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2018: Shifting Gears.

Every year, I sit down for an hour or two and decide that it’s time to do a thorough reflection on my racing season. Maybe this year I put it off later than most because I didn’t want to believe it was over. Last year, the karting scene in Canada got a huge shakeup. With the ROK manufacturer becoming the largest engine class, it provided some new and unique opportunities. After a year in a Rotax DD2, I decided I wanted yet another challenge in the shifter class. No, I didn’t want to race it at any major races, but I wanted another learning curve for the season. If there’s anything I have learned from myself from school, it’s that starting something new and jumping in head first is one of my favourite things. As such, I walked into the 2018 season with two engines in hand; a ROK Shifter and a Senior.

Knowing that the shifter would take some time to adjust to, I started out the year with something I was familiar with; a senior engine. Yes, racing in DD2 last year meant my braking foot was a little heavy and my lines were a little off, but after a few sessions ripping around Goodwood it was like riding a bike. Except…. the bike is only an inch off the ground, 250 pounds, going 120 kilometers an hour and fighting your every move. But yeah, like riding a bike.

I loved having the opportunity to catch up with my racetrack family after having been away for the year. At this point all the races and results have begun to blend together, and while I’m sure there were a handful of mechanical failures or flat tyres or bad days, I find myself looking back and being content with my time at Goodwood. It has been a track that’s given me plenty bad luck, but for the CRFKC and Pfaff Races, it also was a good start to the season.


I also had the chance to take a trip down memory lane and compete at the racetrack in Hamilton, taking me back to where it all began. After having not been at the track for seven years, the configuration had changed, but the people there were the same and that’s what counted. I decided it wasn’t the best time to give the shifter a go, so I spent the CRFKC weekend racing in the senior as well.


It was just a practice day at Mosport, but it felt like Christmas when I got to take the shifter on track for the first time. The acceleration was ridiculous, the tyres had an insane amount of grip, and it was honestly so satisfying to just go up the gears down a straight. It made me feel professional. It took a while to get the hang of a sequential shift stick, and by no means was I up to pace, but even so I was having a fantastic time.

It also meant I finally had the chance to do a coveted standing start come my first race. Waiting for the flag to drop with the kart rumbling below you is something like no other – yes, there’s the anticipation between the one-minute whistle on grid and going on track, but this is just staring down the flagman until he decides it’s time. Sign me up.


There were some chances for me to race both classes this year too, which was by no means a calm experience. Especially on one of the hottest weekends of the year over Canada Day, between making sure both karts were good to go and making sure I wasn’t going to pass out from dehydration. Or there was the race in August where it was half-wet and half-dry, where we only had one set of wet tyres between the two karts. You know, the normal Mosport weather. It was certainly out in full force this year.

Before I knew it, it was the week of nationals. The summer had absolutely flown by, and it seemed like just yesterday that I’d taken the train home from Queen’s. With one big race to go, and because of my little experience in the shifter, I recognized that I wasn’t really at the level to race it at Nationals. That meant it was back into the senior for another week of racing.

We headed up to Mosport on Wednesday and Thursday for practice. It was going well, and I was showing pace, but then something weird happened. I was starting up the kart on the grid for one of the last sessions for the day, and it just didn’t want to cooperate. After a bit of troubleshooting, we realized that there were some internal engine issues which would mean that if we were able to get the motor going, I’d be breaking it in through to the first heat race. That wasn’t helpful if I wanted to walk home with a podium.

Maybe at this point, it isn’t weird for me to have an engine failure of some sort at Nationals. I think it’s happened maybe 6 times? Regardless, while this was common territory, not having another senior engine meant that I was at a bit of a crossroads. I don’t think I’ve ever changed engine classes the night before qualifying, but it was time to throw together the shifter kart and drive it out.


After a whole 5-minute practice session in the morning, it was out for two laps of qualifying and onto the heat races. With Mosport weather unpredictable as always, we were throwing on the wet setup as we rushed outside. If you said I had minimal experience in the shifter in wet conditions, you’d be being nice. I’d had one session at most to get used to it. Fortunately, I was catching on quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch on quick enough. I whipped the back end out coming around a corner, stalled it in the grass and had to pick the kart up, throw it into neutral, turn it around, and push start it to keep on. At that point, I was happy to just not be a lap down.

