It was a change of scenery for Axel Nocom as he went up against the best karters around the world at the T4 Nations Cup. Strictly by invite only, he proved that he had the pace to fight for a podium in a grid of 36 uber-competitive T4 Mini drivers at the International Kartodromo Lucas Guerrero in Valencia, Spain. Although he missed the mark due to a technical issue, the 11-year-old was still able to put the Philippines on the map.
Organized by Tillotson Racing, the T4 Nations Cup is their annual ‘world finals’ that brings together T4 Series champions from around the globe. All competitors use identical machinery throughout the 3-day event, keeping the competition on a level playing field. Rules are so strict that nothing can be adjusted on the kart setup except for tire pressures.
The Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines (YDDP) karter only had a day’s worth of practice to get accustomed to his #118 kart and the twisty 1.428 km circuit, which he was new to him both. But as luck would have it, persistent engine issues severely limited his track time on Friday. While the Tillotson crew was able to sort things out by Saturday, Axel had no choice but to rely solely on his skill and experience to stay competitive.
Impressively, despite all the setbacks, the 3x local MiniRok champion set the 4th fastest time in the Time Trials and was only 0.337 secs off pole. He then carried this momentum into the Qualifying Heats where he finished in 2nd twice and 4th once.
The young karter, however, was nursing an illness throughout the day that only got worse that evening. Because of this, he was forced to miss the Warm Up session on Sunday morning as he needed time to rest and recover. Despite still feeling unwell, Axel pushed through the 9-lap Super Heat and showcased that he can dance with seasoned international karters as he finished in 3rd place. His strong performance is also credited to team tuner Richard Peek and mechanic Luke Preston from the UK who kept his #118 kart in top form for every session.
Collectively his results earned him a P4 starting position for the 11-lap Finals later that day. This put Axel and his team in high spirits as he had a clear shot at a podium. But the last domino fell when Axel’s engine cut out during the formation lap for the Finals and much to their dismay, refused to restart despite all their efforts. With the Mercedes YDDP karter in the sidelines, another karter took the Philippines to the chequered flag. Yuan Bugayong of DRIFT MOTOR Racing Team bravely fought for position to finish in a respectable 18th place.
Even with the unfortunate DNS, Axel and Mercedes YDDP are still very proud of what they achieved at the T4 Nations Cup. They proved that the Philippines can produce a world-class karter and compete against the best in the world. Taking the learnings and experience from Spain, Axel looks forward to the local T4 Series Pilipinas that’s scheduled to be launched next year.
Axel Nocom is supported by Mercedes Young Driver Academy Philippines, Motul Infiniteserv International, Alpinestars, Alaska Milk Corporation, Recaro Philippines, DENSO, and Pocari Sweat.
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[Photos by Stu Stretton]