Paddock Insider: 2023 Challenge of the Americas – Tucson

EKN’s Paddock Insider is part of our Trackside coverage, bringing you notes, updates and breaking news as it happens. The article will feature notes from trackside at the 2023 Challenge of the Americas, with the opening rounds held on February 3-5 at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. This is insider info will not be seen anywhere else. Please feel free to comment and discuss our coverage and today’s action in the EKN Global Members Discussion area below.

OK-N Worldwide Debut

OK-N engine making its worldwide debut (Photo: EKN)

This weekend marks to the worldwide debut for the new OK-N engine platform, right here at the Challenge. The OK-N formula was developed by the FIA to provide an engine package that would be reliable, accessible and still provide the high-performance element with roughly 35 horsepower, albeit limited to 15,000 rpm. WSK Promotions was originally going to be the first series in the world to host the OK-N class, however, they postponed the debut of the program. The Challenge was originally slated to allow only the Vortex engine to compete at this time, but thanks to the support of manufacturers and importers, the class was opened up to any of the homologated engines. This weekend, there are nine drivers who will be part of the class debut, with two rounds of racing to provide us our first look at the evolution of the new OK-N engine platform.

Here are some of the statistics to breakdown the category this weekend. The engine selection across the board is the TM with one driver switching from the Modena to the TM prior to the end of practice day. Series promotor Andy Seesemann has spoken with IAME USA East, who is expecting engines to arrive prior to the Phoenix weekend for the Challenge. Vortex is nearly ready to ship product to the USA as a part delay has held up the process of completing the OK-N engine orders. It is anticipated that the first shipment will be around mid-February. There has been no indication that anyone is importing the LKE or Rexon Motors version of the OK-N as of right now.

Speaking with one of the competitors, the engine mount is designed differently than any other engine platform. As a result, competitors are limited to the type of mount they can utilize. The angle of the exhaust port drops the exhaust itself down toward the ground, which makes for limited amount of space around the axle section of the kart behind the engine.

On Friday, the series took notes on the weight of the competitors and their karts during practice day. A driver weighing in at 170 lbs is the benchmark, and with no ballast on the kart, would make the 340 lbs minimum. The lightest driver in the Challenge field is 129 lbs, and he needs 40 lbs of ballast on his kart. The heaviest driver is 180 lbs and is coming in at 14 lbs overweight with the kart.

On track, the engines are much quieter than any other here in Tucson. Lap times have them 0.7 off the ROK Shifter times, similar to ROK Shifter Master, 3.5 seconds quicker than Senior 100cc and 1.5 seconds quicker than Senior ROK from the 2020 edition of the Challenge here in Tucson.

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