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KIWI KARTERS TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AT 

ROK CUP INTERNATIONAL FINALS IN ITALY

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For young Kiwi karters Breanna Morris, Joshua Parkinson, William Exton and Mason Potter their recent trip to Italy to contest the big Vortex ROK Cup International meeting at Lonato was a trip into the unknown.

Yet all four acquitted themselves well. Morris and Parkinson, from Auckland, both made the B-Finals in their classes, Morris.one of the country's rising female stars, finished 22nd in the Mini ROK class's Bridgestone Trophy race, Parkinson finishing 14th in the Junior ROK class's TKart Trophy event.

William Exton from Picton, and Mason Potter from Auckland both missed the cut for the Finals but both had reasons to be satisfied with how they went. Exton ended up 37th in his qualifying group, missing the Finals cut by just three places. Potter, meanwhile, ended up 46th in the same stream (one of two) missing the cut by just 12 spots, not bad when in their class (Mini ROK) alone there were 168 entries.

We asked the four for their thoughts about the ROK International meeting and received these replies

Josh Parkinson, Auckland Junior ROK TKart Trophy race (B Final) 14th

Q1) So Josh, it is a long way from Auckland to Lonato in Northern Italy. Could you briefly describe your trip (which way22694_164_PARKINSON JOSHUAJR ROK_2175.jpg did you fly? Did you spend any time in Italy before or after the event? Which way did you fly home? etc)

JP) We flew on an Emirates A380 to Melbourne where we had to wait for an hour or so while they refuelled the plane. We then flew a 13 hour flight to Dubai where we had to wait 6 hours for the connecting flight to Italy, which was another 6 hours away. We finally arrived in Milan, Italy where we started our adventure. 

Before the event started we did some sight-seeing. We went shopping in Milan and then we went to Monza to visit the famous F1 circuit. I also went to Venice which was incredible. We went to Modena briefly before we travelled to Maranello to take part in the Ferrari tour, we saw the test track that various Formula One drivers have driven and went through the Ferrari Museum and the Enzo Ferrari Museum. It was awesome to see the engines and cars from all the ages of Formula 1.

Once in Lonato, we also visited some local attractions. The lake is massive and the town Desenzano that is close to where we were staying is filled with incredible buildings as well as Lonato itself. We visited the OTK Factory which was so cool. It was awesome to see where the factory team prepare their karts and to see the robots making all the parts. It was a bonus to see the kart prepared for me in the factory waiting to go to the track. 

After the ROK Cup, we drove back to Milan and stopped along the way to see some more of Italy. There was a village in a place called Bergamo that was built on top of a massive hill and had a huge wall all around it that was 50m high. There was a massive church in there. It was incredible. The most amazing part is that people still live in these houses.

Q2) Go through your race weekend, day by day with results. As well as how you felt…i.e. confident, satisfied, hard done by, unlucky etc.

JP) We started testing on the Friday before the meeting. The kart was there at Ward Racing and they were fitting the seat and pedal extensions for me when we arrived. I got on the track just after lunch time and it was wet, so I got to try out the Bridgestone wets first which were actually very grippy compared to what I was used to. By the end of the first day I was only a few tenths of the fastest guys, which I was happy with. It was absolutely pouring down all day. In one of the sessions, I think it was the last one actually, there was lightning and everyone came back into the pits except me. I didn’t realise that you were supposed to. I was just having so much fun in the rain I didn’t notice I was the only person on the track!

On Saturday, the track started to dry so I had my first dry session. It took me a while to get comfortable as I wasn’t happy with the balance of the kart, but Ricky, my mechanic was amazing, and just worked through the setup with me and we got it right. We constantly tried things to improve, but in the end, we always came back to the same setup.

By the time we came to qualifying, I was one of the fastest. We tried a couple of motors, but in the end we used the one22694_164_PARKINSON JOSHUAJR ROK_3835.jpg that Vortex supplied. Joakim Ward from Ward Racing told me that there was nothing between these motors and that they were very consistent, so that was nice to know.

