The 2017 CIK-FIA season will start with the first European Championship Competition organised from April 21st-23nd on the Circuito Internazionale Napoli at Sarno, open to the OK, OK-Junior and KZ categories. The list of entries has reached the respectable figure of 179 Drivers thanks to the boost to the OK category resulting from the lowering of the age decided by the CIK-FIA. Other innovations will also come into force on this occasion.
As the flagship classes of the CIK-FIA at the end of 2016, the ages of the Senior and Junior categories without a gearbox were lowered by one year from 1st January 2017 to take account of the fact that Drivers can leave Karting for single-seaters from the age of 15. The objective is to extend the apprenticeship of Karting by one year for the young Drivers and to better prepare for their move to cars. The Races held since the beginning of the season have revealed a renewed interest in the OK category, which is confirmed in the CIK-FIA European Championship with an entry of 77, more than double that of last year.
As an elite category in direct-drive karts, OK is filled this year with very experienced and even professional drivers as well as talented rookies. And the outcome is far from being decided beforehand. Faced with renowned experts such as Pedro Hiltbrand Aguilar (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont), Karol Basz (Kosmic / Vortex / LeCont), Thomas Joyner (Zanardi / Parilla / LeCont) and Flavio Camponeschi (CRG / Parilla / LeCont), the generation recently moved up from Junior is not lacking. Finlay Jack Kenneally (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont), Dennis Hauger (CRG / Parilla / LeCont), Callum Bradshaw (CRG / Parilla / LeCont), the winner of the 2016 CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy, Theo Pourchaire (Kosmic/Vortex/LeCont), David Schumacher (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont) and Ulysse De Pauw (Kosmic / Parilla / LeCont) are some examples. But the title will also be contested by Drivers who have a year in OK behind them, such as Clément Novalak (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont), Noah Milell (Kosmic / Vortex / LeCont), Paavo Tonteri (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont), among others. The sporting confrontation promises to be as uncertain as it is exciting. LeCont tyres, which have not been used so far in racing since the beginning of the year, will be a new element of this first European Competition.
In OK-Junior, the field is strong with 76 Drivers, but the situation is different with a high proportion of newcomers. Jack Doohan (FA Kart / Vortex / Vega), Leonardo Marseglia (Zanardi / Parilla / Vega), Mattia Michelotto (Zanardi / Parilla / Vega) and Gillian Henrion (CRG / Parilla / Vega) are among the few repeaters to follow, as well as Andrea Rosso (Tony Kart / Vortex / Vega). Among the new rookies Harry Thompson (FA Kart / Vortex / Vega), Zak O'Sullivan (FA Kart / Vortex / Vega), Luca Bosco (Tony Kart / Vortex / Vega) and Chris Lulham (Tony Kart / Parilla / Vega) have already had the opportunity to highlight themselves in 2017. The hierarchy is however far from being established with young Drivers making constant progress.
By definition only for factory drivers, the KZ category this year sees its minimum weight lowered from 175 to 170 kg. 26 Drivers have entered the Sarno Competition. The first races of the season saw Bas Lammers (Sodi / TM Racing / Bridgestone) and Anthony Abbasse (Sodi / TM Racing / Bridgestone) winning as well as Patrik Hajek (Kosmic / Vortex / Bridgestone) and Jérémy Iglesias (Formula K / TM Racing / Bridgestone). Marco Ardigo (Tony Kart / Vortex / Bridgestone) is still a frontrunner, while Simo Puhakka (Kosmic / Vortex / Bridgestone) was very quick on his arrival at his new team. Jorrit Pex (CRG / TM Racing / Bridgestone), Lorenzo Camplese (Parolin / TM Racing / Bridgestone) and Benjamin Hanley (Croc Promotions / TM Racing / Bridgestone) are also among the Drivers to follow.
In practice, the Sarno has a new version of its track, shortened to 1547 m and with a more rolling profile, some will say less technical. It still remains as demanding for the equipment.
A new race format will be introduced with qualification phases limited to the Qualifying Heats, with the abolition of the former Qualifying Prefinals, aiming to reduce the negative impact of a bad performance during this phase and to give greater importance to Finals themselves.
The programme includes a full day dedicated to Free Practice on Friday, April 21st from 8:00 to 18:15. Saturday 22nd April, the warm-up will be followed by Qualifying Practice from 10:15 to 12:00. The Qualifying Heats will start at 13:05 and finish on Sunday, April 23rd at 12:25. The three Finals will be held from 14:15 to 16:40.