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May 10, 2012 News
EKN.ca Driver Diary: Phillip Orcic – WSK Euro Series
 

Phillip Orcic experienced the ups and downs of racing during the WSK Euro Series event at Val D'Argenton (Photo: Orcic)
Phillip Orcic experienced the ups and downs of racing during the WSK Euro Series event at Val D'Argenton
(Photo: Orcic)

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 discusses the races at Val D'Argenton in France.

Tuesday was the day when my equipment and mechanic were arriving from Italy, so I had few hours of extra sleep before heading to the track. Around noon, my mom and I headed to the facility. According to GPS, Val D'Argenton track was 30 km from my hotel. I knew that we would have to wake up extra early every morning because of the drive through the French countryside. As soon as I arrived to the track, my team boss Antonio Renda arrived around the same time with his Sprinter van. Our tent is up next to Zanardi/Chiesa Corse, and Antonio and I took the karts out from the van and set up everything in the tent. As soon as everything was perfect in the tent, Antonio started working on the engines and getting them ready for the practice sessions. I was mounting the Unipro onto the karts and checking if all the wires very working.

After I finished working on my karts, Lance Stroll and I went for a walk along the track because neither of us have driven on this track before. Once we were on the track, I noticed that the curbs are very high; therefore, in rainy conditions it would be impossible to use them. The track was also very narrow, so I knew that it would be difficult to pass in a KZ kart, especially when someone in front of you is blocking. After finishing all the work on the karts, Antonio, my mom, and I headed back to the hotel. The track is located among the fields and meadows full of cows. In spite of being in France, we have chosen to have a dinner in the Italian restaurant next to the beautiful Chateaus de Montreuil-Bellay on the Thouet River. It was surprising to notice that even at 9:30 pm there was still daylight and the sun was shining. I was in bed by 10:30 pm, excited about the practices the following day and the beginning of the second WSK Euro series race.
 

The Canadian showed good speed early on his first visit to Val D'Argenton in France (Photo: Orcic)
The Canadian showed good speed early on his first visit to Val D'Argenton in France
(Photo: Orcic)

I got up at 7:00 am, packed all my racing gear and helmets to bring to the track. After breakfast, we drove straight to the track. When we arrived, my mechanic Antonio started working on the kart, putting the engine on, while I was watching the KF3 drivers do their first practice session on a damp track. The sun was out, so I knew that the track would dry by our first session at 10:00 am. I got ready and headed to the grid with Antonio for my first session. I went out and noticed that each corner was dry, except the second to the last corner, which had a lake of water in the whole corner and on slick tyres it was difficult to get around it. After the session, some people told me that a water pipe burst open under that corner and this resulted in the large amount of water at that corner. The first session went well. I had to figure out if the sprocket was good, and which gear I had to be in for each corner. I followed KZ1 driver Anthony Abbasse for most of the session, because I was assuming he knows this track very well because he is from France.

For the second session, we made a few changes to the setup and we put new Dunlop tyres. When we arrived to the grid, it was like qualifying because 95% of the drivers had new tyres on. I did a pretty good time considering it was only my second time on the track. After the session, I looked at my rear tyres and they were completely destroyed. I went and walked around and saw that the other KZ1 and KZ2 drivers had their rear tyres also completely finished. I started to worry how can I manage to drive three sessions on used tyres. For the third session, we put loads of grip in the front and back to compensate for the finished tyres. Immediately, when I went out I felt that my tyres were not holding me and I was like half a second slower than my time in the second session. While I was driving, I followed many KZ2 drivers and I also noticed that they were all struggling with their tyres and not just myself. The track finally started to get some rubber down and the times for each class started to improve. My mechanic mounted new tyres on the rims and we decided to go out on the old tyres, do a couple of laps and then come in and put new tyres. I went out on the old tyres and could not drive because they were completely finished. Therefore, I immediately came in and changed onto the new tyres. As soon as I went out I felt a big difference in grip levels and did a time of 51.2. I believe, I was the fastest out of all the KZ2 drivers in that session. For the last session we put a different engine and added a bit more grip in the front. I waited five minutes before I went out. As soon as I went out, the kart felt great and this engine had better bottom end power, which helped when I was sliding. I did the same time as the previous session, a 51.2, and this was really good, considering I was on one session old tyres. After the practice, I discussed with Antonio what we should change or where we can improve. After that I cleaned my helmet and kart. The kart was so dirty because from all the dust and mud on the track from the first two sessions. After everything was prepared for Thursday, we headed to the hotel to get a good night sleep.

