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EKN.ca One-on-One: Robert Forteas of Quebec Karting

Robert Forteas, shown here at the Petit Monaco, became the Karting Director for the FAQ in 1986 and is the current director of Karting Québec (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)
Robert Forteas, shown here at the Petit Monaco, became the Karting Director for the FAQ in 1986 and is the current director of Karting Québec
(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)

Motorsports in the province of Quebec hits near religious pitch as the snows melt away and ribbons of asphlat begin to show through calling kart racers to begin a new season. While provincial pride so often rides on the blue, white and red of Le Habitants, motor racing moves the masses like nothing else can. From the stellar tree lined venue of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to the tight confines of GP3R, the fan following in Quebec is incredible. The storied province supports major events like F1, NASCAR, Indy Lights, Touring Cars and anything that burns rubber and spits out flames. Karting has been a big part of that commitment to all things racing. Anyone who has been to the Monaco of Trois Rivieres will see an event like nothing they have seen before. No where else in this great country will you get 15,000 rans out to watch a kart race. And were else do we have scuba divers in full gear ready to spring into action if called upon?

But like anything motor racing it is never all sunshine and roses. Kart racing in Quebec has gone through some major changes over the past couple of seasons and 2011 is no exception. Two of the country’s most renowned regional series are gone, replaced with one super series to determine the province’s best. To get the low down on all the changes, we connected with Karting Quebec Director Robert Forteas to talk about the history of karting in Quebec and discuss some the big changes taking place this year.

eKartingNews.ca: Robert, thanks for taking some time to talk to our readers about kart racing in Quebec. First thought: can you give our readers a little bit of your background?

Robert Forteas: My pleasure Jeff. We love our karting in Quebec. Myself, I began in karting in 1983 as a racer. I won the Canadian Championship in 1984 and then I won the 1985 North American Championship in Inter. I became the Karting Director for the FAQ (Fédération Auto-Québec) in 1986. At this point karting was growing more and more popular in Quebec. We needed to make the karts safer and more professional looking so we introduced bodywork on all karts.

EKN.ca: Those early days must have been very exciting.

RF: Things were really rough in the beginning as we had no permanent tracks. We raced in shopping mall parking lots. These were the good old days. We would set up the track on Saturday night after the mall closed, race all day Sunday then tear it down on Sunday night. But this would soon come to an end with the advent of Sunday shopping in the second half of the 80’s.

EKN.ca: So what was the next step for karting in Quebec?

RF: Karting had around 100 serious racers at that time. Over 90 drivers put in $150 each and we were able to built our first ‘permanent’ track at SANAIR, near St-Hyacinthe. In 1987 we were able to get the Canadian Championships there. We continued with a mix of permanent and street races until the early 90’s. We started to see the opening of permanent tracks around ‘91 and ‘92. There was Grand-Mère and then SRA Karting. St-Hilaire was already there and improved their facility to join the circus. Initially we ran our own budget but in the ‘90’s through the end of the ‘00 karting seemed to get lost in the organization. Not much was flowing back to karting. So, in 2009, we decided to part ways and formed Karting Quebec with the idea of getting back to basics. We needed to make some progress to grow the sport again. We needed to really focus just on karting.

Forteas worked to make karts safer and more professional, and introduced bodywork on all karts (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)
Forteas worked to make karts safer and more professional, and introduced bodywork on all karts
(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)

EKN.ca: So what is your role with Karting Quebec?

RF: My role is Director and General Manager. Karting Quebec is composed of the track owners.

EKN.ca: For several years there has been as many as three regional series running in Quebec. The Montreal Cup, the Vega Cup and the Quebec Championship. That’s a lot of regional series for one province.

RF: Yes we ran three regional series in Quebec since 2000 because it seemed that it was what people wanted. Looking at the Vega Cup, Montreal Cup and the Quebec Championships we realized that it was the same people that were coming to all the races. We weren’t seeing any new people. In 2008 we really started talking a lot about the tracks building their clubs around their facilities. We needed to get new people into the sport and not just focus on having big championship races at all the tracks.

EKN.ca: For 2011 it looks like things have changed.

RF: For this year the Montreal Cup and the Vega Cup are gone. We now have just one championship in Quebec. This is how it should be, people will now be able to start in the best environment possible, club races. We will have lots of big events like the Monaco in Trois Rivieres, two Eastern Canadian Karting Championship events and the Canadian Nationals all taking place here in Quebec.

EKN.ca: What classes will be running in the Quebec Championship?

RF: The Quebec Championship will include all the Rotax classes from Micro Max to Senior Max to DD2 Masters. We will have four-cycle classes as well. All Quebec Championship races will be on TV.

EKN.ca: TV?

The first ‘permanent’ track in Quebéc, SANAIR (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)
The first ‘permanent’ track in Quebéc, SANAIR
(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)

RF: Yes, we were on RDS all last year and will again this year.

EKN.ca: Wow, I knew there was some stuff covered, but I wasn’t sure how much. Where and when did things air?

RF: They air right after the F1 qualifying so Saturday morning at 9:30. We will have the six Quebec Championship races televised plus the Monaco and the Nationals for a total of nine Champkart shows on RDS.

EKN.ca: That’s primetime for sports. What kind of numbers did you get?

RF: They tell me we were getting over 60,000 viewers per episode.

EKN.ca: OK that’s pretty huge for a micro sport like karting. What prizes are up for grabs?

RF: We are still working with sponsors. Last year our sponsors gave over $25,000 so we could send the winners in Senior Max, Junior Max and Mini Max to the 2011 Florida Winter Tour for all six rounds of racing. This year we will create a committee to decide the most deserving drivers in those three classes and again send them to the Florida Winter Tour.

EKN.ca: OK, some of my favorite questions. First what is the best thing about karting?

RF: The fact that the young kids work as a team with their parents. They build confidence in themselves and pride. It gives them something to do, something to focus on. It binds the families together. It’s not always easy but the drivers and their parents make it work. It’s great to see.

Forteas won the Canadian Championship in 1984 and then the 1985 North American Championship (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)
Forteas won the Canadian Championship in 1984 and then the 1985 North American Championship
(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Forteas)

EKN.ca: And the worst thing?

RF: Right now it’s fixing four-cycle for sure. The equipment is not equal and the cost is getting out of hand. We need to have more parity across the field. The money being spent on what is suppose to be the entry level class is just too much. We will see how things go with the new Briggs & Stratton package, but I am very confident that it will attract a lot of enthusiasts.

EKN.ca: If you were the head of karting, the Bernie Eccelstone of the sport, what one thing would you change?

RF: Things are moving in the right direction. From what I have seen and heard the equity of the Rotax package seems to have improved since the advent of the CNC cylinder in 2009. That being said, I would like to make it impossible for money to make a difference in the performance of any engine. The rule should provide fairness and guarantee equity for all participants.

EKN.ca: We hear a lot about how great the marshaling is in Quebec. I’ve been to a bunch of races and saw that first hand. Marshals working in teams, wearing their whites, bringing their own flags. What is the system in place that supports this effort?

RF: Marshals are all members of a marshal club which takes pride in schooling all its members. This club supplies a group of marshals to every sanctioned motor sport events in Quebec, so they get to be very skillful. We are very fortunate to be able to rely on such professionals.

EKN.ca: Robert, thanks again for taking some time to chat with us and keep our readers up to speed on kart racing in Quebec.

RF: My pleasure.
United States Quebec Ontario Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia New Brunswick Nova Scotia

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