Photo By: Cody Schindel, Autosports Media Group
It was standing room only with the paddock closed to traffic as the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship produced race day four at Mosport International Karting Saturday. Vehicles lined the street, and the kart count pushed 150 for the single day, with Rotax Senior, Junior, and DD2 combining for 87. Drivers from the USA and South America mixed in with those from 6 Canadian provinces as the event doubled as a Pan American Challenge qualifying round, and the paddock at Mosport was as full as its ever been. Nearly every chassis known to Eastern North America had support in the paddock with importers PSL/CRG, Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid Canada, SRA/Birel, Pserra/Tecno, SH/TonyKart, J3 Competition/Kosmic, and Innisfil/GP on hand; and along with their own significant setups they supported the likes of PSL Ontario, PSL Atlantic, Intrepid Quebec, REM Birel, GreenSpeed TonyKart and more. It was a sight to behold, and once again confirmed the premiere standing of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship.
On the track it proved a wild and wonderful day. Changing weather conditions had drivers and tuners constantly on the run, and championship pressure produced the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a day that saw Team Canada classes get two first-time winners; championship leaders in damage control mode; personal bests mixed with the truly bizarre; and of course yet another petty protest or two along with a flurry of Official rulings. This, then, is the day that was:
Fresh from his Quebec Championship win at SH Karting, Olivier Bedard put his SRA/Birel on the Rotax Junior pole and Miles Tyson made it an all-Birel front row by clocking second. PSL/CRG drivers Marc-Antoine Cardin and Tyler Kashak owned the second row, with championship hopefuls Zachary Claman-DeMelo and Cameron Morrison lining up their TonyKarts on the third. Intrepid drivers Jesse Lazare and Artem Korolev produced times to put them in the mix, but each was sent to the back during tech for having the seal missing from their carburetor caps. They were side-by-side on row sixteen when then track went green, yet by the end of the day, you’d have been shocked to see them near each other.
A field thirty-three strong raced under the green flag for the prefinal but didn’t stay formed for long as Kashak got turned around going up the hill and faced over twenty of that field coming straight at him. Madness ensued, and nearly half of the grid was left spinning with a handful of casualties sent to the sidelines. Claman-DeMelo led Sasha Aleksic and Tyson as the field came back down the hill, with Bedard sitting fourth and Lazare having reached sixteenth. Bedard worked his way back to second in short order, but by then Claman-DeMelo had created the gap he needed and the pair raced one-two to the flag. Cameron Morrison came from sixth to third, with Maxime Couturier fourth and Lazare winding up fifth.
The field was then primed for the final, a race that seemed an age to get started. The lead pair blew the first two attempts before being demoted, and when the new front row gave it their shot the green flag waved with perhaps the worst looking formation of the bunch. Much to their credit, Officials quickly agreed, and the field went under a full-course caution followed quickly by a red flag stoppage. While the front few rows were given a gentle reminder of how to get a race running, the paddock and fans were left with some dramatic entertainment nonetheless. Korolev’s Intrepid spit its chain when the axle shifted and he was pushing it back to the pit for repairs - all the way from the Ron Fellows Bowl! Almost entirely uphill, and much more so than it may appear from the paddock, Korolev accomplished the feat with encouragement from his team, and quickly had set screws replaced and the chain corrected. He was just off the back of the pack when the field took the green on attempt number four, and the original front row finally succeeded in getting the race running.
Morrison pushed Claman-DeMelo on the inside line and the pair ran first and second up the hill while the remainder of the field squabbled up and across the top. Bedard was the victim of contact in the right-hander to come back down, while Lazare took two spots and was third by that point. He got second from Morrison at the interior hairpin, and the top three in points were then the top three on the track. Claman-DeMelo and Lazare broke free, while behind Morrison and Aleksic was, incredibly, Korolev leading a line of karts extending beyond the top fifteen! By the end of that third lap drizzle began to increase and it was catching drivers out in short order. Lazare took the lead through one and up the hill, and when Claman-DeMelo looked for it back up top Morrison and Korolev caught on. A lap later Korolev was third, and when Lazare and Claman-DeMelo continued to simultaneously race and defend, he was able to pip both in the final turn to lead through five!
The Intrepid driver had carried it through six when Mother Nature decided to put the race over the top. Working the end of that lap Lazare regained the lead at the left-hand turn into the final sequence, but Korolev took it back in the final corner and Morrison followed him through for second. The rain then began to increase, and the field had more spinners on the hill. Lazare took second back then made a bid for the lead at the interior hairpin but both he and Korolev washed wide in the right hand turn. A drag race ensued, with each driver refusing to submit, and the result was Korolev spinning across the bow of Lazare - a spin that also torpedoed Morrison! Korolev then went NASCAR as he walked onto the track to make an impression on the new leader, and as the rain continued to intensify, Lazare went around in the final turns! It was sheer karting madness! Claman-DeMelo then had the lead, with Bedard having recovered all the way from sixteenth to sit second, and by the end of just lap eight the Birel was back in the spot he earned from qualifying and he never let it go!
With the race having become a matter of keeping it on the island, Bedard proved a master of the conditions and raced over twelve seconds clear of the rest. CRG driver Alexandre Fortin crossed second, only to be disqualified due to a dragging rear bumper. That put Tyson second, but he took a two-position penalty for gaining positions during the race by shortcutting the track. Kashak then, all the way back from his nasty prefinal spin, owned the second step of the podium! All of the above brought Claman-DeMelo to the podium as well, in his case all the way from crossing fifth! Tyson was fourth with his penalty factored in, while Morrison and Lazare crossed sixth and seventh after racing back from fifteenth and sixteenth following the madness on lap seven! Yet the rulings weren’t over, and at just past 8am Sunday morning Officials registered another call - a completely comical call - that Lazare was to be excluded from the previous day for avoidable contact AND suspended for Sunday’s racing! The Junior race was an incredible way to start Saturday for the Team Canada classes, and with the paddock still trying to digest it all the Seniors were on the grid with their tire choices bolted on. Many were on slicks, but a few wild cards were on wets and they were about to come up all Aces!
