EKN Exclusive: SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII – Preview Program – KZ2
‘Formula One’ division of karting set to take to the main stage in Las Vegas
eKartingNews.com is proud to present the official Preview Program for the SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII. As the Official Media Partner of Superkarts! USA, EKN will preview each of the nine categories that will compete outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino from November 19-23 in Las Vegas.
For complete coverage of the SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII, visit the EKN Event Page
The sport of karting is celebrating its 58th year, after Art Ingles began building the first karts back in 1956. Over that time, the mechanics of the chassis, engines, and every single component on a kart have been further developed with each passing year. While most of the chassis on the market are very similar, the power and engineering of the powerplants remain distinct. The sound, the speed, and the performance of a KZ engine positions it as the elite level in the sport, commonly compared to reaching Formula One for open wheel cars. The category is on the docket of the SuperNationals once again this year and another full field of over 40 drivers will contend, gunning for the $10,000 first place check.
Over the last four years, two drivers have dominated the KZ2 category in Vegas – Italian Marco Ardigo and Frenchman Anthony Abbasse. Ardigo won in 2012 after newly-signed F1 driver Max Verstappen (CRG) retired early while he was on his way to victory. The Tony Kart factory driver and now three-time world champion paired this victory with his first triumph in 2010. Sodi Kart’s Abbasse was victorious for the first time in 2011, and followed it up with a dominant win last year. Neither driver will be competing in Las Vegas this time around, opening the door for former SuperNationals winners to add a second win, or for a new driver to stand on top of the podium SuperSunday, receiving the $10,000 check from Superkarts! USA in return for their helmet, which SKUSA owner Tom Kutscher will display proudly in his Temecula, CA office.
Two former SuperNationals winners are back, and they lead the list of contenders traveling to Las Vegas. The 2009 edition provided a dominant victory for the Dutch driver Bas Lammers, in a race where Intrepid took the top three spots on the podium. Now a factory driver for the Formula K operation, the two-time world champion is back toward the top of the world’s best. Alongside him will be 2008 winner Jonathan Thonon. The Belgian loves America, and is often seen at least once or twice a year providing driver instruction. Last year was Thonon’s return to the SuperNationals, as he made his Praga debut. The four-time world champion was not quite up to par, and failed to finish the main event. Thonon was ninth at the world championships, and third at the WSK Final Cup behind Ardigo and Praga teammate Patrik Hajek. The Czech driver has landed on the podium the last two editions of the SuperNats, driving for Praga, placing third in 2012 and fourth last year. Hajek, the 2013 WSK Final Cup winner, finished seventh at the world championship, and one spot ahead of Thonon to land two Praga drivers on the WSK Final Cup podium this year.
Italian Paolo de Conto finished fifth last year, and was in battle for the DD2 title as well. He is the top finisher from this year’s CIK-FIA World KZ Championships who is scheduled to race in Las Vegas, now driving for the new collaboration of Birel and ART GP. That said, it was announced recently that he would be driving for CRG for the 2015 season. This move will put him alongside five-time world karting champion Davide Fore. The long-time karting icon is back for his fifth SuperNationals as a driver, after contending the SKUSA Pro Tour all season in S1 with CRG-USA, in addition to his busy CRG factory schedule. The SuperNationals is one victory that has yet to be checked off the list for the 40-year-old, but he will aim for the win, building on a third-place performance from a year ago.
Team North America:
It has been eight years since anyone outside of Europe scored victory in the KZ2 category at the SuperNationals. That year, the category was classified as ‘SuperPro’, and American Gary Carlton secured the victory in the event that was run at Sam Boyd Stadium. This year, 20 of the 42 drivers registered for KZ2 are from North America, including ‘GFC’. This year, Carlton has been a factory TB Kart driver for Modena Racing Engines in Italy, competing in the KZ division in Europe. Throughout the season, he has shown the speed to contend with the best in the world, finishing 16th at the CIK-FIA world championship. Last year’s SuperNationals was his first outing with the team, and after a year of living and breathing the Modena program, he should be in the perfect position to earn his second SuperNats title.
Last year’s top North American finisher was Canadian Phillip Orcic. A winner in the TaG Senior division back in 2011, Orcic has done a solid amount of racing in Europe over the past few seasons. He was the top North American finisher at the KZ2 Super Cup event in Italy, placing 19th. For Vegas, he is turning in the CRG colors and moving to Tony Kart under the Ward Racing banner. Alongside of him will be the 2013 SKUSA Pro Tour S2 champion Christian Schureman. The Colorado driver was also in Sarno, and qualified for the main event running against 96 other drivers from around the world. Both will be competing in their first event aboard the OTK product, and pulling double duty with their S1 campaigns as well.