The morning of qualifying was wet, and I was quite confident of posting a competitive time based on the testing, but for some reason we just weren’t as fast as we had been. Into qualifying and I just didn’t have the grip. Joakim told Dad later on that it was tyre pressures. So, I qualified 41st, which was very disappointing as I know I could have been a lot higher. That made things very difficult from then on. I wasn’t the only one though – Francesco Pagano who was leading last year's final until the last corner qualified behind me too. This put me on row 9 for all my heats and as I was in Group A (there were 5 groups) I always got the inside row – grid 17

The racing is insane. Going out the gate on the formation lap they will drive past you and try to steal your spot and they brake test you when they come into the pits and even before the start to try and dislodge your front bumper which gives you a 10 second penalty. They block like mad and if you don’t you get swamped. The first race was a blur. It was a lesson, that’s for sure.

In heat one, I made a good start, but they reformed the race and in the second start I got shuffled back. I was working through the field and was making a pass into one of the hairpins when the kid I was passing swerved across to block – just like what Vettel got penalised for at the Mexican Grand Prix. This knocked my bumper off and I got a 10 second penalty. I couldn’t believe that I was the one that got penalised.

The second and third heats were on Friday, I did a lot better in that one (the second heat) and finished 10th. The bumper had also been tightened up more and seemed to be far more secure. Then in the next heat I had good start again, but an incident at the first hairpin meant I had to go around the outside and it cost me 4 spots. I drove back to finish 15th, 2 spots up from my start position. 

On Saturday, we had one more heat. I was doing really well and was up around 11th or 12th. I made a few mistakes and that allowed this one kid to get by. I repassed him on the next corner and stupidly, give him racing room, which is something I have learned not to do now. He was alongside me and just drove me off the circuit into the safety fence. He got a 10 second penalty for it, but it meant that there was now no way I would make the Junior ROK final. The only positive note was that it meant that I got Row 2 (P4) for the Tkart final.

In the Tkart final, I got held up by Aussie Broc Feeney who bogged on the start. This allowed a lot of the inside row to get ahead of me and put me back to around 12th place after the first lap. I worked my way up to 10th and had good pace when, wouldn’t you know it, the same kid that drove me off the track in heat 4, smashed a kid in front of him into me, causing me to half spin. This allowed 7 karts, including him to get past. I managed to get past him again though on the following lap and I let him know I was not impressed. I wasn’t bothered by him again that race. I was working my way back through a few spots but made a stupid mistake and that allowed one of the kids back past again. They then all blocked like crazy and I ended up 14th out of the 34 starters. Not where I wanted to be, but in the end, it was amazing to be there.

Q3) And how did 'the deal' work? i.e. what sort of kart, engine and tyre package were you supplied with? Did you work with a team? Did you mechanic speak English? How did you do about setting up your kart for a track and size of field you had never seen before? etc etc

JP) When we arrived on the first day of testing we were supplied with a brand new Exprit Noesis Chassis and a Vortex Junior ROK Engine. Dad had to specify the seat size before we got there, but Ward Racing used one of their own seats in the kart. We were supplied with a set of tyres and also the slicks for the race meeting were supplied too. We were in the Ward Racing team which is a Swedish-based team and is known for being very professional and producing good results. My mechanic could speak quite good English. He also did all the kart work as he knew the track like the back of his hand and was very experienced and familiar with the standard of driving and size of field. 

The kart was very much standard. The best part was that everyone in the team shared data. This helped everyone get faster. During the weekend we tried a few small changes but we always ended up back with a basically standard kart. 

Ricky, my mechanic was very thorough, and the kart was absolutely spotless. If there was any rubber or marks on the sidepod, he cleaned it off. At the end of each day, the engine was taken off and the kart was completely washed down and cleaned. 

Q4) When you were there, what were your impressions? i.e. it must have been the biggest meeting with the largest number of competitors you have ever been at. Was that overwhelming? Or a challenge you relished?

