The waiting is over, the outstanding judicial decision has been made, the drivers are here, free practice has commenced: all that remains to find out who will be crowned 2011 CIK-FIA World Champion... is the racing!
Whoever wins, history will be made this weekend. The famous Suzuka Circuit in Japan has hosted Asia-Pacific championships and World Cups, but this is its first ever World Championship event and only the second such on the continent of Asia following Macau, China in 2009.
The kart circuit is one of the best in the world and is situated within the F1 Circuit campus and lies immediately adjacent to the famous Under/Over Crossover.
Coming to this final event, there are 4 drivers who still have the chance to become World Champion. Third and fourth placed Tony Kart Racing Team Drivers Flavio Camponeschi and Ignacio D’Agosto (both Tony Kart- Vortex) need to score close to maximum points in 3 of the 4 races whilst their rivals must all have a disastrous weekend if one of these Italians is to win the title.
But both defending World Champion, Dutchman Nyck de Vries (Zanardi-Parilla) and Britain’s Alex Albon (Intrepid-TM) have the biggest prize in world karting within their grasp. De Vries enjoys an 18 point lead over Albon in the championship standings, but with 75 points available over the weekend, the championship is likely to go right down to the last day of the 2011 World Championship season.
Nyck de Vries was asked how he felt coming into the championship weekend. ‘Good Question’ was his first response.‘I don’t really know’ but then added ‘you see, it is not just a world championship decider but it will be my last race in karting. Also it is not just a battle against Alex and Flavio and Ignacio, how good are these unknown Japanese drivers. They all have plenty of experience around this circuit. I can believe that one of them at least could be right up at the front. Also this is a great racing track and I think the races will all be competitive’.
Alex Albon was quite positive. ‘The track is really, really nice and one of my favourites. We feel confident. Obviously with a big margin in favour of Nyck, it’s going to be difficult but this is racing and anything can happen. I will certainly give it my best shot’.
Flavio Campaneschi explained ‘I have not given up all hope but it will be very difficult for me to win. I have to hope that both Nyck and Alex do very badly. Also I like Suzuka circuit and 2 years ago had one of my best races here.’
Ignacio d’Agosto was clear in his thinking. ‘I have nothing to lose. Mathematically I can win the world championship but this is not realistic. I could come 3rd perhaps. I like this track and have had good results here in the past, so I hope to enjoy the Event’.
Supporting the World Championship event is a one-off Asia-Pacific Championship for KF2. In both classes, the regular front runners from Europe will be joined on track by several Japanese drivers, all with plenty of experience racing around the Suzuka Circuit.
Tanart Sathienthirakul (Tony Kart-TM), the Thai driver based in Ireland this season, is one of the most motivated drivers in the KF2 class. ‘I am still angry to have lost the European Championship’ he said with feeling. ‘So I have to win this instead. I think I can win, for sure, but this is a very difficult track and very twisty – but it’s good to be back in Japan’.
Qualifying Practice is on Saturday morning with the first 2 KF1World Championship races in the afternoon. The KF2 Qualifying Heats commence in the late morning. The Event comes to its climax on Sunday when both championships will be decided. So will the races be dominated by the European based ‘Big Name’ drivers, or will one (or more) of the less well known Japanese drivers spring a surprise? We will soon know.