One of the most decorated SKUSA racers from the launch of the Pro Tour is Californian Fritz Leesmann. A two-time S1 Pro Tour champion, Leesmann has been a regular frontrunner each time the KZ category comes to the SuperNationals. A hand injury hampered his pace last year, but this year, the CRG driver could find his way back to the podium. Another name from SKUSA past is Alan Sciuto. At the 2004 edition of the SuperNationals, he came just a few corners from winning what was then the ICC division, after suffering an engine failure as his rocketed down the backstraight on the final lap. After being away from the scene for a few years, Sciuto’s name popped up at the recent Mazda Road to Indy test in Indianapolis, and during a few regional karting events in southern California. Sciuto will make his return to the SuperNationals with Praga North America.
Who to Watch For:
From the international side, two drivers stand out as possible podium contenders. Maranello driver Lorenzo Camplese was runner-up at the CIK-FIA KZ2 Super Cup in October. The Italian was scheduled to compete at last year’s SuperNationals, but the then-Intrepid driver did not record a lap in competition. The 20-year-old has a solid driving resume, and could be a factor on SuperSunday. Swedish driver Andreas Backman will be making his KZ2 SuperNats debut. The Kosmic driver finished third at the Rotax Euro Challenge this year, qualifying for the Rotax Grand Finals, which will take place in Spain the week after the SuperNationals. As a current KZ2 Swedish champion, Backman is on the sleeper list for the podium.
Back for another SuperNationals, 2011 Pro Tour S1 champion Daniel Bray will move over to the KZ2 division this year. Bray races the category in Australia and New Zealand, and the Kiwi makes trips to Europe as well. Having skipped the Pro Tour this season, the SuperNationals will be Bray’s first US start in 2014, and he will again work with the Aluminos team running their branded chassis. Straight from Italy, Alessandro Bressan is now a Las Vegas resident, working at a driving school in the area. He has been competing all season in the United States, earning a runner-up at the US Rotax Grand Nationals this July in DD2. The former OTK factory driver raced at this year’s world championship aboard a PCR, and will be making the switch to the new Comp Kart that is now being manufactured by J3 Competition.
Returning to the SuperNationals after an incident cut his weekend short, Global Rallycross and former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. will compete once again in the KZ2 category. This will be his third trip to the Las Vegas event, piloting a Tony Kart for a second straight year.
Looking back again at the American side, a number of young drivers will have their hand at taking on the best in the world. AJ Myers recently traveled to Europe for the Rok Cup International Final after winning the Rok Shifter championship in Rok Cup USA. Myers, who also won the United States Pro Kart Series Leopard Pro title with Checkered Motorsports, ran S2 last year and finished on the podium driving a Tony Kart. This time, he will be on a PCR and making his first KZ2 start. Texan Luke Shanahan will also be making his KZ2 debut at the SuperNationals. Shanahan (Tony Kart) has been racing in the S2 division through the SKUSA Pro Tour and the Texas ProKart Challenge.
A unique story will be that of Jesus Rios Jr. and the new iKart shifter chassis. Rios, a Florida driver currently attending Penn State University, has hit the kart track here and there over the last two years. Rios is another first time KZ2 starter, and EKN will have more on the American-made iKart shifterkart chassis as it makes its SKUSA debut. In addition, the Northeast Shifterkart Series has a solid KZ group that competes during the summer months. Former series champion and CPI Kart Racing driver Max DiBella (Praga) is set to make his SuperNats debut, coming off a 14th place result at the WSK Final Cup.
On the Canadian side, next to Orcic, Jean-Francois Lafontaine (Birel) is a multi-time national champion and will take on the top KZ drivers in the world. A handful of GP drivers from the North will be traveling to Vegas, including Indy Lights driver Zack Meyer, Zachary Shearer, and Chad Campbell.
Rob Howden – EKN Editor-in-Chief
1. Bas Lammers
2. Jonathan Thonon
3. Gary Carlton
4. Davide Fore
5. Patrik Hajek
For the visiting Europeans, the SuperNationals is unlike any event in Europe. The track, the Rio, the Vegas experience…it’s different, it’s exciting, it’s flashy. That said, the international drivers eat it up and they’re always on their game, a little more relaxed having finished up the official season overseas. I think that this plays to their favor, because the North Americans hang the success of their season on their SuperNationals performances. Bas Lammers has always been fast in Las Vegas and he’s a crowd favorite, and I see Bas taking Formula K to the top of the podium in a great battle with Thonon and Carlton. Gary is one of the best that this country has ever produced and his dedication to the craft is unmatched. He and his TB/Modeno program are coming together, and like Lammers, he’s always been strong at the Rio and he’ll have the entire paddock cheering him on. Can he win? Hell yes, he can. He’ll just need to avoid the on-track incidents that have cost him the shot at victory in recent years.
