Maybe it was the fact that the Nationals underwent a change in venue from Mt. Tremblant, Québec (where it's been held for the past three years) to Goodwood Kartways in Uxbridge, Ontario but the atmosphere was completely different. It actually went by very quickly, which came as a surprise to me.
On Wednesday, I was getting really excited for the week to come. In practice I was looking fast, learning more about the track here and there, and putting down times to be in top-5. Then, in the second-last practice session of the day, my day ended with a bang... literally. Coming up on a very slow kart on the apex of corner one breaking-in their engine, I went wide to avoid, ending up on the marbles which drove me backwards and into the concrete wall a few feet away from the corner.
From there my kart pinwheeled around, where I proceeded to fly out of the kart over the nosecone. I was definitely done for the day with injuries to my ankle and my knee, but I was determined I'd finish out the weekend. I went home rather sore and swollen, but still excited for the week to come. Thursday was mostly adjusting to my knee and ankle, even making adjustments to the kart to get more comfortable. Thursday night as I went to pick up my tyres, it set in that the next day was when everything, every session actually matters - no pressure or anything. I went home and got a lot of rest, in preparation for the three days to come.
I went to the first of the three drivers meetings, and then suited up for Friday morning practice, when I knew I had some work to do. I'd been further back in the pack than I had all week, which I was not satisfied with at all. In the practice that separated us into fast-group/slow-group, not much improvement was made, I was fourteenth. There was about 20 minutes where I was really stressed, mostly because I was either going to be the last one making it into the fast group... or the first in the slower, which would have made a huge difference.
Thankfully the odds were in my favour, and I was relieved to see I squeaked through. Determined I would be in prime condition for the ever-important qualifying, I iced up my leg, ate a bunch of bacon and was ready to go. Unfortunately, it didn't really work. I qualified again in 14th, not only putting me mid-pack where all the lap one chaos is, but also on the outside row - just generally not a good position. The first heat race was later that day, and I was determined to make it work, although sadly it didn't. I got involved in a first lap incident, placing me at the back of the pack. I got a few extra positions, but nothing to really be proud of. This was also the first longer session, and it tested how I could push through my injury, which was just feeling worse. Going home with a disappointing 19th in that heat, I was determined to perform better on Saturday.
The next day didn't go as planned. In the second heat race, I got caught up in yet another first-lap crash. I was pushed up onto two other karts, and when I got back on track I was 2-seconds ahead of the leaders bearing down almost lapping us as it took some time to clear the incident. Being lapped, despite it taking them 10 more laps to catch me, is never a fun experience, especially when I was running times so close to theirs even with a bent steering mechanism. It is what it is I guess, but a 20th meant I had to pull off something stellar if I wanted a good starting position for the pre-final. Although in the last heat I finally survived the first lap, my result was only good enough for a 13th, meaning I started in 19th for the pre-final.
The final day brought lots of anticipation, it was finally time for the Canadian Champions to be crowned. I think it's safe to say that the pre-final was my best race of the whole weekend. We took a gamble in morning practice to test out our other engine, with the understanding that the engine we removed would be quarantined if we made the choice to switch for the pre-final. To me, I thought the engine was an improvement compared to the other, so the decision was made... based on only four minutes of practice on it.
Hoping we were right with the decision, we gridded up for the pre-final. From starting in 19th I was deemed the driver on the move, finishing in 7th position, a total gain of 12 places. Most importantly, I was placed on the inside row for the start of the final. In my opinion there was no way the race could have gone better, I definitely used the 20 laps to the best of my ability. Finally, I was producing actual results that I was satisfied with, although of course I wanted more. Then, it was time for the long awaited final. Gridded up on the inside of the fourth row, I was feeling the butterflies. As soon as the race stared, I knew my kart was feeling great and that I was competitive for a top-five finish, perhaps even a podium.
Unfortunately, while running in 5th, my race was ended prematurely when contact with the 6th place kart sent me all the way to the back. The drama continued after the race as the stewards sorted through the on track incidents and assessed penalties, ultimately moving the person who crossed the finish line first off the podium. I understand there may still be ongoing appeals of the final race results at this time.
Even though the weekend didn't end how I wanted it to, I still really want to thank all my partners through this weekend; Arai Americas, Inside Track, JRP and most importantly my family, my mechanic/driver coach Dave Conquer and friends. I'll be back next year at Mt. Tremblant, I hope you're all ready.
Until next time,