From karting to formula cars to endurance racing, the eldest of the racing Di Leos saw it all before turning his energies to the family business and creating a vision all his own at Goodwood Kartways.
“Certainly if you can't secure the support to become a career driver, making a living in motorsport any other way is what we aspire to do,” Di Leo said this week as Goodwood prepares to host the second event of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. “Obviously now we are very passionate about making Goodwood Kartways the very best it can be, both on the track in terms of safety and the racing experience, and as an overall karting facility. We strive each year to improve and build upon what we have, and this year once again we are very excited about what we have to show as the nation's top karters arrive both for the ECKC event and the National Championships later this summer.”
Upgrades over the last decade have transformed the property, and with Di Leo at the helm there have been extensive changes framed around what becomes a major project each season. The reshaping of Canada's most historic karting venue began with new track lighting, and ran to the most recent off-season when the track was fully repaved for the first time in its history. In between came a renovation of the club house, a permanent pit shelter, barriers, a scoring tower, curbing, a North parking space, new drainage and a track security system. There has also been the rise of both the Toronto Racing Association of Karters kart racing series and the Canadian Rookie Karting Championship Arrive-and-Drive program that entertains over 850 karters every two weeks. The facility has also been home track to many who have gone on to become racing legends, and in the early going, Di Leo was clearly on that path himself.
After a ten-year career in karting that included 12 Canadian National 'Bears' in Canada, three 'Eagles' in the United States, and a World Karting Association Constructor's Cup title racing against Euro competition, Di Leo turned his focus to formula cars in the year 2000. After a taste of Skip Barber racing in 2000 and 2001, he made his Pro Series debut in 2002, a season that saw him finish fourth as NASCAR and IndyCar star AJ Allmendinger won the championship. A year later, Di Leo was second in the same series as a sophomore, finishing just in front of reigning Grand-Am Daytona Prototype Champion Memo Rojas. In 2004 it was on to the Star Mazda championship in its heyday, where Di Leo was the top rookie among 39 series' drivers. He won the first event at Sebring, and reeled off seven straight podiums in managing the point lead through seven rounds before being unceremoniously dethroned in the opening corner of race eight. His championship hopes were beached, and though he added an eighth podium at the next round, he finished second in the championship to current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell.
The following summer it was a change to business and the helm of Goodwood Kartways, beginning the evolution of the facility that exists today – with a couple of racing diversions. Di Leo made one start in the Atlantic Championship, crossing third at Road America in 2005. He also fielded a call from Maxwell Paper Products leading toward the 2007 season, and signed on as a professional driver for their racing program. He began with a return to the Star Mazda Championship, and though he sat second in the championship through three rounds, the team changed its effort to endurance racing where Di Leo pedalled Ford, Mazda, and Porsche race cars over parts of the next three seasons. Wherever he raced during his tenure, Di Leo never failed to stand on the podium, be it a one-off special event or a season long championship: Skip Barber Pro, Star Mazda, Formula Atlantic, Continental Cup, Koni Challenge, Rolex Grand-Am GT, and of course – karting, where he began and where his focus returns today.
“Looking back, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities I had throughout my motorsports career,” Di Leo said. “I was able to compete in many different series, drive a wide range of cars and most importantly, learn from the experiences that presented themselves along the way. Through it all though, and to this day, the most enjoyable parts of my career were my days in competitive karting. Karting in my opinion is the purest form of motorsports, and something that I am obviously still very passionate about."
This weekend the Goodwood Kartways paddock will be filled with people that certainly share that sentiment. The second event of the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship begins Friday at Goodwood Kartways. For all the latest news and updates, please visit eckc.ca often. For weekend photo galleries and results as they happen, please visit canadiankartingnews.com and follow @CKN_Live on Twitter.
Goodwood Kartways Video Tutorial:
2013 EASTERN CANADIAN KARTING CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 2 - Goodwood Kartways, Stouffville, Ontario
Friday, June 28, Practice
Saturday, June 29, Race Three
Sunday, June 30, Race Four
Round 3 - Le Monaco de Trois-Rivieres, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
Friday, August 2, Practice
Saturday, August 3, Coupe du Quebec*
Sunday, August 4, Race Five
Round 4 - Jim Russell Academie de Karting, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
Friday, September 13, Practice
Saturday, September 14, Coupe du Quebec*
Sunday, September 15, Race Six