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April 19, 2012 News
EKN.ca Driver Diary: Phillip Orcic – WSK Euro Series

Phillip Orcic was immediately up to speed in his inaugural KZ2 outing during WSK Euro Series event at Sarno (Photo: kartcom.com - KSP)
Phillip Orcic was immediately up to speed in his inaugural KZ2 outing during WSK Euro Series event at Sarno
(Photo: kartcom.com - KSP)

As part of eKartingNews.ca’s new editorial program for 2012, we will be following the efforts of Canadian’s racing abroad this season. A number of Canada’s top young drivers will be spending time in Europe and we will work to keep the EKN.ca readership up to speed on their performances. This new segment – the EKN.ca Driver Diary – will bring us up close and personal with a handful of racers this year, beginning with British Columbia’s Phillip Orcic. Phillip will be competing in the WSK Euro Series and assorted CIK events this summer, and this installment covers his 2012 debut in Sarno, Italy.

My guest for wins in the WSK Euro Series commenced on Wednesday (April 11), when I woke up at 6:30 in the morning and got ready, packed all my racing gear and headed down to breakfast. Straight after breakfast me and my dad headed to the track, and since my first session was at 10:25 am we had time to get the seat mounted. 30 minutes before the first session I put my suit and racing shoes on and was ready to go out for the first session. When I got to the grid with my mechanic and noticed that the KZ2 and KZ1 drivers will be driving together, I thought to myself thats very exciting.

So I headed out for the first session, and for the first 10 minutes I had to run in my engine, after that I could go flat out. The track was slippery in the morning run, therefore the times were not competitive. After finishing the session, I felt comfortable in the kart, and the TM engine was really good.

For the next session I went out with new Dunlop tyres, and straight away my times were very competitive, and were even faster than some KZ1 drivers. I managed to follow a few KZ1 drivers, and surprisingly they weren't that much faster than me.

For the third session many drivers went out with new rubber, as a result the track started to get faster and faster, and at the end of the session I made my fastest lap. After the session my mechanic informed me that I was the fastest out of all the KZ2 drivers on the track, even though I went with old tyres. Being a new kid on the block in KZ2 I was truly satisfied with my times.

For the final session I had to run in one engine, and then after five laps I was flat out. This practice session went as planned because my pace was satisfactory on old tyres, and at the end of the session I tried few starts.

Since I have never done standing starts, this was my time to give it a try. The first one did not go that well, but the next two were perfect. After the last session I was back in the tent with my team cleaning karts and getting everything ready for the following day. Once I was done, I headed back to the hotel with my father to have a dinner and to get a good night sleep.

As usual I was up at 6:30 am and ready to head back to the track after a large breakfast on Thursday.

A 15-minute drive to the track in the Southern Italian countryside is always such an experience when you are surrounded with temperamental Italian drivers in their Fiats and Alfa Romeos.

The first session was again at 10:25 am, and appeared that this morning was going to be much colder than the day before. In the first session it took about five laps to get the engine and tyres warm. During this session I was cold on the straights because of the high speed that the shifter kart reaches.

For the second session, I went out on new Dunlop tyres and had a problem with the brakes, and we made a mistake in the setup; consequently, the session was a total waste of using new tyres. Immediately, my team fixed everything for the third session, and I went out on the same tyres, and instantly I was on pace. My mechanic called me in to do a change in the setup, and at the end of the session the change felt a bit worse, because the kart started to slide much more, and it was difficult to go around the high speed corners.

For the fourth and final session we decided to go out on old tyres because we wanted to improve our pace on used tyres because in the heats I was going to race on used tyres. Surprisingly my pace was excellent, and I came in twice during the session so my mechanic could test different tire pressures, and with the changes my time kept on improving. At the end of the session I did a time of 1:03:70, and for used tyres this time was pretty good. Again after the checkered flag I tried few standing starts, and all three went well. The busy Thursday at the track was wrapped up with the usual kart and helmet cleaning and minor talks and discussions with my team. After dinner I was ready for a warm shower and a comfortable bed.

On Friday morning after opening my eyes I was not pleased at seeing rain pouring down on my hotel balcony. My first thought was that I will be definitely be slow, since I have never driven KZ2 in rain. As usual I had a cereals and fruit for breakfast and was eager to get to the track as soon as possible in order to get the rain kart all set up for the rainy conditions.

