Rok Fest West, hosted at Sonoma raceway, did not end in quite the way the rookie shifter driver, William Ferguson, would have wanted it to. Being one of the fastest all weekend he had high hopes going into the final, but mechanical issues led to a DNF not even 8 laps into the race. With Rok the Rio in his sights, Ferguson put his head down and began preparation for what was to be the biggest, most competitive shifter race in America.
Hunter Pickett, shifter kart driver for GFC and Challenge of the Americas Champion for 2020, had given Ferguson an offer a few months beforehand in which he would let the rookie borrow one of his chassis to run for Rok the Rio. With the budget being low for this race Ferguson needed to find any way possible to keep the costs down, so he gladly accepted the offer. Without Hunter's help, Ferguson says he wouldn’t have been able to race Rok the Rio this year.
GFC karting offers one of the best programs for shifter karts in the United States. With multiple drivers capable of running in the front at every race they enter, they were heading into the race with high expectations of strong results. With the addition of William Ferguson, Keawon Tandon, Alan Scuito and IndyCar driver Oliver Askew, GFC/Trackmagic was the team to beat.
Arriving at the track Tuesday afternoon Ferguson got fitted and balanced for the kart. Everything Gary Carlton does at GFC is precise and accurate, leaving no room for mistakes to arise and keeping his drivers acquainted with the best karts on track. Getting the feel for how things were run as well as meeting his mechanic for the week, Hunter Kelly, Ferguson was beginning to feel very confident about how he would stack up among the other drivers.
Official practice on Wednesday started out with two leaky fronts for Ferguson. Missing the first practice wasn’t a huge disadvantage however he would have to work extra hard to catch up. After a tough first day he was able to put it in 12th in the final practice session of the day. The first two warm up sessions went by smoothly on Thursday and Ferguson was feeling confident heading into qualifying. Coming in 12th for qualifying put Ferguson in a great spot for the heats, especially with top 10 pace being achievable.
Heat 1 was a rude awakening for the rookie, losing 4 spots and crossing the line in 16th for the first heat. Ferguson was frustrated but it motivated him to regain his spots in the second heat and finish 12th. In the 3rd and 4th heats there was little drama and Ferguson brought it home in 10th and 9th which would put him 8th for the final.
In the warm up before the final, Oliver Askew and Hunter Picket decided to try a slightly different kart setup. They liked the change and once they explained the change and how it affected the kart, Ferguson decided to follow suit and made the change before the final race. After a great start in the first few laps, Ferguson began to reel down the top 6, once he got into the 6th position another driver took advantage and got by him half way through the race. For the last few laps Ferguson was able to reel the other driver in. Unfortunately, while trying to make a pass into 6th position, the driver in front turned down under braking causing both drivers to crash out with 2 to go.
“Although it was an awful ending to one of my best weekends, I had an awesome time at ROK the RIO this year. I’m super grateful for all of the knowledge that the GFC team has given me, and I can’t wait to come back next year and potentially fight for the win!”