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December 06, 2012 News
EKN.ca One-on-One: Grand Finals Podium Finisher Parker Thompson

Parker Thompson executed a stellar drive in the Junior Final to give Team Canada its first podium of the 2013 Grand Finals (Photo: Patrick Moreau - MaxChallenge.ca)
Parker Thompson executed a stellar drive in the Junior Final to give Team Canada its first podium of the 2013 Grand Finals
(Photo: Patrick Moreau - MaxChallenge.ca)

The 2012 edition of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals recently wrapped up in Portugal, and Team Canada once again impressed with a sixth world title and two additional trips to the podium. The editorial staff recently spoke with Parker Thompson, who finished third at the Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve in Junior in his second Grand Finals appearance.

EKARTINGNEWS.CA: First off, congratulations on your podium finish in the Junior Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals world title. Before we get into your podium effort, let begin things by talking about the lead up to the event. How did your prepare for the Grand Finals, and how important was this to your ultimate success?

PARKER THOMPSON: I prepared for the Grand Finals by attending the last round of the Euro Max Challenge in Salbris, France. I ran with Kalman Motorsport on the Birel RY30 chassis. This was very important to my ultimate success. It sharpened my race craft immensely, in the fact that it got me used to how to race at the Rotax Grand Finals. It also taught me what to expect with my competitors, the Birel chassis, and D1 Mojo tires. For my physical health, hydrating myself well and eating good nutritious foods to prepare my body was also important to my success.

EKN.CA: Once arriving in Portugal, what were your first impressions of the track and event setup?

THOMPSON: My first impressions of the track was that it was very high speed, and flowing. It also had a few technical sections where you could gain time. The straightaway was very long, longer than most in North America. My impressions on setup were that with such a long straightaway, you would need to pull a very short gear. This being said the kart and driver would have to be perfect through the infield to keep up with other drivers, then once on the straightaway it would be game over. Through the infield it was also quite high speed, and flowing. It was obvious it would be easy to over drive the hard compound D1 Mojo tires and wear them out. The chassis would have to be very balanced at this track with all the fast flowing corners as well. Without balance it would be near impossible to keep the tires from over heating and dropping off with such high speed conditions.

EKN.CA: One of the first things that took place once all the drivers/teams had arrived was the random kart draw. Upon completion and getting your kart, what were your first impressions of your racing steed for the 2012 Grand Finals?

THOMPSON: My first impressions of this particular racing steed were that it was lucky. In the kart draw my driver number was 163. When they randomly drew my kart I got chassis number 163. The Rotax official said he didnít think in all his years of the Rotax Grand Finals that has ever happened before. Another thing that stood out was the decal kit installed on the bodywork was done perfectly. Iím a perfectionist when it comes to the decals, and my steed was one of the only ones that were done correctly! I knew she was a winner the minute she was mine.

EKN.CA: The spec kart utilized by the Junior Rotax class in Portugal was the Italian-made Birel RY30 kart. Had you previously-ever driven a Birel kart? What were your initial thoughts about the kart upon getting on track via practice?

THOMPSON: I had previously driven the Birel RY30 chassis. I drove the last round of the Euro Max Challenge with Kalman Motorsports on the same Birel chassis. My initials thoughts on the Birel RY30 chassis were that it had a lot of front end, and was light on steering. The chassis in my opinion had a lot of trouble with attaining balance; especially on the hard compound D1 Mojo tires. Without balance not only was the chassis under performing, it was destroying the tires that you needed to take care of more than anything. Once you attained balance with the chassis, it was competitive.

EKN.CA: With four practice runs prior before the lone qualifying session, what did you to focus on, and what were the biggest obstacles to overcome? Did you work with your Team Canada teammates a good deal throughout practice?

THOMPSON: We focused on ourselves. That was the biggest change I made from last years Rotax Grand Finals in Dubai to this one. I cannot tell you how much of a difference that made. When I would come in from a session I wouldnít be worried that so and so pulled off a quick lap. Honestly it didnít matter. You have to have to worry about improving your racing program, improve your chassis setup development, and youíre driving. Once you as a driver think that you chassis/engine combo is perfect, then you go after a quick lap. This is one of the keys to the success of my weekend.

I did work with my Team Canada teammates. I teamed up with Zacharie Scalzo, which was also immensely helpful. Our mechanics go back a ways and are really good friends, and Zacharie and I became quite good friends through the process of working together. Together us four (the Team Canada drivers) were a dream team, as we called it, and in the end it worked out wonderfully. We were both extremely fast, just Zach sadly ran into a lot more bad luck than I did.

EKN.CA: When qualifying came around, you ended up with the seventh best time in your group, 12th fastest overall. What were your thoughts on the session and where it put you on the starting grid for the three Heat races?

