Warm weather and a revamped Goodwood Kartways facility greeted nearly 115 competitors at the opening round of the 2012 Eastern Canadian Karting Championship (ECKC) this past weekend. With the Goodwood grounds in tip-top shape, the pits filled with team trailers and a temporary grandstand packed throughout the day, the scene was set for not only a great day of racing, but for what is sure to be an amazing season for the premier karting series in Canada.
“The event was great! The track was superb!” exclaimed Series Manager Louis-Philippe Gelinas. “Daniel DiLeo and his team at Goodwood Kartways really prepared everything to make for a great opening event. The entire Goodwood team, starting with Stefanie, Rob, Dave, Josh, Porter, are so helpful and they always know what to do! The returning ASN officials – Bill Oakman, Norman Jennings, Denys Beaudin, Rob Oakman, Paul Hunter – make the world of difference, they know each other, the drivers and they run a tight show! Also, a few new faces were of major help, Josh Munn the technical assistant, and the AACA false grid team with Brigitte and Jean-Pierre, made also for a smooth running operation. Brigitte was great calling the classes! Paul Cooke also stepped up to ensure everything went off without a hitch!”
In the headline DD2 class, qualifying set the stage for what would be an incredible day of racing for the two-speed class. SRA Karting’s Ben Cooper edged reigning ECKC and World Champion Pier-Luc Ouellette for the pole, with usual suspect and Cooper’s teammate Christophe Boisclair in third. The 12-lap prefinal saw the same three on top, setting the stage for the ultimate showdown between the trio. With the green flag out for the final, Boisclair got the jump on Ouellette, putting the two Birels one-two over the world champ. Cooper quickly escaped, with Ouellette making quick work of Boisclair to regain second. Cooper looked untouchable, but it wasn’t time to count Ouellette out just yet. As Ouellette’s PSL powered CRG slowly began to reel in the Birel in front of him, it became apparent that Ouellette was in it to win it, setting a new track record of 35.727 on lap 12. With one and a half to go, Ouellette had made his way to Cooper, completing a clean pass to take a dramatic win over the Rotax Senior regular. Bosclair was three seconds back in third, with Enrico Menotti fourth and Hugo Ouellette fifth.
With a RMCGF invite on the line for the DD2 Masters category in 2012, the field came out ready and willing to fight for the prize. In qualifying, 2011 Pan Am champion and Team Canada member Stuart Clark set the tone for a repeat berth, as the Prime Powersports driver clocked fastest time over Masters rookie Marc-André Bourgeois and National Champion David Ivichek. The trio remained the same for the prefinal race, with 2006 Rotax Masters World Champion Luc Sauriol making his way into the picture. At the drop of the green for the final race, Clark and Bourgeois were both on a mission to win, though they may have forgotten they had 20 laps to fight it out! Contact on lap two started a melee between the duo, with contact again on lap three resulting in both losing position and falling to the tail of the field. With Sauriol inheriting the lead after moving up the third before the contact, Ivichek then started to put the pressure on the leader with the help of a push from Tecno pilot Ryan Horses. Not able to hold Horses off, a broken seat for Ivichek derailed his shot at the win, but he toughed it out and stayed on track. Meanwhile, Clark was making quick work of the tail of the field, making clean passes through turns one and nine and putting his knowledge learned at last year’s Grand Finals to work. By the end, Clark made his way to a third place podium finish, with a .870 second win going to Sauriol over Horses. 2011 ECKC DD2 Masters champion Paul Carvalho finished fourth with Ivichek in fifth. Bourgeois ended his day eighth.
Prime Powersports/Maranello team member Luke Chudleigh bested a stacked field of 32 Rotax Senior drivers to nab pole position over SH Karting/Tony Kart pilots Steven Szigeti and Jesse Lazare, who made the switch to the green machine right before the season opener. Home track hero Marco DiLeo put his Intrepid chassis back in fourth, only 0.074 seconds off fast time. This tight competition continued through the wheel-to-wheel action of the prefinal race, as Chudleigh was shuffled back to fourth leaving the TonyKarts of Szigeti, Lazare and Austin Milwain to sweep the first three positions. DiLeo ended back in fifth, but the master of the Goodwood facility was not done there. At the start of the day’s final, Lazare jumped to the lead over his teammate as Chudleigh slotted into third in front of Milwain and DiLeo. The same five karts continued to stay in play during the gripping 20-lap feature. Systematically making his march towards the point as the other drivers battled, DiLeo managed his way to second place just before the halfway flags. Looking for his way around Chudeligh, who had found himself in the lead after running down Lazare, DiLeo had the speed to reign supreme at his own track. Not to be denied, DiLeo made his move for the win with a thrilling pass on the last lap, which resulted in Chudleigh shuffling back to third, with Szigeti claiming the second step on the podium. Lazare finished in fourth during his Tony Kart debut with Milwain completing the top-five.
