The 2014 edition of the Sport Kart Grand Nationals is quickly approaching, now only about 5 weeks away from the green flag on Official Practice Day 1 on Wednesday, June 18th. The entry list sits just over 80 drivers at the moment, with several more verbally committed to the event, and looking to sign up in the coming weeks. This year will once again see a cash purse and other prizes awarded, crowning the top five in the Overall Championship, as well as a Masters Champion, and Team Championship for the best three-driver lineup.
This week marks the beginning of the media coverage for the event, as previews begin to roll out, taking a deeper looking to the format, as well as the competitors themselves. SportKartUSA will have a preview every week from now till the event itself, with the full media coverage schedule listed below:
May 13th – Track Preview
May 15th – Driver Preview Parts 1 & 2
May 20th – Driver Preview Parts 3 & 4
May 29th – Driver Preview Parts 5 & 6
June 3rd – Driver Preview Parts 7 & 8
June 10th – Driver Preview Parts 9 & 10
June 12th – Masters & Team Preview
June 17th-22nd – Official Event Coverage
Kicking things off today is a look at two of the three tracks that will be in place for the weekend, with the third layout once again being unveiled the morning of Super Sunday. One of the unique things for 2014 is the fact that all three layouts will have either none, or very little time on them, with two of the three tracks having never been run, and the third only used once. In years past, only the Sunday layout was new, but now the first time anyone will get a chance to drive these layouts will be the week of the event, which should make for some very exciting practice sessions.
Kicking off Day 1 of the race weekend will be a brand new, never before run course layout for CalSpeed, which has been dubbed “Grands 2014”. Competitors will get their first look at this layout during the Official Practice Day 2 (Thursday, June 19th), and will need to make a slight adjustment from the CalSpeed norm, as they will be heading in the reverse (counter clockwise) direction.
For those who ran either the ‘Classico Reverse’ round of the Super Series or Machismo 12 Hour from 2013, the run down the hill and into ‘The Esses’ will be a familiar joy to start the lap. For newcomers, it will quickly become a favorite part of the course, as equal parts speed, rhythm and technicality welcome them. After rounding the double apex ‘Contino Carousel’, drivers will head down a short back straight into the first of the brand new corners to CalSpeed regulars.
This could be where we see a few passes come race day, from there transitioning into a double apex right-hander, and another probable passing zone. Building speed through this right-hander, drivers will need to negotiate the fast kink at turn #8 before getting hard on the brakes for the left-hander at turn #9. Whether the passes happen going in, or are set up for the exit, this is sure to be an exciting part of the track to watch, and is the second of three brand new corners to the CalSpeed populace. Getting out of turn #9 smoothly will be key too, as heading up the hill towards ‘Kornakurva’ sees yet another passing opportunity, before continuing to the final of the new corners, turn #14. While Turn #14 may or may not be a passing zone going in, it very well could set things up for a pass into turn #1, as it leads on to the main straight, and will be the final chance to get anything done coming to the line.
In place for Day 2 of the race weekend, and Official Practice Day 1 (Wednesday, June 18th) will be “Grands 2013”, the surprise layout that was in place for last year’s Super Sunday. The only layout of the three that has seen competition, only the drivers that were in attendance at last year’s Grand Nationals will have had any seat time prior to the event. At most, that is still less than 100 laps…
While the south half of this layout (right side of map) looks nearly identical to the “Grands ‘14” layout, the big change here comes from the fact it is in the clockwise direction. As was mention before, this layout was only in place for the Super Sunday layout in 2013, and hasn’t been run since.
The lap starts out with an uphill run towards the turn 1-3 complex, commonly referred to as the bus-stop, before heading around the right hand turn #4, also known as Kornakurva. This complex sees plenty of action, especially at the starts, but also will see many passes develop there, and finish through turn #4.
After getting out of turn #4 with speed, drivers head down the hill to the ‘Sportivo’ corner (called Nuovo on the map above), a late apex, off-camber corner that is very easy to over drive. A very technical corner, getting it right means a possible shot at a pass into the very tight right-hander at turn #9. The 2013 Grands saw a ton of passing into this corner, but also many passes setup a few corners later by strong runs out of turn #9.
Accelerating out of turn #9, drivers carry maximum speed through a double left hander before getting hard on the brakes for the hairpin at turn #12, arguably the best passing zone on the Grands ’13 configuration. This corner is also one of the last chances to make a pass if waiting until the final lap, as the Contino Carousel, and Esses complex follow. A technical section of the course, making it through this section is important for a good lap time, and can sometimes turn into a drag race to the line when taken at it’s best. Below is a video from Chris Huerta’s run in last year’s Last-Chance-Qualifier, which gives a pretty good idea of how to get around the 16+ turn layout.
2014 looks to be the best year to date, providing the most technical tracks yet, and ones that no driver has a leg up on going in. With a multitude of corner types, passing zones a-plenty, and a bit of speed thrown in, driver’s abilities will be surely tested over the course of the 3-day event. Next up on the media tour is a two-part look at the first twenty drivers on the entry list, going live on Thursday. Don’t miss it!