|July 06, 2011 News
|Factory Pilot: Gary Carlton - An American in Europe - WSK Euro Series La Conca
|Article by: garycarlton.us
|For 2011, American karting star Gary Carlton will be the lead driver for the Chiesa Corse operation in the KZ1 category aboard factory-prepared Zanardi/IAME package. eKartingNews.com has partnered with Gary to help produce segments over the course of his time as a new factory driver. Working with him on forum blogs, race-event journals, photos, video footage and more, viewers will be able to see first-hand what it is to be a factory driver for one of the top European teams in karting.
To follow his progress throughout the season, visit the official EKN Gary Carlton Page in the Features section.
Do you have a question to ask Gary about his experience thus far in Europe, then post your question in the forums section HERE where Gary will select a few and answer them through a video blog to be released at a later time. If you want Gary to answer your question directly, don't waste any time and publish you question.
Following the recent trip to Germany for the CIK-FIA European Championships, Carlton rejoined the Chiesa Corse squad in Muro Leccese, Italy for the third round of the WSK Euro Series at the La Conca International Circuit. One of the most famous karting facilities in the world, Carlton made only his second trip to the southern portion of Italy, battling the warm weather and challenging conditions.
| A view of the La Conca circuit for round three of the WSK Euro Series|
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
When I went to bed the night before I still had not heard from Dino on how I was getting from my home in Desenzano all the way down to Muro Leccese so I woke myself up early just in case. I packed my bags and after a check look at the weekly weather forecast there was no need to pack anything but shorts and t-shirts. I made myself a nice breakfast and just about when I was about to step into the shower the call came. Dino had arranged for Bruno, an IAME engine tuner, to pick me up in the IAME van coming from Bergamo and we would meet the Chiesa Corse van on the way down. Form Desenzano to Muro Leccese it is about 1100 kilometers. We were basically starting from almost the very top and going to the very bottom of Italy. Though I have spent a lot time with Bruno at the track it was cool getting to know him better and talk about something other than how the engines were performing. After a few hundred kilometers we met up with a very full Chiesa Corse van with Dino, Marco (tuner from HP Engines), Mirko (mechanic for Chiesa Corse), and my personal mechanic Blaz. Once we stopped for gas we made even of the vans with people to give everyone a more comfortable ride.
When I thought about it I had not been on a road trip in some time and I was enjoying the ride down with the guys. When you have a lot of time to pass conversations, and are always changing the conversation, you get to know more about people in different ways. Before when I would come to race in Europe, it was hard to be a part of any conversation but now I'm starting to get a hold of the language and it makes life a lot easier. Although sometimes, I might not get all of what people are saying, I can understand enough to get by. It was really hard at first, but now I am really glad I have hung in there and made a good effort to speak Italian.
After being in the van all day, I was more than excited when we had pulled in the La Conca Circuit just after 8:00 pm. We parked the vans and I was stoked to see that my tent had already been set-up by Fabiano, whom had arrived the day before. Fabiano had already been down in the South of Italy working with Chiesa Corse driver Lance Stroll and he was nice enough to give us a hand in knowing we would be coming in late. Thanks Fabiano!!! Once we parked the vans, I snuck out for a quick minute to have a look at the track. It would be the first time I would race at the famed La Conca Circuit and when I had a look around, it was easy to say it was one of the nicest karting tracks I have seen. Back in the beginning of 2007, I remember doing a two day test with the CRG Racing Team at La Conca, but to be honest, I really did not remember the layout all that well, so it was almost like coming to a new track, which for me, is always exciting.
Once the vans were parked and Flavio arrived with the SUV, we all piled in and headed to our hotel. It was the first time I had ever seen the center of the city Muro Leccese and being our hotel was dead in the center, I was able to get a good look at some of the sights that it had to offer. After a short walk around town and a great dinner, we headed back to the room to get a good nights rest for the long days ahead.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It was an early wake up call and once I was showered and dressed, I met up with the team for breakfast. The people that worked in the hotel were very hospitable and nice, but lacked some common skills that most people had. It almost became a bit funny watching them try to boil an egg for Nyck De Vries. After three people explained it to them and four tries later, Nyck finally got his egg cooked correctly and the others got the coffee they desired. I just stuck to juice and breakfast rolls to make things a little easier. After we finished up breakfast, Flavio had our ride to the track waiting for us and we headed off to the track.
