Daniel Rochford's European Rotax Debut

Despite unfamiliar equipment and appalling weather, Daniel Rochford (right) made the Senior Rotax final at his European karting debut in the opening round of the Euro Rotax Challenge series at Salbris, France, the other week.

Driving for the high profile Intrepid Force Rotax team, Rochford had to get used to driving karts fitted with front brakes. “We had eight practice sessions in a day” he explained. “It took a while to get used to the (hand operated) front brakes and in the dry I felt quite comfortable with them. But in the wet I don’t think I pushed hard enough and I also had no experience with the behaviour of the Mojo wet tyre.”

In variable conditions, Rochford found himself on a slow track in qualifying, lining up 72nd in a mammoth 90 kart field. “The kart was really good in the heats” he said. So good, in fact, that he carded a 10th and two 11ths off grid 30. Despite racing deep in the pack, he was up the pointy end on lap times and was second fastest in one of the heat races. A lowly 27th in one race (off track avoiding a collision) dropped him into the repecharge. Starting off pole, Rochford fell to second but wasn't too worried. "I didnt want to be silly and not make the pre-final over one (extra) position" he said.

Having made the pre-final, the result wasnt so good - 27th and a lap down. “We were on the grid and everyone was wondering what to do because of the changing weather. Lots were changing to wets and Pete (Cathcart) said ‘we’ve got not much to lose starting this far back’ so we decided to sat on a dry setup.” The gamble paid off in the opening laps, the Aussie all the way up to 14th. But then the rain came, first a few sprinkles, then a downpour. On slicks, it was imposible to keep up with those on wets.

Above: Daniel leads the start of the repecharge race

The circuit was drenched for the final. “It rained and rained… a lot! I just didn’t have the experience with the front brakes in the wet and I couldn’t see anything. It was just crazy.” He eventually came home 29th.

"We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and look forward to the next round in Germany" he said. "I would also like to thank  Sniper Technologies and Ciccone Constructions for their help".

pics by Bas Kaligas, RGMMC/Vuckovic & Jenni Wade

Above: Helping out IFR mechanics with Peter Cathcart


Euro Rotax Challenge, Round 1 (France) - by Daniel Rochford

On Tuesday of the week of racing, Peter Cathcart and I were meeting Jenni Wade at the airport for the drive to Salbris, about 200k south in France.

The other members of the team were waiting at the track for us at 6.30pm to ask Peter's ideas on seat position for my kart. As we approached the team's pit area, I was amazed at how well everything was set up and organized.

The entire pit area was concreted and team trucks and buses in position so that there would still be plenty of room to move around and allow cars to drive through.

The meeting was planned down to the exact minute with no hold ups.  As you enter the grid there was a huge timing clock. On the dot they would release all the karts onto the track. Everything was to a schedule.

Above: Some sunshine in France!

At the track I learnt more about preparation and having things on stand by in case you needed a part or tool quickly. Keeping everything in its place was a must.

Getting into the qualifying and heat races you need to be extremely prepared, because in most cases you could be out again on the track within 30 minutes of your last race. If there was any damage to be fixed or repaired, we had to be on the ball. One of the most difficult things would have had to have been changing the new tyres at 2 degree temperatures! That was Peter’s job.

The Team Intrepid Force Rotax was also very into ‘team work’ which I thought was great because then you can learn about the other drivers thoughts on set-up, the track conditions etc.

The team was keen to promote healthy lunches and drinks for during the lunch break to keep all the team members comfortable and in good shape.

The team had excellent facilities to work with. This included a kitchen and eating area, as well as one outside. They also had a van that carried the karts back to the workshop in Austria. The pit spacing had quite a large area where we had a good 2 meters between every kart for good working room.

After the racing each day the team would go out for dinner together, somewhere close to Salbris. It gave us all a chance to unwind and go over our day. Most mornings we would have breakfast at the hotel before heading off. In most cases the mechanics left first for the track, and then the drivers would go out about an hour later.

Adjusting to the time difference was difficult. The mornings were quite hard to get used to. We found that it took almost four days to acclimatize.

Although the weather played a huge part in our final result, we still came away from the meeting feeling positive and more open minded from our experience. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and look forward to the next round in Germany.


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