Driver Diary: AJ Myers – 2023 FIA Karting KZ World Championship – Race Weekend
Lone USA driver puts in respectable performance in Germany against the best in the world
AJ Myers was the lone driver from the USA competing in the FIA Karting KZ World Championship (Photo: Sportinphoto)
The 2023 FIA Karting KZ World Championship took place September 7-10 at the Pro Kart Raceland in Wackersdorf, Germany. Many of the top shifterkart drivers from around the world will converge on the 1.19km circuit to decide this year’s world champion. USA drivers have competed at the event in the past, including multi-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion AJ Myers. The 27-year-old made his third start at the event, this time racing under the Magik Kart USA banner with support from key personnel from Europe to take on the major manufacturers and factory teams.
Myers provided his insight into the event, including a pre-test preview, a post-test submission to help set the stage for the world championship, and a post-race report to help bring you the readers closer to the experience of racing at a world championship. The first installment was the pre-race preview, and then his recap of a test weekend in Germany. Below is the final installment review the world championship weekend.
Day #1 – September 6, 2023
This was your typical day before the start of on-track activities. The day was spent getting the karts ready and picking up all the tires, fuel, etc. for the weekend to come. We slowly pieced it all together and by the time the finishing touches were put on it was time for some dinner. Anxious to get on track the next day we grabbed some quick pizza and headed to our Airbnb for some sleep.
Day #2 – September 7, 2023
Practice day. The time finally came for the event to get underway. We had four on-track sessions for the day, and beautiful weather. We started out with the setup how we left it from our test weekend here, initially the first session felt relatively good, and everything was feeling balanced. From the first to second practice, it was pretty crazy how much more grip the track had, already beyond what we saw during testing. With only four practice sessions, each session was treated as a mock qualifying for the most part. This meant 200+ sets of new LeCont tires going down on the track between each session all day long. We could never seem to unlock the one-lap pace and were looking for more speed going into Friday. We had made some minor changes to the chassis but nothing major throughout the day.
Day #3 – September 8, 2023
Qualifying day. Another beautiful day weather-wise. The schedule included a warm-up, qualifying, and heat 1. Warm-up and qualifying were more of the same lack of one lap speed, not really understanding what changes to make to find the missing pace. In Qualifying, I didn’t help myself, messing around with track position too much, instead of just putting down the clear laps. I ended up 21st in my group, seven tenths off the fast time. That put me 41st overall, about as bad as it could have gone. I was classified in the A group for heat races, starting 21st for all three heat races.
The first heat race was great. Suddenly, it seemed like the pace came to us. I was able to set a faster lap in the first heat race than in qualifying, so that’s how you know just how bad my qualifying was. I advanced seven positions, up to 14th until the last lap. I was passed for position and unfortunately suffered a pushback bumper when the other driver missed a shift out of the corner. It was a costly mistake and it placed us 20th in the results. It was disappointing but at least the speed had gotten significantly better, seemed like we were in the race again.
Day #4 – September 9, 2023
Heat race day. Having the bumper penalty in the first heat race put some more emphasis on getting some good results in the second and third heat races. Heat #2 was a step in the right direction, once again advancing from 21st to 14th – this time without any silly bumper penalties. Race pace was good again, but I still needed to find another two tenths (as always) to really be fast. Heat #3 started off with a great opening half lap, until the slightest contact with my left rear tire knocked me loose and I ended up flying into the pillows a few corners later as my tire came off. With that it left us still on the outside looking in – sitting 38th in the intermediate classification needing to be 36th to make the Final. To make the Final, I needed a good Super-Heat on Sunday.
Day #5 – September 10, 2023
Finals day. Warmest day of the week but another beautiful sunny day. Warm-up again proved our one lap speed was missing, but our overnight changes had me feeling loose for the first time all week. I thought that was a good sign after seeing how sticky the track gets as the day goes on during the previous days. We left everything alone for the Super-Heat and it went as hoped. The kart was the best it had been the whole time. I just felt we tried going too low on the air pressure. I went from 19th to 15th, and with that got transferred into the Final.
Starting 35th, the opening lap was one of the wildest that I have been a part of, karts were just everywhere. I moved up to 22nd within the first lap, aided by all the carnage. I think it was about lap 6 where I went for a move into the last corner. I had committed down the inside, the other driver didn’t realize I was there, and that ended my race right there. It was a shame since we had a really good race going up to that point.
As with any race hindsight is 20-20. If we knew what we know now before the weekend started, we would have been in better shape. In the end, we found a good chassis setup for the races, missing 1-2 tenths off the best drivers with the best equipment in the world isn’t the worst we could do. Where we missed the speed was on the new tire runs. Was it the kart set-up? Was it simply the wrong tire pressure? Was it me just not understanding how to get the most out of the new tire? We have some theories on the setup now after the race on how we could solve our issues but the only way to test these things is to race in these conditions. Something our competition does all year long. Makes it tough to jump into that and have all the answers right away.
Going across the sea and adapting to the different track conditions is always the most difficult thing to do. Driving style have to adapt, chassis set-up has to adapt. It is always a tough task to adapt in such a short time. It goes both ways. I know if we had this race at any track in America on the MG Yellow that we always use, it would be a different story. The closest thing we have is the SKUSA SuperNationals each year, hopefully I can flip the script this year and get back to having an American on top in Las Vegas once again. That’s the new focus.