Being we came in so late the night before, we did not have time to unload my karts from the van so we knew the morning would be a little hectic. But lucky for us we were the last class to head out for the first session of the day, so we were able to unload all of our stuff into the tent and get the karts ready in time. It was a life saver that Fabiano had put up our tent for us the day before being that even early in the morning, the temperatures were already very high. We had five Free Practice sessions that took up the whole day. I always like racing the WSK races because you do get a lot of track time for the weekend and it gives the drivers that have not been able to test at the track before hand a fighting chance to get caught up.
I was very surprised in the very first session how much grip the track had. The owners of the La Conca Circuit had recently coated the whole track with some type of black sealer and the grip it produced was pretty amazing. If I was a track owner and was always getting complaints of the track having no grip, all you would have to do is get a hold of this stuff they put on it, and your customers would be very happy. The laps times were already much faster than anyone had seen and the rubber on the track was already starting to build just after the second session. On top of the new track surface, the WSK had opted to change the KZ1 and KZ2 classes to the Vega White compound tire instead of the Dunlop DEM that we normally use. After the problems that the Dunlop tires experienced at the last race in Germany, all classes would be running Vega tires which always seem to lay down some good grip, so it was clear from the start that the weekend was going to see a massive amount of rubber laid down.
The day went smoothly with no problems. I really enjoyed driving the La Conca Circuit. It is well laid out and has a great flow to it, but yet has some technical bits that keep the drivers honest. It was cool that the track had so much grip and made it really fun to drive. But we all knew being it was only Wednesday that the track was going to build higher and higher rubber, making it much more difficult to drive. And with the high temperatures, it would be a good physical test for all of us.
The last session of the day kicked off at 6:30 in the evening, making it for a long hot day at the track. Once we finished up at the track, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower. There is nothing better than a shower after a day at the track. Once everyone was ready, we walked through town and found a nice pizzeria for dinner. After we arrived back in the room, I don’t think it took me two seconds before I was fast asleep.
| The hotel Gary stayed at in Muro Leccese|
Thursday, June 23, 2011
You know its going to be a hot day when you wake up and you’re already damp with sweat. This day was one of them. At breakfast, I made sure to drink a lot of juice and water because I knew the day was going to be hot and did not want to get dehydrated. Luckily for Nyck, the cook was able to cook his eggs correctly the first try and everyone enjoyed a good breakfast. Once the call was made, Flavio was outside waiting for us and we piled ourselves in and headed to the track.
The first order of business once at the track was to open up the tent. There was zero wind and we needed to find a way to keep the sun out but yet have good enough ventilation so we didn't cook ourselves to death. I have always been one to love warm weather, but this day was a bit much. If my outfit for the day was a swimsuit and we were headed to the beach, the weather was perfect. But wearing a racing suit and helmet while driving on a really high grip track, the weather was just plain hot. We were really lucky that we had John (Lance Stroll's assistant) getting us water and fresh fruit each day, which was a huge help. The last thing any driver or mechanic wants to worry about is not having cold water when you come back off the track.
The schedule was the same as the day before with five Free Practice sessions that were spread out over the whole day. The rubber on the track was building rapidly and the times kept falling each session. With the new surface, all classes were already running well under the track records. With the rubber building higher and higher, the track was getting quite difficult to drive. The normal lines were impossible to drive on. If you drove on top of the rubber, your kart would bottom out and force you to the outside of the corner. The fastest way around the track was to avoid the big rubber patches while doing the least distance on the track. Even the most experienced drivers were having a little trouble adapting and the word around the paddock was no one had seen this amount of rubber in many, many years.
