By: Nathan Kelly/CKN.
Drivers awoke to the pleasant surprise of a sun filled first day of practice today. The Spanish weather was kind enough to give a full day of brilliant sun and teams took full advantage of the temperatures. A hot circuit did not take long to build up grip levels and drivers were quickly able to gain speed on the technical Spanish circuit.
There were a total of three practice sessions today, two being fifteen minutes and the final only being ten minutes in duration. Drivers and mechanics had to have full focus for each session to make the most of the opportunities to learn the technical track and better their kart setup.
The Rotax Grand Finals really came alive today as the first day of practice brings a certain unique intensity that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Smiles become less predominate and the competitiveness of every team and drivers can be felt in the air. Although times are not official, nor is there any awards given today, the intensity is just as real as every other race day.
That being said today is just the first step in a journey that drivers are on, as it only becomes more of a challenge from this point on. Drivers are tested physically and mentally both on and off the track. Any driver can be quick in the first couple sessions, but the true athletic drivers will prevail come the end of the heat races.
Mentally drivers will be tested to the breaking point, motorsport is a unique sport that requires a mental strength like no other sport or activity. Any minor mistake on the track can be the difference between a top five finish and finding yourself mid pack. Both team Canada and USA have a lot of depth with drivers that are very experienced with Grand Final championships and some that are not. CKN was able to catch up with a couple team Canada drivers and get there perspective on the spanish circuit.
The first driver we caught up with was Rotax Junior pilot Clay Van Eerd, from Blenheim, Ontario. The 15 year Rotax Grand Finals rookie old had the following comments about the track: “The track is fun, really quick and is very technical. It requires drivers to be very focused both physically and mentally. It’s physically enduring with long sweeping corners, but yet tight in other sections.” Van Eerd feels he was able to get on pace relatively quick. “We were on pace pretty quick and this is one of the best tracks I’ve ever been on.” When asked about the weather, Van Eerd hopes to have good weather for the rest of the week but if it does rain he is not concerned, as he is prepared. The young driver appears to be very prepared for this 2014 Rotax Grand Finals and will be a name to watch come qualifying and the heat races. In closing Van Eerd added that he has had a great time so far, and would especially like to thank his father, mother and mechanic for this incredible opportunity.
Another familiar name gave us his insight to the track. Rotax Senior driver Zach Claman DeMelo brings a lot of experience and expertise to the 2014 Grand Finals as this is not his first time at a race of this magnitude. The Senior Max driver had the following comments on the circuit: “ The track is different, it has a bit of everything, some tight spots and long sweeping corners which makes if difficult to get the gearing right.” Kart setup has been a challenge for all teams at this complex Spanish track. “The morning sessions went well for us, we then tested something new which wasn’t as good, but that is what testing is for.” DeMelo was consistently quick throughout the day of testing and shows great promise for the rest of the week.
Tomorrow marks the start of timed practice and qualification. With rain in the forecast it should be an exciting day for both participants and spectators. Stay tuned throughout the week for more updates and live coverage.