A deserving dozen-- with one big winner celebrated with champagne.
(24/11/2002) Phoenix, Arizona -- A star-studded group of 12 talented young karters gathered at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona this past weekend for the most important fight of their lives.
Determined to take the next big step in their racing careers, they were all invited to Fran-Am Sport's "Shootout in the Desert" where after two days of competition, one of them would be awarded a brand-new Fran-Am 1600 race car equipped with 17 sets of Michelin racing tires and an XAP data acquisition system-- A US$52,000.00 prize that would be used by the winner to compete in one of Fran-Am's five regional 1600 championships across North America in 2003.
The only thing that each young competitor had to do was to prove to the panel of four judges that he was the most worthy of the group to win the award. Not surprisingly, the two-day competition proved to be a formidable challenge for everyone involved, especially the judges.
"I have never seen a more competitive, mature and professional group of racers before, especially considering their ages (15-22)," said veteran road racer and driving coach Ross Bentley after the competition. "I think they all deserve to win a car in order to continue their careers in Fran-Am."
Bentley and the three other judges, Championship-winning racecar driver, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona and newly crowned Grand Am 2002 Champion Didier Theys, President and CEO of SuperKarts USA! (SKUSA) Jim Murley and editor and publisher of Shifter Kart Illustrated magazine Rob Howden took a full two days of careful evaluation, on and off the track, before determining the winner.
However, a winner was finally selected and it was 18 year-old Matt Champagne of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada who eventually walked away with the top prize that was awarded at Fran-Am's season-ending Banquet at Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix on Sunday night.
"I am so honoured to be picked out of this great group of divers," said a shocked but elated Champagne when he was announced as the winner. "I fully intend to make use of this award to further my career through the Fran-Am development system."
Although the "Shootout in the Desert" was originally intended to be a winner-take-all competition, Fran-Am also awarded runner-up prizes of Fran-Am 1600 test drive opportunities to 17 year-old David Jurca and 19 year-old Nick Bussell of the United States.
"Like Ross said, I wish we could award a car to each of them but the most complete and the most prepared won," said Mr. Thierry Burckhart, President and CEO of Fran-Am Sport after the banquet. "This weekend we had a chance to see them perform and they all had a chance to see us. I know they all have a future in Fran-Am and I sincerely hope to see each of the in one of our cars very soon."