The day went smooth without any problems. We were able to test both chassis and engines throughout the whole day, trying to see what the best combination would be. At the end of the day, we still lacked some pace from the front runners but we knew we never had the best engine with the best chassis, and knowing we still had two Free Practice sessions left on Friday before Qualifying Practice, we were confident that we could find the right settings to get us up to speed. Once the tent was all zipped up, we headed to the hotel. After an amazing cold shower, we went out and got a bite to eat. I have to say the food in Southern Italy is really good. I sampled just about everything from pizza, beef, fish, pasta and others throughout the weekend and I did not have one plate that I didn't fall in love with. If there is one thing Italians do better than most, it is eating great food. After dinner, all I wanted to do is get into bed and sleep. When you’re at the track all day with the high heat, it’s natural that you’re wiped out at the end of the day and you could tell by everyone’s eyes that they wanted the same as me, sleep!
Friday, June 24, 2011
When I woke up, my wishes of a cooler day did not come true. If anything it was a little warmer than the days past. But we would finish the day much earlier, so in the end the day would not be as difficult as the days before. When we made it to the track, Blaz and I made sure the tent was open straight away so we could get as much fresh air in as possible. Once the tent was all sorted out and we took off the kart covers, I headed over to the WSK Station to pick up the schedule for the day. The WSK Station is a big hauler with a very nice tent that comes off the side and they had the air-conditioning cranked up to the max. I was glad there was a small line to pick up the schedule, being I was able to stay in the cool air just a bit longer.
The days schedule was two Free Practice session of 20 minutes each and then we would have our 10 minute Qualifying Practice session after lunch. The plan was to test both chassis again during both sessions along with getting the race engine tuned to its max performance. I like that the WSK gives you the long Free Practice sessions. With 20 minutes, it gives you time enough to run two karts during the session and really get a good feel for both while having the same track conditions. For the first session, we would have one kart that needed 8 minutes of break-in for a new piston and then the other we would test a new gear ratio. Once both karts were completed, it was already time to head to the grid so I quickly put on my driver's suit and wiped of my helmet and made my way over to the staging area.
| Muro Leccese is very scenic, even at night|
Once the green flag went up to start the session, we were one of the first out. I don’t think any driver likes to break-in engines but with all the rubber that was on the track I think it was more of a challenge to keep the kart under control when going slow other than going flat out. You know there is grip on the track when you become afraid of stopping in the middle of the track because you did not go around the corner fast enough to get through the rubber. Once the 8 minutes were up, I did one flying lap to make sure everything was normal and pulled into the pits to switch karts. Once out of the kart, it was straight into the other. I made a lap to warm-up the engine and then started pushing. While starting my second flying lap coming into the fast right hand corner, we experienced a technical problem that forced me to stop out on track. By the time I was able to get the kart parked in a safe place, the session was drawing to a close and the track officials would not let me cross back over the track to get to the pits and it was the end of our session.
Once back under the tent, we prepped both karts once again for the final Free Practice. It’s nice having two complete karts ready to go when you have to test many things in a short period of time, but it can be a lot of work. I can say the mechanics over here in Europe really earn their pay (which in most cases is much less than the mechanics in the States) and with the higher temps, Blaz was getting a good workout this weekend. I like working on my karts just as much as driving them, so I help out with whatever Blaz needs but I have to say it was just plain hot. We were able to finish both karts and still have ten minutes before we had to head up to the grid, so I took refuge in Nyck's tent where he had a nice fan and one of those swamp coolers. It was nice to be able to cool off just for a second before we had to go back outside.
With missing most of the first Free Practice, we knew we had to make the most of the last one. As soon as the green flag dropped, we were on track. Again, I would break-in the engine for the first 8 minutes. All the races over here in Europe have a timer showing how many minutes are left in the session and as a driver it can be so helpful. It is the little things that make a difference from racing over here than racing in the States. All the details practiced here that make it more easy and professional. Once I saw 12 minutes to go on the board at the start/finish line. I quickly made my way back into the pits and hopped into the other kart. With the new kart came new tires. It is safe to say almost every driver loves going out on new tires and I am defiantly one of them. I did a lap slow to warm-up the engine and while doing so I looked around for a free space so I would not be in any traffic. Once I found a good gap, I started pushing right away. Halfway through the first lap I could tell something wasn't right and before I closed the lap I came back into the pits. Blaz checked everything out and made some carb adjustments to make it safe, and we quickly took the kart off the stand and headed back out. I found some space on the track and started pushing once again. Coming up to the last corner to start my first flying lap, we experienced another technical problem. Luckily, it happened near the pit exit and I was able to push the kart most of the way through the pit lane. We quickly got the kart onto the stand and I decided to put the new tires on the other kart. Blaz and I made really quick work of switching over the tires and I was able to get out and do one flying lap before the session ended.