JP) It was extremely impressive to see all the big trucks and the massive marquees. The Ward Racing set up was amazing. They had a huge truck which had a marquee built around it. The place was kept very clean. The day before the main testing kicked off, they spent the entire morning just cleaning everything. The floors were washed, and each mechanic had to ensure their area was spotless. 

Whilst it was the biggest and most important meeting I had ever taken part in, I was not at all daunted by it, but more excited and ready for the challenge. I think looking back, it would have been better if we had been able to have raced in a smaller meeting before the event as I was taken a bit by surprise at the driving style. 

Q5) What was the support like? i.e. did the organisers bend over backwards to help? Or were you very much left alone to do your own thing?

JP) The organisation was excellent. The whole event ran smoothly and professionally. I cannot thank Ward Racing enough for taking care of all the details. They made sure that we had everything we needed and before we left Robert Hutton made sure we had all the documentation correct so that there wouldn’t be any issues. It was really cool to get a personalised name board for our tent and also they gave us name stickers to put on the kart. I saved mine though, because Ward Racing also provided name stickers, so we used theirs.

Q6) A two-pronged question this time. What did you think of the pace? i.e. not much different to home? so much quicker than home that you couldn’t believe it? Fast at the front but about the same as at home further back? etc etc (That's the first part of the question). The second part is, what did you think of the standard of driving?

JP) The pace I found wasn't much different than home as I thought I was on the pace reasonably quickly. It was pretty clear that in the Junior ROK, the engines were very even which meant that it was down to setup and driver. I certainly think others could go over there and be confident that they would be able to be on the pace.

It was definitely a lot faster racing at the front though because everyone at the back would battle you for position no matter what position it was or how slow they were. They never worked with you to get on the back of the kart ahead. In my opinion those guys didn’t drive very smart. There was quite a big difference between the fastest and the slowest drivers. The standard of driving is definitely a subject the officials need to talk to the drivers about more often, and be a lot more harsh with punishments. I was extremely disappointed with what the officials allowed to let go. The thing is though that that’s just the way it is, so you had to just accept it and adapt. 

It was difficult because my qualifying didn’t go well and so I was stuck mid pack and of course there are others that didn’t qualify well around you that also want to move forward and also some that were just not that fast that did stupid things. Once the race settled down it was much better, but the first couple of laps are mad.

Q7) Now that you are back, what would your advice be to someone heading over next year?22694_164_PARKINSON JOSHUAJR ROK_2287.jpg

(JP) I would definitely advise them to be a part of a team as it is a lot easier to find out how you can improve and your job will be a lot easier. It definitely adds more expense to it, but it is worth it because you will be able to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful. I would also recommend getting a meeting in before you race just so you know what to expect. I think that was the only thing we should have done that we didn’t do. A lot of the guys I was racing had competed the two weekends prior at the same track. 

I would also make sure you set realistic expectations. The temperature and weather at this time of year varies a lot over there. One day it was windy, cold and wet and the next day hot and sunny. So you need to be prepared with all the right clothes and gear.

Q8) Do you think you are a better driver having now done the meeting? And finally, has this opportunity whetted your appetite for more international racing?

JP) Yes, for me this was the best experience I have ever encountered and I think I have improved on my passing skills because I qualified quite badly I had to make my way through the pack and to hold position. I definitely would love to do more international racing as I think I would a lot better a second time around.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank once again my sponsors YQ and Richard Giltrap and the Giltrap Group for their support. Also a big shout out to KartSport NZ for the Motul travel fund and also to Gareth Exton who arranged the wines for the auction. Thanks also to The Urwin family and Charlie White and the Stichburys who contributed cash towards the trip. I am so grateful for their generosity

Breanna Morris, Auckland, Mini ROK Bridgestone Trophy race (B-Final) 22nd

Q1) OK Breanna how did you get to and from Italy and did you go early or stay on afterwards? 