In preliminary action that proved irrelevant to the final finishing order Kevin Monteith had taken a wet pole position with Kenneth O’Keefe once again showing his home track prowess and leading a CRG contingent of Hugo Ouellette, Taylor Gates and Michael Vincec in the top five. Monteith then maintained the point through the prefinal while Vincec came forward to second. Gates took third, while all the way from a clutch problem and starting spot of twenty-ninth in the field of thirty-three, Marco Di Leo was fourth ahead of teammate Andrew Waring, back on the track in karting during an off weekend from the Formula 1200 Series.
Another F1200 driver returning to action was the early story in the final when it was quickly apparent that slicks were the wrong tire choice. It could have gone either way in the early laps, and while the leaders raced on knife edge Di Leo worked to the front in dancing a fine line. By the end of three through, wets began to rule the day. From F1200 and P13 on the grid, Spencer Todd worked his Tecno to the lead running up the hill to begin lap four and by the end of five other wet-weather runners Rui Teixeira and Luke Chudleigh were second and third. Two laps later the Intrepid’s of Hugo Parent and Reid Arnold were fourth and fifth, and a dream scenario was about to unfold: Teixeira took the lead in the final turn working lap six and was flawless the rest of the way in taking the first ECKC win for REM/Birel! He was a touch over five seconds clear of Chudleigh when the checker went up, and the CRG driver was over ten clear of Arnold in third. Todd, Cedric Tisseur-Therrion and Andy Jaffray followed the podium positions, while Waring led the slick drivers in seventh, forty-two seconds adrift.
DD2 completed the day’s running and while they, too, were making setup decisions they were more based on chassis than tires. In full wet qualifying earlier in the day, Brendan Bain had earned pole looking sharp in his new ULV suit, with Reid Arnold posting second while seeing double-duty and Matt France putting his Kosmic third ahead of Eric Simon and Darren White. Arnold then worked to pole in the prefinal while fellow Intrepid runner Cory Luciano came all the way from fourteenth to finish second. France was third once again, Bain fourth, and White fifth.
Luciano produced the perfect start as the track went green for the final and led up the hill as the rest began to wrestle. By the end of one he already had a significant gap, and those behind were still looking to establish themselves. White was next in line by the end of two, and with drivers taking the wet racing line the pair checked out on the field. When it became apparent the TonyKart wouldn’t be able to run down the Intrepid, all eyes turned back where Zacharie Richard-Robichon, Tyler McEwan and Nicholas Latifi were setting up to settle the final podium position. They closed to that order on six, and on seven Latifi got both to move into third. They remained in close quarters throughout before Latifi firmly established the spot on the twelfth and final lap. Richard-Robichon was fourth and McEwan fifth. With an eye on the championship chase, Stefano Romano was ahead of Pier-Luc Ouellette at half distance but a spin entering the final section allowed Ouellette to get by and earn crucial points. None of it worried Luciano though, as he was on cruise control from start to finish and firmly stamped his name back in the championship hunt.
In other action, a Mini-Max field of eighteen saw Austin Versteeg take pole position and then maintain it through the prefinal in a great battle with Devlin DeFrancesco, the DFR driver returning to his home land to qualify for the Pan Am Championship event. The field was then back to full wet conditions for the final and both Versteeg and DeFrancesco raced well and clear. Versteeg took the win, with DeFrancesco second, six seconds back. JP Hutchinson held off Jordan Slipacoff for third, strongly based on a great second lap that saw him jump from sixth to a podium spot. In Mirco-Max Antonio Serravalle had some Pan Am competition arrive as Venezuelan Leonardo Rinaldi and American Michael d’Orlando were on hand at Mosport. Serravalle was on pole, but in the prefinal they were in tight quarters, and in fact the entire seven-kart finishing lineup crossed within 4.3 seconds! Rinaldi almost took the win after taking the lead on the next-to-last lap, but Serravalle got it back on the final tour to hold for the main event. After an intense opening set of laps, the trio of Serravalle, Rinaldi and d’Orlando established a little gap at the front. Rinaldi and Serravalle swapped the lead a few times, before d’Orlando took a shot at second on lap eight. The move didn’t come off as planned, but it did create a gap that ensured a Serravalle win. Behind him the action heated up on the final tour as second and third thumped at the interior hairpin and Joe Soranno got back in play from fourth. In the end, Rinaldi took second, and Soranno third as he just pipped d’Orlando at the line.
In DD2 Masters, Francis Mondou was on pole for Intrepid Quebec but Paul Carvalho came forward to take a tight prefinal, the top five crossing in 3.2 seconds. Back on wets for the final then, David Ivichek just held off Florida Winter Tour Champion Carlo Rinaldi for the win. Mondou completed the podium. Goodwood’s Alexander Mankovski was on the Rotax Senior pole, but he, too, fell backward when things dried up and John Cariati took the prefinal from Peter Courteau and Mankovski. Back on wets in the final, Mankovski raced back to where he started the day and took the win. In Honda Challenge presented by Vega classes, Dalton Jewell took his third straight win in Honda Senior on Saturday while Trevor Rancier did the same in Honda Junior. Jonathon Treadwell and Jason Assinck completed the senior podium while Sean Kennedy and William Campbell were second and third in Junior. Russ Kroon, Fred Jordan, and Goodwood race winner Ron Henrie made up the Masters podium. It was quite the day at Mosport, and they all started again 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 hosted race three on May 29. Races four and five were 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.