After all the running around and the heat being the highest it had all weekend, I took off my suit and sat in front of the fan in the other tent. I felt bad leaving Blaz alone in our oven cooker but I felt it was important for me to cool off and we had a long time before our next session. After a cold bottle of water and 10 minutes of sitting in front of the fan, I was ready to go back to our tent and give Blaz a hand. With the problems they we had during the last two sessions, I was not sure what chassis would be best for the Qualifying Practice. It was an important decision and we went back and forth on which chassis/engine combo we wanted to use. I decided to go with the second kart and we mounted everything up to get ready for Qualifying Practice.
Luckily, the Parc Ferme at the La Conca circuit is covered so we did not have to mount the tires in the blazing sun. We were in the first of the two groups of qualifying and once we had the tires mounted on the kart, we set the tire pressures and hoped for the best. It was a ten minute long session so we waited out the first 3 minutes as did everyone else. You cannot come into the pits and make changes during the session, so what you start with is what you get. With 7 minutes to go in the session almost everyone headed out on the track including us. While warming up the engine, I found a good open space and once everything was warm and ready I started pushing. The first lap I struggled with the balance of the kart and was quite slow compared to the others. This allowed two drivers in back of me to catch up rather quickly. The next two laps were going to be key in getting the best lap due to the Vega tires have that two to three lap sweet spot, but my pace was not enough to keep in front of the two behind me and I was passed both laps, ruining any chance of getting a good time. The whole session, I really could not find the perfect balance of the kart and the lap time was quite slow. Once the session ended, I looked at the board and saw my name in the very last position in the group.
| Camp for Gary over the weekend|
The second group of Qualifying Practice proved to be a bit faster but there were two drivers that actually went a bit slower than I. After the combination of the two groups, I was classified in 32nd position. I think it’s safe to say I was really disappointed with the result. I was trying to remember back when was the last time I was that slow in Qualifying Practice and I had to go back to my early days of karting. In fact, my early days of karting I was quite slow in my first races and remember being lapped by many drivers. After a quick debrief with Blaz and Dino, we decided to go with the other kart for the first Qualifying Heat on Saturday along with changing the engine. Being that we finished early in the day, we were able to take a small break and go to the bar and get an ice cream. I was a bit down but I will say an ice cream on a hot day definitely lifted my spirits and Blaz said something very true, “We can only go forward from here."
We were able to get out of the track at a little earlier time and on the ride to the hotel, all I could think about was taking a cold shower. Once in the room, I stayed under the water as long as I could. It felt great to wash away all the days’ misfortune and start new. After another great dinner in the center of the city, I went to bed only thinking of one thing. I have to get some great starts and move forward!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
When I woke up and went outside, the weather had changed for the better. It was still very warm but there was a strong breeze that at least made it feel cooler. Breakfast was becoming much easier now that the waiters knew what we all liked and how to cook it. Flavio arrived and we all piled in. I have to say it takes a little bit of talent fitting 9-10 people into a normal sized SUV, but by now we had it down to a science. Once we arrived at the track, the wind was even stronger than at the hotel and I was a little scared for our small pop-up tent that it would be able to stand up the whole day.
The day started like any other day with uncovering the karts and heading over to the IAME van to pick up the engines from Gigi. The days schedule saw us having a Warm-Up, two Qualifying Heats, and Final 1. We had decided to change many things for the Warm-up to see if we could improve our speed and I was eager to get out on track. The Warm-Up ended up going well. The balance of the kart felt good and we decided not to change anything for the first Qualifying Heat.
