Aussie Team Spirit Shines Through In Spain

AKA press release

This article incorporates information on the 2008 IAME International Karting Challenge and quotes from Ryan Sanderson (Gold Coast, Qld), Adam Hughes (Mentone, Vic), Grant Smith (Patterson Lakes, Vic), John Grother (Gladstone, Qld), Lee Mitchener (Greensborough, Vic) and Brett Fortanier (Modbury North, SA)

The Australian contingent of karters competing at the IAME International Challenge showed tremendous team spirit to ensure both teams finished inside the top five at the Alcañiz International Circuit in Spain last weekend.

The IAME International Challenge saw 26 teams compete aboard identical FA Victory karts, designed by two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, powered by a 125cc Leopard X30 engine in a pair of three-hour endurance races around the Spanish circuit.

The Remo Racing Australian Team was led by Australian karting stalwart Remo Luciani – who was instrumental during the formative years of current V8 Supercar Championship leader Jamie Whincup’s career – as they challenged 13 other countries in the Event.

All throughout the three-day Event the Australian teams were amongst the pacesetters with the team of Ryan Sanderson, Adam Hughes, and Grant Smith finishing second overall after winning the final three-hour race. They were closely followed in the overall standings by the other Australian team, which consisted of John Grother, Lee Mitchener and Brett Fortanier, who finished fifth overall.

IAME challenge team australia
Above: John Grother on the grid

Both Australian teams were unlucky not to have finished higher up the order with the second-placed outfit delayed during Saturday’s race due to a minor mechanical issue and the fifth placed team incurring a pit-lane time penalty.

“Overall I couldn’t be happier with the effort, dedication and camaraderie shown by all six of the Australian drivers. They all handled themselves very well and worked together as one team – there was no A or B team here,” said Luciani upon his arrival back to Australia this morning.

“During practice both teams were looking to find some pace so they both went in different directions with their set up and compared what was the best, from there I think we had the fastest karts on the track for the rest of the weekend.

Above: Brett Fortanier in action

“If it wasn’t for the couple of minor issues we had on Saturday I sincerely believe we could have finished one-two overall. The guys who finished second were unlucky not to have won and the fifth place wasn’t a true indication of the potential of that team.”

The Event was won for the second year in a row by the Canadian team of Michael Hogg, Tatiana Calderon and Eric Lichenstein.


Ryan Sanderson (23 years old) – Gold Coast, QLD, Runner-up 2008 Nationals (Leopard Light), Runner-up 2008 Queensland Championships (Leopard Light)

Above: Ryan Sanderson

“I was like a kid in a candy shop all weekend, it was fantastic,” said Sanderson.

“I’ve raced all across Australia and in Japan but this Event was undoubtedly the best one I’ve competed throughout my career. The facility was just out of this world.

“I was a bit bummed about finishing second because I know we had enough pace to win overall but that’s just the way it goes I suppose. In saying that though, we were the fastest team all weekend and finished on top in practice, qualifying and set the fastest lap in both races.

“All of it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Remo (Luciani) and the people at IAME engines and Alonso karts, I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.”

Grant Smith (18 years old) – Patterson Lakes, Vic. Two-time Australian Junior Clubman Champion

“The Event, and whole trip for that matter, was an unreal experience,” said Smith.

“By racing in Europe on a track such as Alcañiz it allowed me to see karting in a whole new perspective.

“Overall, the racing itself wasn’t a whole lot different to Australia but it was monitored a lot tighter in the way of stewarding and the race control area along with parc ferme.

“The highlight for me was was obviously finishing second, it was a good effort by all the boys but without the assistance of Remo (Luciani) and his contacts at IAME engines none of it would have been possible.

“It definitely didn’t feel like we were racing in an endurance race it was more a three-hour sprint race.”

Adam Hughes (19 years old)– Mentone, Vic. Runner-up 2008 Victorian Championships (Leopard Light)

Above: Adam Hughes on a charge in qualifying

“I’d never raced overseas before so it was a whole new experience for me,” said Hughes.

