|Driver Diary: David Jurca - CIK European Championship
|As in yearís past, a number of drivers have made their way across the pond to compete against some of the best drivers in the world on European soil. Over the past couple of years, the list of drivers as increased significantly with names like Darren Elliott, Ron White, and Phil Giebler and now the Stars of Karting series working with some of the manufacturers to send the top JICA drivers in February to the prestigious Winter Cup event this past year and possible in 2007. Now more drivers are competing in the Italian Open Masters and the CIK European Championships from North America, including Lorenzo Mandarino, Jan Velez-Walter, David Yop, and David Jurca.
EKN contacted Tony Kart USA driver David Jurca just as he was getting comfortable in Italy at the Tony Kart factory, preparing for the first round of the CIK European Championships the following week. Jurca was gracious enough to provide us with a behind the scenes look at his two week adventure with the Tony Kart Racing Team.
| The Tony Kart apartment was David's home away from home for two weeks|
Monday, April 24
My Birthday!!!! At this point I have been away from home since April 12th and going to be away from home for much longer. Iím not complaining though and am really looking forward to this new experience ahead of me. I leave Tucson, Arizona in the morning with Davide Foreís mechanic Simone Sorio and the Vortex tuner Vittorio Venturi. We arrive in Phoenix where we return the rental car and check into our flight. Itís not exactly the greatest flight plan: Phoenix to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam to Milan - Definitely a long journey ahead of us.
Tuesday, April 25
We lose 9 hours on our trip to Italy so itís Tuesday afternoon by the time we arrive in Italy. Vittorio takes Simone and me from Milan to Brescia where Simone is dropped off. Then Vittorio took me by the Tony Kart factory, which looks absolutely amazing from the outside. Itís the evening and the factory is closed, so I have to wait until the next day to go inside. He drops me off at the Tony Kart apartment nearby. I have dinner at the restaurant below and then try watching some TV. Itís all in Italian and it doesnít take long for me to give the PS2 a try. I play TOCA Touring Car Driver 3 until about midnight and decide to hit the sack.
| David standing at the front doors of the Tony Kart|
Wednesday, April 26
I wake up a few times during the night and by 5 am I definitely canít sleep. Jet lag is never fun. At 8:30 I have breakfast at the same restaurant I had dinner at. Itís a typical jelly filled croissant along with a cappuccino. Iím not a coffee drinker in America, but these Italian cappuccinos are really hard to pass up. At 9am, Diego, who works at Tony Kart, picks me up and takes me to the factory. I am finally inside and the entrance is beautiful. To my left is an office room where I meet Roberta and Sara, who do a lot of the correspondence with Tony Kart USA.
Then I waited for Mr. Roberto Robazzi (Tony Kart Owner) to meet with me. When Mr. Robazzi arrives, he takes me on a formal tour of the facility. Itís unbelievable. For one, the place is huge. Everything has its place and nothing is out of order. The floors are so clean you literally could eat off of them. I am definitely impressed. I had heard that the Tony Kart factory was pretty amazing, but it still surpassed all expectations. Then Mr. Robazzi takes me on his private elevator that led directly to his office area. The office shows off years of hard work with trophies ranging from the European Championship to the World Championship. In addition, he has two authentic Schumacher helmets as well as a Trulli helmet that were given to him as gifts.
After the tour, I went back downstairs where I met the Tony Kart team manager, Giacomo. He seems a bit intimidating at first, but Cliff (Tony Kart USA team manager) warned me about this. He said that Giacomo is a very serious person and extremely setup savvy. After I meet Giacomo, he takes me to the Tony Kart Racing Team shop where I meet the other mechanics including the two I had met in America this year: Simone and Marco.
