Rotax Grand Finals, Sarno, Italy
October 15th/22nd 2016
We were all looking forward to our trip to Italy, it’s the first time Will has raced in an International event so a new experience for him. Lots of queuing on Sunday for photo’s, kart raffle and lead, then to work fitting seat and preparing for the first practice on Monday morning. With one bedding in session and 4×15 minute test sessions before timed qualifying, there was not a great deal of time to sort the kart. However, Will learned the track very quickly and was in the top 3 fastest by the final dry session and was looking forward to qualifying. In the wet morning session before qualifying Will was off the pace but the kart setup didn’t suit him, so we had work to do on the wet setup. The track had dried for the qualifying, but with only an 8 minute session and probably 5 flying laps, finding the space and a good tow down the straight was not going to be easy. During the session Will got himself into a good position with 2 minutes to go and although he wasn’t in anyone’s tow down the straight we were still confident, as Will is very strong at turning in fast lap times by himself. Then unexpectedly, Will decided to roll over in an attempt to get in someone’s tow, but he got caught up in a group of slower kart’s and could not put in a fast lap time. This left him 50th overall, not what we were hoping for.
In Heat 1 Will started in 26th position and drove a solid race, moving forward steadily to finish in 10th position and setting 3rd fastest lap time along the way. The Team made adjustments to the kart after the heat as Will was suffering from under steer and the turn into the corners was not sharp enough.
In Heat 2 Will started in 25th; the race started on a wet but drying track and it would be a big guesstimate as to what settings would work. Again Will drove a solid race climbing up to 12th by the chequered flag, and with the kart’s gearing not quite right, it was a good effort. However, he was later penalised for a driving infringement dropping him into 24th position. The wet tyres used in the heat were also badly grained on the drying track which would have repercussions later in the meeting.
In Heat 3 Will again started 25th and with the kart’s handling adjusted to suit his style Will drove a storming race, climbing up to 7th position and setting fastest lap by over half a second. His fastest lap was a full second faster than the race winner’s best lap and showed his raw speed for the first time.
With lots of heavy rain on Friday both the Pre-Finals were run in wet conditions, which was unfortunate for those drivers who had wrecked their tyres in the drying race the day before. Will would start in 24th position and on row 12, with only the top 17 from each Pre-Final qualifying for the Grand Final; there was going to be plenty of work to do. The race was run on a wet track and the vast majority had tyres that were still in good condition so Will had to be at his very best to make the Grand Final. The race proved to be extremely eventful, with Will up and down like a yoyo. His pace on the wrecked tyres was fantastic and he set the 5th fastest lap time overall, but 3 excursions off the circuit meant he made it hard for himself. But nonetheless, it was a great drive; Will was in 6th position going into the final lap, unfortunately Will went for a move at the hairpin for 5th place, but a slight touch on the other kart knocked his nosecone in leaving him with a 6th place finish plus a 10 second penalty. A short anxious wait confirmed Will finished in 10th position, which secured him a 10th row start in the Grand Final.
Saturday morning was dry, although the track was still damp from the overnight rain. Will was looking forward to the Final, but knew he had a lot to do to get on the podium. Will made a decent start and soon began to move through the field; he knew it was important to get as far forward as possible during the early laps while the field was bunched up. By lap 4 Will had moved up to 12th place and would soon be within striking distance of the leading group, however an incident in front of him caused him to leave the circuit in avoidance dropping him down to 18th position; all his hard work was cancelled in a moment of misfortune. To his credit Will showed his fighting spirit and again began to move forward at a blistering pace. He was constantly setting purple sectors and lap times even though he was overtaking every lap. By lap 12 he was back into 12th place and again set after the leaders. His overtaking was clean and precise and soon the group battling for 3rd place were in his sights. On the final lap Will caught the battle for 3rd and started to pick them off, entering into the last sequence of bends before the finishing straight, Will got a run on the 2 karts in front of him, unfortunately, going into the last corner one of them clipped Will’s rear wheel and this caused him to slide wide and allowed 2 karts to pass him. So Will finished the Grand Final in 7thposition just 6 tenths of a second from a podium finish, which, considering his poor qualifying and the various incidents during the heats, Pre-Final and Grand Final, was actually a very good result. His pace in wet and dry conditions was as good as anyone and only matched by one or two other drivers. Many thanks to Dave and Drew Tooley who again worked their magic on the kart and carburettor setup and as always were very instrumental in Will’s performance.