2012 Canadian National Karting Championships
The 2012 Canadian Nationals are now ‘in the books’ according to the commentators, and I don’t think I’d be the first to say it would be quite an interesting book. On the weekend prior to the Nationals, I had a local double-header race at Mosport that we were using as a shake-down. On the first race day (Saturday), I didn’t get out for practice since my battery was dead! This meant qualifying would be my first session on track that day. Once I got on track, all seemed to be working fine, however, on a “downstroke”, the connecting rod in my motor catastrophically failed sending pieces of metal through the casing and cracking the cylinder! I didn’t get out for qualifying, and I was without a motor. I borrowed a spare to finish the day, but I didn’t know what I would do for the Nationals without a motor. Fortunately, I had a new motor built for Sunday thanks to my grandparents who paid for it, as we didn’t have any room left in the racing budget for a motor. I would have to break it in throughout the race day, but at least I could go to the Nationals!. Somehow, I still qualified 4th! At the end of the day, while still breaking in the motor, I won a hard fought battle for third place - my first podium of the season!
The Tuesday after the double-header was the day we (me, my dad, my mum and my little sister) drove down to Mt. Tremblant. This was the third year in a row that the Nationals would be held there, so I was familiar with the track. This meant that starting from essentially the first practice session, my driver coach/tuner, Curtis Fox, would be working on getting this new engine to work. From the first session and through the rest of the day, we could never get that perfect set up to have the engine working. The problem was, the motor wasn’t revving properly. While it was supposed to be revving up to around 13500 RPM, it was only hitting about 12700 RPM, which makes a huge difference on the straights. Since there was a very long straight with an optimal passing spot just before the next corner, hitting 13500 RPM needed to happen. Otherwise, I would be eaten alive with no way to really defend. We knew there was another practice day on Thursday, but it was frustrating knowing that the engine was what was making us slower.
Thursday was another frustrating day. Whatever changes we made to try to free up the engine - jet, gear, float height, you name it, it never made the engine problems better. Sometimes, it even made it worse! I knew I had the racing line down, but it was so important that the whole package would work so I could qualify the best I could the next day. We were all hoping that since it was a new engine, maybe it just needed time to free up and it would all just come together. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
On the Friday, it was the first official day of the Canadian Nationals. In morning practice, it was evident that the motor still would not work. Some laps, it would work better than others, and then there were other laps it just didn’t work at all! Curtis and I tried to work together to see if there was anything else we could do. The second practice was critical because it separated the drivers into the fast group, and the slow group. I really worked hard in that practice, but it still wasn’t enough, so I would qualify with the slower group of drivers. I was determined to qualify better, since where I qualified would be where I started for the three heat races. Unfortunately, I didn’t do well in qualifying either! I would start 21st for each of the heats, one of which was later that day. I was excited to see if I could make up positions in the heat, because one bad race adds a lot of points to your total. The goal is that you have as few ‘points’ as possible, by having better finishes. The better your finish, the fewer points you have, and the fewer the points, the higher your start position for the pre-final. In the first heat race, however, I was spun from behind and had to make up a lot of ground on the people ahead of me. Working together with another competitor, I was able to finish 24th. It wasn’t a great finish, but it was better than finishing last, or not finishing at all.
Saturday, would be the day of the two remaining heat races. I was excited for the other heats, because it gave me a chance to try again. That night, however, we were contemplating renting a never-been-tested motor, just because I was losing so much speed on top end. At the end, we decided that we would stick with the new motor for another day and give it one last chance. The next day, after the daily drivers meeting, I was ready to go complete my heats and show that I can drive even with the continuing motor issues. In the warm-up session, it seemed those issues were not getting better. We tried another change in the engine, but it didn’t help either. I made it up to a high of 18th in the first of the days heats, but I was still losing a lot of ground on the straights. The issue was the same in the third heat. I got up to 15th from starting 21st, but I lost most of that again, and I finished 20th. This meant that I had a total of 65 points, and would start 22nd in the pre-final.
By the end of Saturday, however, it was decided that we would test the rental engine in the Sunday morning warm-up. The thing about this engine, however, was that it hadn’t been tested as a Rotax Junior, so we didn’t know if it would work any better than our current motor! Unfortunately, morning warm up was only 3 minutes long, so I definitely had to be on my A-game to make the most of it. Even though I didn’t have a great lap time in the warm up, I felt that the rental engine was better than the engine we had just bought, so we decided to use it for the pre-final and final. After all, there really wasn’t anywhere to go but forwards. In the pre-final, I had a great race and got myself up into 14th! I made up 8 positions, and this engine felt a lot better on top-end than the other one. I was really excited (and relieved), because I thought we had made the right choice with the engine. In the final, I survived all the chaos that comes in this ultra-competitive class even though I got shuffled back a bit at the drop of the green flag, and started to work my way up. From a low of 16th, I got up to 11th and was one of the three fastest drivers on track in the race! I would have liked to have that one last pass so I could have been in the top ten at the Nationals, but I was satisfied considering the challenges we had to overcome. Seeing as I never seem to have the best luck at the Nationals, it was nice to finally have a good result. And maybe next year, I’ll do even better!