For both practice sessions in the morning we all had to have our transponders on and it was much easier to compare my speed to the rest of the drivers. WSK organizers do such a good job with their events that they print out times immediately after each session. When I went out for the first session, the track was not that wet, but it was very greasy, and in a KZ kart with 50 horsepower it was difficult to control the wheel spin. At the end of the session I was fifth fastest. My confidence improved, and I thought to myself that with alterations in some of the corners on the track, I could be in the top-three. My mechanic Francesco and team boss Antonio Renda, in collaboration with Dino Chiesa decided to make some changes on the setup because it started to rain heavily, accumulating lot of water on the track.

When I went for the last and final practice session before qualifying, there was so much spray on the straight from the other drivers that I could barely see where I was going. In the second lap I got so close to one driver, I missed my braking point and went off. I had to push the kart to restart and it was good, because I had a big gap in front of me and no one was in my way, so I was able to set some fast laps. With this difficult rainy conditions, I was thinking to myself that being in the top-three I would be more than happy.

After the session I went straight to the WSK tent to get the timesheet and I saw my name in P2. I was only two tenths off the first karter, Simas Juodvirsis, whose height and weight was helping in the rainy conditions.

With the practice sessions now done, the qualifying session was approaching. 30 minutes before my qualifying session it suddenly started to rain heavily and the track was a wash out. I arrived to parc ferme with my mechanic and he mounted the Dunlop rain tyres while I was watching the KF2 superpole, which was before my session. I got ready, put my rain suit on, and got into the kart as I watched the rain fall.

Shortly after I got going, I made a big gap in the front because I did not want any spray from the other drivers. Every lap I was pushing harder, the last five laps were the most difficult because there was so much water on the track, and my kart would wobble on the straights from all the standing water. The kart was aqua planning so much, I was just thinking to myself hold it together for these final few laps. I got the checkered flag and came into the pits, but I did not have clue how I qualified. While coming in the pits I saw my father on the fence showing me that I was first, I was speechless, because I don't even know how I pulled it off. My mechanic and team boss were happy that the combination of their hard work and my driving paid off in these extremely wet conditions. I could not believe it, because it was my debut in the KZ class and I had picked up the pole position for my first race in KZ2.

I went back to the tent and everyone was very happy for me, especially my dad because he had no clue how I did it. Soon as the kart came back from parc ferme I cleaned it and then went to the grand stands with my father to watch the KF3 and KF2 heat races. When we finished at the track, my dad and I headed to the hotel because I was completely wet. I was just hoping that the heaters in the hotel were working so I can have all my racing gear dry for the next day. Dinner was filled with talks and buzz over my qualifying session, and that I needed to finish well in the heats the following day.

On Saturday morning, the sun was shining which gave me hope that we would have a dry day at the track. After breakfast we headed to the track. When I arrived, my team boss Antonio Renda told me that many people in the paddock are sick from the food at the track and that got me a bit scared, because I did not want any bugs that would prevent me from driving.

I went out for my first session and there was only a dry line on the track, and if I made a mistake I would go off because the outside of the track was wet. After the session I ended up fifth overallm which was fine, but we still had to work to find speed.

My mechanic made a few changes to the kart for the first heat. I started first for the first heat, and I was a bit nervous because I was saying to my self "don't stall on the start or make a jump start". Definitely there was a pressure since I have never been in this class and have never done standing starts. The start went well, but I shifted into second gear too early, and therefore lost eight positions on the start. I was not thinking about the start anymore, I just wanted to get back to the front. Half way through the first lap, one guy flew over me and this dropped me back to 12th position. I slowly worked my way back up to sixth, and half way through the race it started to rain lightly. I made a mistake in the first corner by driving over the wet rumble strip and that launched me straight off in the first corner and I hit the wall at full speed. I could not continue because the whole steering system was bent. Many other drivers went off before me, so when I looked at the final results I was in 15th.

For the second heat I had to start in 15th. I made a really good start, and after the first corner I was already up to seventh. Then I passed two racers in one corner, which was very tight. After a few laps I hit a big puddle coming out of one of the hairpins and that spun me around. Everyone went by, but I still managed to finish 10th, clocking the fastest lap of the race.

