Driver Diary: Zachary Claman DeMelo @ Le Monaco
Le Monaco de Trois-Rivières street race was one of the races I had been looking forward to most this season, especially since there were so many unknowns prior to this double-event race weekend. I had never raced on this course before and I was excited to put some rubber down and get some laps under my belt.
The day started early as my tuner Chris Green picked me up from my place at 5:45am. We wanted to get to the track early to set up the chassis based on our track walk and be ready for the first practice session of four that was scheduled to begin at noon. After walking the track a couple times the team discussed set-up and chassis options, as we wanted to find a package that was suitable for this one-of-a kind circuit. We tried various set-ups and wanted to keep things simple, but the day seemed to be more of a track sweeping exercise than an opportunity to find an optimum set-up. Times were not very important at this point as the track was still coming in to something that could be consistent enough to see who is fast, and in only completing 15 green laps throughout the afternoon it was impossible to tell. An early dinner and sleep were required, as I wanted to be in top shape for Friday’s practice sessions.
As the officials changed some corners on the track we had our game plan for the day and went through the paces as the sessions progressed. Fine-tuning our set-up and looking for the best gear in different track conditions, we were very happy with the progression we made on my PSL/CRG and tuning the HRS Engine was easy as Nigel had prepared us an awesome engine/carb package. We were confident with our CRG RS9-28 chassis and knew that we had some room for improvement with finer details, so I remained optimistic for Saturday’s Quebec Cup race.
The first race day was an important day for me as I was leading the championship and wanted to collect some strong results to maintain my championship lead before heading to the final round at Grand-Mere in September. We wanted to also use the day as a simulation for the next day’s ECKC race, so starting the day with a quick time in practice, we knew that our test program on Friday was paying off. Qualifying was going to be the key to ensuring that I would have a safe race as the track was very tight with no room for error, so we had to aim for the front row and pole was our objective. Mission accomplished, even though times were tight amongst the top ten we were right where we needed to be for the Prefinal.
The plan for the Prefinal was pretty straightforward, as we needed to get some clean air for the race and keep a safe gap to maintain the front row for the Final. At the 70% mark in the race the session was red-flagged, as an incident in turn two required the ambulance. Once the driver was cleared and OK, we were given a rare re-start, and I carried first place home over the remaining laps. Starting the Final wasn’t much different from the Prefinal. We wanted to try some chassis adjustments and try to get a clear run for the race. Everything was perfect! Mike, Chris and I made some great choices on the set-up and my HRS engine was perfect from start to finish. I was very happy to win my first race in Trois-Rivières.
The last day of the weekend was what really counted; there was a tight battle for the championship and a ticket to the Rotax Max Grand Finals on the line in the birth country of my father – Portugal! I really wanted to make him proud and do my best to race in his country. Conditions of the track started changing and the air was much hotter than the day before, so they were factors that we had to consider as we fine-tuned our PSL/CRG for Qualifying and the races. You could almost say there was ‘grip’ on the track! After adjusting the carb and seat position, we were able to dial in the kart to put down a quick lap in qualifying. We were running very similar times to the Rotax Senior drivers, and that’s always fun. The field was closer than ever in qualifying but we were able to pull off top spot!
The temperature was very hot outside as we sat on the grid for the Prefinal, but I didn’t lose focus and as the green flag dropped, I drove as consistently as possible to take the checkered in first, exactly were I needed to be for the Final. Then this was it – this is what we worked for all weekend. It was all up to me to maintain my focus and bring it home safely. The green flag was given the third time across the start/finish line and I never looked back. We did it! ZCD Autosport carried home the weekend sweep! I won the ECKC Rotax Junior Championship against some great Canadian drivers and I got my ticket to the Rotax World Finals in Portugal!
All of this would not have been possible without the support of my Mom and Dad; I really want to thank them for their devotion and encouragement in fueling my passion for racing. I need to also thank my sponsors: SeCe Apparel, Uggs, Villebrequin, PSL Karting and CRG S.p.a. My team at ZCD Autosport also did a great job: Mike Wilson and his driver coaching and advice, Chirs Green with his chassis tuning and advice, Nigel Horner at HRS for the best engines available, Damon Schatrowski for everything he does to contribute to the team and I can’t forget my sister Zoe who is always there to cheer me on. I will see you all back in Mont-Tremblant for the Canadian Nationals.