On the weekend of March 17-19, one of Canada’s most decorated drivers, Jeff Kingsley, claimed the Florida Winter Tour championship in the premier Rotax DD2 class. As one of the world’s most prestigious karting events, it is another item for Kingsley to add to his lengthy resume. Jeff drove to a perfect weekend, winning all major events of the weekend. Qualifying on pole, winning all three heat races, and finishing it off with both a pre-final and final win, it was a weekend that showed great dominance to the Canadian standout. Having battles in almost every race, Kingsley drove away in the final to an impressive eight second victory over the second place, FK factory driver, Gary Carleton. With the championship, Kingsley earns a ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals and will represent Team Canada in Portugal later this year. Despite racing against ex-Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, DTM driver Robert Wickens, as well as other notable karting drivers, Jeff Kingsley won all three rounds of the Florida Winter Tour championship. This was a beyond impressive drive from the 18-year-old, who has proven to be one of the most talented karting drivers in Canada and the world’s history.
Jeff is now gearing up for the Canadian Touring Car Championship whilst racing a BMW M235iR racecar.
Jeffrey Kingsley poses at the Toyota Canada booth during the 2014 Canadian International Autoshow while representing Whitby Toyota.
Jeff Kingsley arrived at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday for the first round of the Florida Winter Tour championship, presented by the Maxspeed Entertainment group. Continuing off Jeff’s major successes in 2016, he was anxious to start 2017 where he left off. The DD2 category was the weekends premier class, with a high level of professional drivers. The lineup included Rubens Barrichello (ex-Formula 1 Driver), Robert Wickens (DTM Driver), Lucas Auer (DTM Driver), Gary Carlton (Euopean Factory Driver), and many other major talents. In qualifying, Kingsley put his BirelART on pole by an amazing two tenths of a second. In heat one, Kingsley was forced into a collision with Robert Wickens, but was able to recover to the tenth position. In heat two Kingsley drove away from the field and grabbed the win, whereas in heat three he was caught up in a battle and ended up second. After the heat races concluded and points were tallied, Jeff would be starting the pre-final on pole once again. In both the pre-final and the final, Jeff Kingsley drove away from the field, winning both races by over two seconds. This marked Kingsley’s first win of 2017, and what a phenomenal drive he had to start the year. All of these prestigious drivers personally congratulated Jeff on his victory, and one referred to his driving as “beyond impressive.”
There may not have been a more versatile and successful Eastern Canadian driver in 2016 than Jeffrey Kingsley. The Port Hope, Ontario racer was crowned double-champion in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, the first driver to win two titles in one season, claiming Rotax DD2 and Briggs & Stratton Senior, finished runner-up at the ASN Canadian National Championships in a third category (Rotax Senior) and also dominated the two US Open international races he attended, winning both races at ease in Rotax DD2. Simply put, wherever Jeff Kingsley raced in 2016, he was out front and ended up on the podium.
It was a special year for Kingsley. He has been building up this momentum for a few years now and teamed up with PSL Karting for a third straight year he became a nearly unstoppable force. A little kick does go to the Karts & Parts/Awesome Kart team, who Kingsley started the Briggs & Stratton season with and scored a race victory for, but it’s been his focus and determination in the Rotax categories that really stands out. Not to knock the Briggs & Stratton racing he did, as the competition and wheel-to-wheel action is impressive, but just looking at the results, a six-second victory at ECKC Mont-Tremblant stands out at one of his best performances in Canada, while he took the US Open of New Orleans by five-seconds. When qualifying times can be divided by only hundredths and thousands of a second, six-seconds is a helluva margin.
Earning himself a fourth straight ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals in Italy via the US Open, it looked like Kingsley was in for a run at the podium on the world stage, posting some of the fastest times in free practice, only to be struck with some bad luck at the worst possible time, Qualifying. Spending the remainder of the week just trying to push forward, Kingsley rebounded and advanced to the Grand Final and drove brilliantly towards the top-half of the grid against the worlds best. Nothing to be disappointed by, but definitely not the result he was aiming towards, for himself and for his country.
Even though he missed out on the US Open of Las Vegas, the high points finale for the US Open Championship, Kingsley perfect scores in rounds one and two meant he still managed to finish on the championship podium in third place.
CKN: You had a very successful season this year, what moments stand out to you?
Jeff Kingsley: I would have to say that racing in the US Open was my favourite. Although I won both races as well as the ticket to the Grand Finals, that wasn’t the reason it stood out. It’s hard to explain, but I felt at the top of my game, even though the competition wasn’t high. Both tracks were beautiful and all I wanted to do was get as many laps as I could. Even in free practice I would tuck my head below the steering wheel and push for fast laps, which is something I didn’t often do in practice. My mechanic Chef [Sylvain Clair] and I were constantly pushing for success even if it was sometime unnecessary. Secondly, I spent a lot of time with Alessandro Bizzotto and JF in Utah, and our friendship became very close. Al has become a close friend, someone who I always looked forward to seeing at the track, and we share a lot of great memories and fun times. This season, both in Canada and Internationally was one that ignited a lot of new relationships throughout the paddock. I owe all of my race wins and championships to Chef and PSL Karting for all they have contributed.
CKN: In Canada, you tamed both beasts, taking the ECKC DD2 and Briggs Senior Championship. Describe the challenge of competing in two completely different categories? Which did you prefer?
