POSITIVE NATIONAL LAUNCH FOR MANDARINO
Canadian karter posts two top tens highlighted by ICA podium
NORMAN, OK -- Despite the fact that the entire event was run in rainy conditions, kart racer Lorenzo Mandarino left the Oklahoma Motorsports Complex with great memories of the outing. The Canadian was feeling very good about his performances in the opening round of the Snap-on Stars of Karting national championship series, a race that was held on the March 17-19. In extremely challenging conditions, Mandarino ran in both of the program's headline classes, the only driver to do so during the weekend. In the ICA class, the 19 year-old stormed to a strong podium finish, taking second place overall, posting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Mandarino also ran in the ICC shifter kart category and overcame a difficult beginning, making it into the main through the Last Chance Qualifier before driving from 34th to eighth during the main event. He also set yet another fast lap during his drive through the field, making it two for two for the weekend.
Both Saturday and Sunday's events were run in the rain, calling on Mandarino to step up and challenge the track and his competition. The emerging star answered the call, qualifying his KLS Racing-back GP kart in the 12th position to begin his ICA charge against the 52 other competitors. In his Prefinal, Mandarino stayed out of trouble and advanced to fourth, giving him a starting spot on the fourth row of the grid for his High Rev Parilla-powered entry. In the main event, Mandarino got a clean start and jumping quickly to fifth before working his way forward and into the top-three. From there, he chased down British driver Jake Rosenzweig for the runner-up position, running out of time to catch the eventual winner, Alexander Sims.
The battle in ICC did not go quite as smoothly, as a total of 70 drivers were entered in the class. Mandarino was on pace with the leaders and timed in fifth fastest, but things got ugly in the Prefinal when he was pushed off the track on the start, damaging the shift linkage on his George Barks-built TM engine. Retiring just a lap later, Mandarino would be forced to qualify for the main event through the Last Chance Qualifier, which started 38 drivers and offered just six transfer positions into the Final. Starting deep in the LCQ, Lorenzo avoided a large first turn pile-up to emerge unscathed, racing his GP aggressively to a stunning fourth in the final tally. This gave him the 34th starting position, placing him on the outside of row 17.
When the Final went green, Mandarino pushed hard to get as many spots as possible, again avoiding the opening corner carnage. Finding himself in the top-20 after the field sorted itself out, Lorenzo put in a masterful performance, carving his way through the field, passing cars virtually every lap during the 19-lap race to finish up in the seventh position. Mandarino posted the fastest lap of the race very late in the going as he continued to run on the ragged edge. It was an extremely impressive run that completed a stellar recovery following his Prefinal DNF.
Beginning the season off right has put him in a very good position to make a run at the ICC national championship. He will miss the next round of the series to compete in Europe, and the main events from that weekend will be used as his drop races, making finishes key to holding any hopes of the title.
Before this opening Stars of Karting event, the pre-season had been fairly calm for Mandarino with just a pair of formula car outings in the SCCA Formula Russell series on the schedule. Things will now get busy in a hurry with 17 events over an eight-month span. Mandarino leaves for Italy on Thursday to compete in the first event of the five-race Italian Open Masters series, where he will join the GP factory team as an official driver. The European and World Championships are part of this program with GP, and all the experience he gains from this Euro adventure will be applied to his Stars of Karting program and his quest for a prestigious national championship.