I had 25 points after the two heats, and had to start Final 1 in 11th position. As I was coming out on the track I hoped to have a good race and to collect points for the championship. Somehow, I managed to get an incredible start, it felt like I had launch control on. After the second corner I was already in fourth, and chasing the front-runners. After lap three I managed to get good traction on the exit of one corner and I got by both drivers and was in the second place. I was pushing very hard to catch Juodvirsis, who was at the front. On lap five, I was coming out of corner two and I grabbed the shift lever to change the gear, and it did not want to change. I figured the shifter linkage broke. I stopped on the side of the track and watch the other guys go by. It was very frustrating, because I could have finished second easily and collected the 20 points for the championship. Everyone in the team could not believe such a thing could break. I was disappointed, but I just had to look forward and hope tomorrow will bring me luck, and hopefully fight for the podium. I went back to the hotel early to get rest for Sunday, and I also looked at the weather forecast, and it showed thundershowers. I ate dinner quickly with my dad and went up to the room to rest and think about the following day at the track.

I was up at 6 am on Sunday, because KZ2 class was first on track at 8:20 am. The sun was shining, but the track was still wet due to heavy rain overnight. I went out on used Dunlop rain tyres, meanwhile many other drivers went out on new rain tyres, and that gave them the advantage. I still managed to be the sixth in the warm-up, which was not that bad considering my tyres.

For the first heat I started in 20th position, and my goal was to finish as good as possible to collect points. My mechanic said to me to make a good start and push very hard every lap. The start went well, but it was not the best, though I was still able to come out of the second corner in eighth. I was driving the kart to the limit each lap and passed three drivers in two laps. Now I was in fifth and was catching the fourth place driver fast, but I ran out of laps and ended up fifth in the first heat.

Phillip Orcic (c) leads the KZ2 championship with a victory in Sarno (Photo: kartcom.com - KSP)
Phillip Orcic (c) leads the KZ2 championship with a victory in Sarno
(Photo: kartcom.com - KSP)

My mechanic made a few changes to the setup for the second heat, and I knew I had to finish in a good position in this heat to secure a top- five starting position for Final 2.

The start was a total disaster because I had so much wheel spin off the line, and many drivers passed me. I was in 10th position, and everyone in front of me went on the inside to block for turn two, but I managed to find some space and I braked so late, passing six guys. I exited the corner in fourth place and chased the third place driver down and passed him. A few laps later I passed for second place and pulled away from the pack behind me. I was pushing like hell to catch Juodvirsis, who was in first. At the end, I finished second, and my lap time was only two thousands slower than the race winner. I was extremely happy with my performance in this heat and knew that Final 2 would be a race between me and Juodvirsis.

I came to parc ferme with my mechanic and soon as we entered it started to rain heavily. He was mounting the rain tyres on the kart while I was watching the KZ1 final with the other drivers. Soon as the KZ1 final was over, all the mechanics pushed the karts onto the start/finish straight and placed them in their positions. I sat into my kart and the rain was just coming down. I was already all wet, and the race had not even started yet. I set off for my formation lap and came back to the main straight and stopped in my third place position. All I needed was a good start and possibly a chance to pass the driver on the pole position. The start was so good for me that I almost had a chance to pass the lead driver coming into turn one. He held the lead until turn two, and since my brakes were cold, I had a hard time stopping at the end of the straight, running a bit wide. Meanwhile Juodvirsis, who was in first went a bit wide coming into turn four. I did not hesitate, as I knew this was my opportunity to take the lead. I took the lead and half way through the lap I saw Juodvirsis just fly by me ago off. I was thinking he must have out braked himself. While I was in the lead, Martin Doubek, who was in the second, was putting pressure on me. I knew I had no room for mistakes, and every lap I was slowly extending my lead. Half way through the race rain eased up and it was a bit easier to drive, but I still had to hold my steering tight on the straights because of aqua planning. When I saw the "last lap board" I was just saying to myself "don't make any mistakes". While completing the last lap I was very cautious not to hit any puddles that can spin me around, or to out brake myself. Coming around the last corner and receiving the checkered flag was the greatest feeling, because I could not believe I had won my first KZ2 race in these extreme conditions. When I arrived to the scales my mechanic and the entire team were so happy for me, because they could not believe I won. Right after the scales there was a trophy presentation. While I was standing on the podium I was overwhelmed and could not believe that in my KZ2 debut I managed to snatch this victory. Straight after the podium I had to go to the press conference in the WSK tent, and there I was sitting with the other driver from every class still not being able to process what had just happened. Afterwards, I walked back to the tent with my dad, and I took off my wet racing suit quickly and took a couple of photos with the team, before heading to Rome to catch our flight.

At the end of the day I was more than pleased with the end result, and have to thank Dino Chiesa, Antonio Renda, and his team, and my mechanic Francesco for all the work and support.

By Phillip Orcic

Read past Driver Diaries from Orcic HERE
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