In the racing team shop I also see the Tony Kart hauler which reminds me of the F1 rigs I see on TV, very impressive for sure. I volunteer to help and for the rest of the day I help Marco clean the Tony Kart tent. At the end of the day, I head to the Tony Kart apartment with a mechanic named Polvara, or Polva for short. We have dinner and try to communicate, but neither of us speaks the otherís language. Through some sign language, I find out he skis and will be going to Switzerland for the weekend. There is a holiday on Monday so everyone has a three-day weekend. The dinner tastes great as usual, and I also have some Gelato, which by far beats any of the ice cream I have had in America. So good! Iím still jet lagged and get in bed by 9pm.
| Jurca stands in the Tony Kart lobby|
Thursday April 27
I wake up at 7am and have breakfast. I arrive at the Tony Kart factory with Polva at 8. There I meet Ryan and Danny Yop for the first time. Today, Ryan and I are going testing in Lonato. The drive to the track takes about 40 minutes. Once at the track, I have Giacomo helping me and Ryan has Simone. Vittorio also shows up with the Vortex ICC engines we will be running. We break in and then do a few laps before lunch. The first thing I notice is how much rubber is on the track. There was an Italian Open race the weekend before and the track is still very grippy. Definitely a lot more rubber than what I normally experience.
Mr. Robazzi shows up for about 20 minutes to observe and asks me why I donít use the gearbox more to slow the kart down. He tells me to do what feels fastest. I take his advice and it does feel better. They definitely rev the engines pretty hard here. The track closes at 12:30 and we proceed to the track restaurant to have lunch. I love this! As always, the food is great and at 1:30 we are back on the track.
Throughout the day I test different set ups, carburetors, and exhaust pipes. They donít waste any time when testing here. I never put on a new set of tires, but bolt on some decent used rubber and am able to go 42.1 as my fastest time, which is equal to Manettiís and Foreís fastest laps in the race the weekend before. The conditions are a bit different, so you canít compare exactly, but the team seems satisfied and I feel like I have had a successful first day of testing.
Giacomo is a big help and I am able to see first hand what Cliff mentioned to me about his knowledge with the chassis. I leave the track with Ryan and Danny Yop. Our exit for Prevalle has a fatal accident so the road is closed and we are forced to find another route. After asking about ten different gas stations, we finally find the right way. I have dinner with the Yops and am again in bed by 9pm
| Mr. Roberto Robazzi looks on as they work on Jurca's machine|
Friday April 28
The morning starts much the same as Thursday. I arrive at the factory at 8 with Polva, but this time itís raining outside. We are supposed to go testing today, but at this point it doesnít look like we will. I go back to the factory where I see the Yops and we proceed to take some pictures in front of the picturesque Tony Kart building. After that we decide to go do a little shopping, but just before we leave Giacomo stops us in our car and informs us that in Lonato itís not raining and that we will be heading to the track.
We are there by 12pm and have just enough time to unload and prepare before the track closes at 12:30. We again have great lunch at the track. After lunch we are able to go onto the track, which has definitely lost some grip from the heavy rains overnight, although we still have more rubber than you would find in America. We test the tires we will use in the European Championship and get some valuable setup and tire pressure information.
My ribs start to affect me from my contact with Alan Rudolph in Sundayís main in Tucson (Stars of Karting West #2 event). Rudolphís bottom end seized right in front of me on the exit of a fast chicane and I hit him sideways pretty hard. Giacomo takes me to the track store where I pick up a new rib protector. Itís one of those Free M ones and it really helped me finish the day without any more pain. The day is a success and I again leave the track with the Yops. This time we have Simoneís GPS and it works like a charm. We have no problem finding our way back. I have dinner with the Yops again and then Ryan and I visit a local nightclub. We have a good time seeing the typical Italian nightlife and then call it a night before it gets way too late.
| The Rocca Scalgera castle in Sirmione|
Saturday April 30
Simone picks me up from the apartment in the morning as Polva has left for the weekend. Typically, Tony Kart is closed on the weekend, but there is a lot of work to do to prepare for the races here in Italy as well as a race in Japan. The Yops come by the team shop in the morning just before they leave for the weekend to visit relatives in Switzerland. I work on cleaning the karts from testing until 12:30pm. Thatís when the shop closes and we call it a day.
I take a bicycle and ride it to the apartment. This is to be my new form of transportation for the next three days as I get the rest of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off. I have lunch and then wonder what in the world I am going to do for the next three days. The apartment is in the middle of a very small town and there isnít much to do in the area around it. I get lucky and Sara from Tony Kart comes by with her sister Robbie. They are going shopping in Bresciaís center and ask if Iíd like to come along. Of course I accept.
