Bray & Grant head to Europe 'to watch and learn'
Reigning New Zealand KZ2 class KartSport champion Daniel Bray heads to Italy on Sunday (3rd June) on the first leg of a journey which will see he and perennial local rival Ryan Grant line up on the grid at this year's KZ1 and KZ2 class World Cup (championship) meeting at Sarno in Italy in September.
This year will be the first that New Zealand is represented at a KZ1/KZ2 World Cup event and Bray says that a key to he and Grant acquitting themselves well is being prepared.
To that end Grant is already in Europe testing with the ART team. And after checking out the first round of this year's European championship series at Wackersdorf in Germany between June 07 and 10 Bray will test with his GP Racing team for the next two days at the circuit before returning to Italy for a three-day test at Sarno then a round of the Italian national series at the Castelletto circuit a fortnight later.
Though Bray has raced with success in the United States for the past four years, culminating in winning SuperKarts USA's premier 2011 S1 title and finishing third behind 2011 KZ2 World Cup class winner Marco Tortellini and top Dutch driver Indy Dontje at the final round of that series in Las Vegas in November last year, the 24-year-old Aucklander says even competing at a round of the European Championships requires a whole new mind-set - not to mention driving style.
"That's why I'm going to Wackersdorf," Bray said this morning," to watch and learn."
Though fellow Kiwi Wade Cunningham won the FIA-CIK World Karting Championship at Sarno in 2003, his younger brother Mitch is the only other New Zealand driver to try his luck racing in FIA-CIK championships in Europe since.
The popularity of the 125cc engine/6-speed-gearbox KZ2 class has helped close the gap between domestic racing here and National and World Championship level racing in Europe (as Bray has proved in America).
However there are still some fundamental differences which drivers like Bray and Grant have to deal with.
One is the sheer number of competitors vying for a place on the grid. The other is the use of ultra-soft 'sticky' tyres.
"The rubber's the biggie," confirms Bray."The teams test all the time over there on new tyres and with something like 400 drivers on sticky tyres at any one meeting the build-up (of rubber on the track) becomes a real issue."
So much so that both he and Grant are going to have to change the way they drive to compensate.
"We won't just be able to drive hard into the turns like we do here in New Zealand. If we do that," says Bray, "our karts are going to turn to jelly in the middle of the corner. We're both going to have to be much more deliberate in how we drive, particularly once the bulk of the rubber has gone down."
After the round of the Italian championship late next month Bray will return home for two weeks before getting back on a plane and flying to the United States where he will contest the third and fourth rounds of this year's SuperKarts USA ProTour at the Miller Motorsports Park complex near Salt Lake City in Utah.
After the first two rounds in Phoenix Arizona in April the Aucklander lies third overall in this season's S1 Pro Stock Moto class points standings and is looking forward to returning to the fray in Utah with a round of the European championship under his belt.