get close with trouble befalling others, he may just slip past a lead pair busy taking note of each other. Much like Thompson, Kingsley was a mark of consistency before Mosport, which in his case led to a retirement and a race sure to be dropped. Through the first three rounds he’d placed third five times in Prefinals and Finals, and his other start was a fourth in the opening round at Goodwood. After starting from P20 in race four at Mosport he charged all the way to second, and that effort took him to an even 800 points and third in the championship. A year ago the class had six different winners from six starts, meaning the champion had just one. Kingsley would like nothing better than to see that fact repeated.
Rotax DD2 – Three To See
Ben Cooper, SRA Karting / Birel
Continuing the Thompson-Kingsley theme, Cooper looked firmly in control of the DD2 Championship through the first four races: He’d finished no lower than second in race action and was headed to the race five Final sitting on the front row. He then worked to first early in the run, only to retire shortly after with gearbox problems. The resulting P21 created his drop event, and set the stage for yet another showdown at Le Monaco. Overall Cooper sits third in points, yet with drops applied he returns to the top of the order with 950. The reigning and two-time Rotax World Senior Champion has already qualified to return to Grand Finals in that class, but he’d like nothing better than to make it two championships in two tries since coming to America, and follow a win in Al Ain last year with a Rotax DD2 World Championship in Portugal. The DD2 final will close the ECKC season in 2012, and the paddock will be empty – all on the fence.
Pier-Luc Ouellette, PSL Karting / CRG
The other half of the ECKC marketing strategy knows a thing or two about championships himself, as has been well documented. Ouellette is the reigning Rotax DD2 World Champion, also winning in Al Ain on the same day as Cooper. It was a second Rotax World Title in his case as well, and came in a season where PLO won the ECKC Championship, Canadian National Championship, and had the Pan American Rotax Senior Championship in the palm of his hand before passing it off. Ouellette is the outright point leader through five races at 1095 points, yet falls behind Cooper at 905 after dropping his low total. With 45 points standing between him and a repeat championship, Ouellette knows better than anyone that the Prefinal race will be just as important as the ECKC grand finale. There is nothing better in karting than watching world class karters race with everything at stake, and fans will get a double shot this weekend.
Christophe Boisclair, SRA Karting / Birel
While Ouellette and Cooper hogged the top two spots through both Goodwood Prefinals and Finals, Boisclair stepped up, literally, at ICAR when he finished second in race three. Then at Mosport he was headed for pole on Saturday when a flat tire deflated his run, but he once again climbed to P2 in the Final. Then, on Sunday, he finally cracked the stranglehold on top spot and won in convincing fashion. All told through five rounds Boisclair’s lowest finish is P6 in a Prefinal – and that was through no fault of his own. He has a win, two seconds, a third, a fourth, and 1075 points good for second overall. His drop see’s him fall to third at 875, but from there he is very much in the championship picture – and he gets the picture when it comes to championships. Boisclair is a five time National Champion, and in ten years of karting has been to the Rotax Grand Finals a record eight times! The karts can’t line up soon enough!
CKN staffers Cody Schindel, Neelan Nadesan and Jason Holland will be on hand at Exposition Park this weekend for the fourth ECKC edition of CKN Live! Be sure to ‘Like’ Canadian Karting News on Facebook for comprehensive updates and photo galleries throughout the weekend, follow the team on Twitter @CKN_Live for the latest information from trackside, and visit canadiankartingnews.com for an in-depth race reports following the race weekend!
* All championship scenarios are to the best of our knowledge and are not Official.
** RMC participants are also awarded one bonus point for each event entered.
*** Under ECKC rules, participants may not drop Le Monaco event unless they participated.