CIK-FIA Champions Around the World
The Bahrain International Karting Circuit hosted, at the end of November, the last event of the 2013 kart racing season. It was the second and last round of the World CIK-FIA Championships for KF KFJ, the last two categories which still had a title to be awarded after the end of the World KZ Championship in Varennes (F) in September. It was the first time that an event of the top class of kart racing took place near the Arabian Gulf, in a Middle-East country. It was also the first time that a race was run under artificial light: the lights of the circuit of Sakhir were so powerful that we had the sensation of being in the daylight. Once again, we had brand new champions: victories were achieved by drivers who reached the top of their categories rather unexpectedly. This year every championship ended in its own, peculiar way. Everything began with the KF category, in Brandon (UK), where the ‘circus’ of World kart racing set off. Then they arrived in Varennes, for the KZ Championship run on a single event. After that, it was the turn of the Italian circuit of Sarno for the first round of the KF Junior. Finally, the last events of the KF and KFJ categories in Bahrain.
Tom Joyner: from underdog to Champion in KF
Tom Joyner (Zanardi-Parilla-Vega) had already shown, during the first round of KF in Brandon, that he could battle with the top drivers. He took part in the pursuit to the Dutch Max Verstappen (CRG-TM-Vega), the leader of the Final. The Brit, however, was not very lucky in his country: he was slowed down by an issue with his front brake and finished 12th. So, the driver of the Dino Chiesa’s team left for the crucial round of Sakhir with only four points. Verstappen’s performance was decidedly better: he won in Brandon and scored 25 points. Behind him the battle was between the Danish Nicklas Nielsen (Kosmic-Vortex-Vega) and the English Ben Hanley (Art GP-TM-Vega). The Final in Barhain is part of the recent history: Verstappen, after his victory in the Pre-final, was the pole-sitter but had to leave the leadership to Joyner. In the following duel with Nielsen they came in contact and went both off track, an accident which excluded them from the race to the title. Verstappen (then excluded from the classification) and Nielsen surrendered and all those who had scored some points in the previous round stood the chance to win the title. That’s where Joyner’s advantage was: the four points scored in Brandon summed up to the 25 he scored for his victory in Sakhir, a victory achieved dominating the Final. Also Hanley had a good chance: he finished fourth and he finally scored 29 points, the same scored by Joyner. However, the latter won the Championship thanks to his victory in the second round. Verstappen placed third, ahead of the Polish Karol Basz (Tony Kart-Vortex-Vega) and Nielsen, fifth.
Max Verstappen, the winning move to become KZ king
The Superpole achieved by the Italian Davide Forè (CRG-TM-Bridgestone), then the leadership in the heats of another Italian, Marco Ardigò (Tony Kart-Vortex-Bridgestone). The World KZ Championship in Varennes started in this way, with the two most important drivers leading the pack. But behind the two ‘masters’ there were two young talents: the Italian Felice Tiene (CRG-Maxter-Bridgestone) and the Dutch Max Verstappen (CRG-TM-Bridgestone). They had already seemed very tough rivals, occupying the second and third place alternatively: Tiene behind Forè during qualifying, the Dutch behind Ardigò in the heats. In fact, Verstappen grabbed the pole position after the two Pre-finals, with Ardigò next to him in the front row of the heated final. In the race which awarded the title, the Italian had a better start, followed by Charles Leclerc (Art GP-TM-Bridgestone), the driver from Monaco. It was then that Verstappen attacked: he closed the gap with his two opponents and conquered the leadership. In the meantime, the British Jordon Lennox-Lamb (CRG-Parilla-Bridgestone) was recovering position after position until he reached and passed first the excellent Italian Paolo De Conto (Birel-TM-Bridgestone), then Forè. The driver from Bedford even tried to attack Leclerc. He managed to overtake him, but only momentarily. So, behind the winner, an outstanding Verstappen who dominated the race, the runner-up was Leclerc, followed by Lennox-Lamb.
Alessio Lorandi, battling for the KFJ title
The first World KFJ Championship promoted by CIK-FIA was characterised by a series of unexpected events, which involved also the top drivers. Among them, the first who got slowed down in his pursuit for the title was the English Lando Norris (FA Kart-Vortex-LeCont), who went off the track during the wild start of the Final in Sarno. The first round of the Championship, on the other hand, went definitely better for the Italian Leonardo Pulcini (Tony Kart-Vortex-Le Cont), who managed to recover after a penalty he got during the heats. In qualifying, it was the Italian Alessio Lorandi (Tony Kart-Parilla-Le Cont) who grabbed the pole position. His most dangerous opponent seemed to be the young and promising Brazilian Giuliano Raucci (Energy-TM-Le Cont). The first victory in the Championship was decided after a battle between Pulcini and Lorandi who, after leading the race alternatively, finished first and second respectively. Remarkable race also for the Russian Robert Shwartzman (Tony Kart-TM-Le Cont), who recovered many positions and scored a podium place. The weekend of Sarno was crucial, as we have already seen, for the last and decisive round of Sakhir. The drivers aiming at victory of the Middle-East round were the same of the Italian Final, beginning with the most disappointed of them: the English Norris. The Englishman wanted to redeem himself after scoring zero points in the first race and he did it: he won the Final after a battle with six drivers. Lorandi did not manage to fend off Norris’s attacks, but the Italian – who led a careful race keeping an eye on the standings – finished third behind the Russian Nikita Mazepin (Tony Kart-Vortex-LeCont). Lorandi celebrated while crossing the finishing line because he was sure of his victory in the Championship. Joy and disillusionment were the feelings drivers had been through during the Final: with few laps remaining, while Lorandi was fifth and Pulcini seventh, Shwartzman was second behind the unreachable Norris but was virtually the new champion. The Russian driver’s hopes faded away when he got overtaken by Lorandi during the last lap. Wet blanket for Lorandi too when he received the news that his leadership was to be shared with Pulcini, who had eventually reached the fifth place. The title had to be awarded to Pulcini, given his victory in Sarno. But there were still new surprises on the way: Mazepin had crossed the track limits and was hit by a 10″ penalty. So, the second place was scored by Lorandi. The new standings saw Lorandi first with 40 points, two more than Pulcini. Third, both in the race and in the Championship, the excellent Shwartzman. However, the ranking of the Championship is still sub judice, pending the discussion of the appeal submitted after the decision of the Stewards.
Sakhir closed the first new kart racing season
2013 is the start of a new era for international karting. The most remarkable novelty was, doubtlessly, the active participation of WSK Promotion, who organised and promoted the European and World Championships on behalf of CIK-FIA. The weekend of Sakhir closed the season in the best way possible: the world of kart racing enjoyed the presence of the Royal Family of Barhain, represented by the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who officially welcomed the drivers. The CIK-FIA President, Sheikh Abdulla bin isa Al Khalifa, did the honours on his homeland circuit and attended the whole event.