BM) It took us approximately 30 hours to fly to Italy.  We stopped off in Melbourne then Dubai before getting to Italy. We22735_611_MORRIS  BREANNAMINI ROK_5511.jpg stayed in Milan for a few days and saw some of the sights of Italy and the shops!  We went to the Monza track and had a tour of the facilities and got to have a bike ride around the old Monza track. We also had a tour of the Ferrari factory and had a ride in a Ferrari.

Q2 Go through your race weekend, day by day with results.  As well as how you felt ..i.e. confident, satisfied, hard done by, unlucky etc

BM) We got our Tony Kart on the Saturday around midday.  The weather was not good and it rained during the weekend.  When the sun came out on Monday we could not get our kart to be as quick as Mason and William’s.  Daniel (Bray) arrived on Wednesday and it was the official practice day. With Daniel’s arrival we changed over to the GP kart.  My lap times started to improve.

On Friday we had a warm up run and then qualifying. I was very nervous. The track was wet but drying. I qualified in position 15 in my group (this meant I qualified 72nd out of 173 karts).  Qualifying 15th meant that I would start all my heats out of grid 15.  Heat 1 I finished 7th.  In Heat 2 I made it up to 8th but unfortunately had a mechanical problem and slipped back to about 18th.  Very disappointed. Heat 3 I had a horror start and got on the wrong side of the traffic and ended up finishing 12th.  Then in Heat 4 I finished 10th.

My goal for the weekend was to make the A Final.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the A Final.  I started the Trophy race (B-Final) in grid 9.  My nerves got the better of me and I didn’t get on the gas quick enough.  My competitors  freight trained past me and I spent the rest of the race trying to get back my lost positions.  Unfortunately 10 laps is not enough time to make up the lost places.

Q3 And how did the deal work?  i.e. what sort of kart, engine and tyre package were you supplied with?  Did you work with a team? Did your mechanic speak English?  How did Daniel fit into the mix?

BM) I won the NZ national title which gave me free entry into the International ROK Cup final.  This package included an OTK kart, some tyres and an engine.  

We practised with the OTK kart with Benny’s help (Kiwi mechanic).  While we were practising in the OTK Benny and Dad (Steve) were finishing the GP Kart.

Daniel arrived Wednesday morning for official practice and we were now in the GP kart. Daniel then took over as my22735_611_MORRIS  BREANNAMINI ROK_2574.jpg mechanic.  We were in the GP tents with 5 team mates.  Thank you Benny for your 10 hours days when you were supposed to be on holiday.

Q 4 When you were there, what were your impressions?  i.e. it must have been the biggest meeting with the largest number of competitors you have ever been at.  Was that overwhelming? Or a challenge you relished.

BM) At first it was overwhelming seeing so many karters at the same place.  I just wanted to do well for all the people who were supporting me back in NZ.  I was surprised that there were only 4 girls racing in my division.  I thought there would have been more.

Q5 What was the support like?  Did the organisers bend over backwards to help or were you very much left alone to do your own thing?

BM) It was a massive event and well organised.  We were left to our own devices.  There was always someone around that could speak English.

Q6 A two pronged question this time.  What did you think of the pace? i.e. not much different to home? so much quicker than home that you couldn’t believe it? Fast at the front but about the same as at home further back? etc. etc. (That's the first part of the question). The second part is, what did you think of the standard of driving?

BM) The race pace is the biggest difference between NZ and Italy.  In Italy I was doing almost 100km/h down the straight.  If you don’t block half track you will get passed by at least 3 karts in that one corner.  Then if one person passes you and you hang on the outside 5 karts will just freight train straight past you.  And if you muck up a corner and a kart is behind you, you will get passed.  With the time differences the top ten would be doing middle and high 35s and then the rest would be doing 36s and the last few would be doing low 37s.  The driving is the most competitive I have ever seen.  Karters would just turn into each other going down the straight just to be in front.  Then some karters flip on the straight because they’ve been turned into.  

The warm up lap is practically a fight for the grid sport in front of you.  When you come into the pits you have to be ready to jam your brakes on because someone in front of you will slam their brakes on to try and make you hit them and bump your nose cone and then you get an instant 5 second penalty!