The center is one of those typical European places with the cobblestone walkways and people walking in the streets shopping or just enjoying the day off. Itís quite different from America, but definitely very nice. I end up buying a pair of jeans and then am invited to dinner with Saraís parents at her home. Her family is kind and hospitable to me and they help make me feel right at home. I have a delicious pizza for dinner and communicate with them through Saraís English/Italian translation. I realize what a family affair dinner in Italy is and itís great to see how others live outside of the United States. After dinner Sara drops me off at my apartment and I play some video games before falling asleep.
Sunday April 31
I wake up and ride my bike to the nearby hotel for breakfast. The restaurant below is closed on Sundays. I come back to the apartment and play some video games for a few hours before returning to the hotel for lunch. After lunch Simone and Sara text message me. Sara asks if Iíd like to go see Garda Lake with her sister and her and Simone invites me to dinner with his wife Luigina and their friends. I accept both invitations. Sara picks me up with her sister and the drive to Garda Lake is about 15 to 20 minutes. Garda Lake is the largest lake in Italy and it has a beautiful green tint to it. Itís a huge lake and it reminds me a lot of Puget Sound in my hometown of Seattle. I tour the city of Desenzano and again have the better version of ice cream: gelato. I come home in the late afternoon and wait for Simone to pick me up for dinner. He is there by 7pm and then we pick up his wife and meet his friends. We are at a very nice local restaurant and the food tastes great as usual. I have some interesting conversation with Simone and enjoy seeing his life outside of racing. After dinner, he takes me back to the apartment and itís pretty late by now so I go straight to bed, ending another fun day.
| The professional looking Tony Kart Racing Team hauler|
Monday May 1
My last day off and itís been great so far. Iím not used to sight seeing while racing but itís definitely a nice addition to my trip. Around lunch I get a text message from Sara who has invited me to a town called Sirmione on Garda Lake along with her parents. Sirmione is on the end of a peninsula that juts out into Garda Lake and I am told itís very beautiful. When we arrive the first thing I notice is a very old castle called Rocca Scaligera. Itís located at the entrance of Sirmione and itís a very stunning way to begin the old town. We walk through the entrance and notice the castle is open to tourists.
Typically, it is not open for the general public and even Sara has never been inside of it. We check it out and itís incredible. The castle is about 4 stories high and we climb to the very top of it to see a breathtaking view of Garda Lake and the surrounding areas. Fantastic! After, we enter Sirmione where there is an abundance of shopping, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. This is definitely my favorite of all the places I have been so far. I make sure to get another serving of gelato before we leave. Saraís parents again invite me for dinner and the meal is delicious. A motherís home cooking is always the best.
After dinner I go back to the apartment to get ready for the week ahead. The last three days have definitely been a nice way to relax and prepare for the challenges I am about to face racing in the European karting scene. Just before I go to bed, I look through the pictures on my new digital camera and by accident I reformat the memory card when trying to find out how much space is left on it. I lose every picture. Damn!
Tuesday May 2
I have my typical morning and arrive at the racing team headquarters at 8am. I do what I can to help them prepare and by 3:30pm the truck is loaded. The truck leaves by 5pm for the long trip to Lecce (which is about as South as you can get in Italy). I then stop by the factory to check my email in the office and leave to the apartment at 5:30pm. Polva is back from his ski trip in Switzerland and after my week in Italy I have picked up some Italian words here and there. We are actually able to somewhat communicate at dinner. After dinner I pack my bags including all the new Tony Kart clothing I picked up. My bags are definitely full. My mechanic for the race, Alberto, arrives from Torino at 10pm. He speaks English and seems like a great personality. We talk for a bit then call it a night.
| The solid sides of the Tony Kart tent are great for inclement weather conditions|
Wednesday May 3
Everyone meets at the factory at 8am for our trip to the La Conca track in Lecce. We have a couple of vans and Iím in one with Marco Ardigo, his mechanic Lorenzo, Stefano Albertini, and my mechanic Alberto. Itís a long 10-hour drive of listening to Italian. We stop twice for gas and at one stop we eat. We arrive at the track at 6:30pm and there waiting for us is the Tony Kart truck as well as the Yops.