Two more heat races come and go, and before you know it it’s Sunday morning and you’re standing in a line of drivers as the Canadian National Anthem is sung. But that day is the pinnacle of motorsport. It doesn’t matter what class you’re in, everyone is there to watch each race up until their own. Then you push your kart up and you’re literally off to the races.


Now, Nationals have never really been my thing. The running joke under the tent is that I’ve still never been able to put together a result better than my first Nationals in 2008 – and ten years later, I would be damned if I didn’t get it done. Even if I had to be in a shifter to do it. And after not getting a penalty all year for having a drop-down bumper (new and included this year with your ROK shifter rule book!!!), it took me down from what would have been a 5th to an 8th place finish. But you know what? It was still better than before. So there. A new personal best at the Nationals.

I’m back to school now, nostalgic for the warm weather and the chance to spend days doing laps on track.  I know the year has one more race day left for me in store, but other than that it’s shaping up to be another year of writing lab reports and assignments. At least I’m at the part of the degree where some of the questions are race-car related… :)

Talk soon.


UncategorizedTaegen Poles
2017: Part 1

Some could say that 2017 has been a year of change, and they would be right. After racing an OTK product since 2011, it was time to test something new that would push my ability to grow as a racer and learn a lot very quickly. And on top of that, I made the switch to Rotax DD2, because #nochainnopain… or so I thought. The first few races were an uphill battle. Both the chassis switch and the class change meant we were essentially starting from ground zero – the last time I raced something with shifting/front brakes was when I went out in the BGR F1600 in 2015.

My first day in the DD2 has probably been the hardest so far. It was a Ron Fellows race at Goodwood Kartways. It was my second day out on the track this season, after spending a year away at university (so I wasn’t exactly in the shape of my life), and I had no clue what to expect in the Energy Kart DD2.

In retrospect, maybe some practice would have been helpful. The practice session comes along, where I assumed I had some issues adjusting to having the front brakes. Once I was parked in the grass did I realize I was dealing with a tyre that had decided it didn’t want to hold air that day. Lesson learned: triple check the beadlocks before you go on track. Trying to diagnose the issue took long enough that I ended up missing my qualifying session, so my first problem free session was the pre-final. From there, the final didn’t get any less adventurous. With about three corners left in the final, running in 5th, the engine shifted and wouldn’t stay in gear. Determined to finish my first DD2 race, I ran to the finish line. Sadly, the transponder didn’t pick up, but it injected a bit of humour into an otherwise unfortunate outcome.

ECKC 1 Starting into distance

The weekend after was the first round of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship for the year.  With wet weather in the forecast there was a lot to be learned in uncertain and changing weather conditions, but at that point it continued to add to the fun of the challenge.

Both race days were plagued with their fair share of mechanical issues. On Saturday, the only session that I finished was the morning practice, and didn’t even see the green flag fly in the final. Sunday started better, as we diagnosed the mechanical issues from the previous day and were ready to go. Come the final, I was confident that I could pull out a solid (potentially podium) finish.  Sometime between pre-grid and the one-minute whistle, the electrical wiring fried. I was left struggling for the final with an engine that only wanted to run at half power. It was a draining weekend, and one to be forgotten.


Thankfully, after a lot of help from Energy Course North America (especially Darren White/Marco Signoretti), I was ready to rebound and not let my season be defined by the steep learning curve. The next race on my radar was a few weeks later in Mont-Tremblant. It was another weekend of uncertain weather, but I am happy to report it went considerably better. Saturday saw me lead in a DD2 for the first time, as I had a great start from 4th. While I only held it for about 5 corners, it felt like a major milestone achieved. I went on to finish 3rd in the race, which marked my first podium in the class and second ever in ECKC. More milestones! Sunday was not as eventful, but I still brought it home in 4th as I focused on increasing my consistency in the kart.


Since then, I’ve been doing local races to add up the seat-time wherever I can find it. I even have a win under my belt! I also raced in a CRFKC (Canadian Ron Fellows Karting Championship) race at Mosport this past weekend, where I brought home a 3rd and was happy to see my pace improve throughout the day. At the halfway point in the season, my focus is on the final round of ECKC, which will be held at Mosport, with the long-term goal of performing at my peak for the ASN Canadian Karting Nationals.

