|WSK International Series
Round #4 - June 5-8, 2008
International Circuit 'Karting des Fagnes' - Mariembourg, Belgium
| In Mariembourg, Lewis battle the rain and the tough KF2 competition|
Installment #3 - June 11, 2008
This past weekend I competed in the third round of the WSK season in Mariembourg, Belgium. I departed last Monday afternoon to a country and track I had never visited. However, I knew that the Chiesa Corse team would supply excellent equipment and advice to compete. When I finally made my way over to Belgium, I headed to the track. However, I was heading to another track (Spa) to test the hand-brake I was to use in Mariembourg. With the help of a man named Ingo Schepers (www.schepersracing.be) I tested all day Wednesday with the hand-brake. By the end of the day, I felt pretty confident with the hand-brake and I began the trip to Mariembourg. While on the way to Mariembourg, I noticed huge clouds everywhere and realized that rain would cover the weekend in Mariembourg.
Thursday was my first opportunity to race on the track. My first practice session on a track I had never visited was in thick, pouring rain. Every corner was like taking a plunge into the ocean, as there were massive puddles everywhere. By the end of the day, I had a pretty good handle on the wet track and I was looking forward to getting more laps on Friday. Just like Thursday, Friday was filled with water as well. The wet conditions proved to be very favorable as we were getting faster and faster. My mechanic and I were now praying for rain the entire weekend. The sessions on Friday eventually came to an end and we prepared to qualify on Saturday.
When I arrived at the track on Saturday, the track was as wet as ever. I had a few warm-up laps in the morning to dial the kart in for qualifying. We tested a few different carburetors and had a good handle on the kart. Before qualifying started, the drivers were put into three qualifying groups. I was placed in group two. So, when the first group rolled out onto the track, the track was extremely wet. However, by the end of the session a faint dry line was forming. My mechanic and I were debating changing to slick tires, but the track was still pretty wet. Soon after group one, I took on the track. Because of the dry line developing, my mechanic and I developed a strategy to keep the rain tires at optimum performance. I would run one to two fast laps, then slow down to a snails pace and cool down the tires. We had a very good qualifying effort ending up 13th in our group. I was really hoping that it would rain the rest of the weekend because I was continually getting faster each session in the wet. However, by the first set of heat races, the track had completely dried.
| Michael makes rain racing look good, tape and all|
Now, with the dry conditions I had to figure out a completely different track during my heat races. I started about 11th in each of my heat races and was looking forward to getting a good starting position for the final. So, when the green flag dropped for the first heat race, I bolted past many cars and was running well. At the end of the race, I had finished around 11th. All I had to do was finish equal to or better than I did to make the final race. My second and final heat race of the day started out well, but my good fortune ran out. On the third lap, I was rammed off the track and I rejoined the race well behind the pack. I eventually finished the race many spots down from where I started. Although we had a poor result, we still had two heat races left to run on Sunday. On Sunday, I woke up determined to make the final race at all costs. Early in the morning we set out for our third heat race. When the race began, I made a hard charge up front. However, my charge was quickly ended when I was shoved off the track with many other drivers. I quickly rejoined the race and ended up finishing about 20th. Now, our goal was to get a decent starting spot in the last chance race in order to advance to the final. When the last heat race began, I had an excellent start and maintained my position. However, entering the final corner of the first lap, the engine ceased and I was forced to the pits.
I had gained enough points to make it to the last chance race, but I was to start in the back. My Zanardi chassis had been working great all day long, so I knew I had an awesome car to race with. All I needed now was some good luck on my side. As the last chance race started, it was a mad dash of cars everywhere on the track. Cars were going left and right, darting inside one another. I made a great charge up through the field and was running about 15th. As I was passing for more positions, I was unexpectedly blasted off into the grass. I ended up not making the transfer spot into the final race.
Overall, my Zanardi kart ran extremely well and Dino Chiesas team provided awesome support throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side, but we are looking to the next WSK race in Sarno, Italy (July 17-20). I would like to thank my parents, Dino Chiesa, Bell Helmets, SSI decals, Team ASE, Oakley, Free Minds, and the Villa Rosa Hotel for their support in my racing career.
WSK International Series
Round #3 - May 9-11, 2008
South Garda Karting - Lonato, Italy
| Michael at the historic South Garda Karting facility in Lonato, Italy|
Installment #2 - May 12, 2008
The WSK race in Lonato was somewhat of a homecoming, as I was racing at my home track. We unloaded the cars and set up the tents on Wednesday in preparation for the first round of practice on Thursday.
