Alex Dunne was forced to retire, not once but twice, from the Karting World Championship in Portugal on Sunday when an unexpected rain storm turned the final on its head. Having driven really well in his heats, to make up for an unusually low qualifying position, the Clonbullogue teenager lined up seventeenth for the final and was all set for a push towards the front until the change in weather conditions brought his challenge to an end.
Seventy five of the worlds best Kart Racers lined up for qualifying at the Kartódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao, Portugal, with the World title in their sights. Alex ran in the third of four, eight minute, qualifying sessions on Friday and was unfortunate to not get a single clear lap, from the six he completed, leaving the only Irish representative in the World Championship ninth in his session and starting fourteenth for all four of his heats.
In a hugely competitive field of highly experienced drivers, fighting through to the front from fourteenth was always going to be tough for Alex, who was tackling his first World title event as a senior driver and his first with the Energy Kart team. Some impressive driving in Saturday’s heats did however see the young Irish driver pick up best finishes of fifth and sixth, to easily secure a slot on the grid for the final, in seventeenth place.
Having completed all of his heats on Saturday, Alex had to watch as those drivers with heats to complete on Sunday morning got a chance to get some experience in the now soaking wet conditions. Taking to the track for his first wet race of the weekend Alex’s aim was to try and avoid the expected early race incidents and stay in contention for what would be a very long, nineteen lap final. Unfortunately things did not go to plan, as on the opening lap the Offaly racer went off track avoiding, a spinning kart, and got stuck on the by now extremely muddy track-side grass.
It looked like it was all over for Dunne, but a red flag at the end of the opening lap earned him a reprieve as the race was set to be restarted using the original grid. With limited time, the Energy Kart team had just one option, which was to put Alex out on his dry weather Kart, and with the track looking set to dry up, the youngster was still in with a chance. Soon after the restart however the conditions worsened and with his Kart virtually impossible to keep on the track, Alex was forced to retire from the final for the second time.
Speaking after the race the extremely disappointed teenager said, “That was a tough weekend. Following ninth place in my qualifying session we knew things were going to be difficult. In such a strong field starting so far back in every heat meant that it was going to be virtually impossible to make the front few rows for the final. When I saw the rain I thought that if I could make it through the first couple of laps I could make progress but when you start in the midfield there’s always the chance that you will get caught up in something and that’s exactly what happened. I feel very disappointed for everyone involved, all of my sponsors, especially Reynolds Logistics, VTL, Artisan Marble and NEA Designs, along with the Energy Kart team and my parents, who put so much effort into getting me into the World final. I don’t know what 2021 holds for me yet, but I’d love another go at this event next year to try and put things right.”
Alex Dunne has now completed his short 2020 Karting season and is already working on the next step of his career. A number of options remain open to him in Karting but other options, including graduating to Car Racing are being considered.