Official activities begin with the Kart Draw as drivers get their karts and Team USA begins the march to the Grand Finals
Wow! Although there are tens of thousands words in the English dictionary, the track at LaConca seems to defy all of them. When you enter the gates all the adverbs and adjectives seem to leave your mind and all you can say is: Wow. The day began with a brilliant sky of blue brighten by the fantastic sunshine that graces this part of Italy so often. With fall in the air and the olive harvest underway, driving into the region of Mauro Lecesse is a step back in time. Entering the track at LaConca is like making a wrong turn into wonderland were your imagination and existence become one. You almost can’t imagine the scale and scope and shear elegance of the facility dedicated to all things karting. A huge overhead road sign points you through the front gates, which lead you to the main building that wraps the front straight. Palm trees line the entrance as you park your compact Euro car in the sprawling parking facility. The entire circumference of the track is wrapped with majestic pines that hold back the strong winds off the Adriatic Sea. Yes, LaConca is what a kart track is supposed to look like. And it does not disappoint. Wow!
The first official day of activity consisted of the one of the most incredible spectacles in all of karting. The Kart Draw is a site to behold as the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals lines up 252 brand new karts down the front straight.
Racers and photographers scramble for the perfect shot, perching from ladders and railings to capture the full picture presented before them. As drivers draw a number for their kart, Official Rotax Max Challenge commenter Ken Walker talks about each of them giving all a moment in the spotlight before the real work begins. With 252 drivers from 62 countries it is really an amazing collection of talent and colours from so many parts of the world. Our Olympics is now underway.
So to the business at hand. Team USA is on site and the full contingent is popping with enthusiasm and passion beaming from each driver like a spot light. The entire team is prepared, focused and ready for battle. With the vice champion trophy in the 2009 Nation Cup in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, Team USA has something to prove to the world and themselves. The red, white and blue nation is the largest contingent at 20 drivers with six in Junior and five in Senior, alongside six in DD2 and three Masters DD2. With that many horses in the race, there are plenty of chances to grab some serious hardware and keep the national pride at fever pitch.
Leading the way in the Team USA paddock is karting icon Jorge Arellano, owner of Ocala Gran Prix. OGP has put forward a Herculean effort to get the massive Team USA program together and moved into the sprawling LaConca paddock. No small task, Team USA has been testing, training and preparing for several weeks and look ready to take on the world.
“Getting our hands on our karts is a really big deal,” comments Arellano from onsite here at LaConca. “Getting on the bus this morning the feeling was electric. We were finally getting our equipment. I am so excited that we are able to start the process. We have outstanding drivers on the team again this season. Last year we had a lot of firsts on Team USA with a first driver on the podium and the first Nations Cup podium.”
The Juniors grabbed their Sodi karts and began the job of seat mounting and final chassis set-up. The Senior and DD2 Max drivers grabbed their CRG karts and got to work. The new class of DD2 Masters visited the Hasse hauler to get ready for their first event as an official Max Challenge class. The karts are delivered complete and need very little assembly is required to be race ready. The excitement is building, the team suits are handed out and the karts ready. Now it’s time to go racing. Wow.
We took some time to grab a few select quotes before the event hits full force starting tomorrow with two rounds of timed practice.
Jesus Rios Jr. returns to Team USA for a second time and a second trip to LaConca where he made his first trip to the RMCGF in 2008.
“When I heard that the Worlds were back at LaConca we made a big effort to get back here. I am glad to be here as we were fast last time, running up at the front and as high as third place. We are looking for a good result this time out.”
Jesus Rios Jr. 16 (last Sunday) Miami Beach, Florida
Cody Hodgson hit the podium last year in Egypt with a place finish on DD2 and returns to Team USA as the National DD2 Champion.
“After having done so well last year in Egypt I wanted to trample off another invitation to Team USA. As long as I stay out of trouble things should go well. Last year I qualified 19th but kept clean and was able to grab a great result in the end.”
Cody Hodgson, 18, Escalon, CA
Ashley Rogero is the lone girl on Team USA and looks to take a great rookie season in Junior into the Grand Finals.
“LaConca seems like an awesome track. Definitely more technical then what I have seen before. Being the only girl on Team USA is not an advantage or a disadvantage. I am excited and nervous, but definitely more excited.”
Ashley Rogero, 13, Naples, Florida
With Day One in the books, Drivers will head to the Welcoming Party being held at the track this evening. Guest will get a chance to mingle and talk strategy before the karts take fire tomorrow. The World Tire Changing championships will begin preliminary rounds tonight.
The day ended with a brief shower as if to remind drivers of the possibilities and opportunities that may lie just inside the famous gates of LaConca.