Here’s another batch of the CIK-FIA’s Best of 2017 (originally published on the CIK-FIA website. Click HERE to visit the site and read some others):
Jonny Edgar – A Name To Remember
The 2017 CIK-FIA European Junior Champion is a young 13-year-old British Driver this year competing in his first international season. Jonny Edgar was immersed in passion for Karting thanks to an incredible family, competing for three generations. The undisputed leader in OK-Junior, Jonny has revealed a fighting spirit whose perseverance is not his least quality. Very mature for his age, he also has an amazing understanding of race strategy. The true revelation of the season, Jonny will be a Driver to follow in the years to come.
JONNY, CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR ATTRACTION TO KARTING?
My family has been passionate about Karting for a very long time. My grandfather and my grandmother were already racing, my uncle, my father, my mother, and my cousins too. At home, karting is part of everyday life. I started at the age of three on a Bambino and I won races in my area from eight years old. I raced a lot in different British Championships and won several titles.
HOW DID YOU FIRST EXPERIENCE INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION?
It was my first year in OK-Junior. I wanted to stay with a British team, because I know and appreciate this way of approaching racing. The choice was Forza Racing: on the one hand Jamie Croxford used to race with my father and on the other hand the preparation of TM Racing engines by GFR was an important element. The first races in Italy were not easy, while I was adapting to my new category. From the first round of the European Championship, everything started to work for me.
HOW DID THE WINNING OF THE EUROPEAN TITLE TAKE PLACE?
I got my first win at Sarno (ITA), which was a good sign. I was still in the lead at Oviedo (ESP), but a front fairing penalty dropped me down. I was on the podium at Le Mans (FRA) and I won again at Alalhärmä (FIN). Despite difficult conditions, I finished 2nd at Kristianstad (SWE) and won my first European Championship. So yes, I can say that I had a good season!
DO YOU HAVE SPECIFIC AMBITIONS?
Like many young Drivers, I am thinking of cars, but I still have time. I will be able to stay in Karting a little longer and move to the next category, OK, next year. It will be a new and very interesting challenge.
Leon Köhler – A Fantastic Year
At the age of 18, Bavarian Leon Köhler was internationally acclaimed this season after winning the CIK-FIA European KZ2 Championship. Well supported by Ralf Schumacher and all of the KSM Schumacher Racing Team, the young German quickly adapted to the various conditions of the Competition. He finally won thanks to great consistency against the best specialists to give Germany its first European Karting title for more than 10 years.
LEON, CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF?
I am passionate about motor sports and technology. I am continuing to study so I can combine my passion and my professional life. I discovered karting very young thanks to my father who took me to a circuit near our home. I got in a kart for the first time at seven years old. But it’s only been four years since I started racing in major races. I like the gearbox kart a lot and in KZ2 I have been able to give my best.
WHAT HAPPENED DURING THIS GREAT YEAR?
I had the opportunity to move to International Competition after rather encouraging results in Germany last year. I have to say that I could not have succeeded without the support of Ralf Schumacher. He provided me with all the essential advice to quickly find my level. The Tony Kart / Vortex from the KSM Schumacher Racing Team that I drove this year was at the top.
WERE YOU SURPRISED TO WIN THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?
It was more a great joy than a real surprise for me. Not that I was sure of winning in advance, but the first race at Genk (BEL) immediately gave me confidence. I started with pole position and then I held 1st place in the Qualifying Heats. It was then magical to get on the podium. I was not sure if I could be at Le Mans (FRA) because of my studies, but luckily everything worked out in this respect and I was able to score points in 4th place. At Kristianstad (SWE), the grip conditions were a little crazy in the Final, but I managed well despite a penalty. Most of my opponents did not have this chance!
Nicolas Scelles – Team Leader, Le Mans 24 Hour Winner
The No. 55 kart Rouen GSK1 (Sodi/Vortex/LeCont) driven by Jean-Philippe Guignet (FRA), Maxime Bidard (FRA), William Godefroid (BEL) and Gautier Becq (FRA) achieved an outstanding victory at the 2017 24 Hours Karting at the Le Mans International Karting circuit which gave them the title of CIK-FIA Endurance Champion. A private team made up of volunteers, Rouen GSK 1 was led by Nicolas Scelles, who is visibly proud of having defeated the official teams of the CRG and Sodikart factories.
NICOLAS, HOW DOES ONE BECOME A WINNING TEAM MANAGER IN ENDURANCE?
At 35, I have a long career as a driver behind me. I participated in the 24 Hours 16 times, including two victories in 2005 and 2008. The idea of forming a team came from the friendship formed between Jean-Philippe Guignet and I, when we were team-mates in 2011 and 2012. I stopped karting in the meantime when I bought an indoor recreational track in Rouen. We started Rouen GSK in 2016.