It was amazing how much the strong breeze made a difference when sitting in the kart waiting to take off. All you would have to do is leave your visor cracked to get the fresh air blowing in and it was quite comfortable compared to the days past. While sitting on the grid in my 32nd position, all I could think was I had to get a good start and be really aggressive in the first laps. After the warm-up lap, I pulled into starting slot and had a really long way to look for the starting lights. When the lights went out, I had timed my release just about perfect. Along with the perfect timing, I had slipped the clutch (which on the IAME engine is quite good compared to others I have felt) perfectly I got one of the best starts of my career. I took the high side in all of the first three corners and it had paid off each time. I could tell that I had gained many positions and it was exactly what I needed to start off. Coming into the second lap, everyone was tight together and naturally there was a lot of bumping and banging going on, but I had kept clean from it all and then…boom. Coming into the tight hairpin, I was entering the corner like I had done a hundred times before during the weekend and a Maddox/Parilla driver came flying over the top of me. It had done a lot of damage to my kart, ripping the second radiator, carb, air box, and spark plug wire completely off. When I got my kart safely off the racing surface, I went over to the driver and asked, "What the hell were you thinking?" The answer was he got pushed into me, which is always a good excuse so I just left it at that. I was pissed after having one of my better opening laps in my life, only to have it flushed down the drain the lap following. I also felt bad for Blaz because there was now a lot of unnecessary work to do. After I got towed back in by the wrecker trailer, I was informed from Blaz that there was no one even close to the driver that ran over me, so it was safe to say that he made a really stupid move that put us both out of the race.
Blaz had no problem getting everything fixed up for the second Qualifying Heat and I would start from the 33rd position along side the same driver that had put us out of the first heat. The one good thing we had going for us was while sitting on the grid at the very back, we were the only ones in the shade. Hey, you always have to look at the positive, right? Again, when pulling into my starting spot I had a little trouble seeing the starting lights being so far back. When they went out, I got another great launch and opted to go back on the outside in the first few corners. I picked up many spots once again and once everything settled down. I tried to get in a rhythm and put down some laps. Coming into the third lap, I got a huge blast from the back that really set my kart sideways and had me lose out on some spots. Once I got the kart under control, I noticed the sound of the engine had changed and it lacked in power from the laps before. I already knew it was the heat deflector that had once again been pushed into the silencer, blocking the outlet hole. I knew if I came into the pits, I would loose too much time so I decided to just keep my eye on the exhaust temps and try to nurse the thing home. I ended up finishing the heat in the 26th position with hopes of a lot more.
| Switching over to Vega tires per WSK rule, Gary encountered some issues in practice with one set|
After talking with Blaz after the Heat, he informed me it was the same driver that put us out of the first race that gave us the huge hit in the back. Once hearing that, I went over to the tent where the driver was to say a few words. It was a bit funny when I asked very calmly, an unknown lady where the driver was, she was so pleased to direct me to him. Then after I made the statement to the driver that he was very stupid and needs to use his brain a bit more, the unknown lady became very unpleasant and told me to get out of the tent. I guess she is a fan of the other driver. So with another two unlucky heats we would start Final 1 from the 32nd position, right back where we had first Qualified.
With the WSK, you get 10 tires throughout the weekend to use how you please. Being that both Final 1 and 2 give out points, most drivers will put two new tires for Final 1 and then wait until Final 2 to put 4 new tires for Final 2 on Sunday, which gives out more points. Being that we were starting so far back and had a very slim chance to be able to get up in the top ten to score points we opted to save our two new tires for Sunday. I was able to get another great start from the second to last row of the grid and again gain many positions. There were many karts flying around, but I thought I had positioned myself in a good place and was happy with the way the first lap was going. But this whole year lady luck didn’t want to give me a break and I got a huge shunt from the rear, spinning me out and having a bunch of karts pile into the side of me. I quickly got out of my kart and moved/ripped it off the top of another driver. The next challenge was to get the kart out of the high rubber. I will tell you with hot tires and two inches of high rubber on the track, it was not easy to push it. It took me awhile to get the kart outside the track enough to get it rolling and I was lucky to be able to get it re-started. With a very small personal victory, I was by far the fastest driver to get my kart re-started out of everyone that was involved in the wreck but I was definitely breathing hard under my helmet afterwards. Like I said before, it did take me a long time to get re-started and the rest of the field had come close to lapping me and it was only a couple laps until I was shown the blue flag, meaning I had to exit the track immediately. Once back at the scales, Blaz was there waiting with the stand. I have to say I was really bummed. I had raced in seven Finals during the season and I still had not seen the checkered flag once in any of them.