David Cole – EKN Managing Editor
1. Davide Fore
2. Gary Carlton
3. Jonathan Thonon
4. Bas Lammers
5. Paolo de Conto
This is the year, that American drivers get to revel in watching one of the best karting drivers on the globe, piloting to victory. Watching what Fore has done in his first few outing aboard a S1, he is right at home aboard the KZ machine. A victory would be the final notch on his CV, and a big party at the Voodoo Lounge for CRG. Carlton knows his kart, and works on his own engine. The American is the complete package, someone we haven’t seen since the late 70s in the days of Haddock, Speed, Pruett, Dismore, Adkins, and many others. While he will come up just short, it will be his best SuperNats performance. Former winners Thonon and Lammers will be in contention all week, while Conto ends his tenure with another podium in Las Vegas.
Provisional KZ2 Entry List
28f,AJ Myers,Checkered Motorsports,PCR,TM,FL,USA
32c,Alan Sciuto,Praga North America,Praga,IAME,CA,USA
48a,Alessandro Bressan,J3 Competition,Comp Kart,TM,NV,ITA
21,Andreas Backman,Team Kosmic,Kosmic,Vortex,,SWE
177,Bas Lammers,Team Formula K,Formula K,IAME,,NLD
22,Ben Hankinson,Team TB Kart / Palm Beach Kart Center,Tony Kart,Vortex,FL,USA
124,Bruno da Cunha,Orlando Karting Center,Tony Kart,TM,,BRA
74,Chad Campbell,Innisfil Indy Karting,GP,TM,,CAN
17d,Christian Schureman,Ward Racing,Tony Kart,TM,CO,USA
11,Cody Elliott,Franklin Motorsports,DR,TM,WI,USA
31,Darren Burke,Team Formula K,Formula K,IAME,,GBR
16,Enrique Bernoldi,JC Karting,Intrepid,TM,,BRA
161y,Fritz Leesmann,PSL CRG / Diede Racing,CRG,IAME,CA,USA
8,Gabriel Aubry,Pure Karting,Tony Kart,Vortex,,FRA
50,Gary Carlton,Modena Race Engines,TB Kart,Modena,CA,USA
195,Giorgio Mandozzi,Praga North America,Praga,IAME,,ITA
08,Giuliano Pilagallo,,Tony Kart,Vortex,,BRA
01r,Jean-Francois Lafontaine,OFL Racing,Birel,TM,,CAN
9,Jeremy Iglesias,Goodwood Kartways,Lenzo,TM,,FRA
127,Jesus Rios Jr.,Team iKart,iKart,TM,IN,USA
71,John Baldasare,Ron White Racing,CRG,TM,CA,USA
3,Jonathan Thonon,Praga North America,Praga,IAME,,BEL
75a,Kel Treseder,Team Energy Corse,Energy,TM,,AUS
09,Kris Valdez,Phil Giebler Racing,FA Kart,Vortex,CA,USA
141,Lloyd Mack,Kartsport North America,Deadly,Modena,CA,USA
26,Lorenzo Camplese,Team Maranello,Maranello,TM,,ITA
20t,Luke Shanahan,Luke Shanahan Motorsports,Tony Kart,Vortex,TX,USA
7,Matthew Hunt,Kartsport North America,Arrow,TM,,AUS
105,Max DiBella,Praga North America,Praga,Modena,PA,USA
33,Nelson Piquet Jr.,Piquet Sports,Tony Kart,TM,,BRA
6,Paolo de Conto,ART GP America,ART GP,TM,,ITA
10,Patrik Hajek,Praga North America,Praga,IAME,,CZE
18r,Phillip Orcic,Ward Racing,Tony Kart,TM,,CAN
25,Renato David,Orsolon Racing,Tony Kart,TM,,BRA
4a,Sam Houston,Team Energy Corse,Energy,TM,,AUS
52,Tom Hankinson,Team TB Kart / Palm Beach Kart Center,Tony Kart,Vortex,FL,USA
280r,Zachary Shearer,GP Canada,GP,TM,,CAN
66,Zack Meyer,Innisfil Indy Karting,GP,TM,,CAN