Our first season in the French Endurance Championship went well and we reached the podium of the 24 Hours. This 3rd place left us a bitter taste because the race was very well prepared and victory escaped us because of clashes for some of our drivers. We had a revenge to take this year.
WHAT ARE THE SECRETS OF VICTORY AT LE MANS?
The OK engines introduced last year are very reliable. The difference is now more about the consistency of the drivers and the work of the technical team. For the engine, we trusted Cédric Sport who prepared us exceptional Vortex engines which allowed us to achieve the third fastest time of the Race, only 0.160 ” from the fastest. We made three scheduled engine changes eight hours apart and that was it, not a single breakdown.
The Sodi chassis gave us complete satisfaction. The only problems encountered were the loss of an exhaust element and the breaking of a chain.
It was fantastic to be able to compete with factories like CRG and Sodi, and professional Drivers like Paolo De Conto, Anthony Abbasse, Bas Lammers, Alessandro Irlando, etc. Our driver training was great. All four were fully dedicated to the team, united despite fatigue and stress, and they did not make mistakes. The team also lived up to the challenge, our technical team is made up of friends, enthusiasts and even customers of the REK track who came to see the 24 Hours. GSK had three teams at the start, and we had to gather about 80 people in the pits, all volunteers.
CAN WE COUNT ON YOU IN 2018?
I think everyone is ready to go again. We will see if the key elements of the team are available, but it is not the desire that is missing.
Alessandro Irlando – A Decisive Year
The Driver who called himself “Alex” after his karting debut completed a magnificent season in KZ2 in 2017. Recruited by the Sodikart factory as an Official Driver, Alessandro Irlando has shown his talents very convincingly in various situations. Already on the podium of the CIK-FIA European Championship at just 17 years old, he was awarded the top prize by winning the CIK-FIA International Super Cup at Wackersdorf (DEU). Two weeks later, he participated in the Le Mans 24 Hours Karting and actively contributed to the 3rd place for his team in the CIK-FIA Endurance Championship.
ALESSANDRO, HOW DID YOUR STORY START IN KARTING?
My father is a Hillclimb Driver, in Italy and at the European level. He passed on his passion and allowed me to drive a kart at the age of three. I took part in my first Competition at seven years old. I then raced in 60 Mini, then I competed in two full seasons in KF-Junior. One of my best memories is my victory in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals at Portimao in 2015 in Senior Max. I then went straight into KZ2.
HOW DID THE 2017 SEASON GO?
I was able to race in good conditions thanks to the Sodikart factory. The European Championship had started well and I still had every chance of winning the title in Sweden, but the very complex conditions of the Final on slick tyres in the rain meant I had to settle for the podium. For the International Super Cup, everything was in place. I could have taken five wins in the six Qualifying Heats if I hadn’t a penalty in the last one. The Final was tough, but I was able to climb quickly from 6th to 2nd position. I stayed in the leader’s wheeltracks for a long time because overtaking is difficult on the Wackersdorf track. I tried everything at the last corner, the manoeuvre was successful and I won by 49 thousandths of a second!
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
It’s endurance, the WEC, that makes me dream more than Formula 1, because this beautiful discipline seems to be more accessible. I do not know how long I will continue in Karting, but I would be very happy to be able to race in KZ next year. It must be an incredible experience.
Peter Elkmann – A Second Title Well Deserved
This is indeed the second European crown for the German Peter Elkmann. Already the Champion in 2008, he had left karting before returning to the forefront of the discipline. A factory Driver for the VM engine brand, this year he switched to an Anderson chassis. He won the 2017 CIK-FIA European Superkart Champion after an undeniable domination and four victories out of five races.
PETER, HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE YOUR TRIUMPH IN 2017, NINE YEARS AFTER YOUR FIRST TITLE?
I was delighted with my first title and I am just as pleased now. It may seem a long time between these two crowns, but it was as if I had restarted in Superkart when I returned in 2014. I’m proud to have won at two different times.
YOUR JOURNEY HAS SEEMED EASY THIS YEAR. WAS THAT REALLY THE CASE?
I have indeed experienced a fantastic season. I have accumulated victories, but my retirement in Race 1 at Donington, as a detail, proves that one is never safe from problems. That’s why you should never relax your attention and need to accentuate your advantage at any opportunity. However, as a competitor, I would have preferred that my opponents had not encounter mechanical problems so I am able to challenge them to the end on the track.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOUR DOMINATION?
It’s basically the result of extended work. During these last four seasons, I accumulated all of the lessons from my work, and refined the preparation of the equipment in order to progress tenth by tenth. I thank my faithful mechanic Jan Jehlik with whom I would like to share this great reward. My engine tuner Vladimir Vachova also contributed to this first European win for VM engines. And I do not regret trusting Russell Anderson regarding the chassis.