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June 22, 2012 News
EKN.ca One-on-One: Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto's Daniel Di Leo

Dan Di Leo and the entire Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto and Bay Street Grand Prix staff have worked hard to make the inaugural event a premier showcase of karting (Photo: Todd McCall - otp.ca)
Dan Di Leo and the entire Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto and Bay Street Grand Prix staff have worked hard to make the inaugural event a premier showcase of karting
(Photo: Todd McCall - otp.ca)

When the motorsports community gathers in Toronto on July 6-8, for the annual Honda Indy Toronto, karting will have a major presence for the first-time in the INDYCAR event's history thanks to the inaugural Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto. The eKartingNews.ca editorial staff recently had the chance to speak to Daniel Di Leo, who is overseeing this prestigious event.

EKARTINGNEWS.CA: Let's start things off by talking about how the Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto came about. Who got the ball rolling?

DANIEL DI LEO: Well, the idea originated from avid karting supporters and parents Andy and Cathy DeFrancesco looking at doing something significant for a great cause. The motive has always been to support the Sunnybrook Foundation and the Sunnybrook Hospital Women and Babies Program. The program is near and dear to the DeFrancesco family, as their son Devlin [a current karting star] was born 15 weeks premature and was nursed back to health at Sunnybrook.

The initial plan was to solely do a charity karting event involving Bay street executives, who Andy deals with on a regularly basis, as well as involving the media and local celebrities, to raise funds via the 'Bay Street Grand Prix'. But as discussions progressed, it became more apparent that this was an ideal opportunity to further showcase and promote karting as whole, and Andy was all over that!

Given our expertise in hosting and running karting events [Di Leo and his family operate the renowned Goodwood Karting facility and run the Intrepid North America karting team], I became involved in the program about a year ago.

EKN.CA: How difficult was it to make the event a reality, and what were the early obstacles to overcome?

DI LEO: To be honest, the hardest part has been getting all the approvals and working out all the details. Being part of a large world class event has meant working with the likes of INDYCAR, the Honda Indy Toronto, the City of Toronto, as well as all the event supporters and backers. It just requires a lot planning and paperwork. That being said, it has been a great learning experience and everything is falling into place, even if it took a little longer than we expected to execute.

EKN.CA: With regards to the format, you've elected to break the day's action into two parts, with classes either running in the morning or afternoon, similar to what is done during the prestigious SKUSA SuperNationals. Why did you decide to do it that way?

DI LEO: Early on, we realized this was a unique opportunity for the karting community to be part of the Honda Indy Toronto. In fact, for many of the karters it will be their first time attending the event, as more often than not there has been a conflicting karting event on that weekend. That being the case, we wanted to give everyone some flexibility to get away from their karts and enjoy the IndyCar Series event.

Inaugural Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto will take place right next to the IZOD IndyCar Series cars racing at Exhibition Place
Inaugural Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto will take place right next to the IZOD IndyCar Series cars racing at Exhibition Place

EKN.CA: Being as space is limited within the Honda Indy Toronto facility, what was your objective in designing/planning the track layout?

DI LEO: Well, for starters, I have to say thanks to everyone involved, as we actually ended up with more real estate then what was initially expected. Taking into account what we had to work with, one of the first pre-requisites was to come up with a layout that would be safe. That being said, I wanted something that would benefit both the drivers and the spectators. Thankfully, I had the experience of the PRI Show races [an annual pro/amateur event in Florida at the end of the year which has similar space restrictions] to draw on. Realizing that keeping a flow to the track, while also providing some passing zones is key, I think we've come up with a great layout.

EKN.CA: So what has been the feedback from the Canadian karting community thus far?

DI LEO: It has been really really good. We've gotten a lot of positive input. Everyone I've had a chance to deal with is excited about both the Kart Stars Grand Prix of Toronto event on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the charity Bay Street Grand Prix event on Thursday.

EKN.CA: With the six classes [Rotax Micro, Mini, Junior, Senior, DD2, Masters] sizes being capped for the event, how are the fields shaping up?

DI LEO: Well, the Rotax Junior and Senior classes are virtually full, with only a couple places still available. All the other classes are looking good as well, with most about 70% full as of last week. As for the talent, fans can expect to see not only many of the best karters from the Ontario region, but racers from the rest of Canada and internationally.

EKN.CA: Let's end things by asking if fans might see any IndyCar, Indy Lights, or Star Mazda driver taking a turn behind the wheel?

DI LEO: We had originally looked at running a 'pro racer' race as well for those drivers, but not surprisingly given they all have their primary cars to race over the weekend, that idea was soon put to bed. That being said, several IndyCar drivers will be part of the Bay Street Grand Prix event, providing coaching to the various Bay street executives, media, and celebrities getting behind the wheel. I also have a strange feeling you might see some of the drivers coming by to catch some of the action during the weekend, as virtually all of them started their racing careers in the karting ranks.

EKN.CA: Thanks Dan for taking the time to speak to us about this great event. We are definitely looking forward to it in a few weeks time.

DI LEO: It was my pleasure, and I look forward to seeing all the EKN.ca readers at the event.

For additional EKN.ca One-on-One features, please visit HERE
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