Driver Diary: Preston Lambert – Franciacorta Testing
NorCal driver takes us with him to Europe for 2023
Our EKN Driver Diary series is designed to provide our readers with a first-hand experience of competing in the sport of karting. Several of the Driver Diary series have featured a USA karter traveling across the big pond to compete in Europe. This next series follows that approach by riding along with Californian Preston Lambert as he travels overseas in 2023.
The 15-year-old from Folsom, California began karting in January 2020, competing at the local and regional level, and eventually into the national level under the GFG Karting banner. He scored his first major victory at the 2022 Challenge of the Americas opening weekend in Tucson, eventually finishing third in the championship chase. The remainder of the season included races in California, at the SKUSA Pro Tour SpringNationals and the ROK Fest West, where he scored top-five finishes across the board. Preston’s first trip to Europe to race was the Rotax Max Central European Championship in Austria last fall, at which he finished fourth.
Preston is providing eKartingNews.com with a look into his travels and weekends in Europe. His first entry of the Driver Diary is from a test weekend in preparation for the WSK Super Master Series at the South Garda Karting facility in Lonato, Italy over the February 2-5 weekend.
I decided to race in Europe for a few reasons. Racing is a career for me and I want to see how far I can go. Since there are a lot more Europeans at the top level of racing, not just in F1 but also in IndyCar, I felt traveling and competing there would help to maximize my chances. This would help me understand what the Europeans are doing better. Another reason for me is that my grandparents live in Hungary, so this gives me an opportunity to spend more time with them. We got a few recommendations for teams from some friends who have raced in Europe, and we ended up choosing Sodi Kart because we felt it was the best fit.
I started off 2023 with a lot of rainy day testing in California, then headed back to Europe. This time, I was heading to Italy to test an OK engine in Franciacorta. After arriving in Italy, I visited the Sodi race shop and got fitted in my kart, made sure everything felt good, and we were ready for our first test outing.
The next morning, we started our first day of testing at the Franciacorta kart track, driving the OK engine for the first time. I had two teammates with me at the test; Adam Hideg – a Hungarian driver who finished runner-up at the 2022 FIA OKJ World Championship, and Nathan Tye Jr – a British driver who finished third in the 2022 FIA European OKJ championship.
It was my first time driving the OK engine, which was faster than anything I’ve driven before! We started the day with wet conditions, and the track was very slippery during the first three sessions. It was challenging to drive in the wet because when the power valve opened, you had to be very careful to not get any wheel spin. This was new for me.
The sun came out and the track dried up by noon, and I was able to adapt very quickly to the changing conditions. I was learning the track quickly and adjusted to the power of the engine. The track is also high speed, reaching 85 mph in the straights, with very fast, flowing corners that were taken at 60 mph. I was able to put down some very fast lap times during the afternoon and ended up as the quickest driver under the tent.
Day two started with rainy conditions once again. The rain was heavier, making the conditions on the track more difficult than the day before. I was able to adapt to the conditions and felt more comfortable with each and every lap in these tricky conditions! Again, it dried up by the afternoon, and I got some more driving on a dry track. I was surprised how I adapted so fast to the new conditions, and I was able to have some faster laps than my teammates once again.
The OK engine has so much power and it was very physical to drive with the combination of high speeds and big G-loads. By the last session, my neck and shoulders were dying. It is very demanding on the body, which I’ve never experienced to this level before. Overall, it was a very good two-day test, and we were very happy with the results.
Following the two days on track, I traveled to Budapest to train with Fit4race, a specific training facility for drivers. For four days, they worked with me to help get me ready physically and mentally for the first round of the WSK Super Masters series on February 1-5 at the South Garda Karting circuit in Italy.
My 2023 racing program is very packed. I won the VMB Driver Development Scholarship last year to compete in the USF4 West Coast Championship with World Speed Motorsports. I’ll be doing six races with them. I am also doing kart races with SpeedSense Motorsports in the USA while I’m home. We are trying to fit in as many races with Sodi as possible, including WSK event and some of the FIA European Championship events, and possibly the FIA World Championship.