Once back under the tent I checked my suit, helmet, and kart for any red targets but I came up empty. The joke going around the tent is when we do the race in Vegas, don’t have me around when they play the tables and at this point, I had to agree with them. We checked over the kart to make sure everything was still straight and cleaned it up for Sunday. We finished a little early and I was able to slip out and catch the last Qualifying Heat of the day in KF3. My teammate Lance Stroll was in the Qualifying Heat and he was having a strong weekend running up front in every race. It was great seeing him run so well and it was nice to just sit down an enjoy watching such a tight race.
After everyone had cleaned up their karts we all piled into the SUV and Flavio took us to the hotel. The shower was the best feeling of the whole weekend and to top it off for dinner, I enjoyed some of the better food I have had in some time and Dino was nice enough to pay for everyone. Thanks Dino! Although I was really disappointed on how the day went, I had no trouble falling asleep once I slipped into bed for the night.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I woke up with the thought of ‘we could only go forward from here’ and ate a great relaxing breakfast. We would not be coming back to the hotel so we said our goodbyes to all the hotel employees and owners. One thing that I have noticed about staying in hotels in Europe, it has a much more personal feel to it. Most hotels are family owned and there is a family atmosphere to them, other than staying at a Best Western back in the States. We had to leave all our bags at the front desk, as we did not have enough room for everyone plus the bags. Flavio informed us he would be returning back to the hotel and picking all of them up for us. It was a quiet ride to the track and you could tell most of the guys were glad to see the end of a long hot weekend.
The schedule for the day was exactly the same as the day before having a Warm-Up, two Qualifying Heats, and Final 2. The wind was even stronger than yesterday’s but I was amazed how well our EZ-Up style tent was holding up. Yes, it was very loud with the tent snapping against the polls and swaying back and forth but she was holding her ground. We uncovered the karts and swept out the tent which was filled with rubbish, getting blown around from the wind. Once the engines were on, we headed up to the grid for the Warm-Up. When I first went out on the track, I could feel the gusts of wind effect the direction of the kart and it reminded me of all those windy days I have spent up at the Infineon kart track in Sonoma, California. Everything was good in the Warm-Up and there were no big issues with the kart. We had tried a whole new carb setting and it seemed to help the performance of the engine a little and we decided to keep everything the same for the first Qualifying Heat of the day.
| IAME engineer preparing Carlton's engine for battle|
I would start the Heat where I finished in Final 1 which was 30th. I was able to get another good launch off the line and make up a few spots on the first lap. But my pace was not the best and I slowly fell back down the order. At the end of the heat, I was classified in the 26th position. On a positive note, we still had not used our two new tires yet, so with a little luck, we could move up yet again in the next go around.
Once back under the tent, we had talked about trying another chassis to see if it might be a better solution for new tires. Being that we did not have the speed or track position to win the particular event, I thought it was a great call to test it. We are here to develop the chassis and engine, and there is no better place to see how it performs than at the race in our situation. It made a little more work for Blaz in switching everything over, but it was nothing we could not handle.
We mounted up the two new tires in the Parc Ferme and I was hopeful we could make our way forward. I would start 26th and at last I could finally see the starting lights 100%! It’s always the little things that catch your attention during races. I let out the IAME clutch and got another good launch. I was able to make a few spots during the opening laps due to my new tire advantage. Having the tire advantage would only last for the first laps, so I knew I had take full advantage in the opening circuits. With this in mind, I was using my front bumper quite a lot and even got the warning flag from the officials. All was going well and then coming out of the last corner, I made a small mistake and let my outside front tire get into the heavy rubber and I was off track. When you have heavy rubber on the track, it is really easy to make a mistake and I just plain got caught out by it. Once back on track, there was a line of karts waiting to get to the inside. Once you’re outside in the heavy rubber, you’re a sitting duck and as I tried to get back in line my front bumper got caught on another’s rear and off the track I went once again. This time it was on a fast enough part of the track where I ended up into the soft wall, but I was able to keep the kart running and get back on track. In the end, we finished in the 22nd position due to there were many retirements during the Heat.