“The track was just awesome, it was just like a mini Formula One circuit. The layout was great, it had a huge long straight where you could slipstream other drivers and the pits were all asphalt – it was great.

“In the second race I got to start for my team and was able to get into the lead then I had a good battle with the teams from American and Portugal, which was pretty cool. I did a double stint and the track was awesome, it was huge just like a mini Formula One track.

“The highlight for me was the overall professionalism of the Event and the opportunity to do laps around a track like that.

“While it was a teams event and everyone was equal, I got a sense of personal achievement by getting pole position during qualifying and also setting the fastest lap of the weekend during the races.”

John Grother (27 years old) – Gladstone, QLD . 2008 Queensland Champion (Leopard Light)

“The Event was an unbelievable experience, it was certainly something I will remember for a long time,” said Grother.

“Everything was completed with extreme professionalism, every 'i' was dotted and every 't' was crossed – it was the way karting needs to be.

“The circuit was simply amazing. It was my first time in Europe and I was honestly just blown away.

“I can’t thank Remo (Luciani) and everyone at IAME enough for the opportunity which I was provided with.”

Lee Mitchener (24 years old) – Greensborough, Vic. Two-time Runner-up in National Championships

Above: Lee Mitchener

“I think the best word to describe the Event was prestigious, it was a privilege to be there” said Mitchener.

“The track was simply huge, it was like 1600 metres long and 10 metres wide – much longer and wider than anything I’ve ever raced on. We were reaching speeds in excess of 130 km/h at the end of the straight.

“The best thing about the weekend was that everyone had identical karts and engines, so it came down to driver skill and ability. All you could really do to the set-up of the kart was change the seat position, track width and change the tyre pressure, everything else wasn’t allowed to be changed.

“Everyone in the Australian team worked well together with the feedback and communication flowing freely between all six drivers. Remo (Luciani) did an excellent job organising everything, we didn’t have to stress about a thing.”

Brett Fortanier (29 years old) – Modbury North, SA . 2007 South Australian Leopard Series Champion
“The trip was simply an amazing experience, it was something that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do and I’ve proud to have represented my country alongside some of the top drivers in the world,” said Fortainer.

“Competing in Europe is something that every Australian karter dreams about and last weekend I was able to live out that dream.

“The guys in the team were great to work with but without Remo (Luciani) and his relationship with everyone at IAME Engines none of it would have been possible.

“This trip is something that I will remember for a long time.”

1 Canada (Michael Hogg, Tatiana Calderon, Eric Lichtenstein) - 296 laps
2 Australia (Ryan Sanderson, Adam Hughes, Grant Smith) - 295
3 USA (Chris Scribner, Jim Russel Jr., Chuck Gafrarar)
4 Spain (Oriol Dalmau, Carlos Franco, Nacho Illan)
5 Australia (John Grother, Lee Mitchener, Brett Fortanier) - 294

1 Australia (Ryan Sanderson, Adam Hughes, Grant Smith) - 149 laps
2 Canada (Michael Hogg, Tatiana Calderon, Eric Lichtenstein)
3 Uruguay (Joey Licata, Kyle Weigand, Joey Winsett)
4 Spain (Oriol Dalmau, Carlos Franco, Nacho Illan)
5 Mexico (Asale Solis, Rafael Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez) - 148
6 Australia (John Grother, Lee Mitchener, Brett Fortanier)

1 Canada (Michael Hogg, Tatiana Calderon, Eric Lichtenst) - 147 laps
2 USA (Chris Scribner, Jim Russel Jr., Chuck Gafrarar)
3 Uruguay (Juan Filloy, Nicolas Collazo, Maximiliano Vivot) - 146
4 Australia (John Grother, Lee Mitchener, Brett Fortanier)
5 France (Benoit Enjolras, Laetita Lacrique, Pascal Belm)
6 Australia (Ryan Sanderson, Adam Hughes, Grant Smith)