On July 13th, K1 Speed Toronto hosted the ‘HotWheels IndyCar Junior Grand Prix‘. While I was too old to compete in the event, I did swing by to support my friends and even my PRO teammates who were competing. It turned out to be one of the most exciting races I’ve seen all year.
Promoters HotWheels and IndyCar did a great job of making the event feel like a big deal, with a Dallara DW12 parked at the door, and HotWheels banners and archways on track. The facility proved it could handle big events, with all the karts running flawlessly.
The place was absolutely packed with young karters, many who race competitively in big events in TRAK and MIKA. The competition was tough all afternoon as racers tried to set quick times, even before the event started. The racers had to adapt to the OTL electric karts from their usual Briggs or ROK machines.
Qualifying for the event consisted of five groups of drivers all trying to be one of the two quickest drivers in their group. Many quick racers who I thought would go all the way were eliminated from competition before the final race started!
Once the grid was set, and the batteries fully charged, the top 10 qualifiers prepared for a battle. Track officials positioned each racer in their starting spot, as the race would be a standing start, something we rarely see in kart racing outside of Shifter Karts. As the drivers waited on grid, and the officials and photographers scurried off the track, there was a true feeling of excitement and tension.
With a countdown and a wave of the starter’s flag, the final race kicked off with only the intensity a standing start can produce. Polesitter Stefano Picerno accelerated away from the line, while Isaak Godana, Gianluca Savaglio and Nicholas Scarfo scrapped it out amongst each other, while chasing down the leader.
Picerno and Godana made contact multiple times while battling for the lead, with Savaglio eventually capitalizing and taking P2. A lap later, Savaglio went for the lead, but Picerno closed the door on him. The ensuing collision allowed Godana to take the lead, and Picerno was at the back of the pack by the time he got his kart turned around.
In any other class of racing, that would have been the end of Stefano’s day, however, due to the unique capabilities of K1’s electric karts, the rest of the field was slowed down, and Picerno was permitted to retake the position he was in before being spun out. Once he was back in second place, the rest of the field took off with him as full power was unleashed.
The remainder of the race was a little processional (except for Nathan Powell, who fought his way up to 5th from 7th), with Isaak Godana taking the win, Gianluca Savaglio in second and Stefano Picerno rounding off the podium.
These three racers have now qualified for the final ‘HotWheels IndyCar Junior Grand Prix‘ being held in San Francisco on September 13, 2018. These three racers now make up Team Wickens, and will be coached and mentored by the Canadian IndyCar star leading up the final event. Congratulations to all the drivers who competed, and a big thank you to K1 Speed, HotWheels and IndyCar for putting on such a great event.
P.S. Rumor at the track is that K1 will be announcing an indoor racing series to run over the winter ‘off-season’. For racers like me who didn’t get to compete in the event, and are looking forward to competitive karting when summer is over…stay tuned.