The paddock is packed with big teams. Itís incredible. All the important teams are here and everyone looks very professional. The mechanics measure out the pit spot and then we leave to our hotel, which is more like a resort. It is brand new and there are about 50 bungalows on the property with two people sharing each one. I am alone for the first night as mine is shared with Johnny Mislijevic, who arrives with Mr. Robazzi on Thursday. We eat dinner and then everyone finds the big screen to watch the soccer game between Milan and Rome. Milan and Rome have a big rivalry and everyone is rooting and cheering for their side to win. After about 30 minutes Giacomo says its time to hit the sack. We have a long day ahead of us to set up the Tony Kart compound complete with hard sidewalls and sliding doors. I canít wait to see it. Iím in bed by 10:30pm.
Thursday May 4
Breakfast at 6:30am and leave the hotel by 6:45am. This will be the same starting time for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We get to the track and set up the Tony Kart compound. This is unlike any other pit I have seen in karting and even in the European karting scene there is no one that can compare to it. The tent comes off the side of the truck and wraps around the front and the back. The truck is basically completely engulfed. The sidewalls are the trickest part of their setup. They have hard sidewalls with sliding doors at the entrances. With the fifteen or so people we have helping, the tent is finished by about 11am. After that, I help Alberto put together my kart, do the scrutineering, and pick up our tires. We leave the track at 7pm. Have dinner by 8pm and then we go to bed.
Friday May 5
We have four 20-minute practice sessions today. The tough part is, we only get six tires for all of practice including the Saturday and Sunday morning warm ups. So I will essentially be learning the track on new rubber and after that I wonít get a chance to see what the new rubber is like on such a gripped up track. I break in for the first ten minutes of the first two practice sessions.
After the first two sessions I find myself in and around 20th position. The drivers are definitely quick here. The biggest thing for me to learn is driving on the excessive rubber that gets laid down here. Itís very different than what we have in America and it takes a bit of a different approach. I end the day a humbling 17th quickest. I attend the drivers meeting after practice and then work on cleaning the kart. We make some changes to the chassis hoping to make it more to my liking and finish up by 8pm. Then we go to the hotel, eat, and try to get some sleep for the big day ahead.
| The Tony Kart tent looks big even on the inside|
Saturday May 6
I must break in another engine in the 10-minute morning warm up. I break in for about seven minutes and am able to put on one quick lap before the checkered comes out. This time I am 14th quick and feel we made some improvements. Qualifying doesnít go as well though and I end up a disappointing 20th. It is not easy to find clear laps out there and by the time I do the checkered is coming out. Add to that the total different feeling that new tires bring on so much rubber and Iím sure itís safe to say I didnít get as much out of the tires as could have been expected. Qualifying is pretty close though and a tenth quicker would have put me much further up the grid.
There are two qualifying sessions and the second is an hour and a half later. In the beginning, I assume I will go out to try and improve my position, but after collaborating with the team, the decision is that it would be unwise to put more laps on my tires. This race is definitely about tire management as I only get six tires for qualifying, three 12-lap heat races, and two 20-lap finals. No one behind me improves and I stay 20th for the start of my next three heat races.
My first heat race does not start very well and I end up hitting a BRM that spins right in front of me in the first turn. I pull the clutch in and am able to keep the kart running. I fall to the tail end of the field and make about five positions back before the end of the race. With a few others not finishing I make it to 18th. The second heat race goes much better and I finish 12th. Thatís the end of my first day of competition and we clean the karts and prepare everything for the next day. We make some more changes to the chassis and leave the track by 9pm, have dinner, and get to bed.
| Vortex tuner Vittorio Venturi discusses set-up on Jurca's Vortex with Tony Kart mechanics|
Sunday May 7
Morning warm up starts really well and I produce my fastest lap of the weekend putting me 8th quick. Seeing as the other drivers didnít really go any quicker than usual, it is a definite improvement and gives me some more confidence heading into the final dayís competition.
In the third heat race I try to stay out of trouble and end up 15th. After tallying my three heat race results, I start the first final in 14th. Just before the start of the first finals, we have a driverís parade with a marching band and all. At the end of the introductions there is a spectacular fireworks display that lasts a good five minutes. I was very impressed.
