The international gaming capital Macau will this weekend be the venue for the Final of the World Karting Championship.
To achieve even the slightest success, contenders for the world crown know perfectly well that they will have to rely not on chance but on their talent and their race-craft. The Italians Flavio Camponeschi, Felice Tiene and Davide Foré have to beat the Japanese Daiki Sasaki, but in Macau every scenario can be envisaged and another man altogether could take the jackpot!
For several years now, Macau has been the world gaming capital. This former Portuguese colony, today a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, has in fact taken over from Las Vegas in the global classification. In Macau, nothing seems to be impossible. Pharaonic hotels stand side by side rivalling each other in ingenuity in their individual efforts to be more attractive than the others. And it works well! Every year Macau attracts some 25 million tourists, most arriving to try their luck in one of the more than 30 casinos, open 24 hours a day.
A few paces from there, on the island of Coloane, the Macau International Circuit is buzzing with activity. Between the huge buildings under construction, the paddock resembles an ants’ nest. For two days, Drivers and their teams, all installed in identical tents, try to find the ideal settings during non-qualifying practice. On Saturday, the pressure will mount a notch or two with the first Qualifying Practice session and two Races attributing points for the Championship. But it will probably be necessary to wait until Sunday to know who will take the title in the 49th World Karting Championship.
Leader in the intermediate classification with his three wins during the first meeting in Suzuka, Flavio Camponeschi (Tony Kart-Vortex) knows that he cannot rely simply on luck. “To be honest, I never gamble. But if I am World Champion on Sunday, I could be tempted to have a flutter!” the Italian smiles. “I love this track, but I know the task will be difficult. My lead is only 15 points and anything can happen here.” Although the Italian refused to make any predictions, that was not the case with the second man, Daiki Sasaki (Kosmic-Vortex). “If I had to talk about myself and the title, I would say that my chances are 8 out of 10,” the Japanese Driver says playfully. “Last year I won the Asia-Pacific Championship here. And although I have been focussing on the Japanese Formula 3 Championship, where I won the second division with my Dallara-Toyota, I have been driving karts a great deal as I’m a test driver for Bridgestone Tyres. So I’m more or less on the pace, and I’ll be giving it everything this weekend. My primary aim is to take pole position for the first Race on Saturday!”
Winner of the KF2 World Cup in Zuera a month ago, Felice Tiene (CRG-BMB) is now dreaming of taking the CIK-FIA World Championship, the most important title in the karting world. “Don’t ask me to bet!” explained the Italian. “One day I gambled 40 euros in the casino and I lost the lot. So I’m finished with betting! But I intend to take my championship chances to the very end. During free practice, we’ve been working to find the best settings. One of the more important factors here will be tyre preservation. The track is very slippery and so the tyres will suffer more than elsewhere. It will not be enough just to be fast on a lap; consistency will be vital in the two Races on Saturday… before returning on Sunday!”
The most experienced of the four title contenders, Davide Foré (CRG-BMB) shares the view of his young team-mate. “The tarmac is special here,” he stresses. “It’s difficult to find grip. And the more you slide the more you wear your tyres. As we’ll be fighting two 20-lap Races with the same tyres, that’s bound to be a key factor.” Already four-times World Champion, the Italian knows that he is not best placed. 28 points behind, his fate is not solely in his own hands. But between his first world title in 1998 and his last in 2006, Davide finished on the final podium 7 times out of 9. And he plans to do so again this year. “Of course I hope to be champion,” says the Driver who celebrated his 38th birthday last July. “But I’ve only driven non-gearbox karts very little this year. Since Suzuka, I have only had one test day. And the competition is fierce with Camponeschi, Sasaki, Tiene and also Verstappen. So it will be extremely difficult. Let’s say I give myself 5 chances out of 10 of taking the title. But the most important thing for me is the result for the CRG Team.”
Speaking of Max Verstappen (CRG-TM), Davide Foré does not exclude the Dutchman from the title race. Sixth in the intermediate classification, 43 points behind, the son of the former Formula 1 driver only has a mathematical chance of taking a first world crown. He would be better aiming for part victories without thinking too much about the Championship. By posting the best time in non-qualifying practice on Friday, he certainly confirmed that he should not be ignored! Behind the Dutchman are Felice Tiene, the Spaniard Pedro Hiltbrand (FA Kart-Vortex), the Briton Tom Joyner (LH-BMB), the amazing Hong-Kong Driver Matthew Solomon (Kosmic-TM) and the Briton Ben Hanley (ART GP-TM). Title contenders Davide Foré and Flavio Camponeschi took 7th and 8th places in an official combined classification for all the sessions. As for Daiki Sasaki, he was a little further back (in 12th place), but only 3 tenths from the fastest time of the day. So everything is to play for in Qualifying Practice and the first two Races scheduled for Saturday, and karting fans around the world can follow the racing live on the site www.cikfia.tv
at 13.30 and 15.15 local time (07.30 and 09.15 Central European Time). On Sunday, the last two Races of this exciting season will be broadcast at 11.20 and 15.30 local time (05.20 and 09.30 Central European Time).