Champion McKenzie impresses in European Series

Fine tuning: Work being carried out on Ronan's kart
Fine tuning: Work being carried out on Ronan's kart
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BUGBROOKE’S Karting Champion Ronan McKenzie had an impressive start to the Easykart European Series in the first round in Jesolo, Italy – just two weeks after his stunning debut in the 100cc Junior class in the UK, where he dominated the first round of the UK Championship.

Twelve-year-old McKenzie, the reigning Easykart UK Cadet 60cc Champion and the current leader of this year’s Easykart UK Junior Championship, is in his second year of an option contract with Italian Kart Manufacturing giant Birel on their International Easykart Driver Program for talented drivers.

He was invited to take part in the 2011 Easykart 100cc Junior European Series, which comprises of two rounds – the first in Italy and the second in Poland.

Each round has two finals on race day, and of the four total races across the two rounds the best three results will count to decide the Series Champion.

Twenty-three drivers took part in the first round in Jesolo, near Venice, including experienced junior drivers up to the age of 16 – many of them championship winners and seven of them members of the Driver Program.

In the international races McKenzie is provided with a kart by Birel Motorsport as there are technical differences between karts raced in Europe and the karts raced under MSA rules in the UK.

While on the Birel’s Easykart Driver Program, there is no financial backing or dedicated race support - this simply gives him access to the international competitions and means that Birel will keep an eye on his progress with a view to signing him as a Works driver on a subsidised drive in the Kart Formula Three (KF3) WSK Masters Series in 2012.

McKenzie’s father Jason carries out all of the mechanical setup of the kart, and having provided his son with a Championship winning Cadet kart during 2010, he has this year got to grips with the Junior kart despite only acquiring it in November.

Jason McKenzie juggles a full-time job as an engineer and the testing and working on the kart in between.

“Both myself and my fiancee Karen (Ronan’s step mother) work full-time and Ronan’s karting career takes up all of our time outside of work, including holidays.

“Ronan drives, I mechanic, and Karen takes care of all the marketing side. We have been taking Ronan’s career very seriously over the last few years, and we continue to make a lot of personal and financial sacrifices as we believe Ronan has a real talent and we want to give him the best chance of furthering his career.” said McKenzie senior.

Again Jason McKenzie proved his technical ability by setting up the new kart to suit his son’s driving style and the Italian track.

McKenzie went into the qualifying confident with the previous day’s setup.

As the 23-kart grid was released, the two front karts failed to start and the rest of the grid bunched up behind, eager to get out for the eight-minute session as the clock was counting down.

McKenzie’s kart took a knock to the rear right wheel as they all tried to manoeuvre around the stationary karts. But despite this setback, his quickest time was only half a second off the pace of the leaders, placing him an incredible sixth out of 23.

“If the karts’ engines had started at the front, my kart wouldn’t have been hit and the setup would have been just right. I think I would have made front row if it wasn’t for that,” said McKenzie, “but still, ending up sixth even with the axle problem isn’t a bad start!”

In his first 10-lap heat McKenzie started fourth on the grid and was up into third on the first corner after overtaking Benedetti, but reclaimed the position on the second lap. McKenzie remained fourth until the chequered flag, finishing behind Italians Benedetti, Orsini and the winner, fellow Easykart Driver Program member Drudi. After the race Orsini was given a 10-second penalty for jumping the start which gave McKenzie third place.

The event was covered by Italian sports channel Primocanale, and the races were shown live on Italian Sky TV and streamed live on the internet to an estimated audience of 500,000.

McKenzie’s second heat was a disappointment as contact in the first corner damaged his front left tyre, which deflated forcing him to retire after only three laps. This put him in last place - fourteenth, and along with his qualifying and first heat result, this positioned him eighth on the grid for the 20-lap final one. McKenzie, last year awarded Daventry District Council’s Junior Sportsman of the Year 2010 award, had a brilliant start in final one.

Finishing fifth firmly established McKenzie as a front runner of the Series, giving him 11 series points.

In final two McKenzie started fifth on the grid but in the first corner was hit from behind launching him off the track and on to the grass.

McKenzie who jumped out of his kart and dragged it back on to the track, had the race of his life catching the pack and during the 20-lap race overtaking seven karts to finish in fourteenth place.

After the race Benedetti was penalised 20 laps for contact with fellow Italian Lazzari which gave McKenzie another place to finish thirteenth – which still earned McKenzie three series points.

The Easykart Europen Series standings after the first round sees McKenzie in eighth place.

“The next round in Poland is at a track I’ve raced before which is my favourite, and with some good results I am still in with a shot at the title,” said McKenzie after the event.

The second round of the Easykart European Series will be at the Stary Kisielin track in Poland on July 17 and McKenzie’s next UK race will be at Teesside Autodrome in Middlesboro on May 1.

Companies interested in marketing partnership opportunities for the International events can contact Jason McKenzie at jason@mckenzieracing.co.uk