THOMPSON: I was really disappointed with how I handled the qualifying session. I should have been P1 in qualifying, the first thing I did when I saw my mechanic was I apologized. The chassis and engine were second to none. Throughout the entire session I waited for that perfect draft lap, but it just never happened. Then on the last lap I had to push without a draft, because if I didnít it would have been a disastrous qualifying. It was a sloppy lap, the tires were dirty from checking up and waiting for people, and my mistake margin was high.

My thoughts on where I was starting the Heats was disappointment. I started sixth every Heat on the outside. Not where I wanted to be, but I put myself in that position, so I knew I had to get my team and I out of it.

EKN.CA: Ahead of the racing action getting underway, how 'racy' did you feel the 16-turn Kartodromo International do Algarve configuration would be? Would the number of passing zones dictate a certain strategy?

THOMPSON: Kartodromo International do Algarve was very Ďracyí in the fact that you could honestly pass and get the job done cleanly and effectively in any of the 16 turns on the configuration. With the long straightaway competitors had a very hard time breaking away from the draft, and that meant packs of drivers grouped together in extreme battles.

The number of passing zones didnít really dictate a strategy for me, the reason being was I was never really in a strategic position. In all my Heats, the Prefinal and Final I always had to charge forward no matter the cost. If I would have started up front, I think my strategy would have been wait until the final laps, so that there was less of a chance to be retaken by a competitor.

EKN.CA: You had mixed results in the Heat races, finishing a strong sixth and 10th in the first two races, before coming home 24th in the last one. How important were the results, and what was the key to the early race success?

THOMPSON: The Heat race results are of up most importance. Without the valuable top finishes you wonít be starting in a position that you can make up ground in the Prefinal. I played it safe in the first Heat with a solid sixth finish. I honestly just wanted to keep my nose clean and finish in a decent position. The second Heat I pushed harder and attained a fourth place finish, but I was given a three second penalty for a lane violation on the start. The lane violation was inevitable, I was rear ended hard from behind and I dropped two wheels out. I was disappointed that the officials never took that into consideration, but there was nothing I could do. That ended me in 10th. Going into Heat three I knew I had a lot of ground to make up if I wanted to start in the top five for my Prefinal. The third Heat was disastrous. In parc-ferme we were very rushed changing our setup from wet to dry, as we thought the final Heat would be a wet race. We made it by seconds on the starting grid! On the warm-up lap everything seemed to be fine, but on the start I knew there was something very wrong. Right when I cracked the throttle, the engine would bog down to the point of dying. On the start I lost close to 20 positions, before later in the race finding the choke to be on. That gave me a 24th position for Heat three.

The key to my success in the early races was avoiding contact and wrecks with other drivers, and making good decisive passes that advanced me through the field without getting retaken by other drivers.

EKN.CA: After an uneventful Prefinal, you were superb in the Final, finishing an impressive third in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. Tell us how you ended up on the podium in the Final. Did the race go exactly as you planned?

THOMPSON: I ended up on the podium at the Rotax Grand Finals by getting a great start from the outside. I forced my way into the inside and actually gained positions on the start. From there, I put myself in a good position to move up through the field. The chassis setup that I had been developing for the entire week was perfected. I couldnít have asked for a better chassis and engine combo. My passes were clean and decisive. They were planned and strategized, and all had one thing in common. To get around the competitor without losing time to the next driver, and make sure to not be retaken by the competitor. Once I started to get on a role, it seemed to be second nature. I nailed down some very good passing spots on the track and used my personal intel to my advantage on other competitors. It was a deadly combination, as I was picking off competitors wherever I could. When I got into the top-five is when I started to push extremely hard for a podium position.

The race didnít go exactly as I planned, I had a few mistakes that were costly, but other than that I honestly didnít have a plan for the race. I just knew that I needed to make up as many places as I could, that was my strategy.

EKN.CA: What are your thoughts on finishing third in the 2012 Junior Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals?

THOMPSON: My thoughts on finishing third are overwhelming, I was virtually speechless. No words can even come close to the feeling you get when they lift your country's flag on the podium, with all the flashing lights and the champagne. I am proud to be the first ever North American Junior Rotax driver on the podium, and Iím glad I proved to the world that North Americans can be a force to reckoned with in international level of karting.

Thanks to the partners of Parker Thompson Racing for all their support into my program. I couldnít have got this result without them! Bell Racing Helmets, Polen Designs, OMP, RLV, Courtney Concepts, Tillett Racing Seats, and Sylvan Lake R.V. and CanadianKartingNews.com. Be sure to visit my website http://www.ParkerThompsonRacing.com and Facebook page at Parker Thompson Racing for more news, results, updates and information on my racing.

EKN.CA: Thanks for speaking with eKartingNews.ca and its readers. Once again congratulations on a superb third place at the Grand Finals!

THOMPSON: Thanks for the opportunity to do another Q&A with EKN.ca

Additional EKN.ca One-on-One features, please visit HERE
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