Again, I had to wake up at 7:00 am because the first KZ2 session was at 10:00 am. After my cereal and a croissant sandwich, we drove to the track. Antonio was getting the engine ready and putting in on the kart while I was putting the tyres on, and later I put my racing suit on. On Thursday, we have five sessions, but for the last two sessions we were separated from the KZ1 drivers. I went out for the first session in the morning with a different engine, and already in the first lap it felt better than the one from Wednesday. This was the only positive thing in the first session, because I finished my tyres and there were no holes in the rear tyres, which indicated how much tyre is left. So for the second session, I had to go with new tyres. When I went out for this session I was struggling for grip with new tyres, and this was very rare, and I was a few tenths off the pace. After the session, Antonio and I had a long conversation on what to do and to figure out the problem. We decided to go with the second kart. We transferred the engine and tyres to the other chassis and made sure everything was ready for the next session. When I went out I felt a big increase in grip level, and this allowed me to do a time of 51.3 with used tyres, which I believe, was one of the fastest in KZ2 that session. Also after the session, I looked at my rear tyres and they looked much better and were not that worn out. I already knew this was a good step forward because we fixed our issues with used tyres. I told my mechanic that we should go with new tyres for the fourth session, because I had a feeling that rain would come for the last and final session of the day, as the sky was covered with dark clouds. He agreed with me and he got the new tyres all ready. Many drivers went out with new rubber for this session while we waited five minutes for them to put down some Dunlop rubber on the track before rolling on-course. When I went out the kart just felt amazing, because it had so much grip when I was going around the corner and I pushed every lap. After the second lap, I looked on my Unipro and I saw a time of 50.6 and I was thinking to myself "wow, that was an incredible lap". I came in after five laps and my mechanic said I was faster than anyone by four tenths. As soon as I took my helmet off by the scales, the rain came down heavily and I felt sorry for all the KZ1 drivers who were on the track with slicks and no rain suits. I had to say I was not expecting to do this time, but the chassis felt perfect. We decided not to go out for the final session because it stopped raining and the track was damp and all the rubber was washed off. Therefore, I cleaned my kart and went and socialized with the other drivers. When Antonio finished checking the engines, we drove to the restaurant near the hotel. I have to say the food in this restaurant was horrible, and I only ate the french fries. It was 10 o'clock by the time we got back to the hotel and I went straight to my room to sleep.
 

The changing conditions in France meant Orcic and his mechanic spent a lot of time working on chassis setups (Photo: Orcic)
The changing conditions in France meant Orcic and his mechanic spent a lot of time working on chassis setups
(Photo: Orcic)

When I woke up on Friday, I looked out the window and saw it was raining, I could not believe it. I did not want rain because our pace in the dry was really good. I ate breakfast quickly and we rushed to the track because we had to change the kart setup due to the rainy conditions. I went out with rain tyres for the warm-up, and I noticed that the track had a lot of grip even in the rainy conditions. At the end of the practice, I was sixth, with a time of 1:00.710. I was one second off the fastest time and could not believe it because I was pushing very hard in the warm-up. After the session, we waited to see what the conditions would be like. The rain stopped and the track started to dry, so my mechanic got the dry tyres ready in case the track was dry by the time our session started.

We arrived to the grid a bit late for some reason and we only had enough time to change the tyres and put on slicks. I went out with a wet set-up, a wet sprocket and dry tyres and could not set good laps, therefore I was eighth at the end of the session with a time of 52.396. I was not pleased with my pace because I was more than half a second behind the fastest guy. The track was eventually dry and times started to go down in each class. I already knew that we did not have the speed to qualify pole, but could at least be in the top-five. I waited three minutes before I went out for qualifying. As soon as I went out, I found a gap in front of me and started to push, but already I felt that the chassis was not working well and it was sliding a lot in the rear. I saw 51.868 on my Unipro and I knew that this was not good enough for pole position. I could only hope I was in the top-five. When I finished the qualifying session, my mechanic told me that I was sixth and was only two tenths off Jordan Lennox-Lamb, who qualified pole. I wasn't that disappointed with my time, but I knew I could have done better than this. I was only looking forward to the heats on Saturday, and hopefully getting a good result. As soon as I finished my qualifying session, it started to rain heavily again, and all the KZ1 drivers went out with slicks in the rain. It was interesting to watch. After qualifying, I cleaned my kart and went to the grandstands with Danny Formal, an American racer, to watch the KF3 and KF2 heat races. When the heat races were done, we headed to the hotel to eat. Since we ate early, I had a chance to watch a bit of TV in my room and was brainstorming about the following day.

I woke up at 7:00 am as usual on Saturday and I looked through the window and saw it was dry, but the fog was really low. I could barely see 100 feet. I just hoped the fog would lift before our first session. We arrived to the track at 8:00 am, and I went to the track to see the conditions and I saw that it was dry and the KF3 drivers were on slicks. I told my mechanic to put the dry setup and put slicks on. When we arrived to the grid, I was the only one with old tyres and many drivers had new tyres. I did a time of 51.673 and I was fifth, and all the other drivers in front of me were on new tyres. I was happy with my speed in the morning because I was only two tenths off with old tyres. So for the first heat, we left this setup and engine. The sun was shining for my first heat, and I was happy because there was no chance of rain. We went out for our formation lap and I made a mistake when I stopped in the eighth spot instead of sixth. I realized there was one spot empty in front of me and I quickly moved up to sixth. The race director saw me do this and he gave us another formation lap. This time, I stopped in the correct spot. I got a really good start and was up to fifth before the first corner. After a few laps, I had a chance to pass, and I got past Lennox and Zanchetta in one corner, moving up to third. I could have passed Dylan Davies for second, but I could not find space on a narrow track like this, I finished in third.
 