This year has stood out to me, and maybe that’s because I’m still in the thick of things, but especially because I’m having to be more patient with myself as I learn. But through the ups and the downs, and the lefts and the rights, I know that I’m doing what I love with a great group of people around me, including my family and my team. And I’ll be a better racer for it.

So, until next time, I leave you with this:

“The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph”

– Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Yours truly,

Taegen :)



The 2016 racing season has been such a whirlwind that I have no idea where to begin. This is my softmore season in Rotax Senior, and while the number of entries is noticeably dropping, there's still an incredible caliber of talent. At any one time, so many people can win a race. It makes for a competitive and fun race day.

Things have changed this year, specifically to tyres, and this has made a large impact. At the ECKC level events, rather than getting a new set of tyres for each day, we are handed 6 tyres to use as we please. At the club level, there are two types of tyres that can be used: the vega compound, or the mojo compound. Until this year, only the latter was acceptable, but now the vega has become the popular choice as it can run anywhere from 4 tenths to a full second a lap quicker depending on the track. Another change is that the races held in Quebec use heat races, and then have both finals on the Sunday rather than the typical one race on Saturday/one race on Sunday.


Logistics aside, it's the racing itself that is far more interesting. The season started off with ECKC Goodwood. While my performance on Saturday was nothing spectacular, bringing home a 7th, what I really remember was the comeback I made in the Sunday final. I had qualified decently, but in the prefinal had been involved in an incident which sent me into the wall in corner one. Refusing to let this deter me from another top ten, I worked my way through the field with another driver and finished 9th. It wasn't the way I wanted to start my season, but it would do.

Due to exams, I couldn't race the ECKC at ICAR, and rather spent some time to focus on some club level racing (and actually getting my diploma). In preparation for ECKC Mosport, I was often electing to run on the mojo tyres as that is the spec tyre. While I had the occasional podium, it was obvious there was a significant difference in speed.

Then, I had the weirdest club race of my life. The night before, I had been at my graduation ball, so I had talked to the race officials and told them that I would likely be late. I just made it in time to do one lap for qualifying - with my hair still in an updo with 40+ hairpins in it.  I qualified in 5th, but this was the rare opportunity where I could run on the vega tires. The session began as a test to see the difference, but suddenly I noticed I definitely had qualifying pace. At the end of the prefinal I was leading, until being taken out last lap. While I was definitely not happy with that, I knew I had the ability to at least make it onto the podium from a last place start. Also, how hilarious would it be that I showed up to a race late, with hair and makeup still done, and still pull off the win starting from last place? As it turns out, that's exactly what happened. I was thrilled, to say the least. It was my first race win in rotax senior, and to happen in the circumstances it did just made it all the better.


The next major event in my schedule was the ECKC race in Mont-Tremblant, which wasn't initially on my schedule for the year. With ECKC ICAR being reduced to one event due to severe weather conditions, I thought it could be my drop for the year and I could complete the championship with 6 races. Unfortunately, Tremblant had other plans for me. While the weekend looked like it would go well with a 5th in qualifying, from there it just got worse (in retrospect, my engine blowing up on Friday practice was not a good sign). Aside from a 6th in one heat race it was miserable, with rain, and there were mechanical failures galore. Seriously, there would be downpours that made you feel more like you should've been out swimming with dolphins or rowing a boat. As for mechanical issues, in the last heat, I didn't get to even make the start as my chain was thrown in the warm-up lap. Not something that could happen twice, right? Wrong. Both of the final races were on Sunday, but luck would have it that my kart couldn't make it to the start yet again with another chain thrown. I brought home a 7th in the second final, but it wasn't exactly the weekend I was going for.


The last ECKC event was held at Mosport. I was hoping for a really solid weekend where I could make a statement and perhaps even get my first ECKC podium. In qualifying on Saturday I ran relatively well, coming out 5th. I was confident in my driving, and maintained that position through the prefinal consistently keeping up with the leaders. The final was not so kind to me and by the end of the first lap I was far behind the leaders after significant contact from behind in turn two. While this was not how I wanted Saturday's race to go, I still had one race left to show my true potential.

