Photo By: Cody Schindel, Autosports Media Group
All winter and spring planning comes to fruition today as the 2011 Eastern Canadian Karting Championship gets underway at Goodwood Kartways in Stouffville, Ontario. The finest karters from Ontario through the Maritimes are already on hand at the fabled circuit, set for a full day of Official Testing today before a doubleheader race weekend Saturday and Sunday. It’s the second season for Canada’s premiere Rotax Max Challenge, and as hoped for when the series was created, things are only going to get bigger and better for season two.
Pre-registration numbers at eckc.ca surged this week as teams and drivers committed to plans for the coming season, and even more karters are expected to register upon arrival. As of mid-week, the Rotax Max and Honda Challenge classes had cleared 100 unique entries, with the main trio approaching sixty. The Rotax Max Categories will see Micro-Max, Mini-Max, Junior, Senior, DD2, and Rotax Masters/DD2 Masters take to the track while The Honda Challenge presented by Vega will usher in Honda Junior, and Honda Senior/Masters. Finals each day are set for 3:15pm, and admission to Goodwood is free.
Prime among the classes in competition are Rotax Junior, Senior, and DD2, as their respective champions will qualify for spots on Rotax Max Team Canada, and compete at the 2011 Rotax World Championships. It’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of an awards package that continues to grow, and past performance leads to a number of names to watch as track action begins in earnest:
Rotax Max Senior - Three to See
Home town boy Marco Di Leo is the defending class champion and there is no karter on the planet that knows the intricacies of Goodwood Kartways as Di Leo does. The Di Leo family owns the famed Goodwood Kartways circuit, and Marco cut his racing teeth around its ten turns. He won here for Intrepid last season as the ECKC made its debut, and qualified for Team Canada at the track when the Canadian National Championships last visited.
The same is true of sophomore senior Steven Szigeti, as he, too, qualified for Team Canada the last time he raced at Goodwood. Szigeti was a force across North America as a junior driver, and was immediately at the front last season as he began the senior stage of his karting days by winning the Coupe de Montreal. The TonyKart pilot has eyes for Team Canada, and is set for a full schedule with the ECKC now awarding Team Canada seats.
A third reigning champion set to contest senior at Goodwood is CRG driver Michael Vincec. Another home town racer, the Stouffville driver won the recent Florida Winter Tour DD2 class championship, and has already qualified for the 2011 version of Team Canada. Vincec has scores of wins at Goodwood looking back through the days of the Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship, and many came in commanding fashion piloting a CRG in Rotax Senior.
Rotax Max Junior - Three to See
The second class of drivers looking to earn their way to the Rotax Grand Finals also sees its defending champion returning as Jesse Lazare is back and looking for a repeat. After suffering through the first three starts of the initial schedule, Lazare rebounded to win three straight races and the Junior Championship last season. Having made the switch to Intrepid Europe in the off-season, Lazare is racing around the world yet looking for Team Canada with the ECKC.
A rookie in the Junior class that has quickly made a mark is TonyKart driver Zachary Claman DeMelo. After winning the ECKC Mini-Max Championship last season, ZCD moved to Rotax Junior over the winter and promptly recorded podiums and wins at the Florida Winter Tour. He’s tested for the ECKC opener at Goodwood, and there are few, if any, karters or teams that arrive for a race event more prepared.
A driver making a full run at the ECKC title this year that also has eyes for Team Canada is Birel’s Olivier Bedard. In a single series’ start last year at Mont-Tremblant, Bedard won the Junior prefinal and was the fastest kart in the field over the final as he rebounded from outside the top ten into fifth. He returned two weeks later and scored pole at the Canadian National Championships, then won the first heat to establish his name in the game.
Rotax DD2 - Three to See
The DD2 class championship last season was a two-way fight and at least one of those drivers is confirmed to be returning: TonyKart driver Darren White. A former Canadian National Champion and two-time member of Team Canada, White arrives fresh from a win in the Pan-American Rotax Max Challenge and looking to pick up where he left off last season - with his target being one spot higher in the final class tabulations.
In order to win the class crown, a driver that he will definitely have to overcome is former DD2 World Champion and Canadian karting superstar Pier-Luc Ouellette. After fighting for the championship and taking it to a final-round senior showdown last season, PLO makes an ECKC class switch to DD2 as PSL/CRG spreads its power across the senior options. Ouellette has scored wins on the biggest of stages in his karting career and will definitely be ready to go come the weekend.
The number three to see in DD2 may well become a growing story as the field is combed for a driver to take the fight to the pair of pre-season favourites. Cory Luciano, Enrico Menotti, Stefano Romano and Tyler McEwan were each on the podium twice times last season, while Nick Latifi has been enjoying his start to the DD2 class and won the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas over the winter. Of course, we’ll know for certain in just a matter of days, as the flags are set to wave in round one.
The 2011 Eastern Canadian Karting Championship alternates between Ontario and Quebec. After beginning at Goodwood Kartways May 7-8 with races one and two, Karting Trois-Rivieres hosts race three on May 29. Races four and five are slated for June 25-26 at Mosport International Karting - a race run in conjunction with the Pan American Rotax Max Challenge - and for the second straight season the finale will offer a preview of the Canadian National Championships as the Jim Russell Karting Academy at Mont-Tremblant hosts drivers on Sunday, July 17. For more information, please visit eckc.ca