Phillip Orcic once again showcased great starts during the races in France, advancing multiple positions several times (Photo: Orcic)
Phillip Orcic once again showcased great starts during the races in France, advancing multiple positions several times
(Photo: Orcic)

After the race, my mechanic made a few changes to the setup and added a bit more grip in the back. In the next heat, I started third and got a good start, but someone pushed me a bit wide in the first corner and I was back in fifth. After the third lap, I was following driver number 141 and he made a mistake with a shift coming out of a corner and I hit him. The driver behind me hit me as well, and causing me and the driver ahead of me to spin. I was all the way back in last place and I just came in and finished my race. A few minutes after the race, I was called to the stewards office and told that I will be disqualified for the last heat due to my contact with the kart ahead of me. I was upset because my contact with the driver ahead of me was unintentional, it was due to his gear mistake. My team boss insisted for the video control to be watched, but due to the tight time schedule, we were told that the video could be played at the end of the day after Final 1 was over. This seemed pointless, all I could do was to carry on and concentrate on the Final 1 later that day.

One hour before my final, it started to rain heavily again, and my mechanic was working hard on changing the setup. I started 10th for the race and I made the best start all weekend, because as soon as the lights went off, I launched and I went on the outside and passed the other drivers. After the first corner, I was all the way up to fifth. I also went on the outside in turn two and passed Dylan Davies for fourth. Coming out of turn two, I hit a big puddle of water and this sent me flying off the track. I managed to keep the engine going, but I was stuck in the mud and therefore I had to get out and push myself again. My engine was not running properly because of the loads of water in the airbox and carburetor. I finished the race in 13th place, and did not collect any points, which was disappointing.

After the race, I cleaned my kart for a while because there was so much mud and grass on it, while my mechanic took my engine apart and he showed me the amount of water he found in the engine and in the carburator. After all the work was done, we went for dinner and I felt tired and disappointed with my Final 1 session. We were already late finishing work on the track, so I just wanted to get to the bed since on Sunday morning KZ2 was first on the grid at 8:00 am.

I woke up at 5:30 am, packed my luggage, then went down to breakfast on Sunday morning. We arrived to the track at 7:00 am because I was the first class out on the track. The track was damp, good for neither slick nor rain tires. Many drivers, including myself, took a gamble and went out on slicks. I had to run in my engine that morning. All of us who were on slicks were considerably slower than the drivers on rain tires, and there was not enough time to change onto the rains. In the final minute of the practice session, I went off and I parked the kart in the mud. It was awful because I just cleaned the kart the night before and now I had do it again. In addition, my brand new racing suit was all muddy! While I went to wash my kart, my mechanic went to Parc Ferme and mounted new tyres on the rims for the first heat. Many drivers had new tyres for the first heat.
 

Phillip Orcic still remains a title contender, exiting the French races tied for third in the points chase (Photo: Orcic)
Phillip Orcic still remains a title contender, exiting the French races tied for third in the points chase
(Photo: Orcic)

I started in 13th place, and even with the new tyres I missed grip and the kart was just not handling the way I wanted it to. I finished the first heat in seventh place. Antonio made a few changes to the kart setup and we hoped it would be better. I started the second heat in seventh and finished in ninth. I just had no speed and was thinking to myself that the whole weekend started to go in the wrong direction from the Friday morning. We could not get the chassis to work and this got me very frustrated. I started seventh for the Final 2 race, and I knew that we had no speed and the only thing to do was to get a good start and defend my position in the race. I got off the line really good and was up to fifth until one guy got a slow start and pushed me off the straight away and I was in the grass. Everyone went by and I exploded inside my helmet and pushed to catch the back of the field. I passed a few drivers and I was up to eighth or ninth until one driver spun in front of me and I was forced to pass him on the grass to avoid contact. Due to this, I fell back and was the last kart on the lead lap to finish in the 12th position.

This weekend, I only picked up four points, having in total 54 points, which ties me in the third position with another two drivers. There are still two more races left in the WSK Euro Championship, one in La Conca, Italy, and the last one in Zuera, Spain. Right now, my mind is focusing on my next race, which is the European Championship in Wackersdorf, Germany. It was a difficult weekend and I struggled a lot to get the right chassis set-up. Nevertheless, it is all part of the racing, and all the ups and down make me a stronger person and a driver. For all the help and support this weekend, I have to thank Renda Motorsport and Chiesa Corse.

By Phillip Orcic

Read past Driver Diaries from Orcic HERE
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