The first stop of the 16th annual Challenge of Americas is the next event on our very busy 2023 calendar of events. We will travel to Tucson, Arizona for the first of three Challenge races this winter at one of our favourite race tracks for its picturesque views and excellent wheel-to-wheel racing, the Musselman Honda Circuit.
There’s been a few changes for the Challenge this year as series organizer Andy Seesemann has introduced the OK-N package as a replacement for the studdering 125cc Senior division. Tucson will be the first competitive race in the world for this program developed by the CIK to neutralize international karting programs around the globe. While engines are still a little difficult to attain since they were only homologated a few months ago, it appears there will be double-digit entries for the first round and Seesemann has waived all late fees for anyone who has an engine and wants to compete in round one in OK-N.
More than 110 entries are expected at round one with solid numbers in 100cc Junior and 100cc Senior, two classes that are really gaining momentum across the continent. Rok Shifter and Rok Shifter Masters are staples of the Challenge program and are expecting good turnouts as well.
We caught up with Andy for a quick CKN Chatter ahead of his first race of the season. Always optimistic and always a pleasure to talk to, Andy gives us his thoughts ahead of the race in Tucson.
And if you haven’t experienced the Challenge before, we highly suggest you register for one of their three races this winter. http://challengekarting.com for more info.
One week out from round one of the Challenge and the first OK-N race on the globe. How excited are you for your first race weekend of the year?
I am always excited about this time of year. For 16 years, late January through April is my favorite time of year. I start working on the Challenge in the late Summer and all that work, effort and planning is finally able to pay off once we hit the ground at the first event. It’s like a driver or team planning for a race, prepping the equipment, refreshing the engine, working on fitness and practicing. Then the green flag drops and you’re able to see the results of the work that you put in.
We got a peek at the pre-registration numbers and overall the classes are healthy across the board. Would you say the class list adjustment has been well received so far?
Yes for sure. It is unfortunate what has happened to 125cc TaG racing overall in the West. Regardless of the engine program, TaG 125cc racing has suffered West of the Mississippi. That’s obvious when you look at where other programs are putting on their races. There are very few high-profile events west of the Eastern Time zone, other than the Challenge of the Americas. Our 100cc programs are large and our shifter program remains strong. The new OK-N platform will see its first action next week and I am excited about that. My goal was to have 10-12 racers in that class at Tucson and we are right there. While that may not seem like an impressive number when you factor in that this is the very first OK-N race in the history of karting and there are only about 25 engines on the entire continent, it’s a very good start.
Aside from the class adjustments, are there any series updates at the Challenge this year the racers should be reminded of?
We are the first Rok program to adopt the new Tillotson pumper carb, so that is certainly a big change. Racers asked for the change and Vortex did the work and gave them what they wanted. After some supply issues last year, we are finally able to adopt the LeVanto rain tire and ENI oil into our program for the first time. Other than that, it’s business as usual at The Challenge.
We’ve heard there are some new staff this year, who have you added to the team to help your events run smoothly and professionally?
Yes, our long-time flagman KC Cook has retired so he could race more, and one of our assistant Race Directors, Ryan, is unable to return. We have replaced both of those guys with Derek Esquibel, who was a long-time employee of CalSpeed and Josh Veloz, lifetime Karter, who is doing some officiating in NorCal at Rok Sonoma and other events. We added UMC Tech Director Corey Tapp to our Tech Staff, to assist Dave Davies and Robert Yardley and Chase Hadean from UMC and Rok Cup, to work the grid entrance and police the pit lane. Finally, our long-time Race Secretary, Maddi Park, is taking a sabbatical this year as she just had a child 3 months ago, so Morgan Owens from UMC and Rok Cup is taking her place.
And finally, maybe the most important question ahead of Tucson, what food trucks can we expect?
HAHAHA. Of course, you would want to know that. It’s hard to get a Dad bod in your 20s if you don’t like to eat. Angel has been in contact with a few and I know that we have two of our favorites back. Jackies Food Court, which does a lot of traditional American stuff, like burgers, cheesesteaks, grilled cheese and french fries in several different ways is back, along with Gigi’s Fusion, which specializes in Latin Fusion cuisine.