Fabio, my mechanic, was extremely excited to see me again as we prepared the kart for practice. Thursday finally came around and the first practice session was right around the corner. Due to the large amount of participants in KF2, the organizers split you up into groups of about 40 cars each! Itís really amazing to compete against many drivers. Anyway, I soon entered the track and completed a few laps when the motor unexpectedly failed. I then pushed the kart back to the pits as to assess the damage.
For the next practice session, Fabio put another motor on the kart, and we were ready to go. By the end of the day, I improved my lap times from the morning and everyone began thinking about Fridayís practice. When the Friday practice sessions began, they provided more opportunities to perfect the kart and prepare for the race weekend. By the end of the two days, the Zanardi kart was running flawlessly and I was really looking forward to racing against the 90 other drivers on Saturday.
The program for Saturday consisted of two warm-up sessions, a 15 minute qualifying session, and 2-3 heat races. During the warm-ups, we tried different carburetors and put a set of new tires on the kart for a mock qualifying run. The new tires really gripped up the kart and I had to drive the kart slightly different than on old tires. In general, with or without new tires, the grip levels in Europe are amazing! Chunks of rubber literally grow on the track surface, building up to at least Ĺ inch off the ground. Anyway, we finished out the warm-ups hoping to earn a good qualifying position. For the ten minute qualifying session, a hot pit is available to use. However, drivers and mechanics usually wait to about 5 minutes from the end of the session to attack the track. So then the session becomes a mad dash for the top position. As soon as there were 5 minutes left to qualify, Fabio sent me on the track. We ended up qualifying not very well, but there were many heat races to make-up for the time.
| Lewis prepares to hit the Lonato circuit aboard his Zanardi machine|
Later in the day, the heat races began. I was put into group B, so I had two heat races to race. As soon as the green flag dropped for the first heat, the race became an all out brawl for positions. I had a very good start and ended up battling for a few more spots towards the end of the race. Heat two was similar, and again I kept passing cars. By the end of the day, Fabio and I realized there was a slim chance to make the final race directly, but we knew we could get in through the last chance race.
As Saturday ended and Sunday began, our Chiesa Corse, Zanardi kart team was positive. I started out Sunday with two heat races, trying to make it into the final race. In heat one, I gained many points and the pass into the final was dependant on the last heat race. At the start of the second heat race, the motor went south and I lost many positions. I quickly dropped to the back and ended up making a quick pit stop to fix the problem. By the end of the race, Fabio and I knew we had not earned enough points to make the final race. We also didnít know if we made the last chance race from our poor performance. Eventually, we found out that we did not make the last chance race and our weekend was finished. However, the Zanardi team worked extremely hard to give me great equipment and I am looking forward to the third round of the WSK race in Mariembourg, Belgium. I would like to thank the many people who make this opportunity possible including my parents, Dino Chiesa, Team ASE, BELL helmets, Free Minds, Oakley, and SSI decals.
| Michael Lewis will chronicle his advertures in the WSK International Series this summer here on eKartingNews.com|
Installment #1 - May 6, 2008
This year, I have been given the amazing opportunity to race in Europe. I will race the full WSK championship series in the KF2 division for Chiesa Corse, which uses Zanardi karts designed by the team owner, Dino Chiesa. The team and I recently entered in Murro Lecesse, Italy for the first round of the season. Competing against 90 other competitors, I fought hard to qualify for the final race. Due to some bad luck, we missed the final race by a few spots. The team and I are now looking forward to the second race in Lonato, Italy, which will take place this coming weekend.
Heading into this next event, I decided to contact EKNís Rob Howden to let him know where I was going to be racing this year. Rob pitched the concept of chronicling my experience in the WSK on eKartingNews.com. I loved the concept, so I now find myself typing away on my laptop, getting ready to keep the EKN readership up to speed on my European adventures this summer.
I am currently sitting in Frankfurt International Airport (Germany) waiting to board a connecting flight via Italy. The 11-hour flight from California was tough, but I know I will soon race the second WSK race in Lonato, Italy. This coming Thursday, I will meet the team at the track for the first practice day of the weekend. Fabio, my mechanic, will be sure to greet me with the usual ďCiao Michael!Ē Fabio and I do not share a common language, so we communicate using a Spanish-Italian combo language (mainly Italian). We work very well together, and we always work hard to make the Zanardi kart fast.
I am especially excited for this race weekend because the track in Lonato is basically my home track! I probably have more laps completed at Lonato than any other track Iíve ever raced! This weekend, the team and I will try to put the Parilla IAME-powered Zanardi kart up front and hope for the best. Anyone interested in following my progress during the race weekend can do so by logging on to http://www.wskarting.com (look for kart number 275) and Iíll also be back next week with another EKN Driver Diary, fully detailing my weekend at Lonato.