The 2011 Eastern Canadian Karting Championship will reach its halfway point this weekend as teams and drivers converge on PSL Karting Trois-Rivières in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, for race number three of six. Rotax Max Challenge classes will once again be in the spotlight, as drivers in Senior, Junior, and DD2 continue bids to earn seats on Team Canada for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. The first event of the season at Goodwood Kartways attracted 210 Rotax Max Challenge entries, and if the past is any indication, the level of competition will only increase as the championship heads to Quebec.
Just as it did last year in its inaugural season, the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship will combine a race weekend with a Quebec regional championship while racing in la belle province, and this year there is only one: the Quebec Cup. A six-race championship that hits all the best tracks in the province, the Quebec Cup opened at ICAR on May 15th and will race its second round on Saturday, prior to the third ECKC race on Sunday. While many drivers contest both of the championships, others race only in their home province and two kick off the second edition of ECKC Event Preview - Three to See:
Rotax Max Senior - Three to See
With just a single regional championship being contested in Quebec this season, all the best karters in the province were on hand when the championship began two weeks ago and the man on pole was Kevin King. A former National Junior champion, the Team PSL/CRG driver ran the entire ECKC schedule last season and was one of very few seniors to put all six results inside the top ten. King also works at PSL Karting Trois-Rivières, and there are few karters, if any, who have turned as many laps around the circuit.
Another who has the podium in his sights enters in a very similar situation, as Massimo Scotti kicked off his season at the Quebec Cup opener at ICAR and will make his first ECKC start of the season on Sunday. The PSL/CRG driver started the day from fifth on the grid, but won the prefinal and the set the fastest lap in the final while recovering from a knock down to 14th at the start. He finished the day fifth, but won’t be happy with that in either start this weekend. Scotti is a consistent threat when racing in Quebec, and a driver who has stood on the National podium in Rotax Senior.
Of course, one should never count out the points leader or reigning champion, and in this case it’s the same man in Marco Di Leo. After sweeping through the opening set at Goodwood the Intrepid Canada driver sits atop the senior standings, and though he has never been on track at PSL Karting Trois-Rivières, he’s as adept as anyone in learning a new layout. Di Leo puts nothing in the sport ahead of his aspirations to represent Team Canada for a fourth time, and another podium result could give him a strong grip on his second-consecutive championship heading to the Mosport.
Rotax Max Junior - Three to See
Junior has a driver in the same situation, as Jesse Lazare is both the reigning class champion and the class points leader through the opening event at Goodwood. The Intrepid driver scored pole to open the championship, and after winning the prefinal on Saturday looked on his way to a win in the final when he was foiled by a coil. He salvaged fourth, then finished second on Sunday in race two. Opening in Quebec a week later, there was no such drama for the Canadian star. Lazare took a comfortable pole, won the prefinal by five seconds then converted in the final by over eight, leaving the others in his wake.
A driver he didn’t face in Quebec, but one who confirmed pre-season pace at event one was Cameron Morrison. The GreenSpeed/TonyKart driver was the only Junior to repeat on the podium at Goodwood, and in fact was never out of podium position at the end of race action all weekend. He was third after the prefinal Saturday before coming through to score his first regional win in the season opener, and on Sunday he was third in both race runs. The totals see him at 169 points heading to Trois-Rivières, and just two points back of Lazare.
Fourth in the Junior standings is sophomore Samuel Fontaine. The PSL/CRG driver headed to opening weekend with fond memories of Goodwood after winning the National Mini-Max Championship there in 2009. Fontaine starred against some of the biggest names in North America over those five days in August, and was never classified lower than second. He was tenth in the Nation last year, his first as a junior, and is looking for more this year. He was on the podium second in race one, and was fourth in race two.
Rotax DD2 - Three to See
The champions in Junior, Senior and DD2 will be awarded positions on Rotax Max Team Canada, and when it comes to that note, none in karting can match the record of Christophe Boisclair. The SRA karting star has made an incredible seven trips to date, and raced in every category in which he’s been eligible. Through the opening rounds of both the ECKC and the Quebec Cup, Boisclair has shown he’s quickly coming to grips with his new Birel package and is intent on returning to the Grand Finals for an eighth time. After a pair of podiums at Goodwood Kartways, Boisclair won the opening round of the Quebec Cup and now heads to PSL Karting Trois-Rivières on a winning note.
Also heading to the second ECKC event of the season on a winning note is Pier-Luc Ouellette. The PSL/CRG driver passed on the Quebec Cup, and heads to his team’s home track after winning on Sunday at Goodwood in commanding fashion. Starting the day from off-pole, PLO won the prefinal by just over two seconds and walked in the final by just about six. He also won the prefinal on Saturday, and was making a move to win in the final when Goodwood came up and bit him. If there is a track in karting the former Rotax World Champion dreads, it could justifiably be Goodwood.
Day one winner at the opening event was Stefano Romano. The new Pserra/Tecno driver scored a third and a second-place finish racing the Ontario rounds of the category last season, and began the current one by taking pole position in a twenty-kart field of DD2's. He then ended the day with is first win from his first start, and followed that with a runner-up finish on day two. His 176 points lead the championship over the aforementioned Ouellette and Boisclair, and all three will be looking to establish control on Sunday.
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, and follow the weekend action on ekartingnews.ca