Directly after the parade the first finals start. I had a great start until turn one where I get hit hard in the back and nearly turned around. I lost a lot of momentum and a few positions as well, but luckily make it through. The starts here are crazy for sure. I fight hard during the race and notice that the drivers here are as aggressive as everyone says. There is a time when I make a pass at the end of the straight and the driver next to me turns into me hoping to scare me off. Making contact at 90 MPH gets pretty hairy and after jumping in the air a bit Iím happy to make the pass stick. I have a tight battle for ninth on the last lap, but the driver in front of me does a good job of defending the inside line. We cross the line side by side and I finish behind him by 0.013 seconds. I meet my goal of finishing in the top ten in my first final and make a new goal of finishing in the top eight in the second final.
| Vittorio Venturi, mechanic Alberto, and Jurca|
In between my finals, I make sure to catch the first final for Formula A. Itís an exciting race throughout the field and a great result for Tony Kart with Marco Ardigo crossing the line in first. For my second final, they line us up on the grid and give the top 14 drivers Italian umbrella girls. Iím starting tenth so lucky me I get one. After introductions and many photographs, we jump in the karts and get ready for the second final. I have a really good start and by the second corner I am seventh. I get hit hard into the third corner and feel like Iím on two wheels. I keep the position and stay with the front running karts for the beginning of the race. At about lap 4, I drop to eighth when Alessandro Manetti passes me, but I continue to run near the front pack. I start to fade away about lap 10 and a driver makes a pass on me in a hairpin. I return the favor in the next corner but he closes the door and we touch. He goes off and I lose some momentum and a position. I fight back and make my position back and am running eighth again.
Around lap 15 I really feel like I am fading. With all those hard battles through the three heat races and the first final, my tires are finished. With about three laps to go, I get hit really hard by Arjan Kevitsbosch, sending me off the racing line and also pushing the new CIK rear bumper onto my rear tire. Itís rubbing hard and it feels like I have lost a lot of grip in that rear tire. I lose a bunch of positions from the contact and drop to 14th. It seemed I was on my way to reaching my goal in the second final, or at least making another top ten, but thatís the way racing goes I guess.
I found out after the race that Arjan is penalized five seconds which drops him behind me and puts me up to 13th. Itís nice to see a little justice served. I watch Formula Aís second final, which is run in the rain. Itís a lot of shuffling as the rain changes the order a bit and watch Ardigo run a smart race to finish third. After the race, we would normally start packing the Tony Kart compound, but I lucked out. They have a race from the Italian Open at the same track one week later and so everything will stay up during the week. At this point, Iím pretty tired and I look forward to seeing my hotel bed even sooner. By nine we leave, have dinner, and go to bed.
| The new CIK rear bumper was damaged after some contact in the Finals|
Monday May 8
We leave the hotel by 5:30am for our 10-hour drive back to Tony Kart. This time we have some extra passengers in my car, which include Gary Catt, Jeremy Iglesias, and James Colado. Colado and Catt are British so it gives me a little extra entertainment for the drive ahead. We arrive in the afternoon at Tony Kart where Gary, Jeremy, James, and I are dropped off in the Tony Kart apartment. We have dinner together and then play a bunch of video games in the apartment. It was my last night in Italy and before bed I reflect on just what a great experience this as been.
Tuesday May 9
A taxi picks me up at 6:30am, which takes me from the apartment to the airport in Milan. My flight leaves at 11am and I fly from Milan to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Minneapolis, and Minneapolis to Phoenix. In Phoenix, Tony Kart USA team manager Cliff Kujala picks me up and takes me to his house to stay the night. The next morning we fly to Indianapolis to prepare for the Stars of Karting race in New Castle. I have been away from home since April 12 and it wonít be back there until May 23. Iím not complaining though as the experience has definitely been worthwhile adventure.
I would like to thank everyone in Tony Kart for the opportunity to race in Europe this year. Mr. Robazzi and Giacomo were a big help all weekend and always made sure I had what I needed to compete at this level. Johnny Mislijevic was also always there to collaborate on the chassis and give me driving tips after every session. My mechanic Alberto was exactly what I needed. He never made one mistake during the entire weekend, and the fact that he spoke English really helped. We worked well together and continually improved throughout the whole weekend. I also want to thank all of my sponsors: Tony Kart, Vortex, Oakley, Bell Helmets, Smart Race Paint, Serengeti Design, European Tile Inc., and Best Ceramic.
Stay tuned for his next European adventure in Varennes, France June 23-25. For more information on David, please visit http://www.davidjurca.com