DANIEL BRAY'S WORLD CUP CALLING CARD
If the world's top KZ2 class karters didn't know who Kiwi Daniel Bray was before this year's World Cup meeting in Italy earlier this month they certainly do now.
Bray, driving for the GP Karts squad, qualified fourth, won four of his five heat races, finished second in the Pre-Final and was leading the Final only to be punted off the track by poleman Max Verstappen.
Before the meeting the European journalists covering the meeting were tipping Lithuanian Simas Juodvirsis, who had won the European KZ2 title earlier in the year, and top local Mirko Torsellini as possible title contenders. Precociously talented 14-year-old Dutch driver Verstappen - both his father, former Formula 1 driver Jos and mother Sophie were champion karters in their own right - was also name-checked as a possible podium prospect. So when Bray first appeared on the radar in timed practice, drivers and media alike didn't quite know what to make of the fact.
"That's right," says the 24-year-old Aucklander, back home for just over a month before heading to the United States to prepare for the final two rounds of the SuperKarts USA Pro Tour. "The big story on one of the websites on Saturday was 'unknown driver quick in KZ2.' I also had a couple of people come up to me on Sunday saying they had Googled me on Saturday night to find out who I was and what I had done!"
Bray, understandably, is disappointed that he didn't get to complete a dream debut at a World Cup event. But he is certainly not dwelling on it.
"Not at all. In fact as far as I am concerned, " he says, " it's goal very much achieved. My goal was to make the Final and I did. Anything after that was going to be a bonus."
As it turned out Bray not only made the Final, he started it from the front row alongside Verstappen and finished it, despite being hit off twice, first by Verstappen then again four corners later by works Tony Kart driver Mirko Torsellini.
"I got back on track (after being sent spinning off it by Verstappen) in about 15th place," says Bray, " but I still obviously had lots of rubber and grass on my tyres. Because of that I dropped a wheel off on the exit to the final corner coming onto the main straight and got turned around by Mirko.
It was that spin which effectively cost Bray any chance of a place in the top 10 because though he remained on the tarmac, by the time he got his kart turned around and facing in the correct direction he had been passed by the whole field.
A lesser driver would have called it a day at that point. Not Bray. He put his head down and worked his way back up to 20th place at the flag.
" I paid to race the Final so I was going to race the Final," he smiles. "If nothing else I was going to get every last lap out of that second set of tyres I bought and all that extra fuel I had to buy for the final day!"
Reflecting on the weekend Bray says that, were he to have it over again, there is little he would do differently. It was definitely worth it, he says, spending the extra time and money flying to Germany to watch the European Championship meeting at Wackersdorf earlier in the year, as it was joining the other top contenders at the four-day collective test at Sarno the weekend before the World Cup.
'Wackersdorf was important," he says," because I got to see how these meetings run, how the team works, how parc ferme works, where and how to buy your tyres, your fuel, that sort of thing."
Bray says it was also fortunate that he already had both a good working relationship - through his successful SKUSA Pro Kart Tour career in the United States - with a team, and a working knowledge of the Vega tyres he ran as part of the GP/TM/Vega package at Sarno.
"That's one of the reasons I think the Australians (Kyle Ensbey and Ricky Capo) struggled a bit. They run a Dunlop at home and had never really run on the Vega so they didn't even know what tyre pressures to run, that sort of thing."
Bray also says he can't overstate just how important it is to be able to communicate in a common language with your mechanic. In his case, the mechanic was Gianni, the son of GP karts founder Beppe Cavaciuti, and the pair spoke English.
"It would have been much harder, for instance, for Kyle Ensbey because his mechanic could only speak Italian. He was lucky that he had (top former Australian karter) Haydn Patrizi with him who was able to translate but you're still speaking through someone else which makes it that much harder."
Now that he is back home in Auckland Bray has the final round of the 2012 Mi Sedaap Pro Kart Series at the new Rotorua track this weekend to prepare for before turning his attention back to the United States and the final round of the SKUSA Pro Kart Tour - the SuperNationals - in Las Vegas between Wednesday November 14 and Sunday November 18.
After two double-header rounds, defending S1 class title holder Bray is third in the points standings heading into the Las Vegas final and is looking at heading up early to test to make sure he is in the best possible position come November 14.
CAPTIONS: Daniel Bray (#153 ) leads the field into the first corner in one of the heat races at the CIK-FIA World Cup for KZ1 and KZ2 meeting at Sarno in Italy earlier this month. And Bray on the grid ready to suit up and go racing. Pic: Fast Company/KSP
Prepared by FAST COMPANY on behalf of KartSport New Zealand.
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