Just after our Heat we had the Drivers Presentation. This was the first time I got to stand with my Zanardi teammates in a Drivers Presentation due the first two parades being cancelled due to rain. After the presentation, I made my way back to our tent that was doing a lot of swaying back and forth due to the high winds and the thought of taking it down was a bit scary. We decided that the chassis we had tested was not as strong as the original and again Blaz and I made the switch over to the other kart. I have to say I like that the WSK is open with the usage of karts and engines. I think it really helps with the development of the team’s equipment, which at the end is why most of the drivers in the higher categories are there to do. Once the kart was all switched over, Gigi did one final check of the carburetion by running the engine on the stand and we headed to the Parc Ferme to mount up 4 new tires for the last race of the weekend.
My two Qualifying Heat finishes placed me in the 26th position. For every Sunday Final, everyone brings the karts out onto the track to make the grid with all the beautiful umbrella girls standing in the middle. Blaz and I were making jokes that we were actually far up enough on the grid that we got an umbrella girl. As I do before every race when I sit in my kart, I feel the clutch adjustment and I looked up the grid thinking getting in the top 15 would be a realistic goal. After one last feel of the clutch, the green flag was waved and we started the warm-up laps. I had been getting some of the better starts of my career all weekend and my start in Final 2 was one of the best all weekend. I went with my same move of taking the outside line through the first three corners and again it paid off big. I had made another great first lap and picked off many positions. Once everything settled down, the kart felt the best it had all weekend and my pace in traffic was quite good. I was able to pick off drivers little by little and with seven laps to go, I had gained 13 spots and I was running 13th. As the final laps came to close, I started having carb issues coming out of the tight right hand corners. The engine would die out like it was starving for gas and I had lost two spots coming into the last lap. Again, coming out of the tight right hander the kart bogged down but I was able to defend my position and finish the race in the 15th position.
| Rubber on the track left its mark|
I have to say I was really happy to finally see the end of a Final for the first time in over six months and I made my goal that I set out before the start of the race. And to top it off, I scored my first Championship point of the year.
It was a positive end to what was a really rough weekend. We got the kart back from the Parc Ferme and quickly started loading everything into the vans. Taking down our tent was a bit of challenge due to the high winds but we were able to get it down without anyone taking any rides. The best thing about racing for a smaller team is the tear down is really quick and by half-past six, we were all loaded up and ready to head back home. When everything was put away and only everyone’s bags were left outside, I thought about looking for mine. I looked and looked and couldn't find it. I asked around and no one seemed to have seen my bag. A quick call to Flavio and it was found. The only problem is it had gone to the airport and was put on a plane to Rome. After a few more calls, we came up with a plan to have the bag shipped back to my home in Desenzano. It’s a good thing I realized sooner than later or my bag would have been flown all the way to Canada!
It was Mike Wilson, Blaz, Marco, and I that had the keys to the SUV and we would be driving it through the night 1100 kilometers to Padova. After a quick stop for gas and a bite to eat, I passed out in the back seat in no time flat. I woke up a few times during the trip, but it was mostly a blur. When we arrived in Padova at 3:00 am, I hopped into Mike Wilson's car and we started the hour drive to Desenzano. I tried to stay awake as long as I could to keep Mike company, but it did not take long and I was fast asleep once again. At 4:00 am, we had arrived at the front door step of my apartment in CRG and we said our goodbyes and Mike drove off. My hats off to Mike, who drove all night and still had another 50 minutes of driving left to go before he arrived in his home in Bergamo. I walked up stairs and fell onto my bed. I actually stayed awake for a little while thinking about the weekend on how I could make things better for the next race. I was happy we had made some progress and we got a finish under our belt. And before I went to sleep, all I could think about was the next race. On to Zuera!
To all the Viewers!
I just wanted to give a shout out to all my friends that stay up late in the night watching my races on line. It really means a lot to me knowing you’re willing to give up many hours of sleep to support me and root me on. I can’t wait to see you all soon and thank you again for all the love and support!