New Zealand's first Vortex Mini ROK class title holder, 2014 National Schools' class winner Ryan Wood from Upper Hutt, is back home after contesting the annual ROK Cup International Final meeting in Italy.

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We asked him tell us a bit more about the meeting, and the trip to and from.

Q) First things first Ryan. Tell us a bit about yourself.
A) I am 10- (almost 11!) years-old, live in Upper Hutt and go to Birchville Primary School.  I have been karting since I was 7-years-old. In January this year I moved up to the Vortex Mini ROK class. My best results so far is my 2014 National Schools title. I also won my class at the recent Blossom event in Hawke's Bay, while closer to home I won the KartSport Wellington Enduro title.

Q) Now, tell us a bit about your trip to Italy for the ROK Cup International Final meeting.
A) I raced in two meetings at the South Garda karting track which is in Lonato, Italy. The first event was the Trofeo D’Autunno and the second one was the 2014 ROK Cup International Final.

Q) Now, how did you and your family find out about the meeting? And who went with you?
A) The opportunity to go was provided by KartSport New Zealand and the OTK Kart Group in Italy. They sponsored the prize to the first and second place getters of the Vortex Mini ROK class for the 2014 National Schools title (which I won).  In October I travelled to Italy with my Dad Shane, my Auntie from Australia – Kaye (because Mum broke her leg at Blossom) - and Daniel Connor my mechanic from Right Karts in Auckland.

Q) What was the process and format of the meeting? (i.e. did you buy or hire a kart and engine?) How many days did the 14RokCupItalyRyanWoodwithDanielConnor-1 (2).jpgmeeting run over? What was the format of the heats (i.e. untimed practice then timed practice, qualifying, heats, PF(s) and Final?
A) For the Trofeo D’Autunno we hired the kart and engine off the OTK Kart Group in Italy which Mum arranged from here with the help of Maurice Frost from Supreme Kart Supplies. For the 2014 ROK Cup International Final the entry, kart and engine, race tyres, pit tent and accommodation were supplied free of charge by the OTK Group as the prize for qualified ROK drivers i.e. drivers who have won a qualifying event or series in their respective countries.
The Trofeo D’Autunno was held over one day and the format was timed practice, one Qualifying run, elimination Heat, elimination Repechages then the Final.
The 2014 ROK Cup International Final was held over two days and the format was timed practices, Qualifying, three Heats, elimination Pre Finals and then A and B Finals.

Q) Now to the exciting bit….tell us a bit more about each meeting and how you fared.
A) For the Trofeo D’Autunno there was a field of 88 Mini ROK drivers, I qualified in 34th overall then finished 11th in my elimination heat to make it through to the Repechage. I started it off the 5th row and made it through to 2nd. In the final I started off 29th, made my way through to 16th but got turned around and went to the back of the pack. I came back through and finished 23rd overall.
For the 2014 ROK Cup International Final – there was a field of 104 Mini ROK drivers, on the timesheets I qualified 21st - knowing we were down on top end horsepower I was stoked with this effort and went back to the motel with a smile on the dial.  When we got to track the next morning though we found out that officials had enforced the “101% rule (usually only required when track has variable wet surface for each group - no it wasn’t raining) which meant the last two (slower) qualifying groups had effectively been given a time boost resulting in approximately 30 drivers getting pushed up the ranks even though their times were up to half a second slower! 
NOTE: Fastest Qualifying times were: Group 1 - 49.977, Group 2 - 50.041, Group 3 - 50.544 and Group 4 - 50.487. Ryan was 11th in Group 2 with 50.454.
Puzzled – so were we! 
It meant that I was pushed back to qualifying position 42nd, and I have to say it was hard to get my head around that. I made the best of it in the Heats though, finishing 12th and 11th respectively in the first two. In the third Heat though I went too hot into the corner on the second lap and accidently turned a kart in front around for which I received a 10 second penalty putting me back to 17th. 
The result was that I started off 21st in the Pre Final having to get through to at least 17th to make the A Final – totally achievable. I got a great start, making it from 21st to 14th by first corner, but coming into second corner I was on the outside and got served off the track big time.
Lesson learnt I managed to get back on the track but was back in 30th by that stage, though I fought my way back up to 25th at the flag, not the 17th or better I needed.
I was gutted to miss the A Final but started the B Final from 19th and made it through to 12th, so finished 42nd overall for event.

Q) What was the standard and depth of driving like? Same as here? Better than here? Really quick? Rough? Easy? Hard?
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A) The driving standard was extremely high with a lot of drivers belonging to “factory teams." Also, we have only been running these engines in NZ since January this year so we learnt a lot about them.
The Italian drivers were more aggressive than what we are in New Zealand, but having been there once I realise that we can be competitive on the international scene.
I am more determined and have a better understanding of what is required on an international level. You need to be mentally tough as well as physically fit to handle the different grip levels and also fast flowing tracks. 

Q) Any lessons you learned that you'd care to share with us?
(A) Don’t hang on the outside!

Q) Did you make any friends amongst the other drivers?
A) There were over 30 countries represented at both meetings, and yes, I have made friends with people from all around the world, in particular my Australian counterparts who I still talk to on Facebook and I look forward to travelling to Australia to compete against them.

Q) What's the next step for you in karting? And what  are your goals in the sport and life?
A) I am currently contesting the Bayley's WPKA Goldstar series and I hope to win my class in that because there is a sponsored drive in Australia on offer. I'm also already looking forward to the 2015 Sprint Nationals. It will be the first time a Vortex Mini ROK class title will be contested at a Sprint Nationals meeting and I would like to be the first winner of the NZ plate! 
I would also like to return to Italy as I feel I have unfinished business. 
On the non-karting front I start Hutt International Boys School next year which is an exciting step forward.

Q) Would you recommend a racing trip to the ROK Cup International Final to other Kiwi karting kids? And is so, why?
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(A) To be 10-years-old and travel to Italy to race a kart while representing my country was a dream come true. There were a few things that didn’t go our way but I feel I have come back stronger and wiser with the knowledge that we can foot it with the world's best.
I have made some great friends in other countries and cannot wait for the opportunity to race overseas again.
I would love to compete in the ROK Cup International Final again and would recommend the experience to anyone who is given the chance.

Q) Finally Ryan, there must be a lot of people you'd like to thank.
A) Yes. I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to my Dad and Mum for all they do to allow me to go karting. Also thanks to Daniel Connor for giving up his time to come and spanner for me, and Gavin and Pam from Right Karts for letting him!
To my sponsors for the Italian trip - Westview Aluminium, Cartridge World, Ultra Car Groom, Bayleys Real Estate, Stinger Sprint Boats, Hutt City Panel and Paint, Cooper Auto Company and Coventry Cars, thank you so much this trip would not have been possible without your assistance.
And last but not least thanks to Motul NZ for the travel funds, Maurice Frost from Supreme Karts, Mario Pazos from OTK Kart Group in Italy and KartSport New Zealand for the most amazing opportunity!

CAPTIONS: Ryan #29, with mechanic Daniel Connor, Jarno Trulli joined the Mini ROK podium with now two time Mini ROK winner Nicola Abrusci on the top step, ROK party and prize giving.

For results, pictures and video of the event CLICK HERE.

Prepared by FAST COMPANY on behalf of KartSport New Zealand. To find out more about Ryan Wood and the ROK Cup International Finals contact Ross MacKay on 021 677 919 or via e-mail at ross@fastcompany.co.nz

KartSport New Zealand