Mackenzie wins Ron Fellows championship series with back-to-back victories
By Steve Leblanc
Stepping onto the track for his competitive debut three years ago, Mackenzie Clark had a very simple — and modest — goal in mind.
Despite his strong karting lineage and an already deep-rooted passion for the races, the Campbellville youth wasn’t looking to kick things off in victory — or even a podium finish.
Recalled a now 13-year-old Mackenzie, “I just didn’t want to get completely lapped.”
He managed to avoid that, and has been meeting or exceeding expectations ever since.
The latest — and most notable — chapter in that continuing success story came recently with an overall triumph in the Ron Fellows championship series.
Hoping for just one podium finish in the four-race Junior 2-Stroke (12-15-year-old) class, Mackenzie closed things out with back-to-back wins to reign supreme in the biggest series in Canada.
Unfazed after a crash midway through the series opener caused him to finish eighth, the young karter rebounded with a runner-up placing in round two before his two victories.
Known for his poise and overall vision on the track, Mackenzie won the first overall series in his budding career in a field of roughly 20 drivers — many with more experience.
“After the second race we felt we still had a shot at winning the series,” said the local teen, part of a Hamilton-based Prime Powerteam owned by Trevor Wickens, whose brother Robert has just signed on to become the teammate of Canadian Indy star James Hinchcliffe. “I feel I grew a lot as a driver this year. I far exceeded my goals.
”There’s a lot of trial and error in karting, and it takes a lot of physical and mental strength.”
The son of a three-time national champion and five-time world championship qualifier, Mackenzie fondly remembers watching father Stuart compete.
“I’d help clean the kart and he’d (father) put me in the seat after the races. I liked the whole environment.”
It was soon evident that Mackenzie wasn’t going to be satisfied as a karting spectator, despite dad’s initial reservations.
“When he was eight I'd say next year, then at nine I said let’s wait ‘till you’re 10. Finally my wife said ‘Just let him try it,’” recalled Stuart, who came to karting later in life — in his ‘30s — and now serves as Mackenzie’s tuner and coach. “The joke in our house is that he’s already better than I was, which I don’t find that funny. Mac has a lot of understanding of the overall picture, and a lot of talent. He doesn’t get too emotional out there. He keeps calm … he’s got a good head on his shoulders.”
That composure, amidst speeds of up to 120km/h, no doubt served him well during his world championship debut earlier this month in Lonato, Italy.
Named to Team Canada following his Ron Fellows series win, Mackenzie finished in the top half of the 100-racer field — placing 47th. While failing to making the cut for the final, he moved up an average of 15 spots in his heats — more than any other driver — after starting 82nd.
“There was a lot of learning involved at worlds,” said the up-and-coming karter, who’s expanded on a family sponsorship project for SOS Children’s Villages as a youth ambassador — with t-shirts and advertising on his visor and kart. “I didn’t put any pressure on myself over there. It was just about the experience.”
Mackenzie hopes to continue honing his karting skills over the next few years and eventually gravitate to open-wheel racing.
Next up for the young karter is the Super Nats next month in Las Vegas.