Q7) Earlier in the year you travelled to Italy to do a round of the local ROK Cup series. Do you think that helped you at the Int final?

BM) Yes.  I learned how to be more aggressive in my starts and some of the rules i.e. 5 second penalty if you hitsomeone’s bumper in the pits.22735_611_MORRIS  BREANNAMINI ROK_5540.jpg

Q8) Now that you are back, what would your advice be to someone heading over next year?

BM) Try and get over for an earlier race like I did.  Try and learn some Italian.

Q9) Do you think you are a better driver having now done the meeting.  And finally has this opportunity whetted your appetite for more international racing?

BM) I think that being able to do two meetings in Italy has helped to improve my driving style.  I had a habit of sliding the kart back in NZ and in Italy it is so critical to NOT slide the kart in the grip.  If I slid the kart I would instantly lose a tenth. Racing in Italy has definitely taught me to be a more aggressive driver. I would love to be able to race internationally more often.  I would like to have a go in Australia and America.

William Exton, Picton, Mini ROK, 37th in qualifying group

Q1) William. To kick off, can you briefly describe your trip to and from the event (which way did you fly? did you spend22638_548_EXTON WILLIAMMINI ROK_5119.jpg any time in Italy before or after the event? Which way did you fly home? etc)

WE) We Flew with Emirates, through Melbourne, then to Dubai and on to Milan and we flew the same route home. We stayed in Milan for a few days and did some sightseeing then onto Modena (and went to the Ferrari factory). After the meeting we went to Venice for a day. 

Q2) Go through your race weekend, day by day with results. As well as how you felt…i.e. confident, satisfied, hard done by, unlucky etc.

WE) It was hard racing but I enjoyed it, and we had a little bit of bad luck with my engine. 

Q3) And how did 'the deal' work? i.e./ what sort of kart, engine and tyre package were you supplied with? Did you work with a team? Did you mechanic speak English? How did you do about setting up your kart for a track and size of field you had never seen before? etc etc22638_548_EXTON WILLIAMMINI ROK_6953.jpg

WE) We were supplied with a Tony Kart and Vortex Mini ROK motor. It was the package we won at the  ROK Cup in NZ. We worked under a team called Ward Racing and we used their engine and kart for the race meeting. The kart was a prototype Tony Kart which we were lucky to run. My mechanic was called Manolo and spoke English and Italian. He set up the kart for the entire time we were there. The field was massive but I qualified 10th in my group so it was not as hard to try to get to the front.

Q4) When you were there, what were your impressions? i.e. it must have been the biggest meeting with the largest number of competitors you have ever been at. Was that overwhelming? Or a challenge you relished?

WE) The meeting was massive but my class was the biggest with 170 competitors. It was a massive challenge but I just had to get a good qualifying and stay out of trouble.  

Q5) What was the support like? i.e. did the organisers bend over backwards to help? Or were you very much left alone to do your own thing?

WE) The official side of the meeting was very clear and easy to follow.

Q6) A two-pronged question this time. What did you think of the pace? i.e. not much different to home? so much quicker than home that you couldn’t believe it? Fast at the front but about the same as at home further back? etc etc. And what did you think of the standard of driving? 22638_548_EXTON WILLIAMMINI ROK_8847.jpg

WE) The race pace was the same as here, but there were a lot more drivers at that pace. There was also a mid-pack which was slightly slower. They were a lot more aggressive and if you got in the way they would push you wide. 

Q7) Now that you are back, what would your advice be to someone heading over next year?

WE) I reckon that if you run with a team you get more of a benefit than running by yourself, you learn the set up quicker and the track knowledge which helps you enjoy the meeting more, not as much pressure.

Q8) Do you think you are a better driver having now done the meeting? And finally, has this opportunity whetted your appetite for more international racing?

WE) Yes I understand more about international meetings and how they do it overseas. I want to go over there all the time now because it is so hard but you enjoy it heaps.

