On the heels of another top 5th finish in the CIK-FIA KF3 European Championships in England, Santino Ferrucci displayed total domination at the United States Rotax Junior Championship this past weekend in South Bend Indiana. Both events were commentated by 60-year veteran British global motorsport journalist Ken Walker who summed up the last few weeks stating “I have witnessed firsthand, from Europe to the United States, the wet and dry skills of the young lad from Connecticut. He has most certainly arrived in world wide karting in his first year of junior eligibility”.
Ferrucci made his way to the United States Rotax Grand Nationals in South Bend Indiana unable to test and with one goal, win the US Juniors and represent the United States at the Rotax World Championships in Portimao Portugal later this year. The task this past weekend, to say the least, was a formidable one. Finally of age to compete at the World Championship and represent his country, the only way to get there was to podium against the best 14-17 year old Rotax Juniors in America, a Rotax class he had not competed in outside the regional level since 2009. Against the odds, the young pilot would have one of his best race events ever and was nothing short of perfect all week.
After a few days of official practice in the hot Indiana summer sun Santino found the pace but the next three days would be anything but hot and dry. The rain came down for the first competitive session which was qualifying and Santino found himself on Pole by more than half of a second over the fifty plus Junior field. “I love the rain and really hope it rains all week and I also found my dry pace so it doesn’t matter” expressed Santino.
Late Thursday afternoon The conditions for Heat One were the same as qualifying, wet, and from the pole position Santino took the lead in turn one and never looked backed, forging ahead at times to a nine second lead then putting it into cruise control to take the win. Friday morning and Heat two offered the same track condition, wet and again Santino would take the lead in turn one and finish well ahead of the field for his second Heat win. The final heat of the day was run on a dry track and the first time for slicks since Wednesday practice. The green flag dropped and Santino took the lead in turn one from Pole leaving the field once again to fight for second. At the conclusion of the heats, Santino had a perfect score of zero points and Pole position for Saturday’s Pre-final.
The forecast for Saturday was a 10% chance of rain and the forecasters were 90% wrong as it poured just prior to the 20 laps Pre-final. The rain played into Santino’s hand as he slowly led the field down the front stretch for the green. Different day but same movie as Santino took the lead in turn one and wasted no time in the early laps creating a four plus second lead. With such a lead he put his kart into, what he calls, “conservation cruise control”. “Every heat and pre-final I got out to a huge lead and I then kept my tires cool and tried to conserve them as much as possible”, said Santino.
Saturday afternoons Rotax festivities brought out the sun for the US Rotax Junior Final. Santino was in his familiar pole position and the field was on new slick tires. The start was a perfect copy of the last four starts and the lead was again his in turn one. Santino drove aggressively in the early laps of the 26-lap final and built a comfortable four plus second lead. About midway through the race he felt a strong vibration and slowed considerably for a few laps. He recognized the vibration and grinding as a clutch issue and held his breath for the remainder of the race, driving very conservatively. As everyone in attendance expected, the double-checkered flag fell and Santino was the 2012 US Rotax Junior Champion. He completed the perfect weekend taking the win in the final by two seconds and earning a ticket to the Rotax World Final in Portimao, Portugal to represent the United States.
“I knew if I got away in turn one that the race would be mine. I was confident I had plenty of pace and nobody could catch me”, an expectedly excited Santino told Rob Howden of Ekartingnews.
Santino’s mechanic this week was a wet eyed dad. “I am so proud of Santino and how he has matured. We knew this would be a difficult weekend not having raced Rotax at this level in years. We did it old school, coming in the back of our truck with a pop-up tent with no big team or data to share. Not too many know but Santino makes all of his chassis changes, gear changes and tire pressures. A special thanks to Chris Rock who, from New York, assisted with jetting as he is one of the best in Rotax. Santino earned and deserves this win. I am sure with all of his European experience he will represent the United States very well at the World Finals”.