JK: I chose to add Briggs to the challenge as many people often say, “Briggs is the elite category” and “racing DD2 or Rotax Senior is easier compared to the number of people in 4-stroke.” For that exact reason, I chose to race Briggs; in order to prove a point. It was a hard thing to do, going from something fast with two gears and front brakes compared to something slow with only rear brakes. The hardest part wasn’t the driving; it was the adjustment and coordination of the brain. Your arms and legs move the go-kart, but it is the mental skills that make someone quicker than another. This is an opinion that I share with former world champion, Ben Cooper, as the key to winning races and championships is through the mind and how they use it. After racing both classes, DD2 is still my favorite category in karting. In Briggs and Rotax Senior, a driver only has to steer, throttle, and brake at the maximum every single lap, making it more about how much power the kart has in order to make a pass. In DD2 a driver must steer, throttle, shift gears, adjust break biases, and break at different pressures throughout the race with both front and rear brakes. There is so much more work, both physically and mentally, in a DD2 compared to the other classes and it is less about power and more about the driver. I am one who seeks a challenge and that is exactly why I choose to race DD2.
CKN: You also chose to race Rotax Senior at the Canadian Nationals, how did you come to that decision?
JK: Karting is a sport that should be about having fun, and people tend to forget that. Although DD2 is my favorite class, it became a repeat throughout the year, often driving alone on the track. I’ve only raced Senior once before, so I figured I’d give it another go. As much as I wanted to race DD2, Senior, and Briggs at the Nationals, we figured we have proven ourselves in two of the classes already. I did quite well, perhaps should have done better, but nonetheless it was great to race against some former competitors once again.
CKN: It was a rough go at the Rotax Grand Finals in Italy, was there anything that you learned during that week?
JK: The week in Italy started off very well, always in the top three in practice and topping the time sheets in one of them. I was very confident in my abilities for the weekend, but it all went downhill very quickly. On lap two in qualifying, I had a perfect gap to my teammate Alessandro Bizzotto, and I told myself inside my helmet “this lap is 100% putting me on pole.” Sadly, my engine seized on the straightway, meaning my out-lap was the only one counted, putting me 58th on the time sheets. From there on it was just trying to scrape my way through the heat races and into the final which I was able to do. At the 2016 RMCGF, I learned two things that will always stick with me going forward. One is that the Grand Finals is often easier when you’re at the front compared to the back. And secondly, sometimes in racing there are things that are out of your control. The engine seizing for example, there was nothing myself or mechanic Chef could have done, but that is racing. This amazing sport is filled with heartbreaks and celebrations, of which every driver will experience both. The celebrations make you strong, but the heartbreaks are what make you stronger.
CKN: You opted to miss out on the final US Open race in Las Vegas, giving up the championship while leading the points. Why did you skip it and any regrets to that decision?
JK: Of course I regret missing the US Open in Las Vegas as I missed out on the Championship which easily would have been mine. After missing a week of school [for the Rotax Grand Finals] and having to reschedule exams, there was no chance I could make it to the event. In order to maintain my marks for the Ivey School of Business, I couldn’t be absent from my studies for two weeks during one of the most demanding times of the year. In the back of my mind I know I am the US Open champion, on paper or not, after two perfect weekends in the first two rounds. It was even harder because there was a ticket to the 2017 Grand Finals available and I am confident I could have secured that one then and there. Regardless of the conflict, you can’t win them all!
CKN: We know you are busy with school, do you plan to return next season?
JK: 2017 is still being sorted out right now, but of course I am going to take opportunities that are presented. School is my main concern right now, and every driver should feel the same way. Although I say this, I am always eager to hop in a kart or car at any time, as racing is my hobby, my passion, and it is in my blood. We will see what happens in 2017, hopefully a Florida Winter Tour race, but plans probably won’t be known until the beginning of next season.
CKN: Finally, can you touch base on your relationship with Team PSL Karting?
JK: PSL Karting has become a second family to me. When I think about karting, I immediately think about them for their passion and friendliness. I raced with PSL in 2011 and then re-joined in 2014. I started off very shy, then established great relationships with leaders Dominic, Stephane, Chef, Big Dan, Andrew, and Coy but quickly extended relationships to other mechanics and drivers. Chef has been with me since 2014, and together we have won numerous amounts of races and championships. He has been the main key to my success and he knows me and my driving style better than anyone I’ve been with. The karting industry is continuously dominated by PSL and I owe them a great amount for my success over the years. I could go on and on, but for reader’s sake, I will just say that PSL Karting truly is the best.
The young and talented Jeffrey Kingsley goes two for two in the Florida Winter Tour championship, after claiming another victory at round two. Kingsley is getting closer and closer to the DD2 Championship as each round passes. The Canadian PSL Birel ART driver was challenged early in the weekend, but was unable to be stopped come Sunday.In qualifying, Jeff set the second quickest lap, missing out by just 6 one-hundredth’s of a second from DTM driver Robert Wickens. In the heat races, Jeff would grab two wins, and one second place finish, meaning he was to start on pole for the pre-final. The pre-final saw a 3-kart battle with a fellow teammate and FK Kart factory driver Gary Carleton, but Kingsley overcame the challenge and took the win. Starting on pole once again for the final, Jeff dropped to second and spent 4 laps in the position. The first place driver was blocking throughout the entire racetrack, knowing Kingsley was to fast. Outsmarting the driver, Jeff Kingsley faked a pass, forcing the driver to defend right down to the grass. Kingsley then switched back to the outside lane and crossed the first place driver on the exit of the corner. When out in front, Jeff drove away to an impressive 8.4-second victory, and absolutely dominating the race. Kingsley will be heading into the final round in March with the championship points lead.
Jeffrey Kingsley races the Exclusive Autosports #92 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.