Robichon is the point leader in the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship this season
A common destination for ECKC Graduates to car racing is Formula Ford and this year has been no exception as Zacharie Robichon is starring in the Ontario Toyo Tires F1600 Championship for Brian Graham Racing Team Grote.
The series’ rookie took just three races to score his first win of this season, and leads the championship through four of seven rounds. A weekend sweep early in the season followed a pair of podiums to start the schedule, and the ECKC grad has been building on that tally ever since.
“It was a great feeling to take the first win at Shannonville,” Robichon said, recalling the second round of the season back in May. “Starting from pole was not too stressful for me because the rolling start format it is quite similar to karting. Although, it was hard to keep running consistent laps while running in the front because it is too easy to look in your mirrors! But I was really happy to be able to stay in the lead and take the win on both days.”
Those two wins, along with another at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and three other podiums see Robichon sitting eighty-four points clear of his nearest competitor in the championship with three rounds left to run. The soon-to-be third-year Economics student at the University of Ottawa has been in fine form guiding a Piper DF5/Honda this season, and as young karters should note, his approach is what has led to the success.
“I think the biggest key to consistency this year is not taking any unnecessary risks,” he said. “I’ve been working on building my speed without ever trying to set the world on fire while I am out on track. I’ve been going step by step to make sure I learn the car and its limits as best as possible, while trying to absorb as much information as I can from my team and competitors. The key to success in any sport really is mental strength. You need to be physically strong to compete in racing but you must also be mentally prepared for all sorts of occasions. Bad races are going to happen and you need to be able to bounce back and not let those bad weekends keep you down. Just because you don’t win every weekend doesn’t mean you can’t win!”
Robichon certainly showed that persistence in his final season of ECKC karting. Trouble seemed to be finding him at every turn in 2012 when he up and finished second at Nationals and qualified for the Grand Finals. Once there he demonstrated the same approach as he qualified P38, upgraded to P27 through heat racing, jumped once again to P14 in the Prefinal and finished the World Final in P8. He credits the ECKC in aiding his development and for his being prepared to take on the world.
“The level of racing in the ECKC has proven to be some of the best in the world,” he said as Nationals approached this season. “The ECKC helped prepare me for any sort of racing that I might throw myself into because there are very few other places where you find this level of competition. Thanks to ECKC I was invited to the 2011 Hinchtown Shootout, which I won, and the 2011 Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine. I think without those opportunities I may have never attempted open wheel racing! So to a certain point I have the ECKC to thank for my racing this year!
“Car racing is not that much different to karting. I was expecting to get way less seat time on race weekends than in karting but in reality we actually get more running on test days in car racing. The only hiccup in car racing is that at certain races you get practically no track time. For example, at the Montreal Grand Prix, you only get to run three times during the whole weekend. This season, being my rookie year, we have focused on maximizing seat time! We have chosen to compete in the Toyo Tire Championship because it offers the maximum track time relative to each race weekend.”
Robichon’s karting seat time this year has been limited to opportunities he gets through his position at the Jim Russell Karting Academy at Mont-Tremblant, the same track where he scored an ECKC DD2 win at the 2011 season finale.
“It’s hard to forget that weekend at Tremblant,” Robichon said of his sweep of the day from Darren White, Christophe Boisclair and eighteen others while the class was in its heyday. “Everything seemed to just fall into place and work perfectly. We got everything right as far as set-up and I was able to stay in front the whole time.”
And of course the obligatory performance comparison, Rotax DD2 to Formula Ford: “Driving a Formula 1600 car is quite a bit different than the DD2,” Robichon concluded. “With the suspension and added weight, everything reacts a little slower in the F1600. To adjust my driving style I had to slow down my brain and my movements to not overdrive the car. Although the speeds are higher because of the tracks we are racing on, the acceleration and braking aren’t quite up to par with a DD2! In all honesty I don’t think anything compares to the handling characteristics of a kart until you get into an F1 or Indy car.”
That says it all for karters!
To keep tabs on Zacharie Robichon visit his fan page at facebook.com/zacharierobichon and follow @Zrobichon. For more series’ information please visit eckc.ca and formula1600.com.
source: Jason Holland, photo: Cody Schindel, CanadianKartingNews.com