Mason Potter, Auckland, Mini ROK, 46th in qualifying group

Q1) OK Mason, it is a long way from Auckland to Lonato in Northern Italy. Could you briefly describe your trip (which way did you fly? Did you spend any time in Italy before or after the event? Which way did you fly home? etc)22655_626_POTTER MASONMINI ROK_6093.jpg

MP) We flew Auckland, Melbourne, Dubai, Milan.  We had 2 days in Milan and 2 day trips to Venice.

Q2) Go through your race weekend, day by day with results. As well as how you felt…i.e. confident, satisfied, hard done by, unlucky etc.

MP) On the practise days I thought I was going really well once I started to learn the race lines and getting aggressive with my passing abilities. But in qualifying the track was a bit damp and I qualified not so well which I was a bit annoyed about but on the same day as qualifying was my first heat. Once you start your engines you just go for it. You can pass in the warm up lap but when P1 and P2 get near the formation line they slow right up in the first heat. I gained 10 positions which made me come 18th so I started near the back but I was quite happy about my result. Next heat, I gained another 10 positions which put me in 18th then the third heat, yep you guessed it, 18th! By the 4th heat I didn't think I was going to make the B-Final unless I won and that would be very hard. Instead I came 18th again. Despite not making the Finals it was still a good experience and I will come back to New Zealand and be more aggressive.

Q3) And how did 'the deal' work? i.e. what sort of kart, engine and tyre package were you supplied with? Did you work22655_626_POTTER MASONMINI ROK_4558.jpg with a team? Did you mechanic speak English? How did you do about setting up your kart for a track and size of field you had never seen before? etc etc

MP) I used a Tony Kart which was one of the most popular kart chassis over there and we used the same type of kart engines in New Zealand but we had no limiters which made it very, very fast. We used Bridgestone tyres  and they had very skinny tyres at the front and we worked with a team called Ward Racing which was a great team in my opinion. They travel all over the world. My mechanic was Spanish. He didn't speak English but he was very good and very smart and after every session we went faster and faster.  

Q4) When you were there, what were your impressions? i.e. it must have been the biggest meeting with the largest number of competitors you have ever been at. Was that overwhelming? Or a challenge you relished?

MP) Yes it was the biggest meeting I have been to and there were heaps of people in my class competing 170! It was quite overwhelming 

Q5) What was the support like? i.e. did the organisers bend over backwards to help? Or were you very much left alone to do your own thing?

MP) Really good support from Ward. There were people to help us with our data and that helped me.

Q6) A two-pronged question this time. What did you think of the pace? i.e. not much different to home? so much quicker22655_626_POTTER MASONMINI ROK_2418.jpg than home that you couldn’t believe it? Fast at the front but about the same as at home further back? etc etc. (That's the first part of the question). The second part is, what did you think of the standard of driving?

MP) The pace was unreal, it was very, very fast, way quicker than at home because of the karts having no limiter on them and the track had a high speed corner coming out of the main straight which made it real fast.

Q7) Now that you are back, what would your advice be to someone heading over next year?

MP) You will definitely need to up your aggression because they are quite aggressive over there so that, and also something different to New Zealand is when you go out the gate just gas it and don't let anyone pass you but you can try to pass them even if they are going the same pace as you.

Q8) Do you think you are a better driver having now done the meeting? And finally, has this opportunity whetted your appetite for more international racing?

MP) Yes definitely I have got a lot more aggressive and yes I would love to go again next year to do even better.   

CAPTIONS: Josh Parkinson(#164), Breanna Morris (#611), William Exton (#548) and Mason Potter (#626) were the four young Kiwi karters who contested this year's Vortex ROK International meeting in Italy last month. Photo credit: Fast Company/Italo Benedetti

For details and an Entry Form for the 2017 New Zealand ROK Cup series CLICK HERE.

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Prepared by FAST COMPANY on behalf of KartSport New Zealand. To find out more about KartSport in New Zealand - and overseas - contact Ross MacKay on 021 677 919 or via e-mail at ross@fastcompany.co.nz






 

 


 


 

 




 


 

 

 
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