By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it’s possible. Sometimes you get it wrong? Sure, it’s impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I’m doing it right.
With the first rounds of the ECKC now complete, I’m excited to deliver my first blog of the season.
I’m thankful to have such an opportunity to race all the way across Canada as part of the CKN Brand Ambassador program. For myself, I couldn’t wait any longer to see the new helmet and decal kit courtesy of CanadianKartingNews.com, Cold Stone Creamery, Bell Racing Helmets and Polen Designs. And without a doubt in my mind I was impressed. Both the helmet and the decals definitely stood out on the track and received many compliments. Now all that’s left is the race suit, which I’m sure, will be impressive on its own.
Wednesday May 14
My Dad and I arrived at the Mosport International Karting facility in Bowmanville, Ontario to meet the SH Racing team for the first time. The team owners and their support staff greeted us warmly. The SH race trailer and team tent are very impressive and we had a chance to assist with the set-up. After a few hours of manual labour and unpacking, we were assigned our pit space next to Christian Gagnon and his driver Patricio O’Ward.
Our 2014 FA Victory chassis was already assembled by the crew at SH Racing, so all we had to do was install a race engine being supplied by Alex Vincent from AV Performance and make a few minor adjustments to ensure we had optimum performance. Because of our late start and the time required to get the team tent organized, we didn’t get a chance to turn any laps on the first day.
Thursday May 15
At first sight, the Mosport kart track appeared to be well configured. It has four high-speed straights, a few low/high-speed turns, and a technical section. On top of that, this track features some extreme elevation changes throughout the circuit. I couldn’t wait to take my first run at it and knock off some of the “winter cobwebs” that had formed on me over the off-season. I managed to get three solid practice sessions completed before heavy rain set-in for the afternoon. The wet conditions and high winds made it very miserable, but we continued to get acquainted with our new FA chassis and discuss set-ups, engine combinations, gearing, etc. with the SH support staff (they were awesome). Numerous drivers dawned their rain gear and took to the track for some extremely wet practice sessions, but I elected to wait it out and stay dry.
Friday May 16
The rain continued to fall overnight and into the early morning. My first practice session of the day was in the rain, but the skies started to clear and we were able to return to our dry set-up in the afternoon. I continued to improve every session and worked extremely well with Alex Vincent (AV Performance) and Sacha Gagnon on engine tuning, chassis set-up and driver coaching.
Once our regular sessions were completed, we ended the day with two timed practices. The first session was really good placing second out of 30 karts. Wow, was I excited and what a confidence booster to start things off. In my second timed session I was classified in sixth, which was still solid but I had lots of room for improvement as a driver. I knew that this stacked field of experienced drivers would become much faster and I’d have to work hard to keep up with the pack. Since I’m a newbie to the Sr. Rotax class, this was an awesome experience for me to swim or sink amongst some of the best talent in Canada and abroad.
Saturday May 17
Finally, a race day and the sun was shining! I woke up feeling both excited and a bit nervous that the first round of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship was about to begin. The energy level under the SH Racing tent was upbeat and positive as we inched closer and closer to our first warm-up session. We decided to position ourselves at the front of the grid, in order to be out front on the opening lap with clean air and minimal distractions. I ended up with a solid lap time that placed sixth out of 31 karts.
Qualifying was next. I struggled throughout the session trying to find a clear line and a fast driver to hook-up with. But the clock ran out, and I finished in tenth place with my fastest lap being the last lap. Wow, I can’t be doing that again. With a few tweaks to the chassis and minimal engine tuning, I took to the track with my CKN/Cold Stone Creamery sponsored FA kart for the pre-final. I started the race in tenth position, which put me on the outside row for first sweeping right-hander followed by an immediate left up the hill. As the race began I pushed as hard as I could to make up positions on the start but as the pack arrived at the top of turn two, three karts got a little too close causing the 321 of Taylor Gates to flip. Thankfully he made it out with only a fractured bone in his ankle, and a mild concussion. After the restart I had an okay race, although I had passed quite a few karts I failed to protect certain corners where I opened the door for others looking to pass. I ended up finishing where I started, in tenth.
The final began with a good start attaining two positions, and the race was going pretty good until two drivers ahead of me were battling for position, when suddenly they made contact at the end of the high-speed straightaway. I tried to avoid the conflict, but one of the karts rolled backwards into my rear bumper and spun me off the track. By the time the dust settled, I was in last place but still determined to catch the pack and make as many passes as possible. In the end, I finished in 21st position. Feeling somewhat dejected and disappointed with the outcome, I had to shake it off and hope for a better day on Sunday.
“Super” Sunday May 18
As we began the second day of the ECKC, I had a good feeling about how the day was going to play out. Once again the SH Racing team was primed and ready to go. During the warm-up session, I had a clean run and finished in ninth position, but we definitely needed more speed to keep up to the faster runners. With some consultation with the SH support team, we made a gear change to improve my straightaway speed and rolling speed through the corners. During my qualifying session, I worked with another quick driver and managed to finish in seventh position. That would place me on the inside row for the pre-final.
As we wheeled up to the grid for the pre-final I had many thoughts running through my head, but all had to be set aside so I could mentally drive the track. We fired up our engines and headed out to get the job done. I had a good start gaining two positions and I was able to hold it for the rest of the race placing me in fifth. Finally I was in a position where I could foresee a podium finish. With little change to the kart and a fair bit of coaching from Alex, I was ready for the final race of the weekend.
Prior to racing the final I took a little extra time to review all the aspects of the track. There are many areas where I was fast, but still a few that I could improve on, so this is where the GoPro came in handy. On the start of the final, I was knocked to the edge of the corner where at least four karts got by me. Crappy start, but I wasn’t going to give up. It took a couple laps to catch the kart in front of me and once I did, I set my target on sixth position. It took every lap I had left but finally on the last lap I made my move and gained sixth. As I neared the last corner luck was on my side as two karts got together in front of me, and I was in perfect position to capitalize on it. At the line I took fourth place and had the third fastest lap. It was nice to end the weekend on a high note.
This past weekend in Mosport was amazing to say the least. The track was very unique and the racing was spectacular! For myself, it was a weekend full of firsts with it being my first race this year, first race at that track, and my first race in Senior. In the end it was a great reminder of why we spend thousands of dollars each year to do this. I’d like to add here that it was an honor to work with SH Racing. They were selfless in helping us out all weekend and I believe that the results spoke for themselves. I truly look forward to being with them again in Goodwood for the next rounds of the ECKC. I’d also like to thank all my sponsors that are making this year possible for me. Canadian Karting News, Cold Stone Creamery, Bell Racing Helmets, Polen Designs and the endless amount of supporters, I can’t thank you all enough! See you in Goodwood!