ROK and ROK Cup USA put together another well organized event for the world and for the ROK Cup USA team members who either earned a ticket through competition or joined the team in a wild card position for what is one of the largest events in the world.
The event was once again held at one of the crown jewels of our sport, South Garda Karting in Lonato, Italy, about an hour and a half east-southeast from Milan in the Northern region of the country. Nearly 420 competitors from dozens of countries all got to compete side by side in our universal sport of karting for four days.
It was Kart360's fourth trip over to what many consider the mecca of karting, but personally it was my first trip. I, along with other members of the team, were given a tour of the OTK factory on Tuesday and Vortex on Wednesday. Everyone seemed in awe of the facilities, which are likened to the pinnacle of motorsport at Ferrari and Mercedes.
The circuit itself was as gorgeous as you might imagine with subtle elevation changes, mountains and greenery in the background. The ROK Cup After Party was as festive as you see in the pictures and even more energized in person. If you've ever wanted to race overseas or thought about packing in a race week into a family vacation, this is a race you need to consider for 2018.
We're in a Golden Age of cadet racing in North America
You don't necessarily know what you have until you've proven it on a world stage, and over the past two to three years North Americans have more than proven their worth in Cadet racing.
Connor Zilisch became the latest ROK Cup International Final Champion last weekend in Mini ROK, becoming the second American to win the award after Logan Sargeant in 2011. Compatriot Luca Mars placed 4th, putting two Americans in the top five, and may very well had been the victor had he not slipped up and qualified 56th. Not so far back was another American in Nikita Johnson in 11th.
Keep in mind, this was a category at 162 entries and there were 6 Americans in the top 41 after heat racing.
Meanwhile in France, three other American drivers put their stamp of success in Mini, placing 1st, 2nd, and 13th with Brent Crews, Santiago Trisini, and Diego LaRoque.
LaRoque, of course, won the Micro invitational a year ago in Italy at the Rotax Grand Final.
As these results keep piling up, the evidence is clear that the talent has never been higher in our youngest categories. For at least a few more years, as these drivers move through Junior and Senior, we'll have some tremendous racing to watch -- and that is something to be excited about.
ROK Cup USA readies for 2018
Officials from ROK Cup USA were joined by members of programs who run their products (Challenge of the Americas, Sanzaru Games, and ROK Cup Canada) as they met for hours with Vortex management throughout the week to go over their plans for 2018. They discussed and fine tuned their rules and generally made sure to be more in lockstep with the factory that manufacter the products.
Its becoming clear that Vortex has a plan in place that focuses on a more local approach that they hope will then help elevate their regional and national series' around the world, including those here in the States. They're fully committed to this plan, whether it's with staffing or financing, and are prepared for the long game.
Parolin appears to be upping it's presence in the United States
Larger events are always good for gossip and one particular piece of news caught our attention in Lonato. Parolin has struck some sort of deal with Ariel Castro and AM Engines to field a team in 2018, starting in the winter.
We spoke with Ariel in person on Saturday at the South Garda circuit, who confirmed that the new operation will start this winter and a new team will be brought together. We don't believe this will be any change to the distributorship at Russell Karting, but we have reached out to Jim Russell at Russell Karting for comment and will likely write more on this subject once we understand more of the specifics on this new development.