Taking on a field of nearly 30 Rotax Junior competitors, West Coast kid Parker Thompson put together a great qualifying run to take pole over Oliver Bedard and Brazilian Gustavo Bandiera. Reigning ECKC Rotax Junior champion Zachary Claman-DeMelo would be relegated to P24 after a mechanical issue and miscue with the resulting meatball flag cost him both his fastest and second fastest laps. Prefinal action saw Thompson’s SH/TonyKart cross the stripe ahead of Bedard and junior rookie Jeffrey Kingsley. Posting fastest race lap, Claman-DeMelo powered through the field to sixth, up eighteen spots and now a contender for the final action. The course of the 20-lap main saw Thompson complete the sweep of the day. Edging the SRA Karting/Birel of Bedard for the win, Thompson would emerge as a contender for the series title and the repeat trip to the RMCGF. Claman-DeMelo would complete the podium, a nice recovery on the day for the new PSL/CRG driver with Kingsley fourth and Bandiera fifth.
In Mini Max action, PSL Karting’s Gianfranco Mazzaferro started his 2012 ECKC campaign off on the right foot after clocking fast time in the qualifying session. Keeping up his quick pace in the prefinal, Mazzaferro earned fast lap honours in the prefinal, but a penalty knocked him back from his third place finishing position to the tail of the field. Austin Riley edged US pilot Matthew Thomas for the prefinal win. In the final, Alexander Murphy emerged as the Mini Max victor, followed by Thomas and Riley. Despite again setting fast lap, Mazzaferro only made it to sixth in the final finishing order.
Making quite the impression in his ECKC debut, Matthew Latifi scored the pole position in Micro Max by a whopping 0.544. With his intentions clear, the PSL Karting/CRG driver backed that up with dominating performances in the both the prefinal and final, sweeping the day and scoring fastest race lap in each as well. Matthew Barry and Xavier Harris rounded out the Micro Max podium for Round #1.
In the Briggs & Stratton classes, Simon Rousseau emerged as the pole sitter in Senior, laying down a fast lap .450 seconds clear of the field. With Rousseau not scored in the prefinal, Sylvain Coursol took the win. Rousseau was back in action for the 15-lap final, and was able to edge Coursol for the maiden Briggs & Stratton victory. Jason Assinck completed the podium. Brady Dylan was fastest among the Juniors in qualifying, and kept his charge up the in the prefinal. The final win however went to Christopher Proietto, who had a more than six-second advantage over Dylan at the stripe.
“All the racers were excited about the new, faster track, and the start of the season,” continued Gelinas. “The atmosphere was electric! And the races were, WOW!!! Saturday attracted new photographers, local newspapers and lots of spectators!”
“The races were incredible! I even took the opportunity to stand besides Bill Oakman in the center of the track and watched the races, the crowd, the teams. I understand now why he loves it so much!” concluded Gelinas.
The Eastern Canadian Karting Championship is an ASN-sanctioned, four round, six race series with venues in both Ontario and Quebec. Now in its third year, the ECKC will start off the 2012 season at Goodwood Kartways in Stouffville, Ontario May 26-27 for the first double-header weekend. Circuit ICAR will host the third race in Mirabel, Quebec June 17 followed by the second double-race weekend at Mosport International Karting in Bowmanville, Ontario June 30-July 1. The series will conclude at the Monaco Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres July 29, the prestigious street race set at the site of the GP3R at Exposition Park. The Eastern Canadian Karting Championship is a Rotax Max Challenge series and will award Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals tickets to the Rotax Senior, Rotax Junior, Rotax DD2 and Rotax DD2 Masters class champions. In 2012, the Briggs & Stratton classes will contest the series six-race series, making up a national four-stroke championship. For more information on the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, please visit www.eckc.ca.