Fabienne took on an incredible task as she headed off to the ROK Finals in Italy racing in the Shifter ROK class, and a totally new experience for this world class driver who will stop at nothing.
Having never raced a ROK Shifter before the first race, the ‘Trofeo D’Autunno Finale’ on 7th October it would be a great test for the following ROK Final that follows on 13th October. Until now Fabienne had only raced an X30 shifter for a short period a few years back and a K9 Shifter here and there.
The race weekend proved very tough as she had to come to grips with the unfamiliar heavy clutch system and was forced to hold it with two hands at some points. This made starts almost impossible to master quickly causing the biggest risk and also the one issue that dropped her down the order in the Final race.
For the Trofeo D’Autunno Cup, Fabienne ran with an engine from Vortex, just to get to grips with ratios, gear changes, carburation etc .
The weekend was looking great until some turmoil evolved around her ‘modified’ mechanical shift system, which was then verified and the organisers then allowed her to compete with the setup.
However a mechanical failure lead to Fabienne not being able to do a lap in qualifying and thus had to start last. Fabienne worked her way through the field and crossed the line in 15th position. It was a good test race weekend in preparation to the ROK Final the following week.
The ROK Final Weekend arrived with Fabienne showing strong pace and topping the time sheets on Thursday Practice with a 47.3 in one of the sessions, the team was looking strong pace wise for the weekend.
This time running on a WinKart Engine by Cecco, she had a strong performance throughout the weekend.
The weather changed up a bit for Qualifying and it did not go according to plan. None the less she was on a hot lap when one of the other drivers slowed down speed almost caused a collision and ruined her flying lap. This let her fall down the order to qualify 22nd out of 62 drivers.
On came the Qualifying heats, where the race pace got better, Fabienne stayed out of trouble and finished the heats in 9th, 12th and 9th which gave her an average 14th starting grid for the Final. One small conciliation was that in her group was a certain ex F1 driver Rubens Barachello who Fabienne actually beat on lap time, so it was a bit of a small confidence boost.
On came Sunday and the team was ready for the Final, busy with final engine tuning and chassis adjustments, the warm up went very well and the team was ready for the final.
The Final heat was a 20 lap heat, and Fabienne usually enjoys the longer races as her stamina very strong and most drivers seem to fade at the end, however she kept going strong.
The first start was aborted which troubled Fabienne as she had to hold the troublesome left hand clutch with two hands, as it is extremely hard to hold and also being right handed, the strength wasn’t there in her left hand.
On came the second start and Fabienne could not get her hand grip onto the clutch deep enough and her fingertips could not hold it, thus resulting in a dreadful bogged down start. Lucky she managed to keep the kart running and pulled off, but by this time she could only watch the field disappear into the first corner without her, and she fell back to last place.
Undeterred Fabienne took the challenge with both hands and fought her way through the field, holding fastest lap at stages in the race whilst overtaking one to two drivers per lap. She overtook 16 drivers in 12 laps.
Due to the immense overtaking strain she had on her hands, the gear shift became almost impossible to shift as now her right arm started to become lame from ‘arm-pump’ during the intense race and so for the remainder 5 laps, she resorted to safety mode, gave up a place and crossed the line in 18th place overall. A brilliant performance to recover from the disastrous start.
“As a perfectionist, it is natural for me to be disappointed in my start. I overtook one to two drivers per lap and my aim was to at least get fastest lap of the race as we were very fast. The chassis was unbelievably amazing to drive. The engine’s performance was so strong, we had it all to get the job done for podium. But with having the task to overtake so many drivers, the fastest lap was a tall order. We did get the purple for the first sector, so we did get fastest there and we missed fastest lap by half a tenth so really happy with this. I am very grateful to win the ladies trophy, I must say congratulations to all ladies, this is one tough kart to drive! These two weeks have definitely been my biggest challenge to date and I think the best achievement journey wise. A close friend told me, “You don’t need to win to be a winner”, I take that to heart as what we have accomplished in these two weeks is amazing. Against so many odds, we shine. I look forward for a comeback re match when I have raced a year of shifters,” commented Fabienne.