Waking up Sunday morning I knew it was a good day. The air seemed electric and all I wanted was to get on track after having a track walk before drivers meeting. Practice was nothing special, but I still had my two new tyres left to use in the final so I wasn't worried. Rolling up to the qualifying grid, I realized most of my competitors had put on their two new tyres. This meant my expectations were lower in qualifying, especially with my tyres in the used state they were. I went on track and was astounded to see that I ran two consecutive laps that were 3 tenths of a second, if not 4, faster than I'd run all weekend. I assumed that the track had to have gotten faster, but was thrilled when I pulled into the scaling area and was told I need to go to technical inspection as I had qualified 2nd! This was a first for me, as until that point the best ECKC qualifying spot I had achieved was a 4th. I was excited beyond belief, and couldn't wait for the prefinal. While the nerves definitely set in, it was also a huge confidence boost to have a result that showed genuine speed. Unfortunately, in the prefinal, I fell back to 5th after having a difficult start (being on the front row is hard!), but still stuck with the leaders and was optimistic for the final.

Then it rained while we were on grid. And it didn't stop.

When the final before us finished, the officials went to inspect the track to decide whether or not to declare it a rain race - as if it's not declared, no one can run on wet tyres, but if it is its drivers choice. Time was passing and no answers were being given, so to say the least there were definitely some miscommunication. Finally, it was declared a wet race, and we had 15 minutes to decide what to do. The radar indicated that it was going to end, but for the time being the rain was pouring. The safe call was to put on the wet tyres, but at the same time, I wanted to think outside the box (practice for studying engineering, I guess?). With three minutes to go, after the wet tyres had been mounted, I threw caution to the wind and we were going dry. Honestly, I don't know why, but it was one of the more stressful decisions I've ever made. Rolling up to grid, there were 4 other people on dry tyres, so at least I wasn't alone. All I had to do was keep it off the grass in the opening laps, and hoped it dried up. While the first three laps were definitely making me question my decision, I fell back to 11th, suddenly I realized I was starting to get a lot faster, and the track was no longer wet. I was making my way through the field and there was a breakaway of four karts... That I was a part of. While I wanted to be conservative enough to finish on track, I still really wanted a podium. There was so much dicing back and forth for the rest of the race, and I had gone from 2nd to 4th on the last lap. I was not willing to take that, and made the pass for 3rd to stay there. With it was my first ECKC podium in a set of crazy circumstances, and I've never been happier.


The weekend’s excitement didn’t stop there. The following day, I was back at Mosport, but on the car track this time. As part of a fundraiser for the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, I was given the opportunity to instruct drivers as they took their street cars around for a track day. It also meant there should be occasional instances where the owner of the car would ask for a professional to drive (which was me)! While I was too short to take the Smokey and the Bandit car out, I had a great day lapping in an Audi R8 and a Dodge Hellcat. I’d also like to give an incredible thank you to Alan Sanders for inviting me out to the event as it has certainly been a highlight of my year.

After having two weekends off, the first in a long time, I went to the Champions Ron Fellows Karting Challenge. Finally, now that ECKC was over, I went out on the (faster) vega tyres, and looked to be competitive. While I qualified off pole by only 6 thousandths of a second, I was confident that I was going to be quick all day and work forward. Sadly, my prefinal didn’t get off to the start I was hoping, and I was pushed back into fourth. From there it was a matter of working forward. I was back in second mid race, but would not go any further forward than that. The stewards later decided that the competitor in front of me had done excessive blocking, thus being penalized a position and giving me the pole position for the final. After there it was no contest, from the first corner I lead the race and started putting in consistent laps to build a gap. Twelve laps later, I had won my first CRFKC race and set fast lap by three tenths of a second. At podium, I was honoured to receive the award for the PFAFF Motorsports Senior Driver of the Day, which nicely paired the victory I had secured. The following day I raced in the Briggs Summerfest, which was a low-stress day but a lot of fun. Although I spent my fair share of time driving through the dirt, I also got to run near the front of the pack which was a pleasant surprise given my lack of experience. While a flat tyre ultimately ended my day prematurely, it was definitely something I’d consider doing again.


I have one more weekend off and then it’s back to Tremblant for the Canadian Nationals! After the Nationals are complete, I will move into residence and begin my first year of university... and it's all coming so fast that I hope